The announcement in September 2015 that Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons would also become the 21st Kapellmeister of the 275-year-old Leipzig Gewandhausorchester included the news of a “…strategic alliance [that] will allow Andris to consolidate the core of his European work in a place that shares a musical heritage with the BSO.” The five-year artistic partnership between the two institutions [earlier BMInt article HERE] kicks off its first “Leipzig Week in Boston” with celebrations, lectures, and concerts at the Boston Public Library Monday February 5th – 7th.
Nelsons will then conduct regular BSO subscription concerts on February 8th, 9th, and 10th with Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for three keyboards, with Thomas Adès, Kirill Gerstein, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet; Schumann’s Nachtlied and Neujahrslied (ditto); the world premiere of a work by Sean Shepherd; and Mendelssohn’s Scottish symphony, in honor of the fifth GHO Kappellmeister 1835-1847.
“Leipzig Week” ends on Sunday February 11th at 3pm at Symphony Hall, as Boston Symphony Chamber Players and Gewandhaus Orchestra musicians come together for joint readings of Lukas Foss’s For Aaron and the Mendelssohn Octet, on a program with works by Haydn and Ligeti.
On February 4th at 4:00 pm, Emmanuel Music adds its voices to the festivities. See details below. On February 5th, 6-8pm, the BPL launches the orchestral alliance with a ticketed evening of music, food, and drink, and special appearances by Nelsons, Leipzig’s cultural mayor Skadi Jennicke, Gewandhaus manager Andreas Schulz, BSO chair Susan Paine, BSO managing director Mark Volpe, and BPL director David Leonard. The Gewandhaus Quartet with Gerstein will essay two movements from the Schumann Piano Quintet.
Additional free events at the BPL on February 6th and 7th comprise performances by the Gewandhaus Quartet and talks led by Harvard professor and musicologist (and Leipzig Bach archive director) Christoph Wolff. On February 6th, music from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in D will be followed by a multimedia presentation on music, architecture, and acoustics, with a focus on the similarities and influences between the second Gewandhaus (1884) and Symphony Hall (1900). Speakers include acoustician and architectural historian David Griesinger, BSO principal oboe John Ferrillo, and conductor Federico Cortese. February 7th will combine music from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor with a talk with Harvard professor Alexander Rehding about the importance of Bach, Schumann, and Mendelssohn during the period of the first (1781) and second (1884) Gewandhaus halls. A special Symphony Hall archival exhibit further explores historical connections between the BSO and GHO, including a focus on major musical figures shared throughout their histories, not only the architectural influence of the second Gewandhaus on Symphony Hall.
The BSO / GHO alliance will, over a five-year period, feature co-commissioning, educational initiatives, shared and complementary programming, and residencies and tour stops by the BSO in Leipzig and GHO here, as well as musician exchanges between the orchestras and their respective academies for advanced music studies.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra played a lead commissioning role in the 19th century, and gave the premieres of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Schubert’s Great C-Major Symphony, three of Schumann’s four symphonies, Brahms’s Violin Concerto, and more. In the 20th century the BSO partly took over that function and commissioned works from natives Copland, Carter, Sessions, Bernstein, Cage, and Schuller, and went international with Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Hindemith’s Konzertmusik, Ibert’s Mouvement symphonique, Tippet’s The Mask of Time, and Respighi’s Metamorphoseon modi XII. The upcoming program features a new piece by Sean Shepherd, to be followed later by one from Jörg Widmann. May this signal the launch of new joint commissions on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Mendelssohn and Schumann works on the program recall the 13 years when the former served as Gewandhaus capellmeister (1835 until his death, in 1847) and the latter worked in Leipzig as music critic and pianist—both composers busy as well producing major works.
The more recent history of the buildings is similarly noteworthy. Famous acoustical architect (and Harvard instructor) Wallace Sabine wrote in 1900 that
the real discussion [involving a new venue in Boston] was based on only two buildings—the present Boston Music Hall and the Leipzig Gewandhaus; one was familiar to all and immediately accessible, the other familiar to a number of those in consultation, and its plans in great detail were to be found in ‘Das neue Gewandhaus in Leipzig, von Paul Gropius [father of Walther Gropius] und H. Schmieden’. It should, perhaps, be immediately added that neither hall served as a model architecturally, but that both were used rather as definitions and starting points on the acoustical side of the discussion. The old Music Hall was not a desirable model in every respect, even acoustically, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, having a seating capacity about that of Sanders Theater, 1500, was so small as to be debarred from serving directly, for this if for no other reason. … Ten years later, when the project was again revived, the conventional rectangular form was adopted, and the intention of the building committee was to follow the general proportions and arrangement of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, so enlarged as to increase its seating capacity about 70 percent; thus making it a little more than equal to the old hall. … The often-repeated statement that a copy of an auditorium does not necessarily possess the same acoustical qualities is not justified, and invests the subject with an unwarranted mysticism.
Of the halls, the legacy, the history, and the repertory, mysticism is no more. Let the alliance begin.
Eichendorff Lieder selections
Lieder ohne Worte, Book 3, Op. 38
Jessica Petrus, soprano
Emily Marvosh, contralto
Judith Gordon, piano
String Quintet in A Major, Op. 18
Arneis Quartet with Joan Ellersick, viola
Monday, February 5th at 6 p.m.: Boston Public Library Kickoff Gala Celebration
Boston Public Library, Gustavino Room (700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116) Tickets $100
The Boston Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the launch of the BSO/GHO Alliance in the Guastavino Room at the Boston Public Library with an evening of music, food, and drink, along with special appearances by BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, Leipzig’s Cultural Mayor Skadi Jennicke, Gewandhaus Manager Andreas Schulz, BSO Chair Susan Paine, BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe, BPL Director David Leonard (the evening’s host), and Professor Christoph Wolff, Artistic Advisor to the BSO/GHO Alliance. Attendees of this special event will get to hear the first BSO/GHO Alliance appearance by Gewandhaus-Quartett (made up of members of the GHO), who will be joined by Kirill Gerstein in two movements from Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44.
Tuesday, February 6th at 6 p.m.: Gewandhaus and Symphony Hall: Spaces for Music
Central Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Rabb Hall (700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116)
Join Professor Christoph Wolff, acoustician David Griesinger, conductor Federico Cortese, and BSO Principal Oboe John Ferrillo for a multi-media exploration of two of the world’s great concert halls. Panelists will consider what makes Symphony Hall and the Leipzig Gewandhaus great, and how the two are connected architecturally, historically, and spiritually. A short film featuring BSO Associate Conductor Ken-David Masur will acquaint Boston audiences with the second Gewandhaus of 1884, and the Gewandhaus-Quartett will open the evening with the first movement of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in D, Op. 44, No. 1.
Wednesday, February 7th at 6 p.m.: Mendelssohn and Schumann at the Early Gewandhaus
Central Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Rabb Hall (700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116)
Join Harvard Professors Christoph Wolff and Alexander Rehding for an illustrated talk about the relationships of J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Schumann to the first (1781) and second (1884) Gewandhaus concert halls, and to the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Special attention will be paid to the works on the BSO’s “Leipzig Week” program, and the Gewandhaus-Quartett will perform the first movement of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80.
Music of both Mendelssohns
Lieder ohne Worte selections
Fanny Mendelssohn: Eichendorff Lieder selections
Pamela Dellal, mezzo
Mark Berger, viola
Leslie Amper, piano
Sunday, February 11th at 3 p.m.: Boston Symphony Chamber Players and Gewandhaus-Quartett ProgramSymphony Hall (301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115) Tickets $22 – $38
On February 11th, at 3 p.m., at Symphony Hall, the Gewandhaus-Quartett, made up of members of the GHO, including Frank-Michael Erben, first violin, Conrad Suske, second violin, Anton Jivaev, viola, and Jürnjakob Timm, cello, will join musicians of the BSO for a program to include Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5, “The Lark,” with the Gewandhaus-Quartett, and Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet, with BSO principal musicians Elizabeth Rowe, flute, John Ferrillo, oboe, William R. Hudgins, clarinet, Richard Svoboda, bassoon, and James Sommerville, horn. The BSO and GHO musicians will come together for performances of Foss’s For Aaron for chamber ensemble, led by BSO Assistant Conductor Moritz Gnann and featuring the Gewandhaus-Quartett along with BSO principal players Ed Barker, bass, Elizabeth Rowe, flute, John Ferrillo, oboe, William R. Hudgins, clarinet, Richard Svoboda, bassoon, James Sommerville, horn, Thomas Rolfs, trumpet, Toby Oft, trombone, and Timothy Genis, timpani. To close the program, the Gewandhaus-Quartett will be joined by BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, associate concertmaster Elita Kang, principal viola Steven Ansell, and acting principal cellist Sato Knudsen for Mendelssohn’s String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20.