Boston Symphony

1 Pierre Boulez & Seiji Ozawa

2 Caroline Smedvig & Seiji on tour in South America

Boston Symphony
By the spring of 1989, word had gone out that three major orchestras, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco were looking for an Artistic Administrator. A year earlier, Tom Morris of the Cleveland Orchestra had a similar post to fill and, though we spoke and met, I felt it was too early to jump into the orchestra business. One year later however, the temptation was greater and I threw my hat into the ring for the Boston job. I also had serious talks with Joe Kluger in Philadelphia and had been invited for a preliminary interview in San Francisco.

Boston won out, especially after my first interview at Tanglewood. Here was an idyllic location, summer home of the Boston Symphony and the Tanglewood Music Center. Serge Koussevistky’s dream of founding a summer festival and an academy for gifted young musicians had become an enormously successful enterprise and I was both ready and eager for the challenge of programming both the summer festival and the winter season concerts in fabled Symphony Hall, Boston. I would be succeeding Costa Pilavachi, a fellow Greek who had moved on to the recording business as head of Artists and Repertoire at Philips Records in Holland. Little did I know then that our paths would cross again as colleagues just a few years later. But that's for another article!

A second interview, in Berlin, with Seiji Ozawa, Music Director (funnily enough, conducted in the swimming pool of the maestro’s hotel!) sealed the deal and I began a five-year collaboration with one of the greatest orchestras in the world. From the fall of 1989 until the spring of 1994 I had the privilege of working with the finest living composers, conductors and soloists, period. It was a busy time. In those five years we made recordings for no fewer than NINE record labels, toured Japan, Europe, South America and across the USA, created four staged opera productions in Symphony Hall and Tanglewood and gave countless memorable concerts with Seiji and our guests. What a privilege it was to craft programs with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Haitink, Valery Gergiev, Simon Rattle, Kurt Sanderling, James Levine. And what a pleasure it was to work with singers Jessye Norman, Renée Fleming, Mirella Freni, Marylin Horne and Thomas Hampson; intrumentalists Itzhak Perlman, Gidon Kremer, Yo-Yo Ma, Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimmerman Alfred Brendel, and Yevgeny Kissin (Roger Norrington and I helped teach him how to swim in the lake at Tanglewood!)

Most importantly, it was the chance to learn first-hand how an orchestra works, day to day. It is an amazing entity, and all the animate and inanimate analogies of ‘family’ and ‘machine’ apply. An orchestra, next to an opera company, is the most complicated arts organization imaginable, especially one as large and ambitious as the BSO. The stakes are always high on every front. Programming, the selection of guest conductors and soloists, working with the ever-shifting needs (and anxieties) of the orchestra members and our guests, contract negotiations, recordings, tour planning – all of this is going on simultaneously. In the summer, at Tanglewood, we added the equally intense activities of the students at The Tanglewood Music Center to the busy summer concert season and created opportunities for the cross-fertilization of experiences between the students and the professionals. To this day, it is one of the busiest and most successful orchestras in the world. I was privileged to work with the best in the business in my Music Director Seiji Ozawa, the Executive Director, the late Ken Haas as well as Tanglewood Director Dan Gustin and Richard Ortner who ran the student programs.

I even spent a year programming the Boston Pops with John Williams while we were looking for a new Pops manager. My highbrow classical colleagues were mystified at my deep knowledge of this repertoire until I reminded them of my own Pops lineage of listening to those Fielder recordings in my Ann Arbor living room. Now there’s full circle!
1-Pierre Boulez and Seiji Ozawa
2-Visiting a synagogue on tour our in South America with Seiji and Kim Smedvig (now Mrs. James Taylor)