Levine’s return delayed to January
Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine will not be back to conduct in Symphony Hall until January, the BSO said yesterday. Originally expected to return from back surgery last week, Levine will now miss the complete cycle of nine Beethoven symphonies that he had programmed and the BSO had promoted enthusiastically.
For Levine, 66, this latest setback – he has missed significant time twice before during his tenure for health issues – means he will have missed 27, or 11 percent, of the 247 concerts he was scheduled to lead.
Taking Levine’s place for five concerts at Symphony Hall between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7 and a Nov. 2 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall will be former New York Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel. The BSO previously announced that assistant conductor Julian Kuerti would conduct Beethoven’s Third and Fourth symphonies tonight and on Oct. 29.
The news disappointed many BSO subscribers, though they were hesitant to criticize Levine.
“If he’s sick, he’s sick,’’ said Herbert Ratakansky, a BSO subscriber for more than 50 years. “The opportunity to hear all the Beethoven symphonies by any great conductor would have been incredible and that is lost. But the opportunity to hear all of them with a great orchestra with different conductors is still important.’’
Peg Monahan-Pashall, a subscriber for four years, said she and her husband purchased tickets for all of the Beethoven programs. “We read the hype and we like Levine,’’ said Monahan-Pashall. “Why would anybody miss something like that?’’
The disappointment was tempered by hearing the BSO’s first Beethoven program Saturday night, conducted by a replacement, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. They were impressed.
“Driving home, we were saying, ‘We didn’t miss Levine’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if [Frühbeck de Burgos] could be the conductor and James Levine could come listen once in a while,’’ Monahan-Pashall said.
Levine’s next scheduled BSO date is Jan. 28, a BSO spokeswoman said yesterday. The Metropolitan Opera, where Levine also serves as music director, expects him to return on Dec. 3 for “Les Contes d’Hoffman,’’ a spokesman confirmed yesterday.
“It must be very sad for him, to miss all of this must be very humiliating for him,’’ said Rachel Jacoff, a professor of Italian literature at Wellesley College who regularly attends BSO performances. “If he comes back and he’s really OK, that’s one thing. But I think the anxiety we’ve had for several years is, is he OK?’’
Geoff Edgers can be reached at email@example.com