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For BSO, GHO, Nelsons: Status Quo Through 2025

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Andris Nelsons to continue roles.

During a virtual special announcement cum press conference transmitted from Leipzig and Symphony Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra ceremoniously announced an extension of Andris Nelsons’s contract as BSO Music Director through the 2024-25 season.

Mark Volpe, BSO President and CEO and acting BSO concertmaster Elita Kang presented via live video stream from Symphony Hall, while in a studio in Leipzig, the city’s Mayor Burkhard Jung represented the GHO in announcing the simultaneous extension of Nelsons’ status as Gewandhauskapellmeister. The Boston Symphony Orchestra/Gewandhausorchester Alliance, “an unprecedented multidimensional partnership in the orchestra industry will likewise continue apace through the 2025.

This writer joined 92 watchers on YouTube this morning at 11:30. The Leipzig mise en scène felt relaxed with unmasked and un-distanced presenters willing to touch hands. While neither feed came across in full HD (only 720p), the BSO camera showed the additional disadvantage of underexposed shots with crushed blacks. Lively performances from the Gewandhaus Brass Quintet bookended the warm palaver.

In summary, Burkhard Jung, the Mayor of the City of Leipzig averred that “Everyone is delighted about contract and alliance extensions.” Mark Volpe agrees that the announcement is “very special.” He is thrilled with the continuation of the alliance and the emotional performances Andris Nelson’s leadership with “undefinable yet undeniable chemistry.” He also spoke of “watching Andris and Alice drive by on a golfcart, giving evidence of special era beginning.”

BSO Assistant Concertmaster Elita Kang

BSO acting concertmaster Elita Kang spoke with great conviction about the mutual fondness and respect between Nelsons and the players, and the life-changing experience of her exchange with the GHO. And of course, she rued the inability to make music before audiences.

Nelsons called himself “the luckiest conductor alive. He looks forward to more opera, more contemporary music, more music education, doing more DGG recordings, and especially to continuing the Shostakovich project, and community outreach. He misses his dear friends in the Boston Symphony during these trying times. He also wants to expand on the BSO’s French tradition. Don’t worry, German, Austrian and Slavonic musics are in store too. He also loves the Tanglewood experience of expertise in performance and dedication to education. “Respect, admiration, friendship and love…it’s what we need so much these days.”

According to the official press release:

During each year of the new contract, Andris Nelsons will lead the orchestra in a minimum of 12 weeks of programs at Symphony Hall. Mr. Nelsons will also have a continued presence of at least a minimum of two weekends of concerts each season at Tanglewood, the orchestra’s summer music festival in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, where he leads performances with the young musicians of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in addition to his regular concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and his activities at the new Tanglewood Learning Institute. Annual tours—including trips to Europe and Asia, as well as the BSO’s Carnegie Hall series—are planned for each season of Mr. Nelsons’ tenure with the BSO.

In summer 2015, following his first season as BSO Music Director, Mr. Nelsons’ initial five-year contract with the BSO (September 2014-August 2019) was replaced with an eight-year contract (September 2014-August 2022). Just as with his original contract, the new contract extension running through 2025 comes with an evergreen clause reflecting a mutual intent for a long-term commitment between the BSO and Mr. Nelsons well beyond the terms of any of their contracts.

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Highlights of future seasons with Andris Nelsons and the BSO include an expansion of their Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich cycle on Deutsche Grammophon—which has so far concentrated primarily on the symphonies—to encompass the composer’s piano, violin, and cello concertos and the Jazz Suites, among other works; an ongoing annual opera presentation, including the rescheduling of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and operatic masterworks of Wagner; and a continuing in-depth exploration of the Russian repertoire, spotlighting several major composers, among them Stravinsky and Prokofiev, as well as some of the lesser-known composers of the Soviet era. Andris Nelsons and the orchestra will also put a special focus on iconic BSO commissions from the past, including  Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony, and on the continuation of the orchestra’s time-honored commissioning tradition, to feature works by some of the most celebrated figures of our time as well as fascinating younger American composers representing diverse backgrounds.

In addition to his many performances with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, Mr. Nelsons will expand upon his work with the Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and at the Tanglewood Learning Institute, where he leads conducting master classes and participates in panel discussions with some of the leading artists of our time.

In the 2021-22 BSO season, Mr. Nelsons will lead major works initially scheduled for the 2020-21 BSO season at Symphony Hall—including several Beethoven symphonies, a continuation of the BSO’s Shostakovich cycle with Symphony Nos. 3 and 13, both featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and important commissions of new works by Sofia Gubaidulina, Julia Adolphe, and HK Gruber, among others—health and safety precautions permitting. Further details about the 2021-22 BSO season will be announced at a later date.

Mr. Nelsons will also play a supportive role in the new BSO Resident Fellowship Program—an excellence-based training program for early career orchestra musicians from historically underrepresented populations, tentatively scheduled to launch in summer 2021. The fellowships, running one to two years, will provide opportunities for young musicians of color to study with BSO musicians and perform with the BSO and Boston Pops during their Symphony Hall seasons in Boston, as well as participate as Fellows in the Tanglewood Music Center.

For today’s announcement about Andris Nelsons’ BSO contract extension, Mark Volpe, BSO President and CEO, and Elita Kang, BSO Assistant Concertmaster, joined the event by live video streamed from the stage of Boston’s Symphony Hall. In addition to Mayor Burkhard Jung, other participants included Skadi Jennicke, Leipzig’s Deputy Mayor of Cultural Affairs; Professor Andreas Schulz, General Director of the Gewandhaus; Matthias Schreiber, Gewandhausorchester cellist and Chairman of the Orchestra board, with the entire event leading up to a highly anticipated appearance by Andris Nelsons. GHO musicians performed J.S. Bach’s Contrapunctus I from The Art of Fugue to start the press event and Eric Ewazen’s A Western Fanfare to bring the proceedings to an end.

The next BSO/GHO Alliance venture will be an extensive and integrated media and residency project featuring the major symphonic works of Richard Strauss, with further details to be announced in the spring.

The press was not invited to ask questions.

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