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

<i> Martin Bernheimer has been observing the Los Angeles Philharmonic for The Times since 1965. He won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1982. </i>

THERE IS GREAT importance in being Ernest Fleischmann. He’ll tell you that himself.

Pity the flunky who doesn’t escort him instantly to the head of the line, offer him the best table, select the right verb for a press release or defer to his professional judgment in all matters, great and small.

“Do you realize who I am?” he habitually huffs when--perish the ignoble thought--proper attention is not paid. He says the words with equal hauteur to ushers, prima donnas, security guards, politicians, receptionists, waiters, lawyers, agents, educators and garage attendants. Once, according to a popular and oft-told tale, he said it to Secret Service agents barring him from a hotel floor reserved for the vice president of the United States.

Actually, it is amazing how many people do realize who Ernest Fleischmann is. He usually gets the table he wants and the deference he demands. He has served for 20 years as executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and he loves publicity--and power--almost as much as he loves music.


Theoretically, executive directors of major orchestras are supposed to tend anonymously to business problems. They are backstage administrators. Music directors, the men most often on the podium, are supposed to make the artistic decisions and take the spotlight. However, the executive director may wield tremendous authority, provided the music director and the board of directors want him to have it--or let him grab it.

Michael J. Connell, the president of the Philharmonic’s board of directors, claims that the separation of powers has been maintained in Los Angeles (“Ernest and I have a sound agreement about what exactly the scope of his job is . . . ,” Connell says. “In no way should he dominate the music director. . . .”). In fact, during the regimes of three music directors, Fleischmann, now 64, has been nothing if not the authority figure for the orchestra. He has functioned as impresario, talent scout, super-organizer, programmer, arts politician and sweeping policy maker. For better or worse, and most observers concede the former, he is the most important single force on the serious music scene in Los Angeles. He is an emphatic, dominating, bulldozing, brilliant presence. He is a star.

When he came to Los Angeles in 1969, he found a solid, second-rate orchestra basking in the fleeting glamour of Zubin Mehta, a charismatic conductor who wanted to spend a lot of time out of town. Fleischmann took over, presumably with Mehta’s blessings, and proceeded to make the Philharmonic a progressive enterprise.

After Mehta moved on to New York in 1978, Fleischmann managed the coup of persuading Carlo Maria Giulini, the distinguished and universally beloved Italian conductor, to become music director. The arrangement worked well. During his relatively brief stints here, Giulini tended to the needs of God and Mozart, while Fleischmann ran the store virtually without interference.

Even in the least troubled times, however, controversy followed Fleischmann like a faithful sheep dog. He insulted volunteers, challenged his board, bullied his colleagues, attacked the press, humiliated his subordinates and tried to manipulate his critics. He abused his employees, at least one of whom abandoned his desk in the middle of a working day, never to return.

Something akin to a scandal finally erupted last April. Music director No. 3, Andre Previn, who succeeded Giulini in 1985, walked out after a four-year tour of embattled duty, leaving behind a terse but telling statement: “In the current structure of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it has become obvious to me there is no room for a music director.”


It was obvious to insiders that Previn was not happy about the way Fleischmann had been usurping his privileges. It was obvious, too, that Fleischmann was not happy about the way Previn had been functioning as music director. Neither party, however, would discuss the conflict in public. They had agreed to a pact of silence. It was time, Fleischmann told Los Angeles, to look to the future.

The great conductor quest began--or at least seemed to begin. A search committee was named. Pundits played guess-the-maestro games. Fleischmann granted grave interviews in which he alluded to numerous contenders for the job and the unsettling prospect of a long, difficult wait fraught with complex multilevel negotiations.

But abruptly, in mid-August, a new music director was named. Enter Esa-Pekka Salonen, a 31-year-old Finnish Wunderkind .

Suddenly, the silence was broken, the recriminations began, the charges and countercharges flew. Amid the noise, the gossip and the leaks, virtually everyone would agree on one point: Ernest Fleischmann, as usual, had gotten what he wanted.

Attention had been paid.

