Getting past James Levine’s brother Tom

Getting past James Levine’s brother Tom

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norman lebrecht

March 19, 2021

The conductor Kenneth Woods has a chilling tale about the firewalls that protected James Levine from mere mortals.

A friend of mine was, for a time, producer and engineer of the radio broadcasts of the orchestra at Verbier when Levine was conducting regularly there. As is the case with the broadcasts of most festivals and orchestras, where there is more than one performance, either the producer or a member of the musical staff (at the Cincinnati Symphony it was usually one of us on the junior conducting staff who had been in the audience for all the performances) will select what they think are the best options and run those by the maestro before the ‘broadcast performance’ is edited together.

 

The situation my friend found himself working with Levine in was truly bizarre. At the end of each run of performances he would go to the maestro’s office. There he would see Levine and his brother Tom. My friend was not allowed to speak to Levine directly, but would say to Tom something like “I thought the first movement was the best on Sunday and the other three better on Saturday.” Then Tom would turn to James Levine and say “_________ says “the first movement was the best on Sunday and the other three better on Saturday.””

Bear in mind, my friend is in the room.

Jimmy would then say to Tom “Tell ______ that I would like to use the first and last movements from Sunday and the two middle movements from Saturday.” After which, Tom would turn to my friend and say “Maestro Levine says to use the first and last movements from Sunday and the two middle movements from Saturday.” My friend would confirm to Tom that, of course, that was a far better selection. Those would, indeed, be the movements he would use. Tom would relay that to Levine, who would nod silently. After which, my friend would be dismissed. And this is how he treated one of the top Tonmeisters in Europe…

Read on here.

 

Comments

  • Brian says:

    So the sound engineer got his feelings hurt? Maybe he should have brought it up with this therapist.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no mention of the engineer’s feelings. You made that up. It is merely an account of the strange behavior of a generally strange man.

    • Glerb says:

      Who says the Tonmeister’s feelings were hurt? I’m sure he was as bemused as anyone else would be, but that’s not the story – the story is Levine behaving like a complete psycho.

    • Bill says:

      If this story is any indication, the Maestro was the one who needed a therapist.

    • BruceB says:

      Oh right, I missed the part where the sound engineer said his feelings were hurt. It’s actually right out there, in plain sight, where he says it explicitly, in words.

      /eyeroll

      You don’t have to have your feelings hurt to recognize that a situation is bizarre. Do you think the limo driver in the famous anecdote went home and cried himself to sleep after Kathleen Battle’s manager called him to turn down the air conditioning in the back seat?

    • christopher bernard says:

      yes this was not a nice story to bring up at aný time but especially not now.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      I can understand needing and wanting a gatekeeper. But when the person is right there, in the same room, and you still communicate only using the intermediary? Sorry, that’s just weird, and it has nothing to do with Woods’s feelings being hurt, but with his slack jawed bewilderment at the strangeness of it.

      Although now that I think of it I do remember two girls in my 5th grade class in elementary school who feuded (not over me I regret to say) and would very publicly communicate exactly that way, and only that way.

      • V.Lind says:

        At this time James Levine was not in elementary school — he was Maestro of the Met, due to be consulted on his preferences — an established man of substance. Behaving like a grade-schooler.

        Someone who could not interact normally with adults. Pathetic.

    • Croak says:

      I see no mention made of the Tonmeister‘s feelings. He very possibly laughed it off as the ludicrously conceited, arrogant behaviour of an obviously sick man, who knows.

    • MacroV says:

      It has more to do with the diva-ish behavior of Levine who wouldn’t deign to speak directly to a mere mortal, even the person engineering his recordings. This has nothing to do with hurt feelings. But you know that.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Maybe you should gain some humanity.

  • JoshW says:

    I’m embarrassed for Mr. Woods that he would feel the need to pass on a second-hand story about something so trivial. Certainly there’s a lot of James Levine-related issues that are serious and need digesting. But this is just childish. I have to wonder why this site would even feel the need to publish it.

    • Larry D. says:

      Trivial? Perhaps you meant “insightful”?

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, the story reveals something of a mindset which is related to all the other stuff. It is a psychological eye opener. A performer who needs to concentrate, simply concentrates and is inaccessible to others, if necessary. The story shows the unreal perception of the world around the conductor.

  • IC225 says:

    Reminiscent of an eminent living British composer whose agent reportedly instructs those who are admitted to the presence of the Genius that they must never speak directly to him, but wait until he addresses them.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Some people are instructed to do a curtsy.

    • microview says:

      “eminent living British composer”
      Do we have any?
      I did hear that EMI’s engineer Christopher Parker once phoned HvK to ask a technical question but the handset was sharply replaced as he hadn’t addressed him as ‘Maestro’.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I have the same problem with engineers. Even the local plumber doesn’t address me as ‘Maestro’.

    • Hilary says:

      I’m intrigued as to the identity!

  • Biderman Chart says:

    Excellent piece by Ken W.)))

  • Barry says:

    I’m generally sympathetic to the piece, but to nitpick, he claims no other orchestra wanted Levine. I don’t know about the management, but I recall reading reports at the time that after it became apparent that Rattle wouldn’t accept the Philadelphia job following Sawallisch’s retirement, Levine became the clear-cut favorite of the musicians. But that was around the point when he chose to go to Boston.
    Again, I’m not sure if the management would have hired him, but in retrospect, it’s a good thing for Philly that it didn’t materialize.

    • Barry says:

      On a related matter, I never knew about the $40 million BSO Jimmy Fund before reading this piece and it may clear up for me an issue that I’ve never known the answer to; that being why Levine chose to go to Boston instead of Philadelphia if I’m right that he could have had either job at that point in time. There is no way the Philadelphia Orchestra were in strong enough financial shape to give Levine anything like that type of fund to use as he pleases.

    • Jim says:

      As I remember, Rattle was the first choice in Boston as well. When he didn’t want it Levine took the lead after guest conducting a widely praised performance of the Mahler 3rd.

