Levine Celebration: Heart and Mind

Marian Heller, ‘cellist

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When I entered Juilliard, Jimmy was finishing up his studies there. His conducting teacher was Jean Morel, who, incidentally, conducted at the Met on several occasions. At Juilliard, Jim would work with one of the student orchestras as part of his curriculum. Back then, when he rehearsed, he always wore velour shorts and had a towel draped over his shoulder.

A number of years later, I joined the MET Orchestra, where Jimmy was already Music Director. Velour was out but the towel was still always present. Wardrobe changes aside, what has always been consistent over the years is his impeccable sense of musical timing and his constant striving for depth and beauty of sound.

Craig Mumm, associate principal violist

I joined the MET Orchestra in the middle of the 1983-84 season. My very first rehearsal was a stage rehearsal of Verdi’s Macbeth. The personnel manager, Abe Marcus, introduced me to the orchestra and I dove right in.

We were doing the witches’ scene with ballet, and five minutes into my first rehearsal, Jimmy Levine leaned over to me and whispered, “Craig, turn around and take a look at the stage.” There, right in front of me, was a very beautiful and astonishingly scantily-clad ballerina. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to like this job!” Thirty-three years later, I still do.

Nathan Hughes, principal oboist

James Levine’s impact on the music world cannot be easily put into words. I have always admired the interpretive balance of heart and mind in his music-making. There is always a thoughtful reason for the way he shapes music, and he spends countless hours rehearsing with musicians to share his ideas. What is amazing is that the end result is never stale, but is filled with passion, spontaneity, and complete expression - an accomplishment partially achieved through his emphasis on positive reinforcement with performers.

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He listens in great detail and will often show, with a smile or other gesture, an acknowledgment when someone colors a note or shapes a phrase differently. This encouragement perpetuates creativity in an infectiously positive way. His dedication to the art of high-level music making is what I believe most musicians strive to obtain.

The musicians in this opera company will forever be in debt to James Levine for raising and upholding the artistic standard that inspires us all. We look forward to working more with him in his new capacity as Music Director Emeritus!