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The NY Times goes into agonies over Levine’s recorded legacy

December 5, 2017 by norman lebrecht

116 comments.


The New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini does some desperate soul-searching over what to do with his treasured James Levine recordings now the paper has brought his hero down.

In the living room of the apartment I share with my husband, we have a handsome dark-wood case for our stereo system. Two box sets of performances from the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine conducting have occupied a prominent spot on the lower shelf since they were released in 2010 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mr. Levine’s Met debut. Displaying them was a genuine expression of my admiration for a towering American artist.

But on Sunday, Mr. Levine was suspended by the Met after several men accused him of sexually abusing them decades ago, when they were still teenagers. Now, I’m not sure I want to keep those sets so visible in my home….

Oh, dear.

Read on here.


Comments (116)

  1. Derek Warby says:

    Separate the personality from their art. Levine’s crimes – whatever they might be proved to be – change nothing about his musical achievements. Disposing of the writer’s collection of recordings won’t undo any of the events, nor help any of the victims; there is nothing to be gained from it – no agonising necessary. If we disposed of the art produced by suspect or odious people, we’d have a whole lot less to enjoy. People who act like monsters can still create beautiful art. Hundreds of years of culture have shown that.

    1. Victor Trahan says:

      Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better.

      1. Erika Younge says:

        well thought out and written; there must be intelligent seperation of great art created by flawed people; i can separate the great music of wagner from the anti-semitic rantings, holding the artist accountable for both.

    2. Jon H says:

      If there’s any doubt, you don’t love it for musical reasons enough.

    3. Thornhill says:

      This was the exact logic that people used to turn a blind eye to the crimes Levine was committing.

      Let’s put it this way: If Levine was a second-rate conductor, or just some guy who sold patio furniture, do you think he would have been able to get away with his crimes for so long?

      1. Sue says:

        I’ve said it before and no doubt people will scream about it but the culture of homosexuality probably obscured lots of this since it would involve people ‘coming out’ for these disclosures to be made. It’s doubtful to me that Levine would have selected purely heterosexual men for his abuses.

        1. Thornhill says:

          1. Claiming that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles is an age-old false claim that people use to try and criminalize homosexuality.

          Roy Moore, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen have all proven that heterosexual men pray on young girls too.

          2. You don’t know the sexuality of the men he abused.

          3. Your implication that if the men were gay that would make his crimes less wrong is disgusting.

          The response from Norman and other posters on this website to these serious accusations have been downright revolting. So many of you have been bending over backwards to excuse a pedophile.

          I’m done with this website.

          1. Mark says:

            bravo! Well said, Thornhill!! Points well made.

          2. Me says:

            That’s clearly not what she was saying but you did just out yourself as gay; she was saying to report his abuse (which in each of these cases reported so far involved ongoing homosexual relations) the victim by reporting it would be outing himself and she posits in the 1960s to 1980s may not have wanted to/felt comfortable

        2. Herr Doktor says:

          You’re a one-trick pony, Sue. We all get it. You’re simply a homophobe. You’re allowed to be one. Just own it.

    4. you can not separate personality form art, because the are united. and sorry, we will forget about fat lady, there are so many other recordings, so nothing special about those in particular.

    5. Blair Tindall says:

      I believe instrumentalists and singers were making the sound on said recordings, not Levine.

  2. Ungeheuer says:

    Crocodile tears. What Tommasini should have done long ago, as journalist, was to have initiated investigative reporting on the Levine rumors. But no. What we got instead was gushfest after gushfest. His employer was/is, after all, as beholden to the Met as the Met was/is to the paper.

    1. La Verita says:

      Gushfests indeed, to the extent of spinning fake news – such as writing that “the Boston Symphony players love Levine” which was a bald-faced lie. They couldn’t stand Levine, and were happy to see him go, but Tommasini did his utmost to cover that up.

    2. Anonymuss says:

      HEAR, HEAR!!

    3. Ungeheuer says:

      Not to mention that Tommasini’s employer is as beholden to the Metropolitan Opera’s donor class as the donor class is to the NYT. See the circular symbiosis?

      Do we have word yet on Gelb’s and the board’s fate (since they were informed of the police report over a year earlier but continued to engage Levine thus becoming complicit in the coverup)?

      1. Roger says:

        always been a Met apologist. and yes of course he could have long ago tipped off the investigative reporting team at the NY Times. However, Arthur Gelb was powerful there even after he retired. So nothing would have happened anyway.

    4. MWnyc says:

      The New York Times is one of several newspapers that has investigated the rumors about James Levine more than once over the decades. No reporter had been able to substantiate any of the rumors or find any criminal complaints against Levine until the one filed by Mr. Pai in Illinois last year.

  3. Dennis says:

    “In the living room of the apartment I share with my husband…”

    Oh dear is right. Any sane person should have stopped reading at the moral and linguistic idiocy of that line above.

