- The Baltimore Symphony is locked in a bitter strike at a time when symphony jobs are scarce.

Some Baltimore Symphony players are talking of auditioning for posts in other orchestras. But the strike comes at a time when many orchestras have fallen on hard times.The Nashville, New Orleans and Oakland orchestras have closed shop, and the Vancouver disbanded after poor ticket sales. The Detroit Symphony recently had a 12-week work stoppage, and the San Francisco a 12-day strike.

In Denver, music director Phillipe Entremont quit because of budget cuts he said set the orchestra back 10 years.

"Pay is a central part of the issue, but this strike is more about personalities and who is boss," said Baltimore symphony concertmeister Herbert Greenberg.

On pay, Greenberg contends the orchestra's position is simple: "What we want is pay parity with the Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Cincinnati and St. Louis orchestras."

The dispute, which began in September, seemed near an end on Nov. 17 when the players made an informal, off-the-record proposal that asked a weekly minimum salary of $1,050 at the end of the four-year contract. Management responded with $1,000, plus $30 for broadcasting and recording work at the end of the pact.

When the terms were made public, players blasted the executive director's disclosure of the off-the-record offer as "unethical."

"I'm totally in the middle, and have agreed not to say a word about the strike," symphony conductor David Zinman said recently. "But everyone, including myself, is very concerned. I have not met anyone in Baltimore who does not want to see it ended. The question is finding a way to end it."

- Carl Apone (Scripps Howard News Service)