Marin Alsop

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Marin Alsop
Alsop, on the right, at a charity function in Baltimore
Alsop, on the right, at a charity function in Baltimore
Background information
Born (1956-10-16) October 16, 1956 (age 65)
New York City
Associated actsColorado Symphony;
Eugene Symphony;
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra;
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra;
Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo;
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

Marin Alsop ([ˈmɛər.ɪn ˈæːl.sɑːp]; born October 16, 1956) is an American conductor and violinist. She is currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well as, chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Ravinia Festival. In 2020 she was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Alsop was born in New York City to professional musician parents, and was educated at the Masters School and studied violin at Juilliard's Pre-College Division ('72). She attended Yale University but later transferred to The Juilliard School, where she earned BM ('77) and MM ('78) degrees in violin. While studying at Juilliard, Alsop played with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet.[2] She founded the string ensemble String Fever in 1981. In 1984, Alsop founded Concordia, a 50-piece orchestra specializing in 20th-century American music.[3] She won the Koussevitzky Prize as outstanding student conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1989, where she met her hero and future mentor Leonard Bernstein.[4]

Alsop was commencement speaker at Juilliard's 116th Commencement Ceremony on June 18, 2021 in Damrosch Park, where she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music.[5]

Early career[edit]

Alsop was music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music from 1992 to 2016. From 1993 to 2005, she was first principal conductor and then music director of the Colorado Symphony. She is now the orchestra's conductor laureate. Alsop has also served as associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony in Richmond, Virginia from 1988 to 1990, music director of the Eugene Symphony in Eugene, Oregon from 1989 to 1996, and Creative Conductor Chair for the St. Louis Symphony from 1994 to 1996. In 2002, Alsop started the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship for female conductors. On September 20, 2005, Alsop became the first conductor ever to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra[edit]

In September 2007, Alsop was appointed the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO),[6] having been named Music Director Designate for the 2006–2007 concert season. Selecting her was noteworthy because Alsop is the first woman to hold this position with a major American orchestra[citation needed]. The initial controversy surrounding the announcement that she would be the BSO's next Music Director stemmed from significant resistance from the orchestra's players, who insisted they had not had enough voice in the search process. The orchestra and Alsop met after the announcement and apparently smoothed over some of their differences.[7][8] In June 2009, the orchestra announced the extension of her contract for another five years, through August 2015.[9] In July 2013, the BSO announced a further extension of her contract as music director through the 2020–2021 season.[10][11] In February 2020, the Baltimore Symphony announced that Alsop is to conclude her music directorship of the orchestra at the close of the 2020–2021 season, and to take the title of Music Director Laureate.[12]

Alsop's initiatives with the Baltimore SO have included the "Webumentary Film Series", a free iTunes podcast, "Clueless About Classical", and the "OrchKids" programme, the last directed at underprivileged Baltimore children and based on Venezuela's El Sistema program. Alsop was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.[13] In August 2015, Alsop was appointed Director of Graduate Conducting at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, succeeding one of her mentors, Gustav Meier.[14]

Ravinia Festival[edit]

In 2020, it was announced that Alsop would become the inaugural principal conductor at the Ravinia Festival.[15]

Outside the US[edit]

Marin Alsop with OSESP

In the UK, Alsop has served as principal guest conductor with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and with the City of London Sinfonia.[16] Alsop was Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Bournemouth SO) from 2002 to 2008, the first female principal conductor in the orchestra's history.[17] She was voted Gramophone magazine's Artist of the Year in 2003 and won the Royal Philharmonic Society's conductor's award in the same season. In April 2007, Alsop was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the 10-year classical music outreach manifesto, "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st Century", to increase the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving free entry to all British schoolchildren to a classical music concert.[18] Alsop received an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Bournemouth University on 7 November 2007. Alsop served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Southbank Centre, London, for the 2011–2012 season.[19]

In 2012, Alsop became principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP),[20][21][22] the first female principal conductor of OSESP. In July 2013, OSESP granted her the title of music director and in April 2015 extended her contract to the end of 2019.[23] Alsop led the orchestra on a European tour, including its first appearance at the Proms in August 2012,[24] the first Proms appearance by any Brazilian orchestra. They returned to Europe in October 2013, with concerts in Berlin, London, Paris, Salzburg and Vienna [25] and to the Proms in August 2016. In December 2017, OSESP announced that Alsop would stand down as its music director in December 2019, and subsequently to take the title of honorary conductor.[26]

In 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016, Alsop conducted the Belgian National Orchestra at the Queen Elisabeth Competition.