ERNEST FLEISCHMANN can be affable, sensitive, charming, caring. Ask his friends. He can be arrogant, callous, rude, ruthless. Ask his victims. Ask Andre Previn.

“Ernest,” he will say in a moment of extreme pique, “(is) an untrustworthy, scheming bastard.”

Previn, who had begun his career in Hollywood, brought with him a respectable reputation with European orchestras. He was known as a solid technician, a charming television personality, a conservative composer and a refined specialist in music by such composers as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Elgar, Walton and Ravel.


The Philharmonic hype machine, overseen by Fleischmann, worked overtime to glamorize his homecoming. The euphoria, however, did not last long. The new conductor proved most persuasive in repertory that failed to excite the majority of subscribers. On the podium, he tended to be businesslike, not flashy like Mehta or romantic like Giulini. His concerts varied in quality. The press tended to be respectful, seldom ecstatic.

Under the circumstances, Fleischmann had trouble selling Previn to the masses. Empty seats greeted the music director with increasing frequency, though the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was usually full for such popular guest-conductors as Kurt Sanderling, Simon Rattle--and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Vague reports of friction between the music director and the executive director surfaced early. The reports were denied on both sides. Then, in interviews that began on the day of Salonen’s appointment, Previn and Fleischmann admitted the friction was real.

Previn, it seems, made a serious mistake. He wanted to run his orchestra. He wanted to make the important decisions. He wanted to be consulted on the unimportant ones. Instead, he contends, Fleischmann had in mind a more ceremonial role. “I wasn’t allowed,” he claims, “to have any opinion.” When certain guest-conductors were chosen, no one asked for Previn’s thoughts, he says. He wasn’t always consulted when works were commissioned or programming was developed. When Previn complained to the board about being passed over in the decision-making process, he recalls one member telling him: “Ernest is physically, mentally and psychologically incapable of uttering these words: I will have to check with the music director . It has nothing to do with you.”

Previn might have maintained the control he wanted if he had been an overwhelmingly popular or critical success. He might have endeared himself to the board if he had taken a more active role in fund raising. If Previn had exuded an aura of strength, Fleischmann might have retreated. But, according to authoritative observers backstage, Fleischmann would not play second fiddle to an ineffectual conductor.

“From my perspective,” the executive director says, “Andre did not exercise enough music-directorial leadership. I mean, you either have it or you don’t. . . . It became clear that the orchestra was standing still, making no progress.”

Previn, says Fleischmann, was “fragile.” “In meetings he was very often terrific for the first hour. Then his energy level dropped, and he wanted privacy. . . . It was always difficult to confront issues. He made one very apprehensive to say anything to him that wasn’t pleasant, not bolstering.”


When Previn’s original three-year contract was renegotiated, Fleischmann remembers taking a “neutral role. There was a lot of opposition from the board. I defended him,” he says. The board decided to offer Previn only a two-year extension. That would have kept him here until 1991. It also may have have given Fleischmann ample time to find a more dazzling successor.

In London in 1983, Fleischmann had “discovered” a young, handsome, energetic and intense conductor named Esa-Pekka Salonen. He invited Salonen to make a guest appearance in Los Angeles in November, 1984, the season before Previn took over as music director. After numerous return engagements, the executive director decided he wanted to engage Salonen as principal guest-conductor. Ordinary guest-conductors merely come, conduct and leave. Being a principal guest gives the visiting maestro a place in the power structure of the orchestra and validates an ongoing relationship--up to and including, in this case, the possibility of taking the orchestra on a high-profile international tour.

By all accounts, the romancing of Salonen would be the beginning of the end for Andre Previn.

“It was,” admits Fleischmann, his basso quasi-profondo halting, “a murky episode. When Andre’s first contract was being renewed, the board asked me to go and see him, to explain some things that worried them.” He sounds distantly, elegantly British, and listeners with keen ears also detect stubborn traces of his native Germany. “Andre and I had a few days at his place in England. We discussed the possibility that Esa-Pekka should become principal guest. I think that was back in 1986. Andre agreed, and I was to work out a contract with Esa-Pekka’s manager.

