Ups, downs and outs at the Baltimore Symphony
The dynamics of guest conductor experiences would, I'm sure, make a great study. You've got musicians used to working with a music director much of the time (at smaller orchestras, it's often all of the time), and then they have to readjust to a temporary figure on the podium. There's a lot of sizing up that goes on, right from the first beat at the first rehearsal. Skepticism is guaranteed for anyone who doesn't arrive with a big name and reputation -- maybe even more skepticism for those who do. My guess is that the magic either happens right away, or not at all, in most cases.
Clearly, Lintu lit a spark from the get-go, which is why the concert was so superbly disciplined, yet full of spontaneity and expressive bite. There was a similar case early in 2009, when Vasily Petrenko made his BSO debut. The technical element of the playing that time could have been tighter, but the emotional commitment couldn't have been much stronger.
Ideally, of course, such dynamic collaborations would happen at every performance with every guest conductor. (Needless to say, the same goes for collaborations with the music director.) But there are just too many mysteries in the combustible art of music, too many variables to predict any outcome. That's part of the fun of going to concerts -- the great expectations, the great unknown. Each event is deliciously new, totally of the moment. And that's how I like it. (It's also one reason I tend to prefer live recordings; they're more likely to give you the sense of real chemistry in action.)
Meanwhile, on the down side at the BSO,
Now, for the outs. There are vacancies in two of the five vice president slots on the BSO staff. Jeff Counts, vp of artistic planning, stepped down a few months ago to pursue other interests, as they say, after less than a year on the job. (Although his appointment had been announced with the usual press release, his exit went under the radar.) Kendra Whitlock Ingram, vp and general manager, recently announced her resignation; she's taking a challenging university job. Although both departures may fall under the general heading of attrition, the timing can't be great for an orchestra that needs all remaining hands on deck.
That said, I still get the impression that the BSO is continuing to move in the right direction, with considerable energy and imagination from music director Marin Alsop, exceptional management and board, enthusiastic audiences. And next season's lineup of repertoire is one of the strongest in years, providing another reason to feel optimistic. And who knows? Maybe there will be another Lintu-like surprise in the mix.