The Search Continues: BSO Opens Season No. 2 Without A Leader

The Boston Symphony Orchestra kicks off its season this weekend with five new musicians, but still no music director.

James Levine stepped down in March 2011, making this is the orchestra’s second season without its own maestro.

BSO managing director Mark Volpe said the search for Levine's replacement is intensifying. “There is a certain need or pressure, if you will, to move this process along,” he explained. “I think we feel it — and frankly it’s for the audience — but it’s also for the orchestra.

“A baseball team needs a manager, but I won’t go any further in terms of a baseball analogy because that’s a bad choice in this town right now!” he said with a laugh.

Volpe also explained how he programmed this season with artistic administrator Tony Fogg and musicians from the orchestra's advisory committee. “There were certain conductors they’re interested in hearing in the context of a search,” he said. Contenders, as it were.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman (Boston Symphony Orchestra)
Violinist Itzhak Perlman (BSO)

In the coming months a mix of senior and younger guest conductors will take the podium at Symphony Hall — 18 in all — including BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger.

Volpe confirmed that if all goes as planned one of the visitors will be the orchestra's next maestro. “Yes, I think it’s safe to say that,” he replied, then qualified, “without a name!”

That highly anticipated name should come out by March or April, Volpe hopes.

The season's five new musicians are violist Wesley Collins, bass trombonist James Markey, third horn Michael Winter and percussionists Kyle Brightwell and Matthew McKay

Saturday’s all-Beethoven opening night show is sold out and will be led not by a conductor, per se, but by violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Last year Anne Sophie Mutter play-conducted works by Mozart. Going ”maestro-less” in both cases is seen as symbolic, according to Volpe, but it also gives the BSO musicians a chance to shine. This season the players are also being highlighted in programs they've designed, as well as in marketing campaigns.

Next year Volpe predicts the organization will most definitely have a different poster boy (or girl?) — one who wields a baton.

This program aired on September 21, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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