      • Barry says:

        Levine’s last appearance in Philly, a few years earlier, also featured a memorable performance of Mahler’s 3rd, which I attended.
        It was a tough blow for Philadelphia when Rattle turned them down. He had made a huge impression in his early guest appearances and it seemed to be a two-way love affair between Orchestra and conductor. But then the BPO came along. And based on his statements over the years, I don’t think Rattle has ever been willing to take a Music Director job in the United States for personal reasons.

  • Barry says:

    Actually, when I say I’m generally sympathetic to the piece, I mean with regard to Levine’s character. I have a higher opinion of his conducting record than does Woods.

  • jim says:

    I’m no defender of Levine, but I’m pretty skeptical about that blog post as well. I find the Tower Records story highly suspicious. I spent the 70’s working in retail. I worked in bookstores and spent a lot of time hanging out with friends who worked in record stores. When a new book or recording was issued by a big name you put up a display. It didn’t mean that you the individual salesperson was endorsing it. It meant that this is today’s big release and that’s it. Hell, I had to sell “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”. I can’t imagine salespeople at Tower throwing out a display they had been told to put up and still keeping their jobs. And considering all we know about Levine, including the story in this very blog post about how he wouldn’t even talk directly to a person in the room with him, I’m finding it really hard to believe that all by his lonesome Levine went to Tower Records to check out the display of his new recording. Maybe he did, but the story strains credulity.
    As for Levine in Boston. Overall I was not happy with his tenure, but there is absolutely no question that there was a quick and heartening change in the orchestra when he took over. The BSO has always been a great orchestra and there was never a time when they couldn’t rise to the occasion, but those of us who listened to them regularly, as opposed to a handful of selected concerts, could not escape the fact that week in and week out during Ozawa’s final years here they were not rising to the occasion. I also have no doubt that if the job had gone to someone other than Levine they would have responded positively to that person as well, but it was Levine who snapped them back.

    • Guest says:

      Product placement is bought and paid for.
      Premium shelf space in the grocery store.
      Premium placement in a retail store.
      If the placement was paid for, you do it.
      If someone just ‘expected it’ to be prominently displayed, then sorry. No.

    • Richard Schneider says:

      The Tower Mahler 3 story – At the time the Levine CSO Mahler 3 was released in 1975, Tower was located in two major California cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These locations arguably had the most developed well-stocked Classical departments in the Tower chain at that time. Levine did not have a profile in those towns. His celebrity was on the rise in New York. And he lived in New York. Tower did not arrive in New York until the mid-80s. As to the particulars, it has been pointed out that point-of sale materials, life size blow-ups of the artists, display materials, and product itself was the property of RCA. No retail operation in its right mind would behave as Mr. Woods has described with these materials. This entire fabrication tears at the credibility of everything Mr. Woods has alleged about the late Maestro Levine. As a Tower veteran from the Lincoln Center location, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it.

      • Hilary says:

        Thanks for clarifying this point.
        One thing I might say about his Mahler 3: RCA assigned this recording one of the great jacket designs of all time. The artist was Maurice Sendak, famous for his book “Where the Wild Things Are” .

  • Donna Pasquale says:

    “ Can you hear me Steven ?” “ Yes Clem Fandango I can hear you”.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Nasty stuff. Poor grammar. If Levine was treated like a god then there’s every reason to expect him to behave like one. That’s a no-brainer.

    Be careful whom you fawn over; whom you idolize and fetishize because you’re likely to find them coming up short as human beings. Every time. A child could tell you this.

    As to the sexual abuse/pedophile accusations; where are the criminal records on this? If the ‘victims’ were under-aged where were the parents? Uncomfortable questions, to be sure.

    James Levine was a creation of the narcissist culture of classical music and its progressive groupies who worshiped unequivocally at the alter of ‘talent’. Until they didn’t.

    • Lucas says:

      I automatically downvote anything Sue Sonata Form wrote. I don’t even read. Please someone told me whether I made the right choice this time?

      • Diane B. says:

        Me, I systematically read her comments. She notice things that escape to others, too busy following the “choir” of the latest ethical opinion lol.

    • CSL says:

      If you think Woods’ grammar is poor, you should take a second look at your own!

  • Thank you for sharing and linking, Norman. Warm best wishes from here

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Let me recommend reading the link. It’s pure acid, but convincingly presented.

  • Hilary says:

    Fascinating and disturbing in equal measure.

    One minor correction: Carter, Wuorinen and Harbinson weren’t the only living composers commissioned by Levine during his tenure at Boston.
    There was also the Babbitt ‘Concerti for Orchestra’ and
    very laudable that JL steered clear from audience friendly new music and was driven by his own conviction.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    Kathleen Battle, eat your heart out.

  • John Kelly says:

    Read his whole article, this isn’t stuff you would make up. And it isn’t pretty……

  • Guest says:

    People really need to read the whole piece.
    It’s not just about once incident.
    It’s about a pattern of behaviour that was excused because Levine was such an ‘amazing artist’

  • Chris says:

    Who cares? The countless children he sexually abused. This man should never EVER have been allowed to continue to work in this industry. Ever.

    • SMH says:

      Ummmmm, everyone was above the age of consent and were not “children”. The abuse and manipulation was horrible, but this is an important distinction. Levine was no Harvey Weinstein either……

      • John Marks says:

        I heard very credible reports of Levine’s approaching minors in public restrooms in the late 1970s. It seems that he was arrested but //perhaps// not “booked” in Memphis, in 1978 or 1979. I actually phoned a New York Times reporter when the story eckshploded more than a year ago (seems like a lifetime), and the NYT reporter said that they had not heard of that episode, but that they had heard of others.

        Furthermore, I think your concept of “consensual” needs revision and updating. If I am a lawyer and I exclusively hire cute young female paralegals, and every now and then I ask a financially-vulnerable single mother employee out on a date… that’s not consensual, that is leveraging unequal bargaining power.

