Composer apologises for comments on James Levine

Composer apologises for comments on James Levine


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2021

The American composer John Harbison has just issued this retraction on his website:

Thank you to everyone who wrote in response to my commentary on James Levine, following the announcement of his death, which appeared in the prior issue of this newsletter. 
I’m grateful for each of the heartfelt comments, covering the full spectrum of responses, all unsparing in their delivery. 
As stated, I do believe penalties for sexual impropriety must be exacted, but I’m aware that my comments as I phrased them have caused considerable pain, for which I offer my sincere apology. 
It was never my intention to hurt or offend, and I’m deeply sorry for any distress I have caused. 

Harbison, 82, had previously suggested that his late friend and advocate, conductor of his 1999 opera The Great Gatsby, should not be judged for posterity by his misdemeanours alone.

Harbison was then assailed online for appearing to condone sexual exploitation.

See also: Levine’s legacy poisons America’s classical conversations.



  • mary says:

    Self-criticism is a good start. Auto-flagellation should follow.

  • Karl says:

    Apologies are admissions of guilt. You’re cancelled buddy.

  • Kevin Kenner says:

    What a cuck. Can’t even pick a side.

  • Victim Advocate says:

    There’s nothing wrong with sexual abuse…if you’re a liberal. Lefties just use kids like toys and toss them away with no consideration. We get that.

    All of his victims would have appreciated a scintilla of this type of grandiose support after their assault or rape but you people just don’t care. That’s why #metoo has been such a positive movement. It certainly swept up plenty of smartassed journalists and studio executives as well. Eh?

    The Left has made themselves enormous targets which is why they bear most of the responsibility to fix and heal the wounds they inflicted.

    Some of us wish to support the VICTIMS and leave the likes of Jimmy where he belongs; in the bin! It’s incumbent for others to do the same since they continue to act as if they are above the law. Jimmy, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, L. Moonvies, etc clearly weren’t in the end.

    • Ainslie says:

      You are disgusting. Making this a “right/left” issue shows your intellectual deficiencies.

      • N. Jawood says:

        You believe the comment is from someone employed by CNN, MSNBC, etc??? Right. They antagonize those on the right for entertainment purposes promoting fear 24/7. It’s their JOB! They can’t think or speak for themselves like balanced individuals. They don’t even realize there are more than 2 races in the world other than white and black.

        Funny though that the media CEO’s, boards and financial managers responsible for paying these news “actors” are still WHITE MEN! Commenters here are too indoctrinated to grasp this which is why the negative votes and acerbic rhetoric is so hilarious.

        Then there’s the uber-privileged WHITE MALE Democrats chose to support. Senile Joe who can’t handle a room of reporters DIRECTLY like Trump did numerous times or manage some stairs or having pets around. Joe adequately reflects the Left. He’s disoriented, sloppy and keeps a wanna-be black woman BEHIND him to make him look diverse and hip. He is acting just like the Democrat-founded KKK men did along with keeping a slave in tow to show off his power. Meanwhile these freaks have the disabled and senior citizens in chains waiting desperately for stimulus Trump mobilized within days.

        Enslaving vulnerable and elderly people to purposefully hurt them is ‘disgusting’ enough AinsLIE but being profoundly inept on WHEN you will get around to helping them is grotesque. What rattled him then? Bombing Iran absorbed all of Joe’s meager attention in spite of leeching off the US government for 40 years without accomplishing anything?!?!

      • SVM says:

        “Victim Advocate” is not the one who made it a “right/left” issue — that was the liberal Twitterati who manifest such disgusting double standards: they will go after the slightest of allegations against their political enemies, whilst completely overlooking equally (or more) credible allegations against their political allies. What happened to the idea of investigating *all* allegations seriously according to a consistent standard of proof, without fear or favour? An obvious example is the way that Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden were dismissed and even censored (to the point of removing from an online archive a specific single episode of a 1990s radio programme because it lent a bit of credence to Reade’s allegations) by the mainstream media and political establishment (compare that to how the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were portrayed and investigated).

    • Daniel says:


    • Tiredofitall says:

      One word: Cages (or don’t those kids count?)

      • Lefties are gullible says:

        Obama’s cages were cool with Democrats up until CNN recycled his administration’s photos in order to attempt to hurt Trump. Didn’t work like the Russia hoax Hillary ran with to cover up her failures and envy of Trump. She still makes money speaking at big banks and companies like the bitch she is. Too bad she wasn’t woman enough to divorce Bill or leave that raped girl alone when she was at Rose Law.

        By the way, what ever happened to those kids in cages under Obama?

    • Albert says:

      Majority of child abusers are right wing conservatives. Fact. Including both of mine. Fuck you.

    • Sharon says:

      Actually the Me Too movement was considered largely a lefty feminist movement and was criticized by some conservatives
      As far as Harbison’s “cowardice” is concerned, Levine, DID make a major contribution even as he badly hurt some people. Harbison is apologizing to those who were concerned about those Levine had hurt or those whom perhaps had experienced sexual exploitation themselves. Harbison would have been a coward had he not apologized to those who were offended by his comments.

    • BruceB says:

      The trolls like it here because they are so well fed. They keep coming back, and they tell their friends.

    • Gerry says:

      This is not a right left issue. And if you view this from the right then start talking about our last president.

  • Rual The Worthy says:

    What a coward.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    There is a degree of smugness in all the piling on.

  • E Rand says:

    When are people going to learn- never apologize! Especially to the marxists! They will just smell blood and come for more. All you have to do is sit tight and wait a day, maybe two. Then, the hyenas move on. Man-up Harbison!

  • Bone says:

    I like Harbison’s music. I like Levine’s recordings.

  • fflambeau says:

    Harbison’s music is not very good.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    ==should not be judged for posterity by his misdemeanours alone.

    Sounds a reasonable thing to write. Storm in a teacup

  • Mike Cunningham says:

    I took issue with a post by Placido Domingo on his Facebook page, praising Levine. I shared his post on my Facebook wall, adding the following comment, “And here we have everything that’s wrong with the classical music world, neatly summed up in one post.” My comment was deleted from his post and I’ve been blocked. Other friends who have also criticised his post in the comments section have had their comments removed and have also been blocked. The list of 300 or so comments which remain are those who either praise Domingo, Levine or both.

  • Mike uws says:

    If the artistic legacy is valid, he’s correct! There are remedies both civil and criminal for for actual (and perceived) misconduct(s) versus hearsay charges. The court of public opinion is a free forum without restraint to dox a/o ensure a proper leveling of perspective. Thus, history shows while artists are men (& women) and thus imperfect beings their work(s stands for itself across the artistic spectrum(s) in terms of art and market value. What part of that do you want to eradicate? It is the current cancel culture perspective operatively leveling must be countervailed by proportionate reason. Progressives moral panic in USA is at virulent pandemic stage and American MSM media brain damage of the far left is exacerbating society’s descent into madness.

    • Mike Cunningham says:

      It’s the cancel culture I’m objecting to, Mike. Deleting any post that is even vaguely critical of Levine is exactly the problem you’re rightly arguing against.

  • wheredoesitstop? says:

    When John Harbison inevitably dies, will be obituary be about his musical career or will it need to be about the kerfuffle caused when he said a few kind words about James Levine upon his death?

  • Giuseppe says:

    Disappointing. Harbison was correct the first time. Levine’s years of astonishing work stand apart from his personal life.
    This disgusting era of new McCarthyism must come to an end.
    F**k Cancel Culture.

  • Rob says:

    Harbison’s 2nd Symphony is really good. Check it out.

  • David A Morris says:

    I did not read the comments of this harbison. At least he retracted. But he was quite a responsible trying to play the musical genius and contributions of James Levine off of his sexual behavior. Whatever musical genius and contributions James was able to provide the problem, he took advantage of this genius and fame and power and leverage to sexually take advantage of other people. In his case the people were men. So there is no excuse. If he couldn’t find enough man willing to be with him outside of his professional connections in music and Opera, then all of his musical contributions don’t mean Jack in the greater scheme of things. He can be applauded for being a musical genius. But he could not be taken off the hook because of this one at the same time he appears to have been a sexual pervert and abuser. There’s nothing wrong with being a homosexual as long as there is voluntary and unconditional consent as there should be in any intimate and meaningful sexual relationship. James Levine obviously wasn’t able to figure that out or just thought he could get away with it all and for that he must be condemned categorically without any p**** footing around.

  • Jim C. says:

    Exactly what “pain” was being caused there?