His curly hair and a towel flung over his shoulder give him high recognition, and in the German-speaking world he has been a familiar face for a long time. His name is James Levine, and he is one of the most famous American conductors. Herbert von Karajan introduced him to the Berlin Philharmonic as a guest conductor, from there he made it to Salzburg, and for almost 20 years, Levine has also been a fixture in Bayreuth. However, his highest priority has been the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He has worked with the Met's orchestra for more than a quarter century, molding it into a top orchestra that is a match for any renowned orchestra in the United States. For the past few months, he has had another position in Germany. He succeeded the late Sergiu Celibidache's as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic last fall. James Levine is used to having several irons in one fire. He gave his solo debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at age ten, playing Mendelssohn's second piano concerto. As a student at the Juilliard School in New York, he was a double-major in piano performance and conducting. Georg Hirsch talked with Levine about his work in New York, his plans for Munich, and about early decisions that shaped his career.
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