Maestra – Marin Alsop Leads The Baltimore Symphony

January 07, 2008

By Alex Ross


“DON’T LET HISTORY PASS YOU BY!” proclaims a banner hanging outside Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, in Baltimore. The history in question belongs to Marin Alsop, who took over as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony last September, thereby becoming the first woman ever to lead a major American orchestra. Or so some say. A recent front-page story in the Buffalo News declared that the Buffalo Philharmonic—a seasoned, skilled, and not exactly minor group—made this history back in 1998, when it hired the conductor JoAnn Falletta. The League of American Orchestras, asked to adjudicate the dispute, noted that orchestra insiders use the word “major” to indicate an ensemble that plays year round: Baltimore does, Buffalo does not. Whatever the outcome of that controversy, female conductors remain embarrassingly rare. The problem isn’t that misogyny runs rampant in the music world; it’s that the classical business is temperamentally resistant to novelty, whether in the form of female conductors, American conductors, younger conductors, new music, post-1900 concert dress, or concert-hall color schemes that aren’t corporate beige. Continue reading