Marin Alsop, the new music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, said she was tempted to withdraw her name after a majority of the musicians opposed her appointment.
"But I decided to stay the course because of my firm belief that whatever is being said right now, my experience of conducting this orchestra has been mostly very favorable and very intense and sometimes very inspired. In spite of all the publicity, I didn't feel that their unhappiness was in any way personal" -- she paused -- "until maybe the last day or two."
Alsop, the first woman to head a major American orchestra, met with the musicians yesterday morning for the first time since her appointment was announced Tuesday.
After a news conference in a rooftop restaurant in downtown Baltimore, Alsop said, "I respect the musicians enormously. I think this has become a cathartic moment for a lot of unrelated issues."
The musicians have indicated that part of their objection to Alsop was the way her appointment was presented as an established fact before they had what they considered a promised opportunity to present their views to the board.
Jonathan Carney, the orchestra's concertmaster, spoke warmly of the meeting, saying that Alsop had "truly inspired a dedicated following in just six minutes." Calls to other members of the orchestra were not immediately returned.
James Glicker, the orchestra's president and CEO, said that one of the BSO's missions was to "break the mold and have the courage to take risks." In this pursuit, he said, "we have found a world-class artistic master -- or mistress -- to lead the way."
Alsop's initial contract is for three years. No financial information was disclosed. Because of previous commitments, she will be with the orchestra only part time, approximately six weeks, in the 2006-07 season, after the current music director, Yuri Temirkanov, steps down. After that, she will devote 14 weeks to the orchestra each season, which is neither unduly generous (Leonard Slatkin devotes between 19 and 21 weeks to the National Symphony Orchestra) nor especially stingy (the late Sir Georg Solti was down to nine weeks during his last seasons with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra).
She will begin making recordings with the orchestra as early as 2006, she said, and the team will undertake a major European tour in the 2008-09 season.
She will continue as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England and serve as the music director for California's Cabrillo Festival in the summer.
"I'm going to cut back on some of my guest conducting, though," she said. "Too much travel!"
Winning over the musicians will be only one of the challenges facing Alsop in her new position. The orchestra has an accumulated deficit of $10 million and, despite the general excellence of its performances, the BSO rarely plays to full capacity at its home base, Meyerhoff Hall in downtown Baltimore. Earlier this year, the orchestra added a series at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, which regularly sells out.
Alsop will keep her rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan, but Baltimore, she said, would be home. She spoke of her delight to be living in what she called a "vibrant, exciting, affordable" city. "I'd better buy a house quickly, or so I'm told."
"I hope to see you in the supermarket soon," she told the audience.