        Please think these things over, and through.

        As far as JL goes, I lift a glass of Monterey Chardonnay and intone, “Rot in Hell, mo-fo.”

        jm

        • Ex Machina says:

          Your “very credible reports” weren’t worth the paper they weren’t printed on. And cheering about someone’s death is abominable, but in your case it’s no surprise.

          And Woods’ entire column was an embarrassment. Rumor, gossip, pettiness, and jealousy were all it was about.

      • Donna Pasquale says:

        Your comment is revealing. There is a long history of abuse,sexual and physical in music as in football and other settings.
        One part of biggest pain and suffering for those that were abused was not being heard,not being believed or having their trauma swept under the carpet because the abuse was “ a great musician/fill in the blank.
        Your sordid response make it quite clear where your position is.
        Shame on you for your trite response. shame on you for your lack of humanity and shame on you for daring to make judgements.

  • John Porter says:

    Could have been a Seinfeld episode….

  • Craig says:

    You people are insane. The cognitive leaps you make to defend a monster like Levine. You ought to make a living shining shoes with how well you lick the boot, but then again, we can’t expect much better from the US with its attitude to its maestros.

  • Callas21 says:

    In 2000, I was a 19 year-old production intern at New York City Opera. Coming from a very small village of only 3.000 people in Germany, it was the first time I ever did an internship or spend time at an opera house. I sneaked in regularly to listen to rehearsals at the Met, completely fascinated by Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Once I ran into James Levine in the hallway with noone there and spontaneously said “You’re a genius.” He smiled and replied “No, I am just a hard working musician and I love it.”
    None of this would be possible today with the Met’s security measures and he easily could have thrown me out, but instead I suddenly understood that the main thing I would have to look for in my future job, whatever it was going to be, would be to be passionate about it.

  • Monsoon says:

    I wouldn’t call that a “chilling tale.” He sounds like a major dick.

  • Classical Listener says:

    Why would Tom be so protective of his brother and help sweep the latter’s private scandals under the rug? Was he a gaybo too?

    • charles says:

      just to clarify – you are associating levine’s scandals with his being homosexual? you do know there is a difference between being gay and being a serial abuser and pedophile, right? (right?)

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Nevertheless, it IS bizarre behavior. Kind of like Cathy Battle insistíng that her colleagues not look at her mouth while she was singing. Even the Queen speaks directly with commoners. (The other queen)

  • James LaMendola says:

    Who did Levine think he was…..?
    Kathleen Battle ?

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Reads like the court of Louis XIV
    Can you imagine Lenny behaving like this ? He’d have been hugging the assistant, pouring him scotch, playing word games . Just typing these words makes me sad to think how much LB is missed

  • V.Lind says:

    HE was hurt by so many people? Yikes.

    This is not grown-up behaviour, as any movie acting out a similar scenario illustrates, usually comedically. It’s a further demonstration of Levine’s total removal from the feelings of others with whom he interacted.

  • Melisande says:

    “All in the family”!
    Utterly weird.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Not as bad as the story where some flunky went into Levine’s dressing room at Ravinia after rehearsal to discuss some production details only to find the Maestro buck naked eating a chocolate sundae getting a massage rub down by a Levinite.

    But Levine did not need a translator in this story.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I read Mr. Woods’ article, and since I don’t comment on issues of sexual misbehaviors on this blog, I won’t opine on that aspect of it.
    But I worked for Tower Records for years, and I don’t believe for a second the story that was related about the TR employees throwing point-of-sale display materials and LPs in the dumpster.
    Tower Records at that time (and until a couple of years before its final demise) paid for its merchandise up front, and if the product sold, TR made its profit, and if it didn’t sell, after a time the product would be returned to the manufacturer (the record label) for credit.
    The point-of-sale display materials that were mentioned, if they were actually as described in Mr. Woods’ article, would have been provided by the record label and were obviously part of a major publicity campaign.
    Employees throwing away those things on a personal whim would not only be costing Tower Records money, they would be risking the wrath of the record label (RCA Victor, in the case of Levine’s Mahler 3 recording), which would simply never ever provide promotional materials (free LPs for store play, display material, meet-and-greets with the RCA artists, etc.) to Tower again.
    Those employees – particularly after willfully disobeying direct instructions from a national sales manager – would have been IMMEDIATELY fired, and the store manager would have been called on the carpet, torn a new one, and most likely be fired as well.
    The Tower Records story that Mr. Woods told is simply too unbelievable to be true.

    • Larry D. says:

      Unbelievable as it may seem to you, you weren’t there at the specific time to witness it. But still, looking forward to your memoir, “My Life at Tower Records”.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Send me a money order in advance – no personal checks accepted – for $49.95 + $5.00 shipping and handling, “Larry D.”, and when the book comes out I’ll send you a copy.
        Add $15.00 if you would like an autographed copy.

    • jim says:

      You are exactly right. I don’t doubt that someone told that story. I also don’t doubt that it is 99.99% bogus. And anyone who thinks Levine was running around to Tower Records to check on the display for his latest recording really needs to consider how very unlikely that scenario is. Would he have a flunky do it? Maybe, but he certainly wouldn’t have been doing it himself.

    • Did I say nobody got fired? I can’t see that in the text. Do point it out to me if you can find it. The story is true.

      • jim says:

        Nobody claimed that YOU said anyone got fired. Please point it out in the comment where it says that.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        It might very well be that you believe the Tower Records story you were told is true, Mr. Woods, but the person who originally told YOU the story was bullshitting you.

      • Ex Machina says:

        Of course it isn’t. The whole column is full of bogus nonsense obviously generated by a desire for attention and petty jealousy.

    • John Marks says:

      Well, where did you work? Did Tower have a store in some Mennonite village in rural Iowa???

      Tower Records was my record label’s best customer for more than 15 years. Some stores were good. Some stores, the inmates ran the asylum. Tower’s party-hearty culture was set from the top down. Store-opening Bacchanales were legendary.

