Boston Symphony Orchestra

The BSO’s 2012-2013 Season

Thursday, April 19, 2012
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The Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced a 2012-2013 season that includes major orchestral masterpieces, favorite conductors and soloists, significant debuts, and a major world premiere.
As the BSO continues the search for a successor to former Music Director James Levine, the orchestra deepens its relationships with many of today’s most admired conductors and welcomes new voices to the podium of Symphony Hall. Classical New England brings you the programs with live Saturday night broadcasts from Symphony Hall, as well as encore Sunday afternoons and on-demand access at

The season begins on Sept. 22 with perennial favorite Itzhak Perlman in the role of both violin soloist and conductor for an all-Beethoven program that includes the Symphony No. 7.
The 2012-2013 season also features the return of Charles Dutoit in three different programs of 20th century music, the beginning of a multi-year partnership with Dutoit that will focus on works for which the conductor is particularly well-known. The first program (Oct. 18-23) is highlighted by Claude Debussy’s Fanfares and Symphonic Fragments from The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, with the subsequent programs exploring music by Ravel and Stravinsky in October, and Hindemith and Prokofiev in January.
Conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos returns as well, for a concert that features two of the BSO’s most significant past commissions: the Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass by Paul Hindemith and the Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók. On the same program, pianist Lang Lang makes his BSO subscription debut with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
A more recently established relationship continues in November when Stéphane Denève conducts music by Roussel, Berlioz, Saint-Saëns (with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet), and James MacMillan.
Two of today’s most exciting younger conductors visit Symphony Hall for the first time next season. In October, Vladimir Jurowski, principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, makes his BSO debut with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, featuring soloist Arabella Steinbacher, and Shostakovich’s bold and riveting Symphony No. 4.
Then, in January, Andris Nelsons, who conducted the BSO at Carnegie Hall on short notice in 2011, comes to Boston for Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with soloist Baibe Skride, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.
Following last summer’s spectacular performance of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Tanglewood, conductor Bramwell Tovey once again leads stellar soloists, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the BSO in that rarely performed work during the first full series of concerts of the season.
The BSO continues to present some of the most compelling compositional voices of our time, often in concerts conducted by the composers themselves. In November, Thomas Adès conducts his In Seven Days for piano and orchestra with soloist Kirill Gerstein, who also takes the stage for Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on the same program. Dawn Upshaw also joins the orchestra for music by Sibelius.
Oliver Knussen also conducts his own works in April, with violin soloist Pinchas Zukerman and soprano Claire Booth, on a program that also includes music by the often overlooked Russian composer Nikolai Miaskovsky.
In addition, the BSO once again adds to its legacy of commissions from the most significant composers of the day with the world premiere of the Cello Concerto No. 3 by Augusta Read Thomas, with soloist Lynn Harrell. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the program, which also features the Symphony No. 3, the “Organ,” by Saint-Saëns, with soloist Olivier Latry, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, the “Jupiter.”
Other highlights of the season include three programs conducted by Daniele Gatti. First, he and the BSO commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi with the composer’s epic Requiem. Then, in March, he leads the orchestra in another bicentennial celebration with an all-Wagner program. The following week’s program is devoted to the singularly massive and transcendent Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler.

More highlights of the season include programs of Brahms, Schubert, and Mahler with conductor Bernard Haitink, Bruckner, Sibelius, and more conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, and an April program with no conductor that features the individual sections of the BSO, separately first and then joining forces for Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

For complete information about the 2012-2013 season, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Lynn Harrell performs Dvorak's Cello Concerto with the BSO

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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Pops Goes Motown!

Friday, June 3, 2011
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James Levine: American Maestro

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
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Byron Stripling Pays Tribute to Dizzy

Friday, May 13, 2011
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Keith Lockhart invites trumpeter Byron Stripling to the stage for a Boston POPS tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway and Mahalia Jackson.

Saturday, May 14 at 7pm | 99.5 All Classical

Watch this video of Stripling performing "Tiger Rag" with the Boston POPS orchestra.

James Levine: The Man Behind The BSO's Baton

By NPR Fresh Air   |   Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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Hear James Levine's conversation with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air:

May 4, 2011

On June 5, 1971, James Levine lifted his baton and stepped up on the stage at The Metropolitan Opera. The occasion was a festival performance of Tosca. It was also the 27-year-old Levine's debut performance at the Met.

Since then, Levine has conducted works by Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, Rossini, Stravinsky, Debussy and countless others during his 40-year career with the Met. But, he says, he still remembers that first night on the stage.

