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Breaking: A second US orchestra chief steps down

Robert Birman has quit as chief executive of the Louisville Orchestra, claiming he had made ‘significant progress’.

Birman presided over a bitter shutdown last year, during the course of which he said that the public would not notice if he shrunk the orchestra to chamber size…. which he then proceeded ruthlessly to do.


His resignation comes within hours of Richard Dare’s at the New Jersey SO.

If there’s a domino effect at work, let’s hope it reaches Minnesota.


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  1. This wouldn’t be right ahead of the tar-and-feathering, would it? One wonders where he will go next.

  2. Well, why should it take a hundred people to play a symphony? They did that it the 19th century! We should expect some productivity improvements by now.

  3. @Norman Lebrecht said, “If there’s a domino effect at work, let’s hope it reaches Minnesota.’

    Brilliant :-)

  4. Brian Hughes says:

    I am probably the last person who would come out on the side of orchestra management, especially in these most trying times for US ensembles. That being said, and just for the record, Norman, I know Rob Birman personally. He began his career here with the Dubuque Symphony and was one of the people responsible for getting me into the business (along with conductor Nicholas Palmer–now with the Owensboro, KY Symphony). The Rob Birman that I know is not at all the man depicted in cyberspace. “Ruthless” is not among any words that I would use to describe Rob, personally or professionally. We do have to remember that the orchestra’s CEO (at least in this country) is–by and large–working at the whim of the governing board. That Rob came into Louisville during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and somehow managed to get the orchestra through it–albeit with a necessary bankruptcy filing–is a testament to his commitment to his position.

    • “Whim” of the governing board. Well, I guess that explains it.

      But “I was just following orders” doesn’t cut it.

  5. Sorry, Mr Hughes, but Mr Birman’s actions as CEO merit the negative cyberspace attention he’s received. He locked out the orchestra and took away the musicians’ health insurance. He advertised for the locked-out musicians’ jobs on Craigslist in the same section you might search for day laborers or office temp workers. He told the press he didn’t think his audience would notice the difference between a 71-member orchestra and a 55-member orchestra. He’s put out one of the dullest, most insulting seasons in recent memory. Half of their opening-night gala concert was spent backing up a Vegas act. If his goal was to transform an orchestra with a proud, innovative tradition into a glorified pops orchestra, I regret that he succeeded.

  6. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    With all these conductors stepping down I wonder who the BSO will choose. In a recent interview with a local PBS affiliate, Mark Volpe did say that it would be one of the guest conductors appearing these past 2 years. Supposedly they will announce their choice this spring.

    It’s certainly been a long time coming.

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