WBUR

Maestro Levine Bows Out Of BSO Season

BOSTON — A Boston Symphony Orchestra world premiere hits the stage at Symphony Hall Thursday night — without Maestro James Levine at the podium.

Because of lingering back problems following surgery in the fall, Levine has withdrawn from the performance. He will remain off-stage for the rest of the BSO season.

In a press release, BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe said Levine will continue to work with his doctors to resolve the health issue. Volpe said he and the orchestra are concerned and wish Levine a speedy recovery.

This will be the 66-year-old conductor’s fourth health-related hiatus from the BSO. He had rotator cuff surgery after falling on stage at in 2006. In 2008, Levine had a cyst removed from his kidney. Then in September he underwent back surgery for herniated discs.

The BSO scrambled this week to find replacement conductors to cover Levine’s remaining appearances.

Thirty-one-year-old Jayce Ogren has led the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In his Symphony Hall dressing room, he said he was happy to step in for Levine Thursday night and through the weekend.

“I feel a little bit like a 10-year-old little leaguer pinch-hitting for Willie Mays,” he said, adding, “I’ve had to do this before and I’m looking forward to it.”

Ogren will lead the world premiere of composer Peter Lieberson’s “Songs of Love and Sorrow.” Levine commissioned the song cycle, so he will miss a performance he was personally invested in.

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