    1. Olassus says:

      Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

    2. herrera says:

      confirms my hunch that a lot of the comments here are motivated by homophobia

      1. Dennis says:

        Understanding the moral and cultural idiocy of so-called homesexual marriage, is not a “phobia”. “Homophobia” is simply a po-mo buzzword beloved of leftists and cultural Marxists.

        1. herrera says:

          You’re certainly proof that there’s no paucity of idiocy.

        2. Emma says:

          oh, Dennis

      2. Cynical Bystander. says:

        There are still gay men who are uncomfortable with the use of the term ‘husband’ for their partner. We are considered to be phobic and self oppressing by those who see any criticism of the ‘community’ as homophobic. I agree that homophobia does stalk comments here but for me that is their issue not mine. I cannot make people like or accept me and to be honest I don’t really see why they need to, they do not know me or me them, as long as they are not hurting me and others like me. Sticks and stones……

      3. Thomasina says:

        Maestro Nézet-Séguin, the next music director has a official partner. A lot of courage for him for the future of MET…

    3. Donald says:

      His ‘husband’? Does that mean Anthony is the wife?

    4. Marc says:

      Yea, it comes off as goofy, almost like a parody.

      Moreover, isn’t “husband” a hetero-normative word?

      Shouldn’t people like Tommasini prefer something more original and hip?

      How about “hunkster” or “gayster”?

      1. John says:

        Some gay people don’t mind being heteronormative. Does that cause you any problems?

  4. Ben says:

    Tomassini is an enabler. Cry me a river.

  5. Bill says:

    So, where do we draw the line? Berlioz was a stalker, Wagner a philanderer and Anti-Semite, Schumann had sex with and then married his underage student… and don’t even get me started on Puccini.

    I guess by the time this is over, the only music sufficiently pure left to listen to will be Teltubbies Christmas.

    1. A Concerned Clevelander says:

      Berlioz, Schumann, and Wagner are all dead. Listening to or performing their music gives them no profit.

      1. Raymond says:

        Levine is wealthy beyond belief. A few more bucks thrown his way make no difference at all. None.

        1. A Concerned Clevelander says:

          Perhaps not. But the consumer may not be as well endowed financially and is faced with a choice. Let’s face it, there are dozens of fine recordings of the standard orchestral repertoire. And more than a few fine recordings of various operas. Why spend one’s hard earned Dollars, Pounds, or Euros on Levine and the bloated Met opera?

  6. Sanity says:

    ‘In the living room of the apartment I share with my husband’ – Wait! Tommasini’s gay?! Well, I must say he kept that well hidden. I would have expected his reviews to take more note of strappIng baritones…

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      Tommasini has been open on his orientation for a long time. I remember references to his then partner in articles at least 12 years ago.
      This particular reference may be a way to separate appropriate gay activity from inappropriate. My two cents, and I am neither homophobic nor gay.

      1. Raymond says:

        He may well have thought that writing “in my living room” was an omission that might make him appear less than forthright. And had he written that there are people here who would be using that phrasing against him.

    2. nimitta says:

      Sanity: “I would have expected his reviews to take more note of strappIng baritones…”

      Yes, because a gay music critic should presumably be that shallow….

      …or perhaps it’s your comment that’s shallow, Sanity.

      1. Sanity says:

        It is a well-known joke within the industry that Tommasini’s reviews often referred to male singers as ‘strappIng’. There were whole memes devoted to it. For God’s sake, that was the point of the comment!

        1. Roger says:

          yes of course. see the teasing for these comments on parterre.com

  7. buxtehude says:

    @ Bill: Schumann married Clara Wieck a day short of her 21st birthday after an epic struggle lasting years, with her father, who tried to prevent the marriage and attempted to destroy them both — socially, professionally and financially — in the process.

    She was never Schumann’s student — Schumann was a student of her father.

    What evidence do you have of sex before marriage here? I’ve not come across even rumors of this in my reading.

  8. Alex Davies says:

    I do believe that a degree of inconsistency is justified in these cases. While I am perfectly happy to look at the art of the murderer Caravaggio or to listen to the music of the murderer Gesualdo, I have for some years now refused to attend Robert King’s concerts and have avoided knowingly listening to his recordings. I think that the distinction for me is that Mr King and his victims are still very much alive and that the offences took place during my lifetime. [redacted: defamation] Personally, I find it difficult to derive any enjoyment from listening to an artist who seems to me to be a thoroughly unpleasant person. The same would apply to Philip Pickett—all the more so, in fact, because I once experienced his unpleasantness at first hand and know him to be a rude, arrogant, bully who enjoys humiliating those weaker than himself. Similarly, I cannot imagine revisiting the books of William Mayne, which I loved as a child, following his conviction for 11 counts of indecently assaulting girls. There are doubtless inconsistencies in my approach, but I don’t think that that renders by objections to certain artists invalid. Should the accusations surrounding Mr Levine be proven to be true, I may find myself enjoying his performances less. The recordings, of course, will remain unchanged, but my feelings towards them may not.

