Levine resigns

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  March 4, 2011

Another long-range plan, perhaps a step back from the Beethoven/Schoenberg season, but still a good idea, was for Levine to play all the Beethoven symphonies, which he’d never done before. Who better to lead the complete sequence — what revelations would be in store? But that was a plan that his persistent health problems thwarted; what we got instead were a lot of fairly undistinguished Beethoven performances with substitute conductors. And that has, on the whole, been the unhappy alternative to the big plans. At Tanglewood, he had to bow out of his phenomenal centenary tribute to Carter. Then last summer, he had to cancel his entire Tanglewood season. Today’s news was the saddest yet.

The announcement indicates an ongoing long-term relationship between Levine and the BSO, one in which he “can focus solely on the music and defining artistically stimulating projects.” The search for a new music director has already begun, and it will not be easy. Levine is one of only a handful of truly accomplished and distinguished living conductors, and most of the significant names that come to mind already have commitments years into the future. Some are hoping for a vibrant young conductor like Gustavo Dudamel or Yannick Nézet-Séguin, but they are already taken, and prodigies are, if anything, even rarer than old (or not-so-old) masters. How many years can the BSO continue with only a series of guest conductors? These are the hard questions the BSO, no doubt consulting with Levine, will be dealing with. We can only wish everyone well. Including ourselves.

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