Boston without Levine: the shortlist shortens

Boston without Levine: the shortlist shortens


norman lebrecht

May 08, 2011

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced its first post-James Levine season.

The next music director is likely to be chosen from these debut visitors:

Riccardo Chailly

Jiri Belohlavek

Andris Nelsons

Jaap van Zweeden.

Chailly has a full two weeks of performances. As I reported two years ago, he’s the favourite and, for Boston, the natural choice.


  • Tom Moore says:

    Yes, Levine was a disaster. But that doesn’t mean that there are no Americans who are qualified for this position. How sad that in the 21st century Boston still has to import directors for the BSO.

    • Drew Lewis says:

      ‘Americans qualified for this position’ … You mean like the lacklustre Alan Gilbert at the NYPO? What a dismal choice that has proved.

    • CC says:

      The BSO needs top the hire the best candidate it can attract, whether he/she is an American or not. How sad that in this day and age, some still think in terms of nationalistic tribalism for the top appointment of a world class orchestra.

  • Ken says:

    Let’s keep it real here. Just because a Conductor is on the schedule doesn’t make him/her a candidate for a Music Director position. There are lots of weeks to fill.

  • sj says:

    Why was Levine a disaster?

    • The choice of Levine may have been a bad one, given his health, (just as Vancouver got Comissiona after his heart attack, when his energy was but a shadow of its former level) but to call this magnificent conductor a disaster indicates either a total lack of critical acumen, or, one hopes, an ill-chosen word, something we are all guilty of every so often. Going for him was a risk, surely, that did not pay off, but as we have learned this week, risky choices sometimes produce spectacular results.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    It would probably be difficult to say that the Levine “gamble” didn’t pay off. I understand that, when he was able to conduct, he energized the orchestra in a way it hadn’t been in many years–after Ozawa’s more than tardy departure. I read a lot of great press about the sound of the orchestra and the kinds of repertoire that he was championing: including gnarly works by Milton Babbit and Eliot Carter. Of course, the BSO had to know what it was getting when he was hired, just as Chicago went through more than a couple of years of a caretaker in Haitink before hiring the then-69-year-old Muti. Was I shocked at that choice? In a word, yes, especially since there is a very worthy music director just down the road in St. Louis.

  • Robert Berger says:

    Accoeding to most critics and mavens,Gilbert’s tenure with the New York Philharmonic has been anything but lackluster. So far,I’ve only heard and seen the opening night telecasts on PBS, and they seemed very promising to me. I haven’t heard much of Gilbert’s conducting, but what little I’ve experienced was far from lackluster.
    And his programming has been full of interesting rarities and plenty of contemporary music.

  • N8Ma says:

    Levine was not a disaster for Boston. I was present for many of the wonderful concerts Levine performed with them, and will never ever forget the Gurrelieder I heard in Symphony Hall. He also trained the Tanglewood students in Wagner, and gave them the opportunity to perform the opening act of Die Walkure and the closing act of Gotterdammerung with Deborah Voight and Bryn Terfl. His musicianship is peerless and beyond any reproach, and overall he was very good for the orchestra in terms of helping them refocus and rebuild after languishing in the final years under Ozawa.

    It’s so sad that some who follow and claim to love classical music could be so dismissive of an incredibly talented musician who happened to get sick. No, he didn’t sign on to this job if he thought he was going to cancel again and again. I suppose one could fault Levine for biting off more than he can chew, but in what other arena of life would we be anything other than sympathetic towards someone whose ill health curtailed their career? Sometimes the snarking on Levine just comes across as cruel.

    Finally, I agree with Lebrecht about Chailly. He has the goods.