  9. Joseph Shelby says:

    Disney will have to decide what to do as well. Next time Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 come out of the “Vault”, they may choose to do some editing of the film’s interstitials and behind the scenes. (and this on top of the Lasseter situation)

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      What’s wrong with the original Fantasia? It was released three years before James Levine was born.

      1. Joe Shelby says:

        My point was that Disney tends to (re)release them together – they’ve done that for the last 3.

  10. Malcolm James says:

    One difference might be that by going to Robert King’s concerts or buying his or Phillip Pickett’s records, you are contributing to their royalty stream. Similarly, Gary Glitter would still be entitled to royalties if his records were ever played in public. James Levine has already made his money out of Mr Tommasini and others. I agree with Bill. Lots of composers and performers in the past were unsavoury characters to a greater or lesser extent and we’re still quite happy to listen to their music.

  11. Joseph Shelby says:

    As for the article and Levine’s “how good do you have to be” – the other side is real as well: how good do you have to be before your private life remains private, even if you have NOTHING to hide.

    Levine’s statement would and should have been the same even if these allegations are all false.

    Otherwise, we are simply demanding that there be no privacy at all. For anybody.

    ..is that the world we really want?

  12. Joey M. says:

    When living contemporaneously with the events in question — with the transgressor still living and possibly benefiting financially from the consumption of his art, or having access to more innocents to abuse — it makes sense to boycott his art. But the arc of history is long, and our lives are but blips on it. 100 years from now, Levine’s recordings will probably still be revered, and this will be a footnote, as it is with so many artists who were monsters in their day. Had there been mass media to spread the word of their crimes, and a populace such as ours empowered by the internet, Gesualdo might have found himself ostracized as well, but I think his name would still appear in college courses that survey music history. We still listen to the recordings of semi-nazis like Furtwangler and Mengelberg, and the anti-Semitic (Meistersinger, anyone?) music of Wagner.

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      I am far from a fan of Wagner, but I fail to see the anti-Semitism in Meistersinger, or in his music generally. Many have suggested that Beckmesser is a Jew without the slightest evidence. What would a Jew be doing in a 16th German guild?

  13. Cynical Bystander. says:

    How precious and more than a little self indulgent. Maybe equally clear his film collection of all of the others now beyond the pale?

  14. Jack says:

    This is all deeply troubling.

    One of my favorite recordings of all time is Levine’s Berlioz Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic. It’s not most people’s favorite recording of that great work, but I love it, largely because of Luciano Pavarotti’s beautiful contribution in the Sanctus.

    I frankly don’t know if I’m going to be able to listen to it again and enjoy it as much as I always have knowing what I now know about Levine.

  15. William Osborne says:

    This latest article by Tommasini isn’t really about what he wants on his shelf. It’s an attempt to rationalize the NYT’s failure to successfully investigate the Levine situation long ago. A facade of righteousness way after the fact.

    The 1998 piece by Tommasini linked is clearly an effort to soft pedal what so many people knew about Levine. Tommasini was all but covering for him. Now the NYT is feeling the heat for their failures and rationalizations, so they are squirming in the seats.

    I do, however, much appreciate some parts of the 1998 article where Tommasini hints at some of the bigotry Levine faced in Munich — but that is another story.

    It is telling that Levine’s option in 1998 was a second tier orchestra like the Munich Phil.
    It demonstrated that he was already damaged goods, as was the luke warm tenure in Boston.

    There’s a large point illustrated by this. The Munich Phil had enormous ambitions and was thus willing to compromise itself and take Levine, just as they took and tolerated Celibiache who had already been run out of London, Stockholm, Bologna, and Stuttgart due to his extreme abuse of musicians. It’s an old story, art is higher than morality. Celebrity is thus placed above the law, and Faustian compromises accepted in the service of hollow ambition.

    We can be thankful to see this tradition crumbling.

    1. William Osborne says:

      And forgive me if I ignore any comments by the Celi groupies, as they are known. They worshiped him as a sort of guru. Their blind fanaticism puts many of them beyond dialog.
      They were also subjected to Celi’s abuse, and were one more aspect of the unhealthy atmosphere he created and that the Munich Phil tolerated.

    2. Been Here Before says:

      William, your comment is spot on!

      One thing I could never understand is why the BSO picked Levine in the 2000s. I lived in Boston during the two year interregnum, when each concert was led by a different guest conductor. I attended most of them, and I can tell you that there were many conductors who were more impressive than him.

