Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh: Another (musical) side to the rivalry
But with this football rivalry thing in high gear, I figured it was a good time to see how the two cities’ major classical music teams stack up against each other.
I think it would be neat if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra could have a real battle of the bands at halftime during Saturday’s big game. That way we’d really find out who can kick Beethoven down the field with the biggest fortissimo. Meanwhile, let’s see how some of the stats measure up.
The BSO and PSO both have music directors with two-syllable first names beginning with ‘Ma-’ – Manfred Honeck in Pittsburgh, Marin Alsop in Baltimore. Spooky. They are both good talkers about music, and they both can generate exciting concerts, but the edge clearly goes to Alsop because – well, ‘A’ comes before ‘H.’ And, besides, at 56, she’s four years older than Manfred, and everyone knows conductors get more distinguished and eminent as they age, so we’re talking a 4-point advantage: Baltimore.
Let’s look at some finances. The PSO has a budget of about
$32 million; the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s is around $25 million. They’ve got 90-something players; we’ve got closer to 80. They pay a base salary of around $100,000; the base at the BSO is closer to $75,000.
So, maybe we’re a little smaller and cheaper. But we’ve still got plenty of strength onstage. When these guys get hold of a big score by Tchaikovsky or Adams, we’re talking Touch Down City.
Remember, the BSO has been in business – uninterruptedly – longer. The PSO got started in 1896, but those guys couldn’t keep their orchestra up. It disbanded in 1910 and didn’t resurface until 1926, a whole decade after the BSO was launched. So there. Take that, Pittsburgh. Advantage: Baltimore.
OK, I know what die-hard Pittsburgh Symphony fans are saying: “Look at our history of music directors, the great names who have graced the podium. What a legacy!” Oh, please. Name one.
Otto Klemperer? Oh, yeah. Well, sure he was a legend. I dare you to name another. Fritz Reiner? Um, OK. Granted, he was a huge, huge deal. William Steinberg? Shut up, already. It's so not-cool to brag.
Besides, back in those supposedly oh-so-glorious Pittsburgh days, the BSO was being led by some amazing luminaries, like Gustav Strube, George Siemonn, Ernest Schelling, Werner Janssen and Massimo Freccia. Never heard of them? Well, no one else has either, outside of Baltimore, but they were every bit the musical equivalents of Joe Flacco. Trust me. When you add in this illustrious past, there's just no contest. Final advantage: Baltimore.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BSO AND IMG ARTISTS (Manfred Honeck photo by Toshiyuki Urano)