A bright-eyed and smiling cherubic Andris Nelsons, wearing his third shirt of the day, greeted the Boston press and contingents of trustees, other worthies, and important local composers with the announcement of the repertoire for his first year as the 15th Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, commencing in September. The gathering was a lovefest with the charming, self-deprecating conductor, who began by mentioning how he was more comfortable relating to audiences with his backside. He also told us he felt more frightened for having to talk with such a daunting crowd than for dealing with the headless singer at the Salome rehearsal, earlier in the day.
Nelsons spoke at some length about the 10 concerts he would be conducting, and about affectionately expanding his family to include the BSO players, audience and extended communities. It is clear he will be an effective orchestra booster in the many community events he expects to attend. Mark Volpe talked about the dozen concerts which would be conducted by others. The complete calendar for next season is here. BMInt also expects to present analysis of the season from some of our correspondents in a few days.
Before the official event, the BSO treated many of the attendees to a final rehearsal of the soldout Salome. What a treat tomorrow night’s single performance is going to be for Richard Strauss devotees, and how Cecil B. DeMillean it will be for others. As principal hornist James Sommerville told us, Salome is a difficult and demanding piece, but rest assured, the BSO and soloists are up to the challenge.
Nelsons gave generous praise to Symphony Hall, and to every section of the orchestra and the many soloists who will shine. Conducting the rehearsal, he seemed as ebullient as a child in a candy shop even as heads were falling. This was not bloodthirstiness, just his recognition that he is at an glorious place in his life.
Sommerville went on to say, “Speaking for my colleagues, this is an important moment for us. We are really excited to work together with Maestro Nelsons. By the time we go on tour next summer and live together for 24 hours a day, this will make us real family.”
For the BSO it seems like a time of great possibilities.
The complete press conference is streaming here.
During the press conference Nelson spoke at length about his favorite repertoire and collaborative soloists—aside from learning that we can expect Bruckner’s Seventh and, at Tanglewood, Mahler’s Eighth, there were no unpleasant surprises and many small epiphanies. Draw your own conclusions from the illustrated guide [here] to the repertoire and tune in later for our official response. We close with BMInt’s two questions and Nelsons’ answers.
You have a great connection with opera, as a conductor, as a singer, and as the husband of a diva. We are all looking forward to Salome tomorrow night, but are disappointed you will not be conducting any opera next year. Can we expect more in subsequent seasons?
It’s great for symphonic ensembles to play opera. They have to learn to breathe with singers and feel the emotion. They need to know they are not just accompanying, but it all has to go together like chamber music.
Did the singers at rehearsal today express any wish to have the orchestra in a pit?
I guess you are asking me about balance. Well, for the singers we can sometimes be too loud, but ask players in sections (looking at Sommerville), for instance, how did the horn part carry? They will always ask for more.
You talk about the German repertoire being the cornerstone of orchestra literature, yet you are playing none of the foundation, J.S. Bach. Should modern orchestras play Bach?
I’ve done a lot of Bach as a player with period instruments, and for many years didn’t believe that Bach needed a conductor except for the B-minor Mass and the Passions. [But] Bach needs to be done with romance and emotion, and I’m now thinking more about how we should play him with modern orchestra.
What’s it like to direct the BSO?
It’s like driving a fine Ferrari … except that I don’t drive.
Sommerville: We supply the gasoline!