The BSO’s Injured Slugger

The Boston Red Sox and the Boston Symphony. Together, they’re Boston’s two most venerable performing institutions. Both are wildly adored at home and on the road, respected for their artistry, and play in wonderful, turn of the century arenas. They have a lot in common. And because they do, they can learn a thing or two from each other. Manny tooting out Mahler on the oboe is certainly something we’d like to see. But more pertinently, it’s worth noting that if the BSO management had been paying better attention to the strategies of the Red Sox front office, they just might not find themselves in the unfortunate situation in which they are now embroiled. We refer, of course, to the injury to the BSO’s ailing maestro James Levine, who tore a rotator cuff while exiting the stage after a performance earlier this month. Now he’s out of commission for several months, and the orchestra is stuck, its scheduling and plans all atwitter. But that’s really just the least of it. Levine’s fall was the product of his already questionable health, and the truth is that, despite some good reviews, there are reports that there is already considerable dissention within the orchestra as to his leadership.

How does this relate to baseball? The BSO signed Levine to replace it’s outgoing conductor, Seiji Ozawa, in 2004. At the time, he was already showing serious signs of the debility that led to the fall that has now knocked him out. The BSO signed Levine despite this obvious red flag, and despite his refusal to give up his post at the helm of the Metropolitan Orchestra. (Imagine suiting up for the Yanks and the Sox—in the same season). This isn’t quite an Albert Belle-level catastrophe, but it’s hard not to see the BSO’s current predicament as the product of extremely poor vision in the front office, poor vision that led to an equally poor free agent signing. Maybe the BSO board should be talking to Theo.

11 comments… add one
  • wait, did i get that right? YF is the author of this post? was that a mistake, or…?

    beth March 14, 2006, 3:19 pm
  • I must admit to having a somewhat beginner’s knowledge of these things, but the Met and the Yanks seem like a pretty good analogy. Aren’t both considered the name in each of their industries (at least in America) and don’t both spend tons of money on their respective products, so much money that in fact both are now operating at a yearly loss?
    I also see a similarity in the Sox choice to pick up the injury-prone Beckett and the BSO’s decision to go for the “debilitated” Levine.

    NickYF March 14, 2006, 4:15 pm
  • Wow, you guys are stretching the analogy here.
    What’s the NY musical equivalent of the Pavano and Wright signings, Nick?

    SF March 14, 2006, 5:59 pm
  • The Crash Test Dummies
    oops they’re Canadian!

    NickYF March 14, 2006, 6:11 pm
  • Spin Doctors?

    SF March 14, 2006, 6:13 pm
  • Remember that time the Met was ahead of the BSO three games to zero, and then the BSO stormed back to win 4 in a row, and completed the Greatest Comeback in Music History? That was awesome.

    Earl March 14, 2006, 6:30 pm
  • And they did it by playing Schoenberg, which made it that much more inexplicable.

    SF March 14, 2006, 7:02 pm
  • What’s that about Levine? We subscribe, and he has made the BSO a far better outfit than it was in Ozawa’s best years. And he’s the on-field manager, not one of the players. We’re very happy with him, even if some of the musicians are not. Guess they don’t like working hard to be the best. They can be traded, for future draft choices.
    The comparison to the Red Sox by YF is even more specious. He should pay attention to his own glass house. The Yanks are another year older and deeper in debt.

    Waldomeboy March 14, 2006, 9:01 pm
  • My comparison was nothing but a compliment to the Sox. And the Yankee debt i’d gladly add to my balance sheet, if only it would come with the franchise value and related profit streams.
    As for the BSO, if you enjoy serial music (and lots of it!) that’s your business. Enjoy. We’ll be watching baseball, along with the some of those lazy musicians sidelined with repetitive stress problems. Let’s say this, baseball fans are lucky Levine is running the Met and not the Mets, or Pedro’s minimum pitch count would be set to 175.

    YF March 14, 2006, 9:18 pm
  • Going for the best, even if the odds were high that the tenure might be short, has already impacted the BSO favorably. Would the Red Sox have passed on a tried and true Ted Williams, knowing of potential injuries, but also of potential greatness for the team? The BSO is at World Series strength. Levine got them back to their former greatness. Hopefully, he’ll be back. But, if not, the “team” is in shape to perform for a new manager, if need be.

    A soxfan mom March 14, 2006, 9:57 pm
  • //As for the BSO, if you enjoy serial music (and lots of it!) that’s your business. Enjoy.//
    wow. ONE schoenberg concert series and you’re painting the whole franchise with the same brush? interesting insight into the rest of your observations on boston’s institutions…

    beth March 15, 2006, 7:29 pm

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