James Levine to Step Down as BSO Music Director

The press release just arrived in my email inbox: “BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe announces that James Levine will step down as Boston Symphony Music Director as of September 1, 2011.” It’s not live on the BSO’s Web site yet, so here are excerpts:


BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe announced today that as of September 1, 2011, James Levine will step down from his current role as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 2004. Discussions between the BSO and Maestro Levine are underway to define an ongoing new role for Mr. Levine. Mr. Volpe has also announced that the BSO will immediately form a search committee to begin the process of appointing the next Boston Symphony 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 James Levine.  “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. As the BSO and I define a new relationship that I hope will benefit all involved, 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.”

The announcement comes as no surprise, given Levine’s recent bout with back trouble and the attendant press coverage.

Naturally, a few questions arise:

  • How will the BSO go about their search for a new music director, and who will emerge as top candidates?
  • Will Levine continue as music director at the MET? His decision to curtail his appearances during the 2011-12 season suggested to many that he might drop that gig even before the BSO directorship if his health issues persisted or worsened.

Levine leaves the BSO sounding revitalized and back in the top rank of American orchestra. Let’s hope fortune favors this venerable institution.

UPDATE: The BoGlo and  NY Times Web sites have the story.

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