      There was a pervasive sense of entitlement that, at times, lapsed over into irresponsibility. I paid for a stairwell lightbox in the Tower NYC store near Lincoln center… once. That said, if Tower’s compliance with promotional programs was hit-or-miss, Borders’ was terrible. Borders somehow managed to be even more entitled and arrogant than Tower. Mirabile dictu.

      I heard that at one store in Philadelphia, they had a huge problem with Inventory shrinkage. Turns out that an employee was faking mailorders and sending boxes of new pop releases to his own house. From which, one assumes, they were sent out to flea markets to be sold for cash.

      “In the industry,” when it came time to do post-mortems on Tower, poor inventory management actually was one of the most-noted flaws.

      But it was basically a little family-owned drugstore that sold records, and it grew and grew and grew; but its lack of management controls was well-remarked upon at the time.

      Bottom line: that story sounds ballsy, but plausible.

      jm

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I’ll throw your question back at you, John – what was your record label? Acme Records, with worldwide sales figures numbering in the low single digits?
        You sound pretty envious of Tower’s “party-hearty culture” and “Bacchanales” in your comment. Feeling a bit left out? Awww…. I’m sure your label’s invitations to those many events were just lost in the mail.
        For your information, I worked at two Tower locations in San Francisco – the Stonestown store in the southwestern part of The City, and then in the Classical Annex location across town at Columbus and Bay – both of which (especially the Annex) boasted world-class classical departments. There were no Mennonites around (I didn’t notice any at all those Bacchanales, anyway).
        Back to the subject at hand: it is difficult for me to state how IMplausible that ridiculous Woods story is.
        Yes, Tower had inventory problems, especially towards the end, and I’ll be the first to admit that the upper management became more erratic as Tower’s time was drawing to a close.
        But the store employees all over the country actually talked to each other, and I never heard any story remotely like Woods’, not even as a cautionary tale.
        First of all, are we really to believe that James Levine, busy James Levine (who at the time of his Mahler 3 recording was splitting his time between the MET, the Chicago Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, and guest conducting), concerned himself about a record bin with a cardboard cutout of him? Don’t make me laugh.
        And It is inconceivable to me that any Tower employee would just THROW AWAY valuable product and/or current point-of-sale promotional material, unless that person WANTED to be fired IMMEDIATELY. (Woods waffled on that point in his above comment.)
        In fact, one of the employees at my store would SELL some of the out-of-date promotional display material on Ebay! (There’s a market for everything….) But that had to be cleared with the label and/or sales managers before any promo material was considered stale and expendable. (Actually, most of the larger promo items ended up in the stores’ art departments, where it could be deconstructed and redesigned into custom store displays.)
        And simply THROWING AWAY paid-for LPs in store inventory? NEVER. EVER.
        That whole Woods fairy tale strains credulity WAY past the breaking point.

        • Hilary says:

          I’m glad to say Tower records still exists – in Tokyo.
          A visit there is immensely moving and a throwback to childhood.

    • Ex Machina says:

      The entire column by Woods is an embarrassment. It also reflects poorly on the English Symphony Orchestra through his association with them , although he of course hurriedly denied this.

  • James Weiss says:

    Kathleen Battle used to call her agent from the back seat of her limo to tell him to call the driver to turn down the air conditioning. Privileged people do crazy things.

    • Douglas says:

      I have heard of so-called famous people travelling first class on airlines who refuse to speak to the cabin crew but communicate their wishes via their PAs, acolytes, satraps etc.

      • John Borstlap says:

        That is in an effort to avoid being addressed in a way which undermines highminded reflective concentration. For that reason I don’t travel at all but send my PA instead, a foolproof way of avoiding staff of any kind.

  • Yon says:

    Levine use to have speech disorder when he was a child. this is a fact and well mentioned. I guess he couldn’t tell beside about music.

  • C H Tellez says:

    This is horrifying. But we all knew the stories for 40 years. The question that never gets answered is, who supported him so well that no rumor could topple him from the top?

  • FrankUSA says:

    Please. No more posts about James Levine.

  • The View from America says:

    Oh, James, thy name is vainglorious.

  • caranome says:

    Kathleen Battle had an uncannily similar ego n arrogance. Apparently one of the incidents that was the straw that broke the camel’s back n got her fired from the Met: she was in limo to a concert, n she felt a bit cold. Instead of telling driver to turn down the AC a bit, she in a huff called her manager to complain, who called the car company who tracked down the driver n told him to turn down AC.

    • Diane B. says:

      Are you sure it is coming from “ego and arrogance” and nothing else ? If someone needs not to speak directly to an unknown person before a performance ? Yes it looks absurd but what do we know exactly from inside those artists who accomplish maybe more that their emotional psychology can ?

  • caranome says:

    Supposedly Bette Davis was asked to comment on Joan Crawford’s death. She said “one should only speak about the good when someone dies. Joan is dead, good.”

  • Jim Dukey says:

    Shades of Lucy and Desi!!!

  • Alexander T says:

    LOL An ego to rival Karajan’s by the sound of it.
    There is another amusing story in Kenneth Woods’ article concerning life-size cardboard cutouts that is well worth reading.

  • Diane B says:

    I think there is other explanations to that anecdote than the most obvious one. It could be a matter of saving psychological energy or keeping up the concentration. To speak to his brother does not change anything to the settlement of his mind, or his mood, like continuing being in a daze. But addressing a stranger would make even the slightest disturbance.
    When I was young I could not talk to people the day of my recitals and when I would pass by someone who would salut I would address a smile in answer (anyone is positively sensitive to a smile so it would do) because a nice automatic smile would not change my concentration (I smile all the time) whereas uttering a word would, immediately triggering the reflex of focusing toward the person.

