Why It Was Time for James Levine to Step Down

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When I heard that James Levine was resigning as music director of the Boston Symphony, I felt what many people probably did: relief that he might now be able to recuperate fully from the hard few years he’s had, medically.

As one of the musicians who plays for him pointed out, “The grueling schedule he set up for himself with the Met, Met Chamber Concerts, a recent collaboration with Juilliard, and the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood would be difficult for someone half his age, and in perfect physical condition."

As Bill Clinton might put it, I feel Maestro Levine’s pain – musically, if not physically. My musician friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, concurred: “Levine's musical ideas and intelligence and scholarly knowledge are as fresh and sharp as ever. It must be terribly frustrating for him not to be able to rely on his body to consistently carry out the very real physical component of being an orchestra leader. While conducting itself is a strenuous aerobic activity, musical study and preparation, long rehearsal periods, and travel must take a physical toll as well.”

One last thought from the orchestra member: "James Levine obviously has so much more he can and wants to give to the music world." With all that he’s given the music world so far, I sincerely hope he can take time, rest up, and return refreshed to the podium and the pit.

What do you think? Was it time to step down in Boston? Please leave a comment below.