Breaking from Boston
As predicted elsewhere by those with their ears to the ground and their noses in the wind, the official word just came in that James Levine is stepping down as music director in Boston as of Sept. 1. This isn't exactly a surprise — Levine's been in poor health and missing appearances for a while now — but it does bring a premature close to what sounded by all reports like a fairly exciting chapter in the history of an orchestra that has badly needed same. (I was on the list to hear Levine and the BSO do the Mahler Ninth in Carnegie later this month — no word yet on who or what will replace that.)
For me, the interesting tell now will be how quickly and how skillfully the BSO management finds a successor for Levine. I know I tend to harp on this, but the business of lining up and landing music directors is one of those areas that really do separate the orchestra managers who know what they're doing from those that operate at Lincoln Center. I don't have a good sense of where Mark Volpe falls on that spectrum, but this could be the make-or-break moment for him. Levine's health issues have been obvious for so long that there's no excuse for not having someone ready to step in on short notice. If that happens, then bravo for Volpe and the BSO; if this is their cue to start forming committees and launching a search, then they're hopelessly behind the curve.