      I remember attending his concert – the first piece on the program was Beethoven’s 4th Symphony. It was already apparent that he was a “damaged good”, as you would say. He looked ill, almost medicated, and it took him a long time to proceed from the stage door to the podium.

      I remember telling the person with whom I went to the concert (who had strong connections to Harvard and the BSO board) something along the lines “Why would they ever consider hiring him? Can’t they see this is a gravely ill man?”, and he just turned his head away and pretended not to hear what I just said.

      Would you have any idea why he was their choice? Was it just Bostonian snobbery, or was there something else?

      1. Barry says:

        At the time, Levine had his choice of Boston or Philadelphia. It was reported then that the latter wanted him pretty badly as Sawallisch’s replacement after Rattle turned them down.

        Back then, it seemed like a major blow to lose out on a second big-time conductor. Now, from the perspective of a Philadelphia Orchestra subscriber, it seems like an incredible stroke of luck that he turned us down.

        1. Been Here Before says:

          Thank you! I didn’t know that.

        2. Been Here Before says:

          But then Eschenbach was controversial, too, especially with the musicians, wasn’t he?

          1. Barry says:

            Yes. After both Levine and Rattle turned them down, the management reached the point of desperation. It was a terribly botched search right from the start.

        3. Ilio says:

          Rattle hadn’t conducted in Philly in sometime after a dispute with orchestra management. He wasn’t high on the list of Sawallish replacements.

          1. Barry says:

            Ilio says: “Rattle hadn’t conducted in Philly in sometime after a dispute with orchestra management. He wasn’t high on the list of Sawallish replacements.”

            Your memory is off. Rattle was conducting in Philly for multiple weeks every other season during that period. The mayor of Philadelphia even tried to get in on getting Rattle to say Yes; to no avail obviously. He said in an interview, I think with the Times, at some point that passing on the Philadelphia job was extremely difficult for him. He loves the Orchestra, but he sees himself as a European and doesn’t want to spend a significant amount of time in the U.S.

            In fact, the Philadelphia management was so open about their desire to sign Rattle above all others, that I’ve always believed they drove off other possible candidates.

          2. Barry says:

            Now that I think of it, could you be confusing Philadelphia and Boston? There was also talk of Rattle gong to Boston around that time, but he had stopped conducting there by then and I recall reading negative comments from him about their management.

      2. Herr Doktor says:

        As a regular BSO subscriber for decades, I’ll comment on the question of the artistic merit of Levine’s tenure in Boston.

        Levine did an *outstanding* job of elevating the day-in, day-out performance of the BSO during his tenure. And they maintained that much higher standard of playing when he was not on the podium as much as when he was on it. The difference of the quality of playing during his tenure as compared to the end of the Ozawa era is striking. And Andris Nelsons has only further enhanced the orchestra’s performance quality.

        I did not like the Levine tenure artistically at all. For the life of me, I have no idea why in the orchestral repertoire he is regarded as world-class. Based on what I heard, his interpretations of the warhorses were not even second-rate, they were third-rate. After about the fourth year (and after a disastrous performance of Schubert’s 9th), my husband announced he would no longer attend another Levine concert. And he didn’t. By the fifth season, we traded out of most of the Levine programs assigned in our series and heard anyone else.

        What was wrong? I just never got any real emotional engagement in a Levine performance. I called him “king of the phrase.” He could do amazing phrases. Loud to soft. Soft to loud. Speeding up. Slowing down. The execution was never anything less than impressive. And it never added up to anything more than the moment. His performances had no emotional arc, no story to tell. They just lived in the moment. And then they ended: Dvorak 8 (perhaps the worst of the worst of the Levine performances I heard), Beethoven 7, Schubert 9, Brahms 2, Brahms’ German Requiem, Brahms 3, any Mozart performance. If I sat and thought about it, that list would be 3x longer, those are just the ones that immediately come to mind.

        My husband gave what is the best description of it. He’s a doctor, and he put in medical terms. He said, “What I hear in his performances is the musical equivalent of SSRIs (the current class of antidepressants that are standard of care treatment). They level you out–they cut out the emotional highs and lows, and just goes forward. And that’s a Levine performance. There’s no there there.”

        While our opinions were in the minority in the general public, amongst the people we know, many of whom had musical backgrounds, there was a clear dislike of Levine’s music-making (except for one individual for whom Levine could to no wrong).

        I could not have been happier with his departure. That said, there are two performances I heard of his which I really enjoyed (with caveats): The Flying Dutchman, and Bluebeard’s Castle. The Wagner piece I enjoyed as much for the work itself as for the performance, and I will say that the live performance does not hold up to any of the CDs I own, but it was still thrilling to hear.

        And don’t get me started about the overdose of atonal music. I hope to never hear another work of Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, Schoenberg, and any other number of the hucksters who wrote different variants of non-musical crap that Levine kept shoving down our throats.

