By rights, the just concluding musical season should have been the year of the New York Philharmonic. Its 150th-anniversary celebration, following hard on the heels of its selection of the highly respected German conductor Kurt Masur as music director, should have provided audiences with everything needed to whet their musical appetite and restore interest to what some have been calling a dying art.

But the Philharmonic, like the musical public, failed to count on the sudden irruption into New York musical life of Leon Botstein, a fortyish, hitherto almost unknown conductor. Trained as an academic at Harvard, Mr. Botstein first achieved fame when, at the age of twenty-four, he was appointed president of Franconia College, a tiny, exceedingly trendy liberal-arts college tucked away in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In 1975, Mr. Botstein moved on to become the president of Bard College, a somewhat larger, exceedingly trendy...

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