“The manager said that Esa-Pekka wanted a tour of Japan and, where possible, U.S. tours, because he will want U.S. exposure. Japan was important.

“Andre came back later and told Robert Harth (Fleischmann’s second-in-command) that he had changed his mind about Esa-Pekka as principal guest. Andre said, ‘Esa-Pekka can come as a guest-conductor. You don’t have to give him a title.’


“When I found out about this I realized that I had to find the right time to explain to him about the tour. . . . I hadn’t wanted to tell Esa-Pekka that Andre had changed his mind. I thought that at the right moment I could get Andre to see the reason.”

Apparently, the right moment never occurred.

Andre Previn does not mince words when he responds to Fleischmann’s version of the story. “Ernest Fleischmann is very clever,” he says bitterly, “because he mixes absolute truths with absolute lies. He had said to me in London that he was thinking of making Esa-Pekka Salonen a principal guest-conductor. I said, ‘You want to be a little bit careful, because when I came you had two principal guest-conductors (Simon Rattle and Michael Tilson Thomas). You said to me, ‘Pick one.’ Since (having two) was impossible to do, I asked if he wanted to get rid of Simon now.

“ ‘We got rid of Michael Tilson Thomas,’ I said, ‘and now you want another one who is even younger. Isn’t that going to be hurtful and make very little sense?’

“ ‘Oh, wah-wah-wah-wah-wah,’ Ernest replied. I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ I didn’t think there was any rush.

“He had already signed him. I hit the roof about that. I went to Mike Connell and said, ‘Look, this really is crazy. You cannot sign somebody without telling the music director. This can’t go on.’

“Finally Ernest said, ‘I was wrong about this. I’ve done it very badly. So now can I have Esa-Pekka?’ And I said, ‘No.’ ”


Previn later talked to Salonen himself. “He was extremely pleasant. Esa-Pekka said he had no idea I didn’t know. ‘You can see where I can’t have this,’ I said. He said, ‘Absolutely.”’

Previn thought everything was settled. Salonen would not have an official title but would frequently conduct the orchestra as guest. Then Salonen inadvertently dropped the bomb:

“As he was leaving,” Previn remembers, “he turned and asked, ‘It is still OK for me to take the orchestra to Japan, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Oh, God!’ These are verbatim quotes. That was one little item that had never been mentioned.

“I said, ‘Esa-Pekka, this is not going to work.’ He said, ‘You’re telling me!’ ”

Board president Connell, to whom both the executive director and the music director officially report, calls the tour fiasco “a grave misunderstanding” and “an innocent mistake.” Eventually--to Fleischmann’s embarrassment, Salonen’s consternation and Previn’s relief--the principal-guest appointment was cancelled and the Japan tour with it.

Andre Previn had won the battle, but he would lose the war.

“My hope,” Fleischmann says, “was to mend fences with Andre as well as Esa-Pekka, when the question of contract renewal came up.”

Did Previn want a renewal?

“Oh, yes,” Fleischmann sighs.

Previn sighs, too, when he thinks about the contract renewal. “It was the week when we did the Mahler Fourth (early last March), I think,” he remembers. “(Mike Connell) came to me and said he had good news. There would be a new contract. ‘Go home,’ he said, ‘tell your wife, go out and celebrate.’ I asked him what Ernest thought of this. I swear to you on my child’s head that he said, ‘Ernest has nothing to do with this. We are all tired of feeling that Ernest is the figurehead of the Philharmonic. From now on. . . .’


“Ernest found out about it, and within a couple of weeks I didn’t have a new contract. I confronted Mike Connell about the contradiction and reminded him of what he had said to me. He uttered a sentence that was, for sheer lawyer-talk, almost unbeatable. ‘Oh, Andre,’ he said, ‘I have no doubt that you thought you heard that, but I didn’t say it that way.’ ”

Reached at his law office, Connell remains mum on the subject. “My agreement with Previn,” he says, “is that I am not going to comment on his departure from the organization. If he wishes to comment, that is up to him.”

Other well-informed sources, who require anonymity, claim that there was no plan to offer Previn a third contract. One disenchanted, unidentifiable board member emphatically in the Fleischmann camp put it succinctly: “Previn is a petulant little shit. He quit before we could fire him.”