  • justsaying says:

    Norman, this is disgusting and you should really think hard about your willingness to publish it. “[S]pending fifty-plus years serial-raping children is about as bad as it gets.” Well, yes, it is. What should we do about the fifty-plus years Kenneth Woods has spent serial-raping children? If you, or Mo. Woods, has a problem with the phrasing of that question, I invite you to state in plain English precisely what the problem is, and then explain the publication of the post in that light. If it helps you clarify the question, substitute “Norman Lebrecht” in the sentence – but either way, concentrate, please, on the justness and substantiation of the compound quantifier and the compound gerund.

    • Larry D. says:

      I read this post once and found it incoherent. Should I go back and give it another try? Nah.

    • Educator of Enabling Liberals says:

      Liberals reap what they sow. The Met created this megalomaniac by both enabling him and bailing him out along with their rich patrons rescuing him from law enforcement time and again. He left countless boys and young men in his wake. The brave victims who stepped forward one by one deserve more adulation than this pedophile abuser does. Many in the Lindeman program killed themselves out of disgust, despair and knowing they ruined their burgeoning careers. Then there were Levine’s scrapes in the NY bathrooms with black boys.

      Libs blindly think Jimmy was joyfully diverse in his choice of victims since he voted blue! It’s true. They either defend him as an intellectual or don’t riot this time since male sexual abuse is too difficult for them to handle. They like it too. Then look at YNS. He’s been auspiciously silent as an out and proud gay Met adornment. At least he is ok with conducting players since he is hopeless with vocalists in the art of singing. His ‘masterclass’ videos are HIDEOUS!!

      Herein there’s some detail on Levine’s true character. The Met suspended and FIRED him for systemic sexual abuse. White privilege exists then…
      https://apnews.com/article/james-levine-dead-f14cb16fdd3ca6fd031663adffdbd51d

      • Big Ol’ Lib. says:

        An illuminating insight into the diasporic thought processes of an illiberal. Thanks.

        • Lionel Freeman says:

          Liberals aren’t interested in the protection or rights of children. They’re just sexual objects to them to be used for exploitation purposes. Levine is a typical example of a sexual predator who’s enabled to act on his impulses given the right environment.

          Quite understandably the whole board, Gelb, singers, chorus, administration, etc. NEVER spoke up all these years young men and boys were hurt by Jimmy. Sexual abuse is clearly permissible to all of them.

          Ramey, gushy Millo and Battle keep coming up along with Voight. They’re ok with the abuse and think it’s normal but others of us don’t!

          No one cares. It’s always the victim’s fault and worse for males. Then people wonder why guys act the way they do and either lash out or check out.

          Either way this assessment of Democrats, Liberals, etc is quite accurate so much so that they attack and project their weaknesses on to others. They don’t know any better being emotionally vacant. They just put a hair-sniffing, touchy guy in office who targets girls regularly on camera. Hopefully he’ll be gone soon as he can’t even manage remembering who his own people are or walking up a few stairs. All that whining and they STILL chose a privileged white male above all others.

          • Ross Klienman says:

            The progressive’s Senile Savior strikes again!

            He’s betrayed students with huge loans coldly and those in need of financial stimulus by being sloppy. Those who had quick deposits previously are still waiting. Reports of only partial payments are spreading as well. It’s not as if the IRS and Treasury haven’t done this TWICE recently!

            Biden will have the 25th Amendment invoked against him soon enough as he is both unfit and mentally impaired.

            We all miss President Trump!!!

          • NYMike says:

            Spoken like a true Trumper.

      • Bashh says:

        My thought always was that Levine got away with whatever it is he did for such a long time because Rudy Giuliani was a big fan of the Met. Appeared on their Saturday afternoon broadcasts from time to time. Now there is a really big liberal for you.

      • Sharon says:

        How do you know he voted blue?

    • Ex Machina says:

      You’re exactly right. Woods has no evidence and is in no position to make such a sweeping assessment of someone’s life. How egotistical!

  • Chris says:

    Clearly Tom could raise Cain (when he was Abel.)

  • Wotan84 says:

    Tom Levine was never banned from Tanglewood for hitting on young TMC Fellows. Kenneth Wood needs to get his facts straight about that and the BSO $40M. He has no idea what he is talking about and his comments on these two topics are pure gossip plain and simple.

    • I saw it all says:

      And neither were Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas banished from Tanglewood for hitting on young male students, which everyone knows they frequently did. So how interesting that everyone is only focused on Levine…

      • Rob says:

        The woke are armchair advocates who opine on the ills of a couple of people to assuage their upperclass guilt. They mindlessly focus on one villain at a time because that’s easier to do than actually helping people.

      • Karl says:

        Could MTT be in any trouble?

    • Diane B says:

      So here we are : Bernstein and MTThomas did the same and even after the death of B we don’t hear about it ! That tell something. So this relentlessness about the “escapade” of JL comes from the fact that him, was not a sympathetic, friendly, brillant communicator as the other 2 !

  • Tom Phillips says:

    You of course mean to say “he had HIMSELF hurt so many other people” that he was terrified of the Karma that awaited him.

  • fflambeau says:

    The Tower Records story told by Kenneth Woods is even more shocking! What an ego.

  • Gustavo says:

    Quite understandable.

    I also tend to avoid discussions with engineers.

    A 1-2-1 meeting with Levine would have ended up far worse.

  • Franklin S. Tomlinson says:

    The more these dogmatic, “I was just misunderstood” articles come out the happier we all are that Jimmy rotted to death alone.

    Thanks Norm!

  • John Borstlap says:

    A bizarre situation and clearly showing that JL had psycho problems.

  • Bob S. says:

    A great artist and crazy as a loon….not the first – won’t be the last.

  • Hilary says:

    The comments section include damning reminiscences from an oboist in the MET orchestra : Susan Laney Spector.

  • sam says:

    That’s how I communicate with my wife.

  • Music fan says:

    Here’s the money quote from the article: “James Levine was not a great man with a single tragic flaw. He was an almost completely horrible person, with a single, tragic talent.”

    This article is a damning indictment not merely of Levine, but of the system that allowed his behavior to go unchecked for decades.