        That’s my honest assessment of Levine: Great orchestra-builder, terrible interpreter. I don’t know the opera repertoire well enough to assess him as a conductor of opera. But in the symphonic realm, which I know like the back of my hand, he would get a D overall, and an F as an interpreter.

        1. Been Here Before says:

          Herr Doktor – Thank you for your exhaustive response! I think your husband was spot on. SSRIs was the perfect diagnosis and could very well describe what I heard, too. Sadly, Levine also looked like he was on some kind of medication, while everybody pretended not to see it.

          I am aware of Ozawa’s legacy and remember many people that I spoke to being vocal about him “destroying” the orchestra. I believe Levine improved it, however, there were many other guest conductors who were clearly more impressive. I well remember Pappano finishing his concert with a symphony by Shostakovich and the audience going wild.

          So it still remains a mystery to me – why was he picked at first place?

        2. Hilary says:

          “and don’t get me started on the overdose of atonal music”

          On the contrary, one of the laudable aspects of JL’s legacy. You’re obviously one of those listeners where classical music is a museum piece. Levine speaks eloquently on this subject in one of his three appearances on the Charlie Rose show.

          1. Herr Doktor says:

            Hilary, I love it! The standard response of, well, if you don’t love atonal music, you’re just showing you’re of the unsophisticated, unwashed masses.

            Please. Get over yourself.

            I have no issue with anyone enjoying whatever they enjoy. If you enjoy listening to atonal music, then go crazy (but use headphones, please). But when it looks like dog scheisse and smells like dog scheisse, then don’t waste your breath trying to convince me it’s beef wellington.

            From where I sit (and this is my personal opinion), atonal music is a sick, tired joke that played out and failed long ago, but lives on because it’s a fine way for people to act out their own power trip and ego games, and in the case of composers, because they lack the talent to write something that can actually reach, move, or be meaningful to a listener. 100 years from now no one will remember that Elliott Carter or Milton Babbitt even existed. The same can not be said for Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner.

            There’s a place for new music. But beating to death dead scheisse just shows arrogance, not enlightment.

          2. Ungeheuer says:

            James Levine and Charlie Rose together. One can’t just make that up. No end to the ironies (and dangers).

          3. Kool says:

            You’re obviously one of those listeners to whom Carter and Babbitt still count as new music. Get with the times!

          4. John Borstlap says:

            Exactly because classical music is NOT a museum piece, but continues to be contemporary, also because composers are still writing it, ‘atonal music’ should not be seen as the normal development of the genre. It is a different genre altogether, like photography in the 19th century developed next to painting, and 20C concept art (urinals, cut corpses in formaldehyde, real unmade beds etc.) next to normal art (that is why there are separate museums for ‘modern art’).

    3. Raymond says:

      Levine’s reviews in Boston were far better than lukewarm and there were many wonderful performances… until he started canceling. I find it odd that some think Levine was damaged goods and would only be acceptable in Munich but then was deemed a fit for Boston. I agree the Munich assignment always seemed odd, but the logical thread is hard to follow.

      1. Joel Stein says:

        I attended most of Levine’s Boston concerts and the year juxtaposing Beethoven and Schoenberg was one the highlights of my 50 plus years of attending concerts. As for Tomassini’s quandry, I think I have to get rid of the DVDs as I cannot stand the thought of watching Levine. As for the “atonal music being shoved down our throats” I guess Herr Doktor is one of those I can thank for the opportunity to hear the Tchaikovsky violin concerto every year.

        1. Herr Doktor says:

          Had Levine had the courage of his atonal convictions, he would have programmed the warhorse before the intermission, and the atonal music after it.

          Had he done so, it would have resulted in the creation of a new musical term: the chamber audience.

        2. Hilary says:

          “Herr Doktor is one of those I can thank for having the opportunity of hearing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto every year”

          I suspect you’re right. I find his his general outlook a tad unsavoury.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            It is a grave misunderstanding to assume that either you love atonal music or you want to restrict your musical diet to the most worn-out repertoire pieces. It is an absurd reduction of the subject, and very narrow-minded.

      2. Herr Doktor says:

        Anyone who would base their assessment of the BSO/Levine era on Boston Globe published reviews is hopelessly out of date. Richard Dyer could be relied upon to honestly state what he heard, and he had really good ears and was an excellent and mostly fair critic. When he retired, that was the end of the era. His successor either doesn’t have very good ears, or more likely given the era of newspaper staffing and coverage cutbacks, buyouts, and salary freezes, is not in a position to honestly write about what the rest of us are hearing.

  16. D says:

    How is it that Tommasini was certain that Levine is gay (Tommasini was hoping he would acknowledge it ), but uncertain as to the stories about Levine and teenage boys?

    The latter he felt he could dismiss as “rumors,” given that there was no “concrete evidence,” yet regarding the former he was certain it was true. (Wasn’t his certainty about Levine’s gayness based on the very same stories?)