Most insiders are convinced that Fleischmann had fixed the race in Salonen’s favor. He was going to succeed Previn as music director--unless, of course, he got an offer that he couldn’t refuse from New York or Berlin.

No one was less surprised about Salonen’s appointment than Andre Previn.

Previn says bitterly, “The whole thing was planned beautifully from day one. Esa-Pekka Salonen has never been a music director before in his life. He will do as he is told.”

Fleischmann doesn’t like that interpretation. “To even suggest such a thing is beneath contempt,” he protests.


“That is totally off the wall. I did not try to get anybody out, or in. It is preposterous, totally untrue.” He adds that Salonen had indeed served as a music director, with the Swedish Radio Orchestra, though he admits that it wasn’t a major international post.

Fleischmann says all he ever wanted to do was strengthen his conducting team. “There was little suggestion that Esa-Pekka would want to be music director, or that he would be free. I had heard that Esa-Pekka was being wooed for the (London) Philharmonia. I hoped he would return here as principal guest-conductor. Giving him the title would ensure that and bolster the roster of the Philharmonic.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen remained safely and somewhat ambiguously diplomatic on the subject when his appointment as music director was announced this summer. “My contract says that the music director is the one who makes the decisions,” he declared.

“I can’t comment on what happened with Andre and Ernest,” he continued when prodded. “In any case, the results are important, not the power. If the music director and executive director cannot collaborate, it is difficult. I met Andre a few times and liked him very much. I respect him as a conductor.”

So does Ernest Fleischmann under the right conditions. “Andre is a terrific musician. When his energy level is high, he is very inspiring. . . . Andre did do some marvelous things when his adrenaline ran high.”

But asked what went wrong in his dealings with Previn, Fleischmann begins to attack: “Why can’t someone accept that something really didn’t work out very well? We tried to make the best of it.


“It didn’t work out for the orchestra. Here is this amazing musician, gifted in all kinds of directions. He earns the respect of musicians everywhere. Yet he always had something holding him back. I had hoped that bringing him back here would unlock that special spark.

“There were danger signs. . . . His big musical talent never reached its full potential because of all kinds of hang-ups. . . .”

Earlier, Fleischmann had delivered what might serve as his epitaph for Andre Previn: “He is a much better guest-conductor than music director.”

In fact, Previn is contracted to conduct here for seven weeks during the current season--he is conducting this weekend in his first engagement since his resignation--and for six weeks each during 1990-91 and 1992-93. He is still scheduled for some recordings with the orchestra and a U.S. tour in May, 1990. Nevertheless, he functions now in the capacity described by Fleischmann: guest-conductor.

ERNEST FLEISCHMANN was born in Frankfurt am Main, in Germany, on Dec. 7, 1924. As the Nazis rose to power, he moved with his family to South Africa. He earned a degree in accounting from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Cape Town.

At the age of 17, he made dual, significantly conflicting debuts in that city, as critic and conductor. In 1952, he organized the Van Riebeeck Festival, the first major international arts festival held in South Africa. That proved so successful that he was engaged to oversee the prestigious Johannesburg Festival two years later.


In 1959, he was offered two interesting jobs, one as music director of the Cape Town Symphony, the other as manager of the London Symphony Orchestra. After much agonizing, he chose the latter, moved to Britain and, for most practical purposes, gave up the baton. In 1967, he lost a power struggle with the players of the self-governing London orchestra and became an executive at CBS Records in London. In 1968, he took time off from his desk to make a brief and short-lived comeback as a conductor. In a forgettable Technicolored saga called “Interlude,” Oskar Werner pretended to be a conductor on the screen while Fleischmann took the podium for the sound track.

America probably first noticed Fleischmann in 1969, when he contributed a provocative article to High Fidelity magazine. In it he dared attack the “amateur boards” that control American orchestras.

“The U.S.A.,” he complained, “is the only country in the world today where the fortunes of most symphony orchestras depend on the generosity, the wisdom, the enthusiasm, indeed the musical tastes and policies of bankers, oil men, meatpackers, merchants and housewives.”

