Fuse News: Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director-designate Andris Nelsons

By Jonathan Blumhofer.

Andris Nelsons in action. Photo: Marco Borggreve

It’s been two years since the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has had a music director, and it will be one more until post is officially filled, but the orchestra’s announcement this morning that Andris Nelsons will take over the vacant position beginning during the 2014-15 concert season finally closes this long chapter in the BSO’s recent history.

The selection of Nelsons, 34, as the BSO’s next chief is an inspired choice and bold—not just because of his age (he’ll be the third youngest music director in the orchestra’s history and second-youngest leader of a major American orchestra) but also because of his relatively short history with the orchestra. He made his BSO debut filling in for an indisposed James Levine in 2011, first conducted the orchestra at Tanglewood this past summer, and only made his Symphony Hall debut in January. Still, the critical responses to those appearances were overwhelmingly positive, and his rapport with the orchestra in each concert patently obvious. Next season he comes to town twice: in October, conducting Wagner, Mozart, and Brahms, and in March, when he directs a one-night only production of Salome. Before then, there’s a Verdi Requiem he’s leading at Tanglewood on July 27th.

Time will tell if Nelsons can shake up the sometimes-stuffy atmosphere at Symphony Hall, but his background suggests promising days ahead: since 2008, he’s been running the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, one of the UK’s leading orchestras and not an ensemble known for its conservative programming. Before then, he was principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany and music director of the Latvian National Opera. He cites Mark-Anthony Turnage, Magnus Lindberg, and Brett Dean as some favorite living composers, which could indicate a respite (or at least a counterbalance) to the American Modernist-heavy programming of the Levine years.

In an article I wrote last year for the Fuse, I proposed “there’s nothing wrong with [the BSO music director search committee] thinking outside the metaphorical box and bringing in a younger conductor not widely established, so long as the musicians of the orchestra are on board with the decision . . . the upsides [to so doing]—especially the potential to reinvigorate an institution and audience steeped in tradition—should not be casually dismissed.” Today’s announcement suggests that that’s the direction in which the BSO wants to head, and that is perhaps the most exciting news of all.

Nelson’s statement appears below:

I am deeply honored and touched that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed me its next music director, as it is one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime. Each time I have worked with the BSO I have been inspired by how effectively it gets to the heart of the music, always leaving its audience with a great wealth of emotions. So it is with great joy that I truly look forward to joining this wonderful musical family and getting to know the beautiful city of Boston and the community that so clearly loves its great orchestra. As I consider my future with the Boston Symphony, I imagine us working closely together to bring the deepest passion and love that we all share for music to ever greater numbers of music fans in Boston, at Tanglewood, and throughout the world.

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