BSO Music Director

BSO's Volpe Hopes There's Still A Role For Levine

By Jess Bidgood   |   Wednesday, March 2, 2011
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Hear WGBH's BSO broadcast producer Brian Bell's full interview with
BSO managing director Mark Volpe.

James Levine announced Wednesday his resignation as Music Director for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (Courtesy)

Mar. 3, 2011

BOSTON — A search for a new music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra is underway.

The process began immediately after Maestro James Levine announced his resignation from the post Wednesday, after a seven-year tenure dogged by ongoing health problems.

Mark Volpe, managing director of the The Boston Symphony Orchestra, says that conversations about Levine's future with the orchestra began last November. 

Volpe said Levine, who has long been plagued by back problems and complications from a viral infection, was self-medicating, and the drugs had begun to take a toll on his facilities. "Physically it was clear he didn’t have control. Motor skills were not there. We all know how articulate Jim is so when he's not articulate, when it's not entirely coherent, something's up," said BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe in an interview with WGBH's Brian Bell.

Levine had missed number of performances in the 2010 season because of those health issues. "Both of us sort of understood if there was another big block that got impacted by cancellations that we had to quickly — in terms of credibility, frankly — announce to the public that we were moving forward with a search, which is sort of the direction we were headed but this is a little more abrupt," said Volpe. 

But Levine won't be completely gone. He and Volpe are working to design an artistic role he'll continue at the orchestra. "He and I still have to sort out what his ongoing role will be — and we hope very much there is one — but he's got to figure out what is physically possible," Volpe said.

67-year-old Levine took the helm at the BSO in 2004, becoming the BSO's 14th music director. His announcement on Tuesday followed months of speculation about Levine's ability to continue as music director.

“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 in a statement. 

“We look forward to continuing our conversation with Jim about defining a new role where he can focus solely on the music and defining artistically stimulating projects that would be meaningful to him and the orchestra, building upon his BSO legacy thus far," Volpe said in an interview shortly after Tuesday's announcement.

Levine will officially step down from his position on Sept. 1, ending his seven years in the job. He also serves as the music director for the Metropolitan Opera in New York — a role which he'll continue.

The BSO has been incredibly fortunate to have had one of the greatest conductors of our time at its helm," Volpe said. "It is imperative that we take this time to express  our deepest gratitude to Jim for the extraordinary performances that have inspired his loyal listeners in Boston and around the world.” 

For the immediate future, BSO Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger will conduct concerts on March 3, 4, 5, & 8 at Symphony Hall as well as March 15 at Carnegie Hall in New York, a program that includes a BSO commission by composer Harrison Birtwhistle with violinist Christian Tetzlaff.

Conductor Roberto Abbado will step in to lead concerts on March 10-12 at Symphony Hall and on March 18-19 at the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., respectively, with pianist Peter Serkin as soloist in Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3.  For the March 16 program at Carnegie Hall, violinist Joshua Bell will be the soloist in Bruch's Violin Concerto in G minor.  Serkin and Bell have been engaged in the absence of pianist Maurizio Pollini, who cancelled due to illness.

Latvian conductor Andris Nilsons will make his BSO debut Mahler's Symphony No. 9 on March 17 at Carnegie Hall.

About the Author
Jess Bidgood Jess Bidgood
Jess Bidgood is's news editor and producer.


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