Fleischmann might have had Los Angeles in mind when he diagnosed the ills of American orchestras. At that time, the Philharmonic found itself in a characteristically precarious position. The music director was very busy with an independent career. The orchestra manager was a low-key and not particularly potent bureaucrat. The board of directors, dominated by Dorothy Buffum Chandler, seemed to be calling many of the artistic shots. Standards were uneven, musical achievements were limited and finances problematic.

The cure, Fleischmann’s diatribe suggested, was simple. Hire a strong, imaginative, resourceful, enlightened manager, pay him a lot of money, and let him run the show. The board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic did just that. The board hired Fleischmann.

The new boss made waves. He expanded both the summer and winter seasons. He increased audiences. He oversaw the creation of community outreach plans, a minority training program and a summer performance institute. He expanded Philharmonic horizons with ambitious tours and enhanced the reputation of the orchestra with recording projects.


He helped improve the Philharmonic’s uneasy relationship with contemporary composition. He added chamber music to the symphonic agenda, improved educational involvements and sponsored stellar recitals. He tried to improve the acoustics both at the Music Center and at the Hollywood Bowl. In many instances, he hired better guest-conductors and better soloists than those to whom a complacent public had become accustomed.

In moves that he now claims to regret, he also sanctioned advertising campaigns that attempted to sell the orchestra as if it were a detergent. In one bizarre ad, he billed the British mezzo-soprano Janet Baker as “one of the greatest singing artists of our time,” and blithely attributed the quote to “Fleischmann, L.A. Phil.”

He dabbled in programmatic gimmickry. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was suddenly giving crossover concerts with rock stars. The orchestra was performing in baseball and basketball stadiums, on television shows, in thematic marathons at popular prices. It even ventured isolated tributes to black and female composers.

It wasn’t always clear to outside observers if Fleischmann really wanted to serve the cause of music or just the cause of the executive director. Even his adversaries had to admit, however, that the Philharmonic wasn’t boring any more.

“I don’t think,” Michael Connell offers, “that there is anyone better than Ernest Fleischmann at figuring out, within the bounds of what is truly classical music, what sells and still meets the artistic goals.”

The personal side of Fleischmann’s life appears to have played a secondary role to his work. A colleague at the Philharmonic defines Fleischmann’s non-job interests succinctly: “He likes fine food and, when he makes the time, attractive women.” Now divorced, he was married in 1953 to Elsa Leviseur, a successful landscape architect who came to Los Angeles with him in 1969. He has three children, all now in their 20s. (One was recently drafted to write silly poems to accompany Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals” at the Bowl.) His romantic involvements--including a lengthy, open relationship (now terminated) with an employee who rose rapidly from the lowly ranks to prominent managerial duties--have kept backstage gossips happy for years. His most notable extracurricular activities, however, remain musical. He has served as panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and on the board of the American Symphony Orchestra League and California Confederation of the Arts.


His devotion to the orchestra is well compensated. Connell, whose job it is to know such things, will demurely admit that there is probably no one in the world who gets more for managing an orchestra. According to official Internal Revenue Service figures, he earned well over $320,000 in 1988, although, Connell says, the figures may not include pensions and medical benefits.

From time to time during his reign, Fleischmann has threatened to leave Los Angeles. Various offers--from New York, San Francisco and London--were duly reported, especially if the renewal of his Los Angeles contract beckoned. In 1985, he actually announced his intention to accept an invitation from the Paris Opera. Political problems in France intervened. A few days later, citing an “immense outpouring of appreciation for my work,” he rescinded his resignation.

Music Center sources claim that there was much rejoicing in the halls when he quit, much doom and gloom when he changed his mind.

ANDRE PREVIN at first expressed surprise when told that many of Fleischmann’s associates, especially members of the orchestra and its administrative team, were willing to talk about him only if their names were kept secret.

“I don’t know why everyone is scared of Ernest,” he says. Later he reconsiders. “Those poor buggers. They daren’t talk. They’ve got kids, and houses in the Valley.”