  17. Alex Davies says:

    Surely Wagner is something of a false comparison. Antisemitism was pretty much the default position for the society in which Wagner lived and it would probably have been more remarkable had he not been an antisemite, just as it would have been remarkable had Rudyard Kipling not been racist. Sexual abuse of minors, on the other hand, is absolutely neither typical of, nor acceptable within, the society within which we live.

  18. Cubs Fan says:

    ‘After abandoning his wife, Saint-Saëns traveled extensively. He began spending winters in French-speaking Algeria, which became a favored holiday spot for European homosexuals who enjoyed the adolescent male companionship easily available there. He was quoted as saying, “I am not a homosexual, I am a pederast.” ‘

    “…sorceries were one way of expressing forbidden sexuality: the devil, when having sex with boys or girls, “took as much pleasure in sodomy as in the most ordered and natural voluptuousness.” Male witnesses admitted performing sodomy “to please the devil,” often with male relatives, one Basque man saying he did so “often in a passive way with [the Devil], often actively with other warlocks.” …Ravel was very Basque in his use of sorcery as sexual camouflage, returning obsessively to the theme of witchcraft as a source of inspiration. In public and even among most of his friends, Ravel suppressed his sexual desires and used witchcraft as his forefathers had, as an emotional safety valve and a way of expressing forbidden feelings. So long as his parents lived, according to friends who were aware of Ravel’s homosexuality, he could not permit himself to express his true nature.”

    True? Who really knows? But you’ll never get me to give up either composer’s music even though I might find their personal lives distasteful and revolting. So, I’ll keep my Levine recordings, love many of them (Brahms, Mahler, and so much more) and realize that Levine is a flawed human, just like every one of us. I have committed my share of sins and am not ready to throw the first stone. And, all we have are allegations without proof, rumors or not. I am in no way condoning or forgetting what he is alleged to have done. And this is far from over, sadly.

    1. Sue says:

      Excellent comments. And, honestly, I’m bored to death hearing about homosexuality morning, noon and night.

      1. Yes Addison says:

        Well, you could always go somewhere very remote where there is no media access. That would solve your problem. if you chose a location with a lot of dangerous creatures (say, Snake Island off the coast of Brazil) it would be a win for everyone.

  19. Gordon Davies says:

    ‘We have a handsome dark-wood case for our stereo system. Two box sets of performances from the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine conducting have occupied a prominent spot on the lower shelf since they were released in 2010 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mr. Levine’s Met debut. Displaying them was a genuine expression of my admiration for a towering American artist.’

    Surely that’s the unmistakable Dr Niles Crane.

    1. Sue says:

      Absolutely miss that brilliant series for grown up people!!!

    2. Mike Schachter says:

      Beyond parody.

  20. harold braun says:

    I have many,many recordings of him,and i´ll continue to listen with pleasure.Blogs like this always show how many idiots live on this planet.

    1. Charles Fischbein says:

      Harold.
      I will stack my PhD in Historical Musicology against any education you may have.
      Making a personal moral decision to deal in any manner with Levine is,purely personal and i have NO idea who appointed you as,the morality police.
      Let’s try to be civil and don’t flaunt your second grade education.

      1. harold braun says:

        Thank you for making me laugh my ass off…you made my day,dude!

      2. harold braun says:

        Personally,as a professional musician for 38 years,having a cd collection of 12.000,LP collection of 8.000,and a collection of 2500 scores,not to mention books,memorabilia,etc,..i don´t care a shit about your PhD,since your comments are devoid of any logic.Nevertheless,i try:
        1.:I don´t see myself as a moral authority on Mr.Levine.People like you,and 80% of the
        commentators here do,making prejudgements on him.So far,there are only allegations
        and accusations,no evidence.Like every US citizen,Mr.Levine is innocent until proven
        guilty.
        2.:My point here was about the musical quality of his recordings.There are many great achievements,especially in the first part of his career.His alleged wrondoings,or even
        his good deeds,don´t have anything to do with his musical achievements.
        As Christian Thielemann often stated,C major is neither good nor bad.It´s just C major.
        I don´t think you may grasp this.Alas…..

        1. Cyril Blair says:

          “Like every US citizen, Mr.Levine is innocent until proven guilty.”

          That only applies in a court of law. Not in the court of public opinion. As with so many of these sexual abusers, if the statute of limitations has passed, there is no way for this to be adjudicated in a court of law. Thus the only thing we can do is listen to the accounts of the accusers, and the possible denials (or no comments) of the accused, and decide for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with listening to the evidence for oneself and coming up with one’s own guilty verdict.

        2. The View from America says:

          #GeniusIsNoLongerAnExcuse

      3. Craig says:

        Careful with that PhD Charles, you’ll poke someone’s eye out!