"I was very excited, but I wasn't nervous," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I kept thinking I should be nervous, but I wasn't. And I think the reason was I had really grown up concentrating on music and on opera, and particularly on the Met. ... So when the time came that I was actually standing there conducting, I remember feeling amazingly at home."

Levine is the subject of a new PBS documentary, James Levine: America's Maestro, as well as James Levine: 40 Years at the Metropolitan Opera, a coffeetable book documenting some of the 2,500 performances he has conducted at the Met. The Met has also released James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met, two box sets of DVDs and CDs capturing 22 of his nearly 2,500 live opera performances.

Levine recently announced that he would be stepping down as the musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he first conducted in 1972. But he'll continue his tenure at the Met, where he's known for bringing out the best in his musicians and in the company orchestra. In 1994, The New Yorker's Frederic Dannen credited Levine with "developing the orchestra from a mediocre pit band into a world-class ensemble." Levine says that any changes he made were slow and methodical, and always with his musicians in mind.

"Year after year, as we played a more and more diverse repertoire, as we learned a lot of new things [and] as we repeated the difficult and special works more frequently, all these bits and pieces added up to what we needed to make improvements," he says. "We began to play symphonic repertoire and chamber repertoire, which is absolutely essential for orchestra members to improve, and I think ... essentially [we tried to] find every possible constructive solution to the problems that we had. And I think, for the most part, that's the way it's played out for the past 40 years."

Conducting Style

Levine tells Terry Gross that one of the most important things he does as a conductor is something he actively tries not to do — get in the way of the artistry of the musicians who are playing.

"I want to be always there for the players, so when they check for something they want to remember — or for something that they need, or for something that is a technical help in the concert — they can see it," he says. "But I want to do that in a way in which the audience is not getting a visual show instead of an aural one."

Levine's style at the podium has always been more muted than that of some of his colleagues. He does not gesticulate wildly or move his arms rapidly because, he says, he does not want to interfere with his audience's perception of the music.

"If your orientation is to watch the conductor, you get your aural sense interfered with in a way that is not completely controllable and conscious — because you see the conductor gesturing in a way that shows something about his feeling about the passage. And this, unconsciously, you measure against what you hear," he says. "And I think the most satisfying pieces that I hear live are usually conducted by conductors who have a very clear-cut idea of what their function is at a rehearsal and what their function is at a concert."

Metropolitan Opera


James Levine conducts during a rehearsal before his
debut with the Metropolitan Opera on June 5, 1971.

In rehearsals, Levine says he uses everything in his power to make the orchestra conscious of every single detail in the music. He'll gesticulate and stop the rehearsal, sometimes repeatedly, to illustrate sudden tempo or chord changes within a piece.

"But when the performance comes, the orchestra has to be empowered to function within this conception without having to check with the middle man," he says. "It's not possible to feel and play and respond to what you feel inside and keep looking to have a constant alignment with the gesture of the conductor."

James Levine was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1997. He conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the soundtrack of Fantasia 2000, and he has also conducted the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Munich Philharmonic orchestra.

James Levine and Renee Fleming, 1993

On Working With Singers

"Some of the things that you work on, when you're working on interpretation and communication, they have technical aspects. And you have to include those technical aspects, or you can't get at the diagnosis of the problem or the solution. But I don't spend sessions giving people voice lessons, per se. I'm not a voice teacher. But I'm a conductor and a coach, and a lot of technical observation goes into that."

On Stuttering As A Child

"When I was a little kid, I used to reach up high and try to play the piano when I passed by. And I also, at that time, could sing a tune coherently, but I had a very strong speech impediment. And when my parents said to the doctor, 'Well, what do you think?' — when they told him about my banging on the piano, he suggested piano lessons. And I started piano lessons when I was not quite 4 years old. And the speech impediment promptly disappeared, and I got very interested in the piano."

On His Debut At Age 10 With The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

"I hear a great deal of music differently now, because the more music you know and the longer you live, the more insight you have to the complicated music. But fortunately, there are some pieces, and Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 2 is one of them, that have a fairly exuberant and adolescent conception, and it was a very appropriate piece for me to play at that age. And my feeling for it was strong then and has never abated. I still think it's a marvelous piece."

On His Back Pain

"My general health has always been so good, and my life has always been so fortunate, so even when this has really made my life miserable for periods of time, I still feel like a very, very lucky guy. I look around me, and I don't see anybody who doesn't have to solve some kinds of problems; everything can't be perfect. Human beings go through things. And my doctors all think that, in the course of the next year or two, I still have one area giving me pain. And if we do, in fact, solve that — we still have some things we can do to solve it — I may wake up one day and be free of back pain again."

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