Then he speaks for himself. “Other people don’t want to talk about Ernest because they are frightened. I want to be above that idiotic ranting.”


So does Deborah Rutter--a former administrative associate of Fleischmann’s and now executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. She is one of the few Fleischmann associates--past or present--who is willing to be quoted. “There are so many wonderful things he does,” she says. “That makes the lousy things--the insulting things that are so extremely hurtful, that can be demeaning at times--pale in comparison. This is not a man who is afraid of being hated. He has strong convictions about what he is doing. This empowers him to keep going.

“Did I take a lot of abuse from him?” She sighs. “Yes.”

Then she reflects. “It sounds piddling and petty. But, yes, he comes in and destroys you because you used the wrong word in a sentence. Of course, he does that to everybody. But think of the great things he has done.

“There are people who don’t want to work with Ernest,” Rutter says. “It is unfortunate. There are some great artists who won’t come. It’s a damn shame.”

Love-hate relationships with Fleischmann would seem to be common. “His power comes from his brilliance,” observes one of the musicians who insisted that his identity be concealed. “When he goes to a meeting, he really is more prepared than anyone there, simply because he knows more than anybody there. That is pretty dominating in itself.”

“It is a matter of personality,” observes another colleague. “If people need to have his input, his knowledge, his creativity, they’re going to listen. Anyone with a strong sense of self-worth can’t work for him for long, not on any level. In any situation, he starts out by taking charge, as soon as he can. He insists on having control. When he came here, he wanted to control music in the whole city.

“He gets control of a situation, sometimes, by lying to a person. While the person tries to figure out what this is about, Ernest goes on with the meeting. He changes every 10 or 15 minutes. He has all the characteristics of a narcissistic personality. If he finds a weak spot in you, he’s going to go for it.”


Another equally reliable and equally anonymous source at the Music Center says that the players in the orchestra feel intimidated by Fleischmann. “He could make their lives miserable if he wanted to. He can withhold certain favors. Morale is not nearly as good around here as it should be, especially in the rank and file.”

The name of the Fleischmann game is simple: power. But it isn’t a game. He exults in power. He creates it, demands it, seizes it. And like many a megalomaniacal autocrat before him, he pretends that he doesn’t want or need it.

“I can’t explain why people think I am power-crazed,” Fleischmann says innocently.

“I have strong opinions, I suppose. . . . If I could write better, I would be a critic. I am a de facto critic. That causes certain conflicts. The word and concept of power are of no importance to me. Being influential, fighting for what I believe to be worthwhile--sure.”

But does he fight clean?

“Sure. Of course. The big problem is, I lay it all on the line. I don’t know how to scheme and plot. I have no time. People know where they stand with me.

“When something bothers me, I cannot hide my disappointment, or whatever it is.”

Does he suffer fools gladly?

“I suppose not. I know I shouldn’t, but I make people uncomfortable when I point out errors.”

If one can judge performance strictly in terms of results, Fleischmann must be very good at his job. But he isn’t very good at sharing power. He isn’t even very good at delegating responsibility.


He says that he has mellowed over the years. That is a matter of debate.

Just minutes after denouncing Previn, Fleischmann called to say he was having second thoughts. He had not been sufficiently diplomatic, and Previn was scheduled to return to the Philharmonic for lengthy visits as guest-conductor.

“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear enough,” he added rather anxiously for the record. “I didn’t stress the very positive aspects of working with Andre. He is a catalyst for interesting ideas. Even he enjoyed making programs and dreaming up stuff. I believe his heart about music and the orchestra is very much in the right place.

“On a personal level, I hope I haven’t made the relationship sound like a totally downhill one. The problem was as much my fault as anything. It was my fault that I didn’t say to hell with it and talk. . . . Now he comes here to make great concerts (as guest-conductor). I want a positive working relationship.”

Previn tries to put Fleischmann in perspective as well. “Now I see the relative unimportance of it all,” he says.

He says that he feels a new sentiment toward Fleischmann. “I’m kind of sorry for him, in my own weird way. He is driven by that extraordinary need for solitary power. It drives him on through life.

“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.