Levine to step down as Boston Symphony music director

March 02, 2011

Less than 24 hours after James Levine cancelled the rest of his Boston Symphony Orchestra appearances for this season, managing director Mark Volpe announced that the ailing BSO music director will step down from his position on September 1 of this year.

“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 released by the orchestra Wednesday.

“I make this decision knowing that I need to focus more of my attention on getting back to better health, so when I do return to the BSO podium I can continue the important work the orchestra and I have done together during the period of my music directorship.

“I wish the orchestra the very best in the search for the next Boston Symphony Music Director.  It has been an honor and a privilege to have served in that role these past seven years.”

Almost from the start of the 67-year-old conductor’s tenure in Boston in 2004, Levine’s health and ongoing medical issues—back problems, surgeries, and assorted viral infections–necessitated numerous cancellations and prolonged absences from the podium at Symphony Hall. That left the orchestra to spend much of the last seven years dealing with sudden non-appearances, and scrambling to revise scheduled programs and book guest conductors, reportedly frustrating BSO administration and some Boston audience members.

Levine’s latest cancellation put the orchestra in a particularly awkward position coming just one week before a scheduled tour to Carnegie Hall, New Jersey and the Kennedy Center. Guest conductors have already been slotted for the tour, which will go ahead as scheduled.

The Boston Symphony said discussions are underway to define “an ongoing new role” for Levine with the orchestra.

“The BSO has been incredibly fortunate to have had one of the greatest conductors of our time at its helm since 2004,” said managing director Volpe in a written statement.  He added, however, that “given Maestro Levine’s health issues, this has been a challenging time for all of us in the Boston Symphony Orchestra family, especially our beloved orchestra and devoted audiences.”

“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.

“As we begin the search to appoint the next BSO Music Director, 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.”

Comments are closed.