Speaking in his office this past Friday, BSO managing director Mark Volpe remained hopeful that the orchestra and Levine would be able to salvage an official working relationship after September. "Last impressions matter. I don't think the last impression should be what we have right now. I would hope we have some ongoing relationship with Jimmy, and whether that would include Tanglewood this summer will totally depend on his health.
"Next season, we're planning it as if he's not going to be there."
Volpe added that he'd be meeting with leadership of the BSO's Board of Trustees this week to begin the process of forming a search committee of trustees, musicians, and staff. He maintains that the timing of Levine's announcement — just as planning for next season was nearing completion — doesn't hurt the orchestra's ability to look at potential successors. "Everyone says, 'The search starts.' Well, it's a relationship business. And we have relationships already with conductors, and people are going to speculate like crazy, and obviously I'm not going to handicap or mention a name, but there are probably other conductors we should have relationships with that we'll start. That's part of the process."
And it can be a long process. Orchestral leadership searches aren't like regular job searches. Orchestras, conductors, and soloists all plan many years ahead, so quick changes aren't always easy, or even possible. Scheduling tryouts takes time and openings, and once a potential choice is found, there is often a wait.
Take the four conductors called out by the Boston Globe last week as possible contenders: Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert Spano, Riccardo Chailly, and Mariss Jansons. All are under contract with other major orchestras, commitments that have them locked up for several years.
Even younger candidates aren't sitting around waiting for work. Last summer, Anne Midgette of the Washington Post did some speculating on possible Levine replacements, listing Vasily Petrenko as "the obligatory young European." The 34-year-old Russian had already extended his contract with the Liverpool Philharmonic until 2015. Last month he was named chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, a tenure that doesn't even begin until 2013.MIND THE GAP
Volpe said it was premature to speculate on the possibility of an interim director, "though I imagine we will be open to considering all possibilities once we begin serious discussions on the matter." He did say the orchestra would enlist the help of some of the big-name conductors who helped fill in during the previous period between music directors.
"We had the good fortune of having, and still having, an incredible relationship with Bernard Haitink, and if you look at the roster of the people who come to Boston, it's Maestro Haitink, it's Sir Colin Davis, it's Christoph von Dohnányi, it's Kurt Masur, [Rafael] Frühbeck de Burgos, it's now Lorin Maazel. The good news for us is that we have some wonderful relationships with some of the more established and well-regarded conductors, and we're going to rely on some of those relationships going forward."