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Tanglewood Opens With Mahler, Without Levine

Boston Symphony Orchestra kicks off its season Friday night with composer Gustav Mahler's ambitious Symphony No. 2, but without Maestro James Levine at the podium.

Mahler's second symphony — also known as "the Resurrection" — explores the mystery of the afterlife. Levine's return to the podium is also a mystery at this point.

The BSO music director bowed out of his six scheduled Tanglewood appearances this summer. Making that announcement in June, he said he needed more time off so he could focus on healing after major back surgery.

Levine's firm grasp of the Mahler piece will be missed, said Lloyd Schwartz, classical music editor for the Boston Phoenix. But Schwartz also said he's excited to see replacement conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Tilson Thomas is the music director of the San Francisco Orchestra, and has a firm grasp of Mahler's works.

"I probably wouldn't be going if it were someone I admired less," Schwartz said. "How the performance goes, I'll let you know after it's over."

On July 17, Tilson Thomas will also lead the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in its performance of Mahler's Third Symphony.

Schwartz hopes the summer break will resolve the Levine's ongoing health problems so that he's able to return in top form come fall. But, for now, the BSO says it has nothing to report on Levine's health.

It's been a tough year for the BSO, admitted Managing Director Mark Volpe in June. The orchestra's staff has been forced to scramble to fill Levine's shoes on numerous occasions due to his recurring back issues. Volpe said talks about Levine's future with the orchestra are certainly a possibility.

Still, that scramble has resulted in an impressive lineup of summer conductors, Schwartz said.

As for how the rest of Tanglewood's season will unfold, Schwartz admitted, "Your guess is as good as mine."

This program aired on July 9, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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