On 7 September 2013, Alsop became the first female conductor of the Last Night of The Proms, and returned to conduct the Last Night on 12 September 2015.[27] On 4 September 2014, at the Proms, she was awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society.[28]

In 2014, Alsop first guest-conducted the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Vienna RSO). In January 2018, the Vienna RSO announced the appointment of Alsop as its next chief conductor, effective 1 September 2019, with an initial contract of 3 years. She is the first female conductor to be named chief conductor of the Vienna RSO. Alsop is to hold the title of chief conductor designate with immediate effect, through the 2018–2019 season.[29]

Alsop was a recipient of one of the 25th Annual Crystal Awards for 2019 at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.[30]

Since 2020 she is Artist in Residence at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1990, Alsop's partner has been Kristin Jurkscheit, a horn player. They have a son, and Alsop has spoken publicly about her family.[32][33][34] While Alsop was conducting the Colorado Symphony, of which her partner was a member, their relationship provoked controversy, though Alsop replied that the relationship predated her appointment to lead the orchestra and had no bearing on her job performance.[8]


Alsop conducted her first recording in 2000 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a selection of works by Samuel Barber, which was released as part of the American Classics Series on Naxos Records.[35] This disc was followed by four more released between 2001 and 2004 dedicated to the works of Samuel Barber. In 2003, she released her first disc of Leonard Bernstein, recorded with the Bournemouth SO and Chorus. Following this, in 2005, Alsop's fully staged production of Bernstein's Candide with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was nominated for an Emmy Award (DVD: PBS Great Performances/ Image Entertainment).

In June 2006, Alsop conducted the Baltimore SO and violinist Joshua Bell in John Corigliano's Violin Concerto The Red Violin, recorded by Sony Classics and released in September 2007.[36] She and the Baltimore SO made their first-ever live recording release for iTunes of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.[37] Following her advent to the Baltimore post, one of her first projects as Music Director was a series of recordings of Dvořák for Naxos. The first disc in the series, featuring Symphony No. 9, From the New World, and Symphonic Variations, was released in February 2008,[38] and was nominated for BBC Music Magazine’s 2008 Album of the Year.

Other recordings by Alsop with Naxos include a Johannes Brahms symphony cycle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (the first commercially recorded Brahms symphony cycle by a female conductor), and a continuing series of Bournemouth SO recordings, which include Bartók's The Miraculous Mandarin, Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and the symphonies of Kurt Weill.[39]

In 2009, Alsop released a recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass with the Baltimore SO that earned a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Album.[40] In 2010, her recording of Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and soloist Colin Currie won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.[41][42]

Other recent releases include Dvořák symphonies No. 7 & No. 8 with the Baltimore SO,[43] Nixon in China,[44] and works by Roy Harris, Aaron Copland, and Barber, all on the Naxos label. In 2012, Alsop and the Baltimore SO released a recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1, also on Naxos.[45]


  1. ^ "The American Philosophical Society Welcomes New Members for 2020".
  2. ^ "Official website for conductor Marin Alsop". Marin Alsop. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  3. ^ Wigmore, Richard (February 2, 2002). "Alsop, Marin". Oxford Music Online.
  4. ^ "Marin Alsop: First Lady of the Last Night of the Proms". The Independent. 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  5. ^ "The Juilliard School Awards Honorary Doctorates". The Violin Channel. 2021-04-14. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  6. ^ For convenience, the abbreviations "Baltimore SO" and "Bournemouth SO" are used, since both orchestras share the same letters in full abbreviations.
  7. ^ Lev Grossman (25 July 2005). "A Symphony of Her Own". Time. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  8. ^ a b Daniel J. Wakin (9 October 2005). "Best Wishes on Your Job. Now Get Out". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  9. ^ Anne Midgette (5 June 2009). "Baltimore Symphony Extends Music Director's Contract to 2015". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  10. ^ "Marin Alsop Extends Contract as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Through the 2020-2021 Season" (PDF) (Press release). Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  11. ^ Tim Smith (2013-07-25). "Marin Alsop renews Baltimore Symphony contract through 2021". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  12. ^ "Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop to Conclude 14-Year Tenure with 2020-21 Season" (Press release). Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  13. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  14. ^ Tim Smith (28 August 2015). "BSO's Marin Alsop to direct graduate conducting program at Peabody". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2015-09-15.
  15. ^ Reich, Howard (2020-02-05). "Conductor Marin Alsop takes major post at Ravinia". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  16. ^ Geoffrey Norris (22 March 2001). "Beating time and space on the way to the top". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-04-19.[dead link]
  17. ^ "'I don't need to be liked, I'd rather be respected'". The Times. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  18. ^ Charlotte Higgins (2007-04-26). "Orchestras urge free concerts for children". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  19. ^ "Southbank Centre Classical Music 2011_12 Season" (PDF). Southbank Centre Press Release notes. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  20. ^ Maria Eugênia de Menezes (11 February 2011). "Osesp anuncia nova regente". O Estado de S. Paulo. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
  21. ^ Andrew Clark (20 July 2012). "You have to be strong". Financial Times. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  22. ^ Stephen Moss (2012-08-14). "How Marin Alsop plans to put São Paulo Orchestra on the map". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  23. ^ "Marin Alsop renews contract with São Paulo Symphony Orchestra". Gramophone. 2015-04-15. Retrieved 2015-06-05.
  24. ^ Andrew Clements (2012-08-16). "Prom 45: São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Alsop – review (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  25. ^ Richard Fairman (2013-10-28). "São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London – review". Financial Times. Retrieved 2015-06-05.
  26. ^ João Luiz Sampaio (2017-12-06). "Marin Alsop será regente de honra da Osesp a partir de 2020". Estadão. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  27. ^ "The 2015 BBC Proms season is announced". Gramophone. 2015-04-23. Retrieved 2015-06-05.
  28. ^ "RPS - Royal Philharmonic Society - Honorary membership for Marin Alsop - News - About Us". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  29. ^ "Marin Alsop appointed new Chief Conductor of the Vienna RSO" (Press release). Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. 29 January 2018. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  30. ^ "Davos 2019: Meet the Crystal Award winners" (Press release). Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  31. ^ "Dirigentin Marin Alsop tritt Residency an der mdw an" (Press release). University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. 6 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  32. ^ Dalton, Joseph (August 10, 2008). "Marin Alsop to conduct Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC". Times Union.
  33. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (November 11, 2007). "A One-Woman Vanguard". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
  34. ^ Smith, Tim (June 11, 2010). "Alsop cements relationship with BSO, community". The Baltimore Sun.
  35. ^ Alsop, Marin (October 29, 2010). "Building A Career On Barber, The Enigmatic American". NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  36. ^ Anderson, Porter (September 5, 2007). "The Red Violin sings again". CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  37. ^ Smith, Tim (March 19, 2007). "SO recording makes iPod hit parade". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  38. ^ Alsop, Marin (April 18, 2008). "Dvorak's Symphonic Journey to the 'New World'". NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  39. ^ Cowan, Rob (June 2005). "Bartók (The) Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19". Gramophone. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  40. ^ Smith, Tim (December 3, 2009). "Baltimore Symphony recording of Bernstein's 'Mass' gets Grammy nomination". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  41. ^ Nicholson, David (October 26, 2010). "Virginia Symphony presents Higdon's percussion concerto". Daily Press. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  42. ^ Dunkle, David N. (February 2, 2010). "Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon scores a Grammy". The Patriot-News. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  43. ^ "Dvorák: Symphonies 7 & 8". BBC Music Magazine. January 20, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  44. ^ Picard, Anna (January 20, 2012). "Adams: Nixon in China". BBC Music Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  45. ^ Ashley, Tim (October 11, 2012). "Mahler: Symphony No 1 – review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2015.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Music Director, Colorado Symphony (Denver Symphony)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Principal Conductor, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
James Conlon (artistic advisor)
Preceded by
Principal Conductor, São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Chief Conductor, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by