James Levine Leaving the Boston Symphony

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

James Levine, suffering from debilitating back problems, will step down from his post as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on September 1. The announcement comes a day after Levine announced he would not be conducting the BSO's March concerts, including a tour with stops in New York and New Jersey later this month.

Levine will continue serving as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, the organization confirmed in a statement. On March 30 and April 1 he is scheduled to lead the company in Wagner's Das Rheingold, followed by a series of performances of the five-hour Die Walkure.

In an interview with WQXR and WNYC, Mark Volpe, the BSO's managing director, said that he and Levine began to discuss an "evolving artistic role" back in November. "It was clear he needed to reduce his commitment and save energy and try to address some of the ongoing health challenges that have been basically inhibiting him from what he wanted to do artistically," said Volpe. When Levine withdrew from last week's performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 9, he decided it was time to "resolve the uncertainty."

"Given the challenges regarding my health and the ensuing absences they have forced me to take from my work with the BSO, I believe it is best for everyone, but especially the orchestra and our wonderful audiences, for me to step down as music director," said Levine, 67, in a statement.

The Boston Symphony is consistently ranked among the nation's leading orchestras, with annual concerts at Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood in addition to its series in Boston. Levine has been its artistic leader for the last seven years.

Volpe said the orchestra is in strong artistic shape but has seen its ticket sales slip as a result of Levine's ongoing health problems. "It’s been a challenge recently in that you prepare a series of programs and then ultimately it’s been a different program, a different soloist, a different conductor," he explained. "As much as possible we try to keep things intact but it doesn’t always work that way."

When asked why Levine will continue to work at the Met and not in Boston, Volpe said, "He’s got a 40-year relationship with the Met. But it’s sort of organic with Jim. It made sense for him in organizing his musical life in Boston. I can’t speak for the Met. But it was clear he had to scale back."


More in:

Comments [6]

David from Parkchester, NY

Sorry, but Boston's. loss is New York's gain. The BSO concerts @ Carnegie under
Mr. Levine will be missed

Mar. 03 2011 03:47 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from BOONTON, NJ

Long before I started studying with the Met Opera's Maestro Fausto Cleva, Levine had studied with him and began a legendary and comprehensive career in opera, symphony, chamber music ensembles ande even as pianist collaborator with major talents. His dignified and warm-hearted respect for others makes it even more sad for us that such a personality so rare and talented, has had to make this departure as the music director for the great Boston Symphony. KUDOS TO MAESTRO LEVINE for your decision! We all hope that your health will improve, a harmonious, more sophisticated health science has provided "miracles" before.

Mar. 03 2011 12:13 PM
onecelloplayer from New Jersey

About time or maybe long overdue. Levine's golden reputation in New York never fully translated in Boston... Frankly, his modernist programming decisions didn’t sit well with regular audience members whose inflated ticket prices never seemed fully justified. In retrospect, it's a wonder anyone thought a stool-bound 'cerebral' conductor with a full time gig at the Met could have ever successfully filled Seiji's shoes. Had to laugh out loud when the NYTimes added "The orchestra said it was a joint decision. " Ouch. Good for the BSO - time to move on!

Mar. 03 2011 12:07 PM
A Singer from Boston

I'm sad to see him go. I sang the Mahler 2 with him last October and we were all hoping that the eponymous Resurrection might work its magic on his health (his conducting was superb; the phrasing in the first and last movements was deeply moving). That said, this really has been a long time coming - he's the conducting equivalent of Greg Oden.

Mar. 03 2011 11:39 AM
Ray Russolillo from New York

With all due sympathy for Maestro Levine's health issues, his erratic attendance has not been fair to his audiences and employers. He is making the right decision and is doing so in a dignified manner.

Mar. 03 2011 08:24 AM
Daniel Rutkowski from Annandale-on-Hudson

I hate to say it, but it's about time. For even the most fit and masterful conductor, leading two of the greatest orchestras in two cities seems impossible. I'd say he's making the right decision.

Mar. 02 2011 09:35 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR