Music Director Andris Nelsons will lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in its now traditional season-ending performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, August 28th, at 2:30 p.m. in place of 86-year-old Christoph von Dohnányi, who had cataract surgery earlier in the summer, and whose recovery was more difficult than expected: he canceled his earlier Tanglewood weekend on doctor’s orders. At that time, he expected to be able to get to Tanglewood for the closing Beethoven Ninth, but apparently he’s still not cleared to fly.
Andris Nelsons became available for the final Tanglewood weekend after he withdrew from Parsifal at Bayreuth. Nelsons did the Beethoven Ninth last summer at the Proms as his final appearance in the role of Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. According to member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus Steven Owades, “We in the chorus (and orchestra) are looking forward to our first opportunity to explore the B9 with Andris.”
The tradition of ending the Tanglewood season with Beethoven 9 is pretty well established, but it doesn’t date to the early years of the festival. Leinsdorf’s gave his farewell performance with it in 1969, and the newly formed TFC sang it in both the spring and summer of 1970, but it was a while before annual performances became standard. In some seasons, B9 has come before the close, but in recent years it’s concluded the series.
According to the BSO PR, The Sunday, August 28, performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony features the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and vocal soloists including soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose, tenor Joseph Kaiser, and bass Günther Groissböck. The program will open with Copland’s Quiet City, featuring BSO principals Thomas Rolfs on trumpet and Robert Sheena on English horn.
Before the Sunday, August 28, performance, Maestro Nelsons returns to Tanglewood on Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21, for two programs with the BSO. On Saturday, August 20, at 8 p.m., he leads the orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Acts I and II of Verdi’s Aida, featuring soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role, along with mezzo-soprano Violeta Urmana as Amneris, tenor Andrea Carè as the male lead and love interest Radamès, tenor Alfredo Nigro as the Messenger, baritone Franco Vassallo as Amonasro, bass Morris Robinson as The King, and bass Kwangchul Youn as Ramfis. On Sunday, August 21, at 2:30 p.m., Nelsons leads a program largely made up of music influenced by Shakespeare, honoring the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. The program includes the overture to Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict (based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing), American composer George Tsontakis’s Sonnets, a Shakespeare-inspired concerto for English horn and orchestra commissioned by the BSO and featuring BSO English horn player Robert Sheena; Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; and Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Egyptian, featuring Croatian pianist Dejan Lazić, making his BSO and Tanglewood debuts, as soloist.