        1. John Borstlap says:

          One time we had Dr [redacted] here, the famous Cambridge scholar, who had such a big PhD that it did not fit in the room. We had to converse on the terrace and it blocked the sunlight out.

          Sally

    2. Mark says:

      Thank you, Mr. Braun ! Same here – I will always treasure his recordings and the memories of all the great performances he led at the Met and Carnegie Hall. And I hope and pray he is exonerated !

      1. The View from America says:

        #GeniusIsNoLongerAnExcuse

        1. Mark says:

          #EnviousMediocrityCelebrationParty

  21. Ian Pace says:

    Are people going to burn the works of Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, André Gide or Joe Orton now? Comparable with the accusations against Levine or Spacey.

    https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/simon-callow-on-the-paedophile-exploits-of-andre-gide-oscar-wilde-lord-alfred-douglas-and-others/

    1. Alex Davies says:

      One could also mention Karol Szymanowski in this context. I do, however, believe that it raises a valid question about the relativity of moral values across different time periods. Was paedophilia just as morally reprehensible 100 or more years ago as it is today? Were the lifelong psychological effects for the victims exactly the same, or are those effects to any degree socially constructed? In Romeo and Juliet we are told that Juliet is not yet 14. This presumably reflects norms of behaviour in early modern Italy. I am not an apologist for paedophilia; I am genuinely interested to know what people think. As a historian by academic training I am used to hearing arguments that genocide and torture may have been morally acceptable until as recently as the Middle Ages. I am not sure whether one can advance similar arguments about paedophilia as recently as the early 20th century.

      1. Cyril Blair says:

        “Was paedophilia just as morally reprehensible 100 or more years ago as it is today?”

        In many cases it depended on the race and class of both accuser and accused. The public, and the courts, were more inclined to be disgusted by sex crimes against minors if the victim was white and middle or upper class, and/or the accused lower class or non-white.

        1. Alex Davies says:

          Well I think that that is certainly true insofar as the attitudes of those times are concerned. Indeed, Wilde’s undoing was, of course, his relationship with the son of a marquess. Had he confined his activities to working-class child prostitutes he presumably would have got away with it and been lauded by the Establishment.

          But what I am really puzzled about is not how people were judged in their own time (since we have evidence that attests this), but how (and indeed whether) we ought to judge them from our own perspective. If Wilde, Gide, Szymanowski, etc. were active today we would condemn them morally and they’d be serving long prison sentences. Does the fact that they lived in times with quite different moral attitudes in any way reduce their culpability?

          As I understand it, in the 19th century and early 20th century it seems to have been quite normal for European and American homosexual males to travel to destinations such as north Africa for the purpose of engaging in sexual relations with underage boys. Today that is not the case, and in the UK a man named Richard Huckle is currently serving 22 life sentences for committing 71 sexual offences against children in Malaysia (he is believed to have committed many more crimes in Malaysia as well as in Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, and India, and in the UK itself). Were these Victorian and Edwardian sex tourists just conforming to different social and cultural norms, or were they in fact as despicable as Richard Huckle? (I have less difficulty judging more recent offenders such as Joe Orton and William Burroughs, as they lived recently enough that I am confident that their behaviour was reprehensible by the standards of their own times.)

          1. John Borstlap says:

            It should be noted that paedophilia refers to minors before puberty. In antique Greece relationships between adult males and post-puberty adolescents were entirely OK while paedophilia was taboo – probably because they understood it was damaging. 19C Europeans circulating in North Africa were, in general, not looking for prepuberty children but for adolescents, like the old Greeks. Many Europeans went, however, for the sun and the food, or to escape some legal threat or another. And Szymanowski was a decent gentleman who understood his amorous interests in the old Greek sense, as he himself had explained, and he was very popular among his young students of whom nobody ever complained about S’s inclinations. All these careless generalizations are quite distasteful, as if the stories about JL’s exploits are not distasteful enough.

          2. Alex Davies says:

            @John Borstlap, you may well be correct about Szymanowski, but some of the others mentioned certainly had interests in quite young children, not young adults in their late teens and early twenties. Joe Orton mentions boys of 14 in terms that suggest that that was not unusual.

    2. harold braun says:

      Spot in,Ian!

  22. Charles Fischbein says:

    On a chilly afternoon in the Shenandoah Valley where I am retired I decided to watch a DVD recording of The Ring conducted by Levine
    As,soon as he appeared,on my screen I fast forwarded past him.
    I will not give up the passion I have for many Met performances I have in DVD with Levine conducting but will keep my remote close to fast forward whenever he appears.
    I am going to The Met later this month and am more,than happy there will be zero chance of Levine being in the house.
    Now maybe Gelb should be next to go.

    1. Mark Henriksen says:

      You fast forward to avoid looking at him? Seriously? What if you miss something musical? Why not just cover your eyes and wait until he is gone? Too funny.

