James Levine to Step Down as Boston Symphony Director
James Levine to Step Down as Boston Symphony Director

Injury-plagued conductor James Levine will step down as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September after seven seasons, the symphony said on Wednesday.

Mark Volpe, the Boston Symphony's managing director, said talks are under way to define a new role for Levine, who he described as "one of the greatest conductors of our time."

The orchestra will immediately form a search committee to find a new music director.

Levine, 67, has been plagued by back problems and other health issues in recent years, missing weeks of engagements.

"I need to focus more of my attention on getting back to better health, so when I do return to the BSO podium I can continue the important work the orchestra and I have done together," Levine said in a statement.

Levine is 14th music director of the 130-year-old Boston Symphony, which is regarded as one of the best orchestras in the world, and was the first American-born conductor to take on that role.

"Given Maestro Levine's health issues, this has been a challenging time for all of us in the Boston Symphony Orchestra family, especially our beloved orchestra and devoted audiences," Volpe said.

On Tuesday the orchestra announced that Levine will miss the rest of its 2010-2011 season, including concerts in Boston and three at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Levine had back surgery in 2009 and 2010, causing him to skip many performances, and missed the orchestra's entire summer 2010 season at the Tanglewood Music Festival in western Massachusetts.

Levine is expected to continue is role as music director of the New York Metropolitan Opera.