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BSO Announces Next Concertmaster

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Nathan Cole will take the Charles Munch chair at the start of the BSO’s 2024 Tanglewood season in July, becoming the orchestra’s 11th concertmaster since its founding in 1881. Cole succeeds Malcolm Lowe, who retired in 2019 after serving for 35 years (1984–2019) in the prestigious role. Cole will be only the fourth BSO concertmaster in the past 104 years. Andris Nelsons opines that “The BSO and I are very happy to warmly welcome Nathan Cole as the next concertmaster of our great orchestra. We had immense pleasure collaborating with Nathan last January on Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and we look forward to embracing his leadership within the orchestra, exploring our joint musical values, and partnering on our artistic journey together to serve the great music both within and beyond our Boston community.”

According to the BSO, Cole will play a central role in focusing the orchestral ensemble and achieving unity of artistic approach. He will sustain and help develop the unique qualities of the BSO’s string section—qualities which have been the orchestra’s hallmark for decades. In selecting Nathan Cole for one of the most coveted positions in the orchestral world following an exhaustive process of auditions, Andris Nelsons and the BSO believe they have found an outstanding leader who will carry the orchestra to even higher levels of achievement.

As part of an audition process starting last January, the orchestra welcomed a succession of highly accomplished guest concertmasters, including Cole who led the orchestra in both Boston and at Carnegie Hall in performances of Shostakovich’s monumental 1934 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, drawing praise from critics.

Cole will make his first appearances this summer at Tanglewood, where he will be featured prominently in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and will lead the orchestra in diverse repertoire over several programs. His first full season with the orchestra will include two performances at Carnegie Hall in April 2025 and at the Shostakovich Festival in Leipzig and in three other soon-to-be-announced European cities where the BSO will tour in May 2025.

In addition to leading the orchestra’s violin section, Cole will be artistic director of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, formed in 1964 and one of the world’s most distinguished chamber music ensembles sponsored by a major orchestra. Comprised of principal players from the BSO, the BSCP will perform at Tanglewood with pianist Paul Lewis on July 24 and has five concerts scheduled in Boston next season.

This opportunity to be the BSO’s next concertmaster feels like something that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. When I auditioned with the BSO back in January, for me it was an immediate, warm feeling both from my colleagues in the orchestra and Andris on the podium. I loved the way that Andris spoke in terms of imagery and was really clear about the sound that he wanted. I felt that he left it to us and our creativity to decide how to get those sounds, but at the same time, he was very specific and persistent about what he wanted, and I loved that. I also felt great support from the orchestra, especially from my fellow violins.

Looking back, I feel fortunate to have known two people who held the position before me, Malcolm Lowe and Joseph Silverstein. Silverstein was one of my idols, and I grew up with many of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players recordings. Any time that I had to learn a piece, BSCP would have a recording of it with Silverstein leading, so I had his sound in my ear early on and was lucky to get to work with him before he passed away. He was extremely generous with his time and wisdom. He took himself seriously enough to continue working on his craft all the way through the end of his life. But I always got the sense that he knew he was a custodian of the position, and that everything he did was for his colleagues and for the music, and that’s something that I want to carry forward.

Meanwhile, I’m thrilled to be starting my tenure this summer at Tanglewood. It will be my first time playing there. My wife Akiko and I and all three of our kids are super-excited about the move to New England! (Nathan Cole)

More About Nathan Cole

As first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2011, he was regularly featured as soloist at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl in repertoire spanning the 17th to the 21st centuries. Prior to this position, he was a member of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony. He has appeared as guest concertmaster with the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Houston, Ottawa, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon.

Cole grew up in a musical family in Lexington, Kentucky. His parents, both flutists, taught lessons in the home while his grandfather told stories about his years in the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Cole made his debut with the Louisville Orchestra at the age of ten while studying with Donna Wiehe; he studied a further eight years with Daniel Mason, a student of Jascha Heifetz. Cole attended the Curtis Institute of Music, where his primary teachers were Pamela Frank, Felix Galimir, Ida Kavafian, and Jaime Laredo.

Chamber music has long been an essential part of Cole’s life. The Grancino Quartet, which he formed at Curtis, made its New York debut in Weill Hall. He participated for three summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, including national tours, and looks forward to leading the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.

As an educator, Cole leads the orchestral repertoire program for violin at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, while his innovative online programs allow him to work with thousands of players around the globe. A collection of Cole’s articles, videos, and courses can be found on his website, natesviolin.com.

7 Comments »

7 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. For those of us with little knowledge of what the concertmaster actually does, might someone elucidate, either here in comments or in an essay or even with some references, exactly what the role entails? I don’t mean assignments, like the BSCP role, but what these phrases mean: “a central role in focusing the orchestral ensemble and achieving unity of artistic approach” and “sustain and help develop the unique qualities of the BSO’s string section”. Precisely what and how?

    Thanks

    Comment by Anthony — May 21, 2024 at 2:39 am

  2. These may be of help:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/arts/music/jorja-fleezanis-dead.html

    https://ovationpressbooks.com/blogs/tuesday-practice-tip/interview-with-joseph-silverstein

    and there are dozens such

    Comment by David Moran — May 21, 2024 at 1:35 pm

  3. Thanks. Those were great!

    Comment by Anthony — May 21, 2024 at 3:12 pm

  4. I was looking for a list of the past BSO concertmasters (which I couldn’t find) and I came across this review of the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk concert at Carnegie Hall, by noted author/critic Joe Horowitz. https://www.artsjournal.com/uq/2024/02/the-boston-symphony-in-trouble.html
    “I would not even call this section a section. It was an eclectic group of violinists, disengaged to varying degrees. At the rear … they barely moved their bows.” So according to Horowitz, not “focusing the orchestral ensemble and achieving unity of artistic approach”

    Comment by Liane Curtis — June 2, 2024 at 10:50 pm

  5. BSO Concertmasters

    1881–1885 Bernard (or Bernhard) Listemann
    1885–1903 Franz Kneisel
    1903–1904 Enrique Fernández Arbós
    1904–1907; 1908-1910 Willy Hess
    1907–1908 Carl Wendling
    1910–1918 Anton Witek
    1