Here’s some good news for music lovers: When Maestro James Levine took over as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra 4½ years ago, a decision was made to record, for archival purposes, every live performance he conducted.

Here’s some good news for music lovers: When Maestro James Levine took over as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra 4½ years ago, a decision was made to record, for archival purposes, every live performance he conducted.


But the news gets better. Now, under the auspices of the organization’s BSO Classics label, the first batch of those recordings is available for anyone to hear.


Four releases – all of them as downloads, two of them on CD – were just released: Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe,” Brahms’ “A German Requiem,” Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and a double program of William Bolcolm’s Eighth Symphony and his “Lyric Concerto” for flute and orchestra.


Levine, who says that there was no hurry to release the recordings, is ecstatic.


“The orchestra and I wanted to accomplish a certain level of rapport and development before we put official recordings out,” he says. “I was not looking to add to the catalogue a Tchaikovsky fourth or fifth, or a Dvorak ‘New World Symphony’ or a Beethoven Fifth. I have nothing against these pieces; I love them. But they are recorded and recorded. I thought there is so much music which is not so much recorded, and there is also music which our combination – the orchestra, the hall, my work, the chorus’ – does in a certain way.”


Levine was adamant about making these true live recordings. There would be no cramming musicians into a lifeless studio or performing in an empty Symphony Hall.


“If you go to hear us play the Mahler Sixth, and you have a really exciting time, I want you to have that when you get a recording of it,” he says. “I don’t care, at all, if there’s a technical blemish here and there. There was in the concert, there always will be; if you go for it, there must be.


“The old aesthetic was fix it,” he continues. “But along with fixing it, you fix about 20 or 30 percent of the excitement right out of the performance. The theory was that you didn’t want to listen to that mistake over and over, but now we have [live] radio broadcasts all the time.”


Levine knew almost immediately, after hearing the tape of the BSO’s October, 2007 performance of “Daphnis and Chloe,” that it was going to make the first cut.


“It’s a signature piece of the orchestra,” he says. “When I listened to those two performances, I thought, ‘You can hear the whole orchestra, you can hear it in a piece that belongs to the Boston Symphony, and you can hear the hall. You can have as close as possible to a real sophisticated electronic souvenir of what you heard in the concert.”