    • Rob says:

      So put your money where your mouth is and mobilize to reform the system. Many great artists were and are horrible people. Ineffective attempts to undermine their achievements accomplish nothing. There’s no lasting indictment—only blustering outrage that all too soon blows in the wind to alight on another target.

  • Dana Mack says:

    In April,1990, thirty-one years ago, I published a piece in The New Criterion questioning on musical grounds Levine’s leadership of the Metropolitan Opera. The piece (“Why Levine?”) was totally ignored. At the time, Levine’s sexual predilections were something of an open secret in the music world, which meant that the board of any institution that hired him had to have done so despite the “rumors.”

    • Larry D. says:

      Sexual predilections vary. I heard the rumors back about the same time as your article, but what I heard was along the lines of “caught in a public bathroom with…”, in other words, mutual “cruising”, which sounded titillating but not reprehensible. It was only recently that the truly shocking details of sexual harassment of younger colleagues came to light. But maybe I was just out of the loop.

  • Tamino says:

    Apparently James Levine was not a nice person. Add to that the in general psychopathological state of the music business and you get these asocial distortions.
    You realize how ridiculous such people like Levine are, once you have worked with a rather normal human being and musician, which also is ubertalented. There are some.
    Being talented does not mean you have to be a total ar***ole.

  • M McAlpine says:

    ‘Chilling tale’? Relatives of mine had ‘chilling tales’ of how they were hunted by the Nazis during the war. I don’t think the encounter with Levine and his brother are in the same category.

    • Larry D. says:

      Do you often use tales of the Holocaust to one-up people?

      • Rob says:

        Do you frequently resort to cheap antisemitic rim shots to score points on social media? I can’t imagine you’d bother if this person was a Levine victim saying the same thing.

    • BruceB says:

      “Chilling tale” is also a term used to market scary comic-books. I wouldn’t get too hung up on it.

  • sam.smith says:

    JL’s ego was even more puffed up than his waistline, it seems. Idiotic behaviour, regardless of who you are. Or maybe that’s how he treated those he didn’t fancy, in which case, this was a small price to pay to avoid the maestro’s predatory advances.

  • HugoPreuss says:

    This was amazingly rude and unprofessional behavior, with some comedy ingredients thrown in for good measure. But it mostly sounds to me like a combination of a mentally somewhat sick and damaged mind, a powerful person whom nobody would dare to offend for his bizarre behavior, plus a controlling brother who enjoys little power games.

  • Mr P Johnson says:

    This doesn’t surprise me, given the godlike status in which the deviant Levine was held. His perverted transgressions are all that many will remember him for.

  • Thomas M says:

    Or he was just an unbelievably arrogant prick.

  • S.Charles says:

    If things went down as described, it’s no wonder Levine’s legacy at the Met is forever tarnished. It’s really the way one behaves when there aren’t any cameras around that reveals a persons true character. This behavior was not in any way more efficient since it required that everything said be repeated twice and thereby unnecessarily extended the time of each these exchanges compared to ones in which Levine had conducted himself with the kind of grace he would have had the world believe was l a fixture of both his professional and personal life…Of course we all now that wasn’ t the case with the latter.. What is even more pathetic and telling is that individuals who subject others to such treatment do it to in attempt to demonstrate their importance while being oblivious to how the need to engage in such behavior in fact only reveals that the very opposite.

  • Venturesome says:

    What rises to the top? In milk, the cream. In a stagnant puddle, the scum.

  • Richard says:

    And then again maybe he needed his ass smacked after they beat up his face. A rearrangement would have helped him, no matter what.
    No, you are totally wrong here. He was a bully, and he was a sex offender. He would try to get young men drunk and then take advantage of them. Most of them would catch on and get out of there. I would not have put it past him to drug somebody to get what he wanted.
    What you’re saying is that he had no grace and he had no ability to be a grown up and deal with any problems that he had. The truth is, he caused more pain than he ever received. Get real. Your words disgust me.
    And I never ever ever understood why people thought that he was a great conductor. All that I ever saw from his baton was sloppy sloppy sloppy: and he never corrected intomation.

  • Springbeg says:

    There is much to admire in Levine’s recorded legacy and much that I will return to……not least of all because those same recordings are also the legacy of the many musicians who collaborated in their production.
    I cannot speak to to the veracity of the allegations and rumours which continue to surface but I do wish there could be an end to the ‘picking at sores’. If all we do is seek more reasons to hate we risk cancelling out the very culture we cherish and which, in the current climate, is already vulnerable to unfavourable forces.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Quoting Kenneth Woods:
    “I tell these stories not to be glib, but to make a point. The reason I decided to listen to the “write about James Levine” voice was that I couldn’t stand the “great musician, great guy, pity about the scandals,” fake dualism anymore. James Levine wasn’t a great figure with a single tragic flaw. You can’t be a lifelong sexual predator, grooming, coercing, blackmailing, bribing and manipulating children into being repeatedly raped and humiliated if you have just one tragic flaw.”

    A forthright assessment.

  • Tamino says:

    What is a conductor anyway? A modest craftsman, there to help executing compositions created by others. What a pompous sociopathic behaviour.

    Imagine Jimmy goes to Heaven (probably not) and wants to talk to Mozart, and Wolferl treats him like that, as do all of them.
    Mozart will say: “Has he created anything original, even immortal? No? So why does he bother me then?”

  • IP says:

    People react like that either when they suffer from severe autism of when they have quarrelled beyond repair. Who cares.
    The stupid idea that art and artists are the same must have been inculcated in the 60’s. “You’ve got a friend”, you know. “Imagine no possessions”. Any artist who breaks the law must be responsible to the law, and do lock up the ones who covered their traces as well. Beyond that, it’s Art.

  • Michael says:

    Funny, guys, my feeling is entirely different. It sounds like Levine needed a good spanking from an adult, perhaps bring one in from outside since it seems none were in the immediate vicinity.

