Pacific Symphony Dropped Offer, Foster Says : Music: Conductor tells of breakdown in negotiations over salary and rehearsal time.


The conductor widely regarded as the front-runner for the job of music director for the Pacific Symphony said Thursday the orchestra had offered him the job but withdrew the offer last week.

Lawrence Foster, who conducts orchestras in Monte Carlo and Jerusalem as well as operas at the Los Angeles Music Center, said that his negotiations with the Pacific began Dec. 23 but broke down over salary and his request for increased rehearsal time.

“They offered me the job in December,” Foster said from Los Angeles, where he is preparing a revival of Verdi’s “Falstaff.”


“I had accepted. Negotiations went extremely far. Then the offer was dropped last week.”

Preston Stedman, head of the Pacific’s search committee, would neither confirm nor deny Foster’s account. “We don’t want to comment on any statements that any candidates might make,” Stedman said.

Foster said that he asked for a $150,000 salary for the 1991-92 season, which included conducting fees for concerts, an extra fee as music director and a travel allowance. Keith Clark, the previous music director, was paid $94,094 in 1989, his final year. Louis G. Spisto, the executive director who is currently the top-paid employee of the orchestra, earned $67,000 in 1989.

“I gave them a total package,” Foster said. “I was given to understand that the board regarded it as too exorbitant.”

Foster, 48, said that he had programmed the entire 1990-91 season for the organization in the expectation that he would be hired.

“I am brokenhearted,” he added. “From the very beginning I became extremely excited about the project. . . . But that is their right. It is their organization. I can’t do anything about it.”

The orchestra has been auditioning guest conductors to replace Clark, who was forced out in February, 1988, after a bitter dispute with the board of directors over artistic direction and control of the orchestra he founded in 1979.

Besides the salary issue, Foster said, “There was some distrust about my commitment to building the orchestra, that I am regarded as a European person and would not be sufficiently committed here.”

Foster lives in Monte Carlo, where he is in his last season as music director of the Orchestra Philharmonique. He said that while he would continue to keep his primary residence in Monte Carlo, he was more than willing to commit himself to Orange County.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Foster led the Pacific in September at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. Last month, he conducted Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” for the Music Center Opera.

He said that he plans to become music director of the Jerusalem Symphony in 1991. He is currently music adviser to that orchestra. He did not expect that job to take him out of the running for the Pacific Symphony post.

Spisto said that conducting the Pacific is not a full-time job and that it is not uncommon for a music director to hold that position with more than one orchestra.