To recognize his enduring role in advancing American music, Columbia University has chosen James Levine, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, as the winner of the Ditson Conductor’s Award. The ceremony was postponed from last spring, when Maestro Levine was forced to cancel numerous performances because of back surgery.
|Maestro James Levine (left) receives the Ditson Conductor's Award from Jeffrey Milarsky (right).
Image credit: Stu Rosner
Contemporary music conductor Jeffrey Milarsky presented Maestro Levine with the $5,000 award and citation on behalf of Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger
before a performance of the Boston Symphony on Saturday, Nov. 27. Milarsky is a senior lecturer in music at Columbia University and music director of the Columbia University Orchestra
. He is also on the conducting faculty of The Juilliard School and is artistic director of the AXIOM Ensemble, Juilliard’s contemporary music group.
“In his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine has commissioned, programmed and conducted an impressive number of contemporary American works,” said Fred Lerdahl
, secretary of the Alice M. Ditson Fund and the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia. “The Ditson Fund is pleased to honor Levine for this exemplary commitment, which revives the Koussevitzky/Boston Symphony Orchestra legacy of commissioning and performing contemporary American music.”
The Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia established the Ditson Conductor’s Award in 1945. It is the oldest award honoring conductors for their support of American music. Previous recipients include Christopher Keene, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein and Eugene Ormandy.
Widely noted for his devotion to American music, Levine is among the most innovative and imaginative conductors of his generation. Now in his seventh season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Levine is the orchestra's14th music director since its founding in 1881 and the first American-born conductor to hold the position.
Levine also serves as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, currently celebrating his 40th season there. He has led nearly 2,500 performances at the Met—more than any other conductor in the company’s history. These performances have included 85 different operas, including 15 company premieres.
Levine is known for his wide-ranging programs which balance orchestral, operatic and choral classics with significant recent music, including newly commissioned works from such leading American composers as Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Peter Lieberson, Gunther Schuller and Charles Wuorinen.
Internationally, Levine’s activities have been characterized by his intensive relationships with Europe’s most distinguished musical organizations, especially the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the summer festivals in Salzburg (1975-1993) and Bayreuth (1982-98). He was music director of the Chicago Symphony’s Ravinia Festival from 1973 to 1993 and of the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra from its founding in 2000 until 2004, and was chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic from 1999 to 2004.