  • Michael says:

    Reading this, the first two excuse mongers need to re-examine their positions: https://www.metafilter.com/190823/The-era-of-genius-worship-must-end-with-James-Levine

    He sounds like some who will not be missed by decent people.

  • Martyn Warsop says:

    He was obviously a nasty egoist

  • Gervaise says:

    I hate this monologue by this egotistical nonentity.Why hasnt he listened to the many artists who loved working with Levine,among them Domingo,Scotto,Millo,and the late Troyanos who also was a great friend of JL.As for his sexual shenanigans…I don’t think it is for me or anyone to judge from high.I did think it odd that one of the accusers said he was abused for ten years.I think that could be called a relationship.Enough of all that.I prefer to remember Levine as a great musician.R.I.P.

  • Liam Allan-Dalgleish says:

    I think the Met contributed to the death of James Levine. Years before the grand exposé of Levine’s sex problem (I am not approving of Levine’s attraction for underage boys), it was known years before it became public and I know of one person who was in close contact with the people who participated in the payoff and the coverup. If, instead of hiding it because the Met needed Levine critically then, they had confronted him about it, see if there was anything illegal involved, sent him for counseling, and handled it in the interest of a sick man, he might be alive today.

    • Rob says:

      Exactly, and along the lines of the widescale reform all these outraged gadflies might better devote their energies to.

  • Nijinsky says:

    I don’t understand any of this. From every corner one hears that it was common knowledge what was going on, and yet it continued for years and years.

    Memories of the recent free Met streaming of a Mozart Opera (I think Cosi Fan Tutti, but I’m not sure), with Renee Fleming gushing and squeaking about the greatest Mozart conductor (squeak, open eyes and make oh sound with mouth in amazement squeak squeak again), or something to that extent. There’s nothing disingenuous going on here, given what everyone now is saying was general knowledge!? No, his conducting wasn’t bad at all, neither is Renee’s singing, but with all the attention on exactly that, what’s the greatest, or great, there’s something simply human in the music I find missing, and an inflexibility in the contour that one is supposed to find emotional, well done or great but I find quite garish, would I think about it rather than listening to the music.

  • Alexander T says:

    If the Met were aware of what was happening they are equally culpable.

  • Hilary says:

    For an alternative view from the manager of Tower Records on Levine’s incomplete Mahler Cycle.https://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-15769/

  • Smiling Larry says:

    Will Oprah interview any of Levine’s victims for two hours? It seems to me their sufferings far exceed those of Prince Harry and his wife.

  • fflambeau says:

    There’s another victim indicated in Kenneth Woods’s account. The BSO’s Seiji Ozawa. Woods writes:

    “By my reckoning, I heard the BSO play live four or five times in the mid-late 90s, including two performances with Ozawa, one by Andrew Davis and one with Bernard Haitink. I gotta say, the orchestra sounded pretty damn good in all of those. Maestro Ozawa deserves a lot more credit and respect than he gets for his work in Boston.”

    In short, it appears that the “genius” Levine and so-called music critics trashed Ozawa to build up the talent level of Levine. Well, it didn’t work in Boston and Levine’s tenure there was rocky. But he and the critics had to trash a predecessor, even though Woods and many others thought Ozawa is a very capable conductor.

    So Levine’s victims extended beyond young boys.

    • MacroV says:

      People were tiring of Ozawa long before there was any talk of hiring Levine. He was in Boston for 29 years. When I was in Boston in the mid-90s they were already pining for a change. He is not a victim of Levine, though there was certainly hope that a new MD would liven things up.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Mr. Wood’s little tell-all tirade does little to elevate his professional status. Let the professionals report the news or write the biographies. Unless the revelations are first-hand, you’re just a gossip.

  • anon says:

    Well, this hit piece on Levine makes the English tabloids’ coverage of Meghan Markle look like hagiography.

    It’s hearsay on top of hearsay on top of rumors on top of liberal elaboration.

    There are more second/third/fourth-hand accusations then there are actual accusers.

    In terms of non-anonymous accusers, the press as well as the Met’s internal report, has only provided a handful, like 5. And none of those were corroborated by any witness or other evidence.

    Levine inspired jealousy and rage, for whatever reason. He will live on in his Met videos.

    His accusers will not.

    • Larry D. says:

      True, there are no Met videos of people accusing him, so they can hardly live on. You are a silly, silly man.

  • dana says:

    A person identified as the Met second oboist wrote many a posts.

    Oh the courage, the honesty, the truth, to confront a monster…after the man is dead.

    Where was her damning testimony when the shit hit the fan, when the man could defend himself?

    Pure cowardice, because you can’t be sued for defaming a dead person.

    Or just a bit bitter, after a year of not being paid? While Levine retired with $3.6 million?

    Talent is paid accordingly.

  • Nijinsky says:

    The more I think about it the more baffling this whole thing becomes. Didn’t Gheorghiu (who said that everyone knew about James Levine before it came out) and Fleming both sing Tosca, a character that had to go through stuff comparable to what Levine, and quite a few others it appears, was hauling out with their exploits.

    And now anyone who really was effected by such behavior, or at least the majority, stood the chance of becoming traumatized and exhibiting behavior that would much more likely be used to judge against them rather than understood. When this stuff concerning Lara Saint John came out there were a few others mentioned that had also been abused the same way she had been, but they started showing signs of being effected, of losing their feelings of self worth, didn’t show up for classes, started sleeping around etc..

    What kind of a “society” honoring high art is this, when those actually exploiting the tragedy of what others go through to such a degree ignore when it’s still going on around them, while those effected by it (actually going through it in real life, not on the stage) are likely to be judged, not only by the system, but by those exploiting the very emotional impact of the tragedy of those who are actually going through it, who are judged when they respond in a way that considering what’s going on is normal and should be understood, and that if society were different would be completely understood, instead they are seen as undisciplined, crazy, unbalanced etc…

    Let alone that when James Levine started behaving the way he did years earlier, it wasn’t seen he had a problem, it wasn’t seen that he needed help, and it wasn’t seen that he shouldn’t be given the positions he had did he not deal with his problems, but instead because he was good at hiding it, was good at controlling people at the helm with such power and image that his behavior would be excused he was kept in power; and that when a whole “community” of people knew what was going on, not until it’s been going on for decades is it even reported to the general public. And most of them say: “oh, that was general knowledge….”!?

