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Hooked on Classics

Posted 5/5/2004

Thanks so much for running a good article about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ("Orchestral Maneuvers," April 28). Geoffrey Himes' well-crafted story gave voice to my concerns about Yuri Temirkanov's neglect of contemporary music--a blot on an otherwise magnificent career--and about how this orchestra (among others) can be relevant and make money by programming a blend of old and new music.

With this article, City Paper has truly made amends for that Gadi Dechter piece about the BSO's principal oboist (Music, Dec. 17); that was the kind of tripe we can well do without.

Steve Peterson

After reading the article about the Baltimore Symphony, I wondered why Geoffrey Himes did not talk about the programming of 20th-century Russian and European music that has been performed at the Meyerhoff over the last three years. Whether contemporary music from this country might be played to lure a younger audience, or diversify a program of more traditional classical fare, the tremendous performances of the symphonies and concerti by the great Russian and European composers should be more than enough to ensure a variety that would invite new listeners. A few examples: Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony, composed at the height of the siege of Leningrad; the two cello concerti by the same composer, played by soloist Natalia Gutman; the recent performances by Barbara Hendricks singing The Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, as composed by Benjamin Britten; the great Mahler symphonies; and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

This is a small list of some of the concerts I have attended, and this is definitely not "old European music." With music this diverse, rich in texture, rhythm, imagination, and emotion, it is hard to understand why it does not draw a younger or new audience, or those interested in jazz, the more traditional forms, but more especially, the avant-garde. I find the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's programming and performance under Temirkanov exciting and habit-forming. A rush ticket after 7 p.m. on almost all concert nights is $20--a price that is not much more than a movie with the trimmings.

Ruth Pettus

Left Field

Russ Smith is absolutely right about Bud Selig being the worst commissioner in the history of baseball (Right Field, April 28). He represents nothing less than the right-wing takeover of the national pastime, as was made abundantly clear by the National Baseball Hall of Fame's canceling of the April 2003 15th anniversary party for Bull Durham due to Tim Robbins' involvement.

However, here's where you're wrong: George Will may badly want to be commissioner of baseball, but he's gonna have to fight another George (W. Bush) for the position. According to reports, Bud Selig had promised Bush that the owners would support him for commissioner when Selig himself was chosen. Basically, he screwed Bush, and as a result, the country got the worst president in its history.

Bush will not let that happen again. He ran for president to pad his résumé. If you have a choice (you being the right-wing baseball establishment) of having a commissioner who used to be president vs. a commissioner who used to be a Washington Post flack for the president, which do you choose? (This, of course, is predicated on the assumption that Bush does nothing in the next few years to embarrass that right-wing establishment.)

And as to John Rocker, he was a putz. His career did not implode because he had to go to "sensitivity training." His career imploded because he lost it, just like another former Braves superstar reliever, Mark Wohlers. The difference between the two is that Mark Wohlers would stand up in front of God and every sportswriter in Atlanta and say, "I just didn't have it today. I let the team down." And John Rocker, when he wasn't hiding from the media, would blame Randall Simon.

Janet Ward

I don't like George Will's baseball writing. It always sounds too much like a self-important individual who always got chosen last when he was a kid.

And you left something out of your article. Will not only briefed Ronald Reagan for the debates, he did so knowingly using Jimmy Carter's stolen briefing books. He is morally unfit to be associated with Major League Baseball.

That being said, I can think of worse things happening to MLB than Will being commissioner. Think about George W. Bush as commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Matthew G. Saroff

Death in the Big City

Afefe Tyehimba's barely veiled criticism regarding the amount of coverage and concern over the death of Johns Hopkins University student Christopher Elser is yet another example of how we are supposed to look at the issues plaguing the city and conclude that somehow, some way, the manner in which Mr. Elser's life was taken from him is the same type of tragedy that every one of us residents in Baltimore are forced to live with daily (Third Eye, April 28). Ms. Tyehimba even goes so far as to lament that he was a fraternity party boy who had tattoos, and that the press coverage of his death is somehow unwarranted because these things happen every day to people in Baltimore.

Enough is enough. Mr. Elser was a college kid. A kid who did well enough in life to be accepted in one of the most prestigious schools in the country. He probably did go to parties, probably did have fun in school, and also probably studied hard and aspired to, one day, earn a living and give back to society.

That is the difference between the story of Mr. Elser's death and those that are more common in Baltimore. Over 80 percent of those killed in Baltimore are involved in the drug trade, murder, prostitution, violence, and the pathology of urban culture. Over 90 percent of those committing these crimes are involved in these issues. Should we be horrified at the quantity and cruelty of these acts? Yes. Should we be surprised? No.

Perhaps there would be a bit more equality of sadness throughout all of the cultures of Baltimore had the deaths been brought on by something a bit more surprising. But, no, we are not surprised. I look out my window in the city every day and see reckless disregard and lack of respect for others. I see lawlessness celebrated. I see children being used as drug mules. I see filth and trash and urban decay go unnoticed. No, I can't feel sorry for those victims that choose to live a life that will inevitably end as pathetically and meaninglessly as it was lived.

Me, I'll cry for Mr. Elser. I will cry for the Dawson family. But I will not cry for those who will not save themselves.

Don Rottman

Car Fair

As I read your article concerning hacks, I was saddened to see that black men still have trouble getting rides from legitimate cabbies ("Hacks," April 21). Isn't it ironic that young black men are thousands of miles away, fighting for Iraqi freedom, only to return home and be unable to get a cab? And, unfortunately, this situation for young blacks is the same all over the country. Let's get legitimate cab rides for our people before we start to worry about obtaining freedom for others.

Shirley Hopkins-Thomas
Owings Mills

You article on unlicensed cab drivers, or hacks, highlighted the absurdity of criminalizing a group of individuals who are providing people with an essential service--transportation--at a price they are willing to pay. The arguments for keeping the laws against hacking on the books are so mendacious and blatantly self-serving that they barely deserve the dignity of a rebuttal. Are some hacks the victims of robberies? Then the solution is to put the robber out of business, not the hack. Indeed, if hacks were not forced to operate on the wrong side of the law, they might be more willing to report crimes against themselves, and criminals therefore might regard them as less attractive targets.

Are some hacks themselves criminals? Doubtless, and so what? So are some truck drivers, ditch diggers, doctors, lawyers, postal workers, and congresspeople. The solution is to put people who commit crimes in jail, not to outlaw peaceable voluntary exchange between consenting individuals.

Does hacking diminish the profits of the owners of taxi medallions? Indeed it does, and here we come to the crux of the matter. Another way of saying this is that a lot of citizens choose not to pay artificially inflated prices charged by the "legitimate" taxi drivers.

If individuals want to make money, they ought to do so by producing a product or a service people are willing to pay for, not by passing laws to keep other folk from competing with them. The law as it now stands serves only the interest of the owners of taxi medallions, who get to charge higher prices due to the artificial limitation of supply. Everybody else loses. In a city in which half of the adult population lacks legal gainful employment, criminalizing honest labor is the height of insanity.

Patrick Hahn

Correction: Due to a technical error, the subhed, byline, and photo credit to last week's feature were dropped from the printed version of the story ("Orchestral Maneuvers," April 28). The subhed was supposed to read "Can the BSO Build a Future on the Music of the Past?"; our apologies to writer Geoffrey Himes and photographer Jefferson Jackson Steele.

Address letters to The Mail, City Paper, 812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201; fax: (410) 523-0138; e-mail: Only letters that address material published in or policies of CP, are no more than 500 words long, and include the writer's name, address, and daytime phone number will be considered for publication. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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