Andris Nelsons Appointed Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons Appointed Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Music lovers in Birmingham are digesting the news that the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s charismatic Music Director, Andris Nelsons, has been named as the new Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in succession to James Levine.

Nelsons, 34, has been at the helm of the CBSO since 2008 and has enjoyed great success there. His burgeoning international career, including appearances at Bayreuth and at the Lucerne Festival as well as guest appearances with many of the world’s leading orchestras, has meant that Birmingham must have expected to lose him sooner or later; indeed, at least one journalist touted his name recently, despite his relative youth, as a potential successor to Sir Simon Rattle in Berlin. Performances, many of which have been covered by MusicWeb International Seen and Heard, including his remarkable account of War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral (review) and a blazing reading of Mahler’s Second Symphony last year (review) have marked him out as a man to watch. He also has an already extensive discography to his name and several of his recordings with the CBSO have been highly acclaimed on MusicWeb and elsewhere. Now the Boston Symphony, with whom he made his debut in March 2011, has snapped him up.

There will be a period of transition, no doubt occasioned by existing diary commitments. Initially Nelsons will be the Music Director-designate and in the 2013/14 season he has just two dates in Boston – in October 2013 and March 2014 – though he is also due in Tanglewood to conduct Verdi’s Requiem in July. He will assume the Music Directorship for the 2014/15 season

The Boston orchestra know that they’ve pulled off something of a coup in appointing Nelsons. Ted Kelly, Chairman of the BSO Board of Trustees said, in announcing the appointment:“It is absolutely thrilling for us to announce the appointment of Andris Nelsons as the next Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director. Sought after by the top orchestras and opera houses of the world, Maestro Nelsons, at age 34, is already considered one of the most brilliant conductors of our time. We are very fortunate that Mr. Nelsons, as the BSO’s next music director, will bring his extraordinary ability to lead powerfully moving and insightful performances to the next chapter in the orchestra’s storied history.”

Nelsons himself said: “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.

So where does this leave the CBSO? Well, presumably looking for a replacement, though there will be some continuity as Nelsons is contracted to them until at least the end of the 2014/15 season. In a statement Stephen Maddock, the orchestra’s Chief Executive congratulated Nelsons on his new appointment.: “This appointment to one of the world’s most distinguished orchestras is a real accolade for Andris, and we are delighted for him. During his time at the CBSO, he has proved himself to be amongst the very best conductors in the world, and it is testament to his extraordinary talent that he has secured this major role at such a young age. Of course, we also believe this is a reflection of Birmingham’s continued excellent taste in Music Directors!

“Andris’ rolling contract with the CBSO is currently in place until the end of the 2014/15 season, and there will be no change to his commitment to Birmingham during this time. It is not unusual for a conductor of Andris’ stature to hold more than one position, and we will make an announcement about future seasons beyond 2015 later this year. In the meantime, we all congratulate him on his success and look forward to our next concerts with him in May and June, including an 8-concert European tour.”

The penultimate sentence of Mr Maddock’s statement is interesting, suggesting that the orchestra entertains hopes of holding on to Nelsons’ services beyond 2014/15. That may prove impossible but might it imply that the CBSO are not yet ready to wave goodbye to their conductor? The CBSO audiences will surely hope that Nelsons will continue to work with the orchestra for some time to come but in the meantime they would be well advised to take every opportunity to see and hear Nelsons and the CBSO in concert together over the next two seasons.

Details of the CBSO’s 2013/14 season, just announced, can be found here.

John Quinn