Levine resigns as music director

Updated: Mar 03, 2011, 10:00 AM IST

Boston: Conductor James Levine announced Wednesday that he would be stepping down as Boston Symphony Orchestra`s music director after seven years because he wants to focus on dealing with lingering back problems.

The resignation is effective Sept. 1, but talks are in progress with the 67-year-old Levine to define a new, permanent role for him, BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe said.

The announcement came a day after Levine withdrew from his remaining BSO schedule this season because of ill effects from a recent procedure intended to fix lingering back problems and complications from a viral infection.

"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," Levine said.

"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," he said.

Levine is the BSO`s 14th music director since the orchestra`s founding in 1881 and the first American-born conductor to hold that position.

"We will miss him and miss his incredible artistry. I think the future is very, very bright and hope to keep a relationship with Jim," Volpe said.

"He`s leaving an orchestra that`s in great artistic shape. Certainly we want to express our gratitude for many extraordinary performances, but he is one of the great conductors and he knows how to build an orchestra — and so that, certainly, will be his legacy," Volpe said. "Beyond that, he is also a fantastic teacher."

Levine is also music director of New York`s Metropolitan Opera.

Levine made his Met debut in 1971, became chief conductor there in 1973 and has been the company`s music director or artistic director since 1976. He lives in New York, near the opera house, and has commuted to Boston for his concerts there.

"Although James Levine is retiring from his position at the BSO, there is no change in his status at the Met. Maestro Levine intends to fulfill his schedule here for the remainder of this season and in future seasons," Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb said.

Levine missed performances in recent years for a series of ailments. He had his second back surgery last year and missed the BSO`s 2010 summer season at Tanglewood. He also tore his rotator cuff in March 2006 when he tripped and fell on the stage of Boston`s Symphony Hall during ovations, and his right kidney was removed in July 2008 because of a malignant tumor.

Bureau Report