IN: News & Features

Levine Stepping Down


Update as of March 11, 2011:

As if the Boston Symphony Orchestra does not have enough problems with the withdrawal of Music Director James Levine, the orchestra now has had to replace an ailing Colin Davis, also canceling due to ongoing health problems, in concerts originally scheduled for April. The first program, scheduled for April 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12, has a new conductor, Johannes Debus, but the program remains the same: Mozart Symphony No. 32, Mozart Clarinet Concerto with soloist BSO Principal Clarinet William R. Hudgins, and Haydn Symphony No. 97.

The second, to be conducted by Stéphane Denève on April 14, 15, and 16, has been changed to Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”;  Roussel Symphony No. 3; and Ravel La Valse. Soloist in the Beethoven is Jonathan Biss. The pre-concert talk will be given by Jan Swafford, on the composition faculty of Boston Conservatory.

BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe announced today that James Levine will step down as music director as of September 1, 2011. Unclear from the press release is what role Maestro Levine will play in the Tanglewood summer season, though the release does mention ongoing discussions of what role he will play. Assistant Conductor Marcelo Lehninger is to lead the BSO concerts in the upcoming set of concerts.

Appointed one of the two assistant conductors by BSO Music Director James Levine, Lehninger has earned a reputation as “gifted conductor” following his highly praised debut in 2007 as cover conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra’s subscription concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He made his debut with the BSO in a concert last October reviewed here by Peter Van Zandt Lane, who wrote, “Across the entire program, audience response was overwhelmingly positive, and Lehninger’s conducting was assured and unfaltering.”

Most of Lehninger’s major conducting venues prior to arriving in Boston were in South America; in the US he has conducted, in addition to the National Symphony, several smaller orchestras.

Lehninger is the second Brazilian to have been appointed to this BSO position. The first was his professor, Eleazar de Carvalho, who shared the position with Leonard Bernstein, under then-BSO conductor Serge Koussevitsky. BMInt reviewed his October 21st debut with the BSO here.

The Birwistle new work for violin and orchestra features Christian Tetzlaff, who will also play in the other two works on the program: the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 and the Mozart Rondo in C for Violin and Orchestra, K. 373. Robert Kirsinger, Assistant Director of Program Publications, Editorial, will be giving the pre-concert talks at all performances: Thursday evening, Friday afternoon, Saturday evening, and Tuesday evening.


42 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. This sad news came to me well over an hour ago (from Romy) and although it’s too early I feel like taking a hit of tequila or something to reduce the pain. When James opened his tenure with that stupendous Mahler Eighth… well, after I sent a copy to my old friend Tony Lauck up in Vermont, with whom I had first heard the work (from BBC radio discs), he replied that he had left Boston because he couldn’t take Seiji Ozawa. Extreme, perhaps, but we had spent many fine times together listening to BSO broadcasts and they weren’t what they used to be. And that was thirty-five years ago!

    Additionally, after hearing the first few measures he abandoned all work and devoted himself to the M8 experience.

    Anyway… onwards… so who’s up next?

    Comment by clark johnsen — March 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

  2. Looking back at my own Levine/BSO moments…

    It came late when James Levine exposure to BSO begun to fade. It was September 2008 and BSO played Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Even Mussorgsky is very much admired by me composer but I do not like orchestrated Pictures at an Exhibition. I hardly ever listen orchestrated Pictures but if I do then I tend to listed only my “Bydlo” fragment. The Bydlo is G-sharp minor piece with slow opening high-pitched tuba – I so insanely love the Bydlo part that if I have a recording of Pictures then I tend to hear only Bydlo fragment and if it was not done properly (as I have a LOT of attitude HOW it would like it to be played) I do not even bother to listen the rest. It’s easy to guess that orchestras out here extremely seldom (or ever) play Bydlo as I would like them to and consequentially they very seldom deserve my attention with the rest of Pictures.

    So, it was BSO and James Levine. I was sitting at first balcony, left, sit around 25. I did not sleep but was openly bored with Levine proceeded with the first six parts of Pictures at an Exhibition and then BSO entered the Bydlo fragment. That was one of those perfect moments when the stars come together. That was exactly as I dreamed about it for years and it was so perfect that I almost flew away from the balcony. It has absolutely wonderful balance between gentleness and rigidity – VERY hard to get right and the progressing blossoming of the full orchestral was done with such smart tempo and with such superbly measured taste that wish mine/Levine/BSO Bydlo were continuing for full 2 hours.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm

  3. Levine’s “Harold in Italy” last year was a transcendent experience for me. I’m sorry to see him go.

    Comment by Sam Jack — March 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm

  4. I would tell those of you who are younger than I that I heard Koussy conduct the BSO when I was about eight years old. The sound of it from the midleft side of the first balcony was astonising. The depth and weight of the sound is still in my ears. But that sound was achieved via the use of risers that were quite high, helping to produce a more homogenized sound than the more open sound that Munch got when he did away with the risers.