    2. Roger Shillingworth says:

      Of course! And I fast forward every time Don Giovanni comes onstage when I am watching the Mozart opera! Just imagine having to watch that debauched, dissipated, dork groping and raping his way across half of Europe with sixteen or seventeen hundred victims in his wake! JL conducting Don Giovanni would be the ultimate horror trip for me!

  23. Andy says:

    Years ago, a crackerjack classical record store in Toronto (there still are such places) used NOT to stock any recordings by James Levine. The proprietor used to be pretty vocal about his motivation for the boycott. Looking at the website today (not having been in Toronto for many years), I entered “Levine” in its search engine, and dozens of recordings filled the page. I guess the boycott ended a while ago. Still, I’ve got to wonder what will happen to all that inventory as this story spins out. These days the bandwagon seems to require that everyone climb on board.

  24. MacroV says:

    Also worth considering is that Levine the conductor of those performances, but he is one of hundreds of performers; there’s also the orchestra, the soloists, chorus, etc.. These are not HIS recordings; they are THEIR recordings.

    1. James Hall says:

      +1

  25. Charles Fischbein says:

    Harold only a fool would fall back on a judicial standard in this matter and negate common humanity and morality.
    Sadly I feel you fit that description.
    I have written online about the perversion of Levine for years.
    This is not a new issue it has been known to those in the classical and,opera profession for years.
    Now it seems the time is right for the fake media to take the moral high ground and proclame they uncovered a hidden story.
    Levine did little to try to hide his,perversions other than issue verbal denials
    Gelb and the Mets board as well as the in house legal team and even Volpe covered this story up as best they could.
    This reminds me of the concept of critical mass finally it is the time for The New York Times to do what should have been done decades ago.
    It is now safe for the Board to clean house and remove the stench of perversion from the Met.
    As far as my collection goes I will not let Levine’s perversions keep me from hearing and viewing world class,opera but will turn away or fast forward any parts of a DVD showing Levine.
    There is a BOX SEAT reserved for him in HELL

    1. harold braun says:

      Exactly the self righteous attitude which sent dozens of innocent people to the electric chair.Disgusting.

      1. Charles Fischbein says:

        Name one person proven legally innocent after being put to death.
        You sound like the poster boy for the ACLU and Black Lives Matter

        1. MacroV says:

          I don’t disagree with your first post, but as for the death penalty:

          Legally proven? None that I know of. Likely innocent? Quite a few. Cameron Willingham in Texas, for starters. Judges, juries and prosecutors are human, make mistakes, and sometimes face perverse incentives. So I’d say it’s a certainty that some innocent person has been executed.

          And consider the number of people exonerated by the Innocence Project or Equal Justice Initiative. A read of Byron Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” is highly recommended.

        2. Alex Davies says:

          Well in the UK there certainly have been people who suffered the extreme penalty of the law only later to be exonerated. A particularly egregious case was that of Derek Bentley who was sentenced to hang as a result of misconduct by various public officials, including the trial judge, who was the Lord Chief Justice, and the Home Secretary, who refused to commute Bentley’s sentence despite a recommendation of mercy submitted by the jury itself and widespread public outrage. It was recognised as a miscarriage of justice at the time and marked an important shift in public attitude towards the death penalty. Another famous case was Timothy Evans, hanged for a series of murders later discovered to have been committed by the now infamous John Christie, himself later hanged. This was one of the cases that really consolidated public opinion against the death penalty, which was abolished shortly afterwards.

  26. Charles Tansley says:

    I’m not throwing away my Levine recordings; to do so would be futile and would mean discarding the other artists, too. The real scandal here is why the entire musical establishment – including writers and critics – covered up for this man for so long. Can’t help thinking here of the sordid allegations against Michael Jackson – who bizarrely seems to have been rehabilitated (his records/downloads sell well and Thriller is STIILL running in London) even though his pay-offs – and some of the detail which emerged in court – were pretty damning,

  27. Anonymous says:

    Half the commenters on these Levine threads remind me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8WhP49UCfc

  28. harold braun says:

    Exactly the self righteous attitude which sent dozens of innocent people to the electric chair.Bravo!

  29. Michael Walker says:

    In 1966, John Lennon said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. In response, thousands of Americans in the south burned their Beatles records. I have always thought poorly of those people, but now that I have read Tommasini’s piece, I find respect for them: they acted in accord with their beliefs. Tommasini, on the other hand, cannot find the courage to dispense with his Levine collection, but neither can he be seen associating himself with the conductor; hence he keeps the records but hides them in his closet. This moral cowardice boggles the mind. His inability to make a decision in such a small matter makes it easy for me to imagine he would have no ability to withstand pressure in a larger one. “Anne Frank? Sure, she’s upstairs. Right through there.”


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