    • Haydn with the Masses says:

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. Systemic change needs to happen so that when we know a pattern of horrific behavior is discovered, it’s dealth with swiftly. Not that it really matters, but Renee Fleming never sang tosca.

      • Nijinsky says:

        She sang the one famous aria from it, quite a bit. The one aria that expresses the breakdown. No she didn’t sing the whole role.

  • Sharon says:

    To be charitable (in this case)–Joe Volpe, the director of the Met in the eighties, in his memoirs mentioned that fairly early in Levine’s career at the Met, before the era of cell phones, he forgot to leave a contact phone number when he went out of town and people were frantic trying to contact him when he they had a major question. Volpe implied that Levine was an absent minded professor type. He may have used Tom to help him in that area. He may have gone through Tom about technical details to make sure that something was not overlooked or misunderstood.

  • Sharon says:

    In spite of everything–Levine was a lesson of incredible tenacity and resilience in overcoming very serious physical limitations and still conducting. However, he could never have done it without the unwavering and undivided attention and support of a couple of people, one of whom was Tom

    • Yes Addison says:

      It appears to me it was the orchestra that was (barely) overcoming his serious limitations. In the comments under Woods’s piece, a member of the orchestra since 1992 says they were looking at the concertmaster and the section leaders because they weren’t able to interpret his flailing, and he would berate them for not being able to do so. But you still choose to create a narrative that ennobles Levine. Idolatry doesn’t die easily.

    • Sharon says:

      Addendum: It was a pity that Levine did not speak out for disability rights and accessibility and employment rights for people with physical challenges.
      Prior to his scandals he could have, if he wanted to have made a major contribution in that area, much more so than if he spoke out about AIDS.

      I supposes he was too focused on his work to think much about the wider world, which would explain his reliance on Tom. I believe that I had read once that Levine expected his staff to leave on his desk articles in the newspaper that would be relevant to his work, such as reviews, because apart from that he did not read the newspapers. Also one of those interviewed who was part of his student “cult” in the sixties said that that Levine strongly discouraged his acolytes from reading the newspapers or following sports, apparently believing that any other interest would distract them from music.

  • Hilary says:

    The cameras are on and we can savour these inspirational rehearsal clips of Levine with Norman and Battle in Ariadne Auf Naxos : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN1tmtFPibg

  • Mark says:

    I can just imagine a conversation between him and K Battle and the number of intermediaries they would have needed.

  • Marc Hertzman, M.D. says:

    All the closet attackers appear to be coming out of the woodwork….now.

    • John Marks says:

      I find it pathetically insecure of you, to need to mention your job training here. Have you considered therapy, Mark? [stet].

      Job training is not education, let alone culture.

      It seems you want everyone to know that you are a better-paid veterinarian.

      I put you in a cardboard box with “Dr.” Jill Biden.

      May your cell in Hell be next to rapist Levine’s.

      “Dr.” John Marks
      (I have an earned Doctorate; plus a Medal, but I never mention them.)

  • Sheila says:

    Highly regimented, steeped in history, arcane disciplines where journeyman skill vs perceived artistic excellence like classical music or the ballet are open Petri dishes for abuse. Tyrants like Levine or Balanchine exist and thrive because musicians want to play and ballerinas want to dance. It is the MOST despicable of all forms of abuse outside the religious setting (IMHO). I consider it just punishment when abusers of this magnitude (we see you Michael Jackson, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Louie B Mayer) shuffle off their mortal coils in addition to being covered by the dirt of the earth, their memory and their work is covered by the shame of their character. You may not switch the station if Billy Jean comes on, but somewhere your ethical bone makes you uncomfortable that you tap along. Mahler’s 3rd isn’t ruined by the detritus of Levine. But old Gustav is probably muttering warum warum warum

  • Karl says:

    This reads like pizzagate stuff. Give it a rest.

  • rico567 says:

    “It does not follow, that because a particular work of art succeeds in charming us, its creator also deserves our admiration.”
    ― Plutarch (Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, c. 46-120 AD)

  • Wotan84 says:

    I worked at Tower Records at Lincoln Center in NY in the 80s. Someone posted very accurate details about Tower Records operations and I agree this story presented is pure fiction. Also, JL would no more walk into a store to check out his display than take up football as a sport. IMO JL’s agent Ron Wilford would probably send a CAMI staff member to check out displays at Tower and HMV stores in cities where he had staff and JL was performing or Tom might check things out. Wilford would probably complain to someone high on the recording label distribution food chain if there was an issue then action might be taken. Probably a practice for all recording artists on the CAMI roster. This story has no legs it is complete fiction.

    I commented earlier on the Tanglewood/BSO inaccuracies. This entire article is a house of cards built on “I heard”, “this one said..” … from a second cousin twice removed over a holiday dinner in the before times. Tragically, bad things happened and courageous victimized men took action. Painfully, their statements are public record. The sexual power plays in the arts exists, I’ve been on the receiving end. Abuser reckonings are often met with knowing satisfaction and resolution. Having said that, this article is a personal opinion piece disguised as fact, designed to be provocative while lacking credible citable sources. Reads and sounds like someone had an ax to grind. I will say this about Tom Levine – he always looked out for JL’s best interests as did Ken Hunt and it was very heavy lifting. There are folks out there who do have firsthand knowledge of the facts behind the topics mentioned in this article and the author certainly isn’t one of them. Very disappointed it was posted on this respectable website.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Bravo, Artur Bodanzsky!
    Here’s to Wilfred Pelletier!
    Long live Gennaro Papi!
    And to the finest MET conductor of all: Mille grazie, Arturo Toscanini!

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