A radio tribute to James Levine?

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Lance
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A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Lance » Mon Oct 28, 2019 3:47 pm

I may have asked this before, but a long time ago, about the time Levine got into "trouble," I was thinking of paying him a long tribute (perhaps month long) because he has done so much for music not only as a conductor of opera, orchestral works, concertos, two-piano works, as a piano collaborator for many singers. His number of recordings is incredible. Then the news hit. I see Sirius/XM Radio now mentions his name and prints it as the conductor on the opera channel, and I hear his name. If we do NOT play Levine's recordings, then we also aren't allowing the many others he worked with to be heard. I don't think a month-long tribute would work now (though it could), and it still may be too soon to think about paying him tribute for his musical genius. What would you do? Will this happen with Dutoit, Domingo, and a few others? The thing is, is it "appropriate" at this point in time to pay special tribute to these artists? I ask that because even people who are not knowledgeable about classical music still are aware of the "stories."
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barney
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by barney » Mon Oct 28, 2019 4:18 pm

Interesting question, Lance.
First, I think there's a gulf between Domingo, an old-fashioned Lothario who now seems a bit of a dinosaur but no worse than that because he took no for an answer, and Levine, an alleged paedophile and exploiter.
With Levine, I am happy to play his performances myself. This has come up many times in many threads, that generally we separate the artist from the person - otherwise where do you stop? Do I have to eliminate Gieseking, Cortot, Furtwangler, Bohm, Richard Strauss etc for Nazi links? How about if they were not enthusiastic members but were forced to accommodate themselves to the regime? Lenny Bernstein, a philanderer who caused his wife great pain? Carlos Kleiber ditto?
I don't see that enjoying Levine's Wagner is endorsing his sexual predilections. But I can see how you might feel that it could be unwise, especially as you have so many alternatives in all the music Levine recorded.
Let us know what you decide.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by John F » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:05 pm

If you do it, some (maybe many) in the audience will accuse you of OKing Levine's conduct, which of course you would not be doing. If any conductor of our time deserves appreciation and indeed gratitude for his artistic achievement, it's surely James Levine, and your program(s) would be a reminder of this central fact.

Given the nature of your program and audience, I suggest you might do a single Levine program of the very best stuff you have, making it clear why you're doing it, and see what the audience's response is. Even those who are offended aren't likely to tune you out forever, and you might get some interesting and surprising responses.
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Belle » Mon Oct 28, 2019 5:22 pm

barney wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 4:18 pm
Interesting question, Lance.
First, I think there's a gulf between Domingo, an old-fashioned Lothario who now seems a bit of a dinosaur but no worse than that because he took no for an answer, and Levine, an alleged paedophile and exploiter.
With Levine, I am happy to play his performances myself. This has come up many times in many threads, that generally we separate the artist from the person - otherwise where do you stop? Do I have to eliminate Gieseking, Cortot, Furtwangler, Bohm, Richard Strauss etc for Nazi links? How about if they were not enthusiastic members but were forced to accommodate themselves to the regime? Lenny Bernstein, a philanderer who caused his wife great pain? Carlos Kleiber ditto?
I don't see that enjoying Levine's Wagner is endorsing his sexual predilections. But I can see how you might feel that it could be unwise, especially as you have so many alternatives in all the music Levine recorded.
Let us know what you decide.
Completely agree with this. How you handle the conductor is key here; I would be highlighting what he had done with the music - his style of conducting and his aesthetics with regard to, say, Richard Wagner. There must be a reason why Levine was/is so highly regarded on the podium and I'd be trying to explore that with musical examples. Avoid any and all discussion of the scandal; that would be my advice. To the best of my knowledge, James Levine has not been convicted in a court of law - but you may know differently. Perhaps there is police involvement and pending charges, in which case you would be prevented from going anywhere near the topic anyway.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by david johnson » Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:30 am

Go ahead and do it. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by maestrob » Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:47 am

Very interesting responses here.

MHO is that it's too soon to do this. Sure, Levine remade the MET orchestra & chorus from a scrappy ensemble sound to world-class: there's no denying it. Those of us "in the business" know this. But I personally feel it's too soon to praise Levine publicly, after all the allegations. I know you're torn about this, Lance, and I sympathize.

BTW: I find his orchestral conducting shallow & glassy in most things, also his piano playing was extremely facile. Levine was at his best as an opera conductor, working with singers. He had an unerring ability to bring out the best in great voices.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Rach3 » Tue Oct 29, 2019 11:47 am

IF a conductor was acknowledged by most as having recorded the " best " set of Beethoven symphonies ever, in Year 1, but in Year 3 was convicted of murdering his wife, would a program about his conducting not mention the murder ?

Should a tribute to Schubert not mention the circumstances of his death ?

Levine has not been convicted of anything.However, a " tribute " program that does not mention the widely-reported circumstances of his departure from the Met, even-handedly reporting both claims and denials , especially since his work at the Met is considered his best musical work, would seem disingenuous.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by John F » Tue Oct 29, 2019 9:13 pm

A program about the artistry of James Levine (or Carlo Gesualdo or whoever) need not mention his biography at all, unless it's clearly relevant to the artistry. Relevance is the key. Nobody has suggested, and to do so would be absurd, tht Levine's achievements as a conductor depended in any way on his behavior toward young musicians not principals in or members of the orchestras and opera companies he conducted.