    Also, Levine has not always produced maginficent performances. Some seemd played through, though well done enough since the orchestra can play the standard repertory in their sleep or blindfolded.
    Certainly the Mahler has been great, if not totally superior to Levine’s earlier recordings of them, and the Schumann, especially the last performances of the symphonies, and all the modern works.
    Robertson is my choice too. I was very impressed with a performance I heard in Carnegie, though he couldn’t make the St. Louis orchestra sound like any of the fabulous five, nor should he have been expected to. But he is a conductor of great breadth, style, and vision in program building.

    As for the shunning of local Boston conductors of quality, the mystery is depressing. Zander’s Mahler is not universally loved, I don’t love it all, but he should have been allowed to conduct
    a selection of it with the BSO. Maybe it’s the orchestra’s problem in knowing all the locals and being too familiar with them to want to take their direction seriously for personal or even professional reasons.
    I do agree that Dudamel is exciting without depth or a spec of the knowledge that Levine has about the symphonic and of course operatic literature. He is, one hopes, learning on the job, thankfully not in Boston.

    Comment by Ed Robbins — March 2, 2011 at 10:56 pm

  5. Who will direct the BSO?? Here are my thoughts

    Comment by LC1958 — March 3, 2011 at 2:25 am

  6. Let’s lure Chailly away from Leipzig. Among other things, he’d be the best interpreter of the core 19th century repertoire since… Karl Muck, maybe. Please, no kids, locals, or Americans.

    Comment by SteelyTom — March 3, 2011 at 4:21 am

  7. 1. Love those standards for judging a candidate’s talent: No Americans! (sorry Lorin) and no Irish need apply. And what is the minimum age? Is gay OK? Not another Jew! Listen to yourself.

    2. I can’t even focus on the longterm problem. I’m just hoping the BSO can come up with a good 2011-12 season. There are plenty of good conductors around, but we need someone to look at the repertoire and get us some balance. Please not 3 more Harbison symphonies in one year!

    3. My sympathies for Levine are tempered by what I hear from people I trust that he is not a good patient. And now we hear from Volpe that he has been self-medicating. Good luck to the MET with the rest of this season!

    Comment by Bill — March 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

  8. I wrote a large post describing my thoughts about the BSO new vacancy but my damn computer ate it. I do not want to re-write it but the synopsis of my thoughts was following: although I am glad that Levine resigned but I predict that BSO will not find a new effective musical director for next 5-7 years. I hate to be right…

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

  9. Brian Bell’s interview with Mark Volpe may have been more revealing than Mr. Volpe would have wished in retrospect.

    It has seemed to me, based on the “I liked it” test as well as the reviews I’ve seen, that there have been several guest conductors over the past few years who could work well with the orchestra. I presume that, ever since Maestro Levine began to have to cancel, management has been considering the music director potential of all the guest conductors. It would be great if there is among them a James Levine without the health problems.

    It’s a matter of personal taste of course, so I’m not permitted to say that Bill is wrong not to want three Harbison symphonies in one year. All I can say is that I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the Harbison cycle. I much preferred the Harbison symphonies to the Chin Cello Concerto, and I much preferred the Chin to the Birtwistle Violin Concerto whose world premiere I attended Thursday evening. And I” ll have to listen again on Saturday, but I think I’ll prefer Birtwistle to Carter or Babbit. The thing is, I really enjoyed the Harbison.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 4, 2011 at 12:32 am

  10. Levine is the only conductor of the first-rank since Koussevitsky to be appointed BSO music director. Anyone with ears to hear the impact he has had on the Orchestra and on the musical community (apart from those whose primary interest is the “music business”) has to be heart-broken by the turn of events in the past few years that culminated in Thursday’s resignation. There is something unseemly in all the eager speculations about a”new” music director, both here and in the editorial in Saturday’s Globe, quite as though the BSO were trading in a broken-down car for an up-to-the-minute, speedier model. The BSO’s management tried this after the resignation of William Steinberg, and then allowed the “exciting” “young” Seiji Ozawa to remain for 30 years without any conspicuous artistic growth. Let us hope that in their urge to sell tickets, they don’t make the same mistake again.

