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The TYRANT of the PHILHARMONIC : Ernest Fleischmann May Be Arrogant, Rude and Ruthless, But Even His Critics Admit He's the Best Orchestra Boss in the Business

October 08, 1989|MARTIN BERNHEIMER | Martin Bernheimer has been observing the Los Angeles Philharmonic for The Times since 1965. He won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1982.

"The man hasn't got anything except the orchestra, which is why every waking moment is business. Everything he does has some connection--tenuous or blatant--with the orchestra, 24 hours a day. He simply does not fathom people who have other interests."

Previn actually volunteers some praise for his nemesis. "I have to say this about Ernest: He is the best idea man and program maker I've ever run across. He knows every arcane piece of music. He knows whether it will work, and in conjunction with what. If it doesn't fit, he'll find a way to make it appear that it fits. My programming meetings with him were the best times I had in Los Angeles. He really is very, very good at it."

The kind words are immediately placed in a negative perspective. "Ernest," continues Previn, "lives in a kind of self-made delusion. That kind of power structure not only fades, but it ain't there once you pass Burbank. Nobody cares. Nobody's heard of him. Nobody pays any attention to those pronouncements of his anywhere but in L.A."

That could be wishful thinking.

"He is extremely smart. He has found the one unassailably correct, geographically correct pinpoint for his particular personality. They have always dealt with people like that (in Los Angeles), and they are used to it.

"They don't want it that way anywhere else. In Europe, the orchestras run the management. They feel the less visible and less audible they are, the better it will be in the long run for the orchestra.

"When I first came, someone said to me--it was one of the principal players--Philadelphia is famous for the strings, Chicago for the brass and Cleveland for the cleanliness. We're well-known for the management."

Ernest Fleischmann would probably like that.

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