That said, the Levine scandal is so universally known that to make no mention of it at all would strike many listeners as evasive. A single sentence at the beginning, saying that the program is about the art and not the man, should be enough.
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Belle » Tue Oct 29, 2019 9:16 pm

I would be very interested in hearing such a program as I generally know nothing much at all about Levine's work at The Met.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by barney » Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:00 am

Look up his Siegfried's funeral music on YouTube. Electrifying.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by John F » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:01 pm

Not least because, typically of Levine, he gets the Bayreuth Festival orchestra to play better than most conductors can.
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by THEHORN » Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:32 pm

Levine is also suffering from Parkinson's disease, sciatica and arm tremors , so even if there hadn't been any scandals with him he probably will not be able to conduct anywhere again , which is terribly sad . I've never found his conducting or piano playing to be "shallow and facile ". Like his interpretive ideas or not and his approach to any given work, he has always seemed to me a musician of remarkable depth , commitment to his art and insight .
He devoted his entire life to the Met and achieved so much there , not only in making the orchestra world class , but in expanding the company's repertoire so much , fostering the development of so many gifted young singers , initiating a series of concerts with the orchestra , enabling the company to resume making complete recordings of operas , and so much more .

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by John F » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:56 pm

I want to pay tribute to one of the greatest performances of anything that I've heard and seen in an opera house. This was "Die Meistersinger" in 2001, actually a series of performances as after the first one I returned to see it three more times. It was telecast and I believe published on DVD, though only a few excerpts are on YouTube. Here's one of them, not just perfectly but movingly sung and acted:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuKy1DIktYw

The production by Otto Schenk was cast in depth, with René Pape as Pogner and Thomas Allen as a hilariously fussy Beckmesser. But it was James Levine at the center of it all who rose to the occasion.
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Belle » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:13 pm

You've mentioned this wonderful production before!! I'm watching it again.

Levine really has been quite the Wagnerian conductor, from all accounts. Pity about the other issues but I'm inclined to the view, more and more, that he has/had psychological issues; though this doesn't provide an excuse per se, it does shed some light on why some people's behaviour becomes deviant or criminal. And all of it enabled, of course, by the organization for whom he worked. I've always found Levine a physically very unattractive man and, though I'm certainly no psychologist, I wonder if this is to be found at the heart of his problems. Power and unattractiveness can be a toxic combination too. Somehow it made me feel sad, watching the stunning excerpt which John posted.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Lance » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:33 pm

Sue, you have hit on something very possible here!
Belle wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:13 pm
You've mentioned this wonderful production before!! I'm watching it again.

Levine really has been quite the Wagnerian conductor, from all accounts. Pity about the other issues but I'm inclined to the view, more and more, that he has/had psychological issues; though this doesn't provide an excuse per se, it does shed some light on why some people's behaviour becomes deviant or criminal. And all of it enabled, of course, by the organization for whom he worked. I've always found Levine a physically very unattractive man and, though I'm certainly no psychologist, I wonder if this is to be found at the heart of his problems. Power and unattractiveness can be a toxic combination too. Somehow it made me feel sad, watching the stunning excerpt which John posted.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 06, 2019 1:51 pm

Many thanks for all your input on this question. I, too, think it may be too early to present a long tribute of programs "honoring" James Levine, "the musician," not the man. I am beginning to see him mentioned more on Sirius/XM radio as the conductor and on our local NPR station. It is truly unfortunate that his great career has concluded in this manner. How could this NOT affect him emotionally?
Lance G. Hill
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______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

barney
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by barney » Fri Nov 08, 2019 5:46 pm

Ah well, Lance, perhaps you are wise. And after all, you do have a lifetime's supply of other candidates.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Lance » Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:37 pm

You make an excellent point. And you are correct: I do have a lifetime's supply of other possibilities. I'm thinking about it carefully. Some candidates I am thinking about have also collaborated with Levine on discs (other than singers). He did so much more than opera. I have about 125 references to him appearing on compact discs. And I don't see anyone quick to be reissuing any of his former recordings that may have been deleted from the catalogues. That may only happen after his demise.
barney wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 5:46 pm
Ah well, Lance, perhaps you are wise. And after all, you do have a lifetime's supply of other candidates.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

barney
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by barney » Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:38 pm

He was, as you know, also a fine piano accompanist, for example with Kathleen Battle in Schubert, Christa Ludwig in her Winterreise, and in Mozart chamber music.

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by Lance » Thu Nov 21, 2019 5:32 pm

Indeed, also accompanist to mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel, chamber music of Poulenc, pianist/conductor in Gershwin, pianist in Schubert's "Trout" Quintet, four-hand works with Evgeny Kissin. Levine: highly gifted musician.
barney wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:38 pm
He was, as you know, also a fine piano accompanist, for example with Kathleen Battle in Schubert, Christa Ludwig in her Winterreise, and in Mozart chamber music.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:54 am

As accompanist I heard him in a Schubert recital with Bryn Terfel (the Schwanengesang and a half dozen others) which was the best Lieder singing I've ever heard from Terfel. Obviously he hadn't just accompanied but coached Terfel.

Another example of his coaching was when he stood in for one of Marilyn Horne's master class artists, working with a young tenor who knew the music (from Die schöne Müllerin) but wasn't communicating the feeling in the words. In 15 minutes he had the singer much more involved in the songs, in ways I haven't heard in other Lieder performances and I've heard a lot of them.

It's fair to assume, then, that in the operas Levine conducted, he went beyond merely correcting the singers' errors to guide them in the dramatic as well as musical feeling of what they were singing. If he hadn't been cast into outer darkness, he could have become a great full-time teacher.
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Re: A radio tribute to James Levine?

Post by barney » Fri Nov 22, 2019 7:26 am

Yes indeed, John - a tragedy for so many reasons.

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