    Comment by Dan Farber — March 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

  11. Thank you Dan Farber.
    I am a long time (30 years) subscriber to the BSO. I am not a musician, nor a critic, nor even a student of music, but even I know that I learned more during Levine’s tenure than in all the years that preceded it. For me, subscribing to symphony is an act of trust: making myself available to experience the familiar with fresh understanding, and the unfamiliar with an open ear,heart, and mind. Thank you James Levine!

    Comment by catsloveme — March 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm

  12. Dan, you made excellent comment that in abridged format expressed what I had in my “lost” post. It is unfortunately that Levine’s tenure was ended this way but it is not about Levine but about gross mismanagement of whole situation. Appointing already-busy Levine BSOmanagement had to seed and grow future BSO leader; the part-time Levine was a great opportunity for it. Since spring 2008, since Berlioz’s Les Troyens, the BSO’s Sound was sliding down and Boston was spoiling without a musical director. It looks like BSO management did not care too much. We all love James Levine but does it mean that BSO management shall demonstrate respect to Levine to a higher degree then to demonstrate respect to BSO listeners and BSO artistic level? Listening Brian Bell interview with Mark Volpe I was displeased that they spoke about BSO and as the greatest orchestra greatest shape in Solar System. Are they delusional?

    It will be very difficult for BSO to find any serious non-proxy conductor. Boston had great name recognition but sorry to say it: BSO management’s drifting actions convert Boston to a questionable musical pace to be. I would be laughing if BSO approach somebody like Petrenko and he decline….

    Bill above said: “No Americans!” I do not know how about that but whoever it will be I beg that it shall be the “Bostonian want to be”. The person really needs to move here, live here, love New England and pay those stupid parking tickets I n this town. The person shall be no just a great conductor for BSO but a good musical director for Great Boston – it is VERY hard to find. I wish BSO management good luck but I am far from optimism.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 5, 2011 at 10:41 pm

  13. I said “No Americans!” only to mock the person who made that statement seriously. I also wasn’t serious in apologizing to Lorin Maazel (Heaven help us!)

    Question: why must the Music Director of the BSO “live in Boston”? All year or 15 weeks of the year? Or is that a way of saying s/he shouldn’t hold more than one major appointment? Or more than one major appointment within commuting distance? Again why?

    I expect that Nézet-Séguin at 36 (today, Happy Birthday!) will have no trouble commuting between Philadelphia and his MET assignments. I imagine he’ll have a PA home “for the record”, but is anyone going to complain if his principal domicile remains in Canada? Think back: how much of the year did Solti spend in Chicago and did it matter?

    I fear we might learn the wrong lessons from our recent experience. (See Viet Nam, fighting the last war, etc.) So seriously, why does residence matter?

    Comment by Bill — March 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

  14. Bill wrote: So seriously, why does residence matter?

    Bill, I think you view a position of Musical Director a bit too narrow. A successful Musical Director is not only a person who prepares orchestra well, interprets music interestingly; build stimulating program and do zillion other things that are commonly associated with a title a Conductor. Musical Directorship is much wider role that has to do advocacy, promotion, education and advancement of classical music art for a given community. A Boston Musical Director has to in a way to advise musical agenda for New England. Nowadays when economy is where it is and when classical musical have to compete very heavily with other forms of “sensational consumptions” the task for Musical Directorship it truly daunting, no wonder some of great conductors never want to have own orchestras. Sure we might have another 20 years of helicopter-dropped Musical Director or we might have our own resident person for whom BSO podium will be more then just a temporary resume-enriching position. In 20 century American orchestras seen great conductors primary because Americans pay well. People learned in France and Germany and then moved to US to cash out their expertise. In 5-10 years some kind Beijing, Seoul or Kuala Lumpur philharmonic will top it and you will see the most talented conductors will group in that part of the world. Look what happens with education in US – education always was a great modeling for predicting of allocation of Classical music forces. Anyhow, look at the history of BSO Musical Directors and you will see that not any greater conductor become a great Musical Directors. Koussevitzky in his conducting expertise shall not be even qualify to be James Levine assistant, still BSO under Koussevitzky was royalty hardly matched by other word class orchestras. By under James Levine BSO unfortunately ending up to be in the same state as it was before Levine. Do you think if James Levine and his family lived in Quincy, West Roxbury or Winchester then he would allow WGBH to drop the BSO Friday’s Brodacasts? I think if he was Bostonian then we would have open rehearsal broadcasted. Can you believe to live in a city with somebody like James Levine on the podium WGBH running 3 -4 live audio and one video broadcasts per week.

    BTW, surprise- surprise, no further then today I was at the site of of my clients in downtown and a guy from this legal department come to me and asked: “Romy, where all those broadcasts that you made us to listen on Friday?” What shell I reply to him? Shall I respond that we had NY Musical Director for a while who might not even knew what WGBH was?

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm

  15. I think Romy the Cat overstates his case when he wants to give the BSO Music Director responsibility for New England. It seems to me that there are plenty of talented people in New England who can do their own thing. Just look at everything that has been reported in these “pages” — the continued flourishing of the musical scene without any apparent input from the BSO’s Music Director.

    Might it be more a matter of “If you build it, they will come”? By that I mean a healthy and vibrant BSO will be an encouragement to the region. But in the contemporary world, it is not necessary for the music director of an orchestra to be a full time resident.

    I’d like to see the music director scheduled for more than 9 of 26 programs of the regular season. Eleven or 12 would be better. But, realistically, there will be guest conductors a lot of the time, and that is not an altogether bad thing in my opinion. They can program music that the music director is not especially interested in; and in the present situation they have given orchestra and management an up close look at a lot of conductors, some of whom might be potential successors to Maestro Levine.

    In my opinion, what is important is to get the best music director possible for the orchestra, and never mind where s/he is when s/he isn’t actually “on the clock” with the BSO. Don’t settle for someone inferior just because s/he will live here.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

  16. Joe,

    certainly BSO Music Director has no accountability for New England or for Boston but BSO Music Director is the most visible musical figure in region and his actions or non-actions a well entrenched in what is going on in the town. With “booming BSO” the publicity of classical music takes off and you will see very different relationship between community and city’s orchestra/orchestras. BTW, leaving artistic, political, age and any other considerations aside I would like to somebody like Benjamin Zander leading BSO. Zander, being a very capable conductor, is also for many years involved in publicity actions and promotion of classical music and if somebody like him would have a megaphone of BSO Directorship then I feel it might be a phenomenal candidate. You mish be not a big fun of Gustavo Dudamel, so do I but what we can’t not deny is that Dudamel give a very large momentum for Los Angeles Philharmonic. I do not have data to compare LAP and BSO books but I am sure that if we have the same classical music gevolt and LA has then everyone would be benefited, not only BSO but also other “talented people in New England”.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

  17. I thoroughly agree with Joe Whipple. The BSO can lead by being the best orchestra possible.

    And someone in management needs to *help* the Music Director with programming. If marketing can’t fill the seats, something has to change whether it’s the Music Director, the programming, or the marketing. There are now more than 1150 seats still available for tomorrow night. I still remember the sea of empty seats at the back-to-back performances of the 2 parts of Les Troyens! With sales so poor, we’re starting to look like cities where each concert has to sell on its own and doesn’t start from a base where most seats have been sold by subscription. That’s a huge audience development challenge and the Music Director needs to be a part of the team, able to listen as well as lead.

    I wonder if management is up to it. A new Music Director is just Step One.

    Comment by Bill — March 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

  18. That’s an amazing number of unsold seats. I presume almost all of the seats that were sold are subscriptions. This makes me wonder
    -how well they usually do selling the remaining seats,
    –how many more would have been sold if Levine were conducting,
    -how many more would have been sold if the program were different (e.g., something other than Bartók to conclude),
    -how many more would have been sold if Levine were conducting and the program were different.
    Of course, only the first can be answered with any degree of confidence.

    But to set oranges aside them apples, here’s what I noted at the last two Thursday performances. For the Mahler, the hall was virtually full — it was more nearly standard repertory, and the purchasers/attendees would have expected Levine until they got to the hall. For the violin works a week later, attendance was much lower. Entire sections on both sides of the second balcony were completely empty (are there no subscribers for those seats, or did they fill in elsewhere?), and there were many other empty seats. Although the prospect of a world premiere drew me on a night which is not part of my subscriptions, it wasn’t enough to fill the hall.

    I think marketing has been doing something right. Many evenings I see young people, probably students in those second balcony seats and in the back corners of the first balcony; and there are plenty of twenty-somethings in evidence during intermissions. But I guess there is a limit to what even good marketing can do with some programs.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  19. From Moses Smith’s “Koussevitzky” (New York: Allen, Towne and Heath, Inc., 1947):

    “Koussevitzky has shown an exceptional knowledge of the capabilities of the instruments. To this knowledge the very irregularity of his boyhood activities, including makeshift performances on several instruments, contributed. His perfection of playing on the double-bass made him realize how accepted standards of musical performance could be raised. His years in the Bol’shoi Theatre Orchestra in Moscow gave him the intimate knowledge of the problems of orchestral playing which only membership in an ensemble can give. Finally, he has been aided by an “orchestral” ear which is exceptionally acute and sensitive.

    “It is now sufficiently obvious that, as to pushing himself, Koussevitzky has no ordinary limit. His demands on the musicians have been almost equally exacting. The reason in both instances has been his exceptionally high standard of performance. A never-ending miracle has been his continual insistence on these standards. From rehearsal to rehearsal, from concert to concert, from season to season, his drive has been such that it has seemed he must collapse on the podium from overexertion. At the end of the season he has seemingly worked himself and his men even harder, as if to prove he was not letting down. In Pittsburgh, for example, on a recent tour, when the program consisted of thrice-familiar works and when the musicians were worn out by concerts every night and railroad trips in between, he suddenly called an afternoon rehearsal because something had gone wrong the night before. He rehearsed the musicians furiously for two hours after telling them, “I know you are tired from the trip. But the music comes first.” It is by virtue of this prodigious drive and because of his quasi-hypnotic influence over the musicians that Koussevitzky has such an exceptional command over them both in rehearsal and concert.”

    Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune, February 23, 1947:

    ” … The conductor’s legal complaint” — he had gone to court to suppress publication of the book quoted from above — “objected to Mr. Smith’s statement that Koussevitzky had succeeded as a conductor in spite of imperfect early training in musical theory and score reading. This also, if I may make so bold, has long been common knowledge among musicians. Nor is the estimable doctor unique among the conducting great for being in a certain sense self-taught. Leopold Stokowski, Sir Thomas Beecham, and Charles Muench, great interpreters all of them, did not come to conducting through early mastery of the conservatory routines. They bought, muscled, or impressed their way in and then settled down to learn their job. They succeeded gloriously, as Kousevitzky has done. All honor to them. They have all, Koussevitzky included, contributed more of value to the technique of their art than most of the first-prize-in-harmony boys ever have.

    ” … Mr. Smith’s book makes Koussevitzky out to be a very great man indeed, but it also makes him human … The faith of the pious need not be shaken by reading that he has not always been toward his fellow man just and slow to anger. Civilization would be just a racket if we had to learn all we know about the lives of great men from their paid agents.”

    Comment by Richard Buell — March 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  20. The above-mentioned figure of 1,150 seats still unsold as of last night for tonight’s BSO concert struck me as questionably high. The capacity of the hall, after all, is about 2,400. It is true, however, that the Tuesday evening subscription level is less than the other three regular performances. The BSO reports that those three are at about 80% capacity, and Tuesday evenings has always been a bit of a challenge. There are still plenty of seats available.

    Though Jeremy Eichler found the Saturday evening performance of the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 had some faults, which he put at the conducting, they escaped me. I absolutely LOVED it (see my comment on the concert, “Tetzlaff Saves The Day”reviewed by Mary Davidson. I’d go again tonight if I could. Tetzlaff is amazing.

    Comment by Norton, Bettina A — March 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm


    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  22. Received in the mail today (3/9/2011):

    Boston Symphony Orchestra

    Dear Mr. Lutton,

    Thank you for being a loyal member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra family. I am grateful for your support.

    I hope you were able to attend the terrific Mahler Symphony No. 9 program conducted by the BSO’s Music Director James Levine last month. …

    [The envelope is marked TIME-SENSITIVE MATERIALS. It should have been marked INSENSITIVE MATERIALS.]

    Comment by Mark Lutton — March 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

  23. I’m very pessimistic about the BSO management’s abilities re: finding and appointing an effective new music director. If they had only acted with some foresight.. Vasily Petrenko or Yannick Nezet-Seguin could have been “grabbed”… Again, Petrenko was signed up barely 3 weeks ago by Oslo. One would think that he would have jumped at the chance to be the new BSO music director while retaining his post @ The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. The same situation is true of Nezet-Seguin, perhaps the most gifted of them all. I would hope Spano would be offered the BSO. Gergiev would be ideal but he’s already so involved with his many duties…his accepting would be a miracle.

    Comment by Ed Burke — March 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

  24. Should the BSO have known two years ago — or however long ago it would have to have been — that they would not be renewing James Levine as Music Director, so that they could have begun negotiating with YNS? If they had done, would he have been willing to wait until Levine’s contract was scheduled to expire rather than take Phill’y immediate offer?

    Given that last November the BSO had decided to change Maestro Levine’s status, would that have given them time to start and conclude negotiations with Petrenko? Again, would he have held off on Oslo when the Levine cancellations and resignation had not yet occurred?

    Or should the BSO have decided two years ago to dump Levine as soon as they could sign somebody they wanted?

    What could the BSO have promised these guys when promises needed to be made?

    Could Petrenko juggle BSO and Oslo, especially if BSO takes it for granted that there will be an interim year or two before he has to take over here?

    In all this, I express no opinion as to whether either of these gentlemen is best for the BSO among active conductors, although signing YNS did seem a coup for Philly at the time.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  25. Correct me if I’m wrong: either Levine is not under contract or it expires at the end of this season. The point re: Petrenko is that he signed with Oslo around Feb. 18th. I think he takes over in 2012-13 season. Again, I believe he would have accepted an offer from the BSO if offered a month ago. It is possible that YNS or Spano would be willing to split their time with two music directorships. Today, sought after conductors generally have two orchestras or more under their directorship. My point again is that the BSO did not do their homework considering that Levine’s extremely serious medical problems have existed since 2004 or earlier resulting in several prolonged absences.

    Comment by Ed Burke — March 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm

  26. If not Robertson then I would like somebody from Mars, I mean somebody from very different part of the world with absolutely fresh take. I moved to Boston in 1996 and frankly I a bit sick from constant BSO being out of shape for different reasons. I do not think that he would be interested in our little province town but if we fund any ways to lure Myung-Whun Chung from Seoul then it would make Kitty very excited. Who knows, it might be that Mr. Chung is some kind of strange disturbed person and he has a secret addiction to let say that stupid baseball game. Then we can capitalize on his mental disorder and to have a very interesting BSO lead.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  27. I’m not sure when Levine’s arrangement was scheduled to end.

    Maybe I’m just too trusting(?). I’ve assumed all along that the problems that have been apparent to us all along have also been obvious to BSO management, and that they have been doing, if not exactly contingency planning, at least contingency thinking and scouting.

    Perhaps there have been some real opportunities that were missed. I’d hope that it’s more a matter of the timing of events not being quite right. Certainly a month ago the BSO knew they were in the market. Possibly they just didn’t want to be too hasty with Petrenko. Or maybe they didn’t want him.

    I guess if they could share Levine with the Met, they could share YNS with Philadelphia, or Spano with Atlanta. Then again, Spano could be ready to move on, for all I know.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — March 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

  28. Just FYI, anyone can check the number of seats unsold for a concert by playing with the application (Select My Seats) on the BSO website. What struck me was that hundreds of seats were unsold — my count was exact, I assure you — for Tuesday even though the schedule called for Levine and Tetzlaff. Certainly it didn’t help that Tuesday morning the BSO gave up on sales and stopped listing the concert on their home page!

    Mr. Volpe has said that he and Levine were preparing to announce a modified/different role for him this spring, which one hopes means he was slotted for fewer performances next year, which should minimize their scramble in the short term. We’ll know in about a month. But it’s clear that whatever that announcement might have been, they weren’t really about to name a replacement. As Volpe keeps reminding us, the search committee **hasn’t been formed yet**. Makes me wonder how much reality there is behind the announcement he and Levine were going to make. All sounds like face-saving to me….to make it sound like Levine was very much on board with changing his role before recent events. Nothing wrong with face-saving, I suppose.

    Volpe called Levine’s taste in contemporary music more intellectual than most of the audience. It’s encouraging that Volpe seems to address Levine’s choices rather than the number of contemporary works. He reaffirmed the BSO’s commitment to commissions and new works.

    While we can all play with names of people we imagine are/were/might have been available, this is the kind of process where it’s hard to know if they’re doing it right until the choice is named. Someone no one has mentioned may be worth waiting for. When we can’t imagine things working out we’re reminded that life has more imagination than we do.

    Comment by Bill — March 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm

  29. As a subscriber of many years to all of the Tuesday BSO series, I know that the 75-80% figure of subscribers is correct. What happens during inclement weather or if a concert consists of largely “unknown” or new works is that many subscribers release their seats to the BSO and recieve a tax credit (no refund)… The BSO re-sells as many of the tickets as possible. The last of the Mahler 9th performances on Tuesday, March 1st had a 7/8th full Hall despite the fact that most knew Levine would not be conducting.

    Symphony Hall’s seating capacity is 2,625 if there is no stage extension. I believe for “POPS” the
    Hall hold about 2,400.

    Weird things have been happening on the BSO website in recent days… the revised program info after Levine’s stepping down disappeared for at least a day.

    Comment by Ed Burke — March 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

  30. RE: Vasily Petrenko who made his BSO conducting debut in Oct. 2009. his Shostakovich 10th Symphony drove the audience wild with excitement. His new recording of it on NAXOS has earned countless rave reviews from critics world-wide. This performance demonstrates what great conducting is all about as well as what Petrenko has “made” of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic! The BSO has never played this well! Listen and be astounded!

    Comment by Ed — March 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm

  31. Sorry… I meant to say “The BSO has RARELY played this well”… Also NAXOS cd’s are only $8.99 to $9.99 except at the BSO shoppe where they fail to distinguish between budget labels and higher priced cds… Yes, I know the purchases there help the BSO.

    Comment by Ed — March 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  32. Living between Philadelphia and NYC lo these many years I’ve had the best of both worlds,
    if you want to call Avery Fischer Hall and the Verizon center the best.(Bad joke from a chauvinistic Bostonian). The point is that on Thursday night I’m hearing the BSO with Nelsons in the Mahler 9. How he fits in a rehearsal between his performances at the Met is beyond me. On Saturday its the Phila. Orchestra with Petrenko doing the Prokofiev 5, and Tchaik.piano concerto 2.
    I’ll post my thoughts on these performances after I’ve heard both.

    Why he is considered the great hope is also beyond me. Does he have the background and genius of Guido Cantelli and his depth of repertoire. One expects Petrenko to do Prokofiev and Shost. well.
    If no one remembers the young Cantelli’s first concerts with the BSO let me just say that these concerts covered a wide range of repertoire, as did his subsequent concerts. And the audiences went crazy for everything. His recordings tell it all. Where is his like today?? And would he live in Boston for, say, fifteen weeks? Would Levine have lived in Boston, if he hadn’t had the Met??
    Those are questions I hate to think about. Ozawa had a house in Brookline not too far from Fenway Park and driving disance from the Patriots.

    Comment by Ed Robbins — March 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

  33. Nelson is is fitting in his rehearsal with the BSO by doing it today (Monday the 14th) in Boston. He’s doing a run of opera performances in NYC, and rehearsals are over, so he really only conducts every few days there. It’s not much of a squeeze for him to add one round-trip to Boston.

    Comment by Bill — March 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

  34. Slight correction to Bettina Norton’s comment about past BSO Assistant Conductors. Neither Leonard Bernstein nor Eleazar de Carvalho ever held that title, though both of course were Koussevitzky proteges. The only Assistant Conductor in the Koussevitzky years was the Orchestra’s longtime Concertmaster, Richard Burgin.

    Comment by Martin Bookspan — March 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm

  35. THANK you, Martin Bookspan.
    And, yes, I should have caught that. I do, in fact, now remember it thus. I got that error from somewhere and now I’ll have to track it down.

    Comment by Norton, Bettina A — March 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

  36. Someone commented re: Spano, Elder and Tilson-Thomas that they are young… Spano (50)
    Tilson-Thomas (66) and Elder (64) don’t meet that classification.

    Spano has just accepted the directorship of Aspen. He would be my second choice tied with Elder as next BSO music director. Next would be Yannick Nezet-Seguin followed by Vasily Petrenko.

    My first choice would be the amazing Courtney Lewis (age 26) of Boston’s Discovery Ensemble. Since neither he nor his young talented musicians exist in the eyes of the BSO, this would never happen. Sad because in a couple of years, Lewis will be the most sought after conductor in the world. Already he has critics and audiences in love with him here.. and in Minnesota where he is assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

    Go to the Discovery Ensemble Concert tomorrow @ Sanders Theatre @ 7:30PM (pre-concert talk @ 6:30)
    This will be a “great discovery” for you!

    Comment by Ed — March 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

  37. Well, Nelsons more than just got through the Mahler 9th the other night in Carnegie Hall.
    Starting at the end is perhaps more important than the start. Who might reasonable expect a
    32 year old conductor with one full and one partial rehearsal–in two different halls– with an orchestra he never saw before and vice versa to produce a Mahler 9 equal to Lennies’, Rattles’, Walter’s, Horenstein’s? That takes time and growth. The end was significant in that the entire orchestra seemed to give him an ovation, staying seated at the third call, though Nelson asked them to rise, and actually banging the floor and waving bows. that may be more sigificant than any critics’ responses to the program. If you read Eichler in the Globe or Oestreich in the Times you’ll see what I mean. Was one being too generous and the other a New Yorker? Sitting 4th row center balcony of Carnegie Hall, where the sound is beautifully balanced and full, the brass seemed too loud in places and textures a bit clotted in the last movement especially. Otherwise, a few minor clinkers aside is was an admirable performance, much more than one might have expected, considerably so in the two central movements. It did not meet Levine’ standard as I heard it a couple of years ago on the radio stream to a large stereo system.Stupid to expect that. But there was promise and excitement to spare. Visually? He jumped, but not as high as Lenny.

    So will the battle be between a brilliant young conductor and someone of vast experience; Chailly versus his student?
    Tonight, Petenko with the Philadelphia. I expect a brilliant performance from a Russian doing Russian music after several rehearsal, even the the compromised acoustic of Verizon Hall.

    Comment by Ed Robbins — March 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

  38. Maestro Petrenko is indeed a maestro. Watching him conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra on Saturday night was a lesson in stick tecnique. With grace and elegant gestures with just his baton and arms and a little leaning of the body he managed to draw elegant playing from the orchestra in both Tchaikovsky’s 2nd piano concerto and Prokofiev’s 5th. Not only did he suavly cue everything, he produced different sonorities for each of these pieces, heavier and deep for the symphony and light, almost airy for the concerto. There was a minimum of ego in the interpretations, so the music just flowed naturally like a stream or a torrent. I had an excellent seat so the sound was perfectly balanced. If only Verizon Hall had he same decay time as Symphony Hall. I wouls love to hear him do Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. I hope he isinvited again to the BSO before a decision is made about Levine’s successor.

    Comment by Ed Robbins — March 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  39. Very pleased that you enjoyed Petrenko’s guest appearance with the Philadelphia…Yes..he has everything a great maestro should posess. Fascinating to watch on the podium too, his control over the orchestra is absolutely riveting and yet, as you said: “There was a minimum of ego in the interpretations, so the music just flowed naturally like a stream or a torrent.” Yes, that’s a perfect, asute observation!

    BTW.. Archiv Music is having a huge sale now on NAXOS cds on their online site. If you order 5 or more, the price is 5 for 30 bucks… Petrenko’s Shostakovich series with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is the finest available on modern cds as is the Tchaikovsky MANFRED and the sound quality is amazing. Interesting how an English Orchestra appears to be converted into a Russian Orchestra.

    Perhaps he will guest conduct the BSO next season..let’s hope so!

    Comment by Ed Burke — March 23, 2011 at 12:19 am

  40. I do not know Ed. I did not hear him live and judge from a few CDs that I have. I do not feel that exuberance that many seems to have about Petrenko. What he does is not “faulty” but it is also not “special”. The play of his orchestra reminds me a good quality “notes rendering” instead of “playing”. There is nothing that I can point as “mistake” but anything that he does I would like to have done more charismatically. Not necessary with ego but rather with more allure to unique impressionism. I did not see it in Petrenko and the most important I did not see him even going for any complex or “dangers” expressions. Also, Petrenko annoys me with his heavy-Russky repertoire. How many times can we hear Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky? Screw the Russians! Bring some Germans in and let them to play their Bach and Bruckner. Two years back Austrian Hans Graf brought Bruckner in Boston. How frequently it happens in this town?

    Comment by Romy The Cat — March 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

  41. Yes, Petrenko would have to show Bostonians what his Mozart style is, and Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms. But also he or any candidate would have to be proficient in modern composers, not necessarily just or especially of the Wuorinen or Cage mould. And older American music? Just look at Bernstein’s huge discography of American composers whose works should be played much more often by the big 5. Are William Schuman and David Diamond et al really passe, or am I just showing my age?
    (And thank you Ed for observing my observation so astutely.)

    Comment by Ed Robbins — March 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm

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