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Jansons' future in Pittsburgh remains uncertain

Monday, December 11, 2000

By Caroline Abels and Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Nearly 200 letters arrived. Mariss Jansons still hasn't read them all. But did the fan mail that Pittsburghers sent to the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra dissuade him from defecting to the New York Philharmonic?

Mariss Jansons

Perhaps. Gideon Toeplitz, the PSO's managing director, now says there's a "zero chance" Jansons will go to New York.

"I am standing completely behind that as my opinion, and I don't see anything that will change it in the immediate future," he said last week.

Toeplitz wouldn't say to what extent the letters influenced any decision-making the maestro might have made. It's not even clear whether the Philharmonic made Jansons an offer ---- New York is keeping mum on that.

And if Jansons' chances to replace Kurt Masur are over, the reason might have less to do with Pittsburgh's devotion than with the lack of devotion reportedly exhibited by Philharmonic musicians during a concert Jansons conducted them in on Oct. 31.

Reviews of the performance were mixed, and some felt that the connection between Jansons and the Philharmonic musicians was lackluster.

But the PSO isn't resting easy, despite Toeplitz's feeling about New York. There is a significant chance that the Latvian conductor might take one or two music directorships in Europe.

"He is being chased by at least two orchestras that I know of in Europe, maybe three," Toeplitz said.

He declined to name any but it's been rumored that the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich might be interested in Jansons. And recently, the Concertgebuow in Amsterdam and the London Symphony Orchestra have been mentioned as good fits.

If Jansons makes one European commitment, it's assumed he could stay with the PSO. But two orchestras would make it challenging for him to continue spending his requisite ten weeks a year in Pittsburgh.

"It could very well be that he will decide he wants to work less and therefore he will just base himself in Europe and do guest conducting in America," Toeplitz said. "This is not a conversation that I've had with him; this is speculation."

So all those admiring letters might come in handy, as might the "Mariss Jansons, Pittsburgh Loves You" message flashed on the Bayer Corporation's Mount Washington sign, and the admiring song that the Mendelssohn Choir wrote and sang for Jansons before a rehearsal for a recent concert.

Jansons was enthusiastic about the response to the PSO's public request for fan mail when he was asked about it last month.

"Artists always need support because we are very sensitive," he said. "If you are an artist, you make many demands on yourself. I am very demanding of myself. I need support -- any artist needs support."

Toeplitz is going to Germany in a few weeks to hear Jansons conduct the Bavarian Radio Symphony. It will be the last of a string of guest engagements for Jansons.

"Then he is going to go back to St. Petersburg for a break of about two weeks," Toeplitz said. "And he has said that at that point he is going to think about what he wants to do. That doesn't mean that he is going to wake up on the 15th of January and say, 'OK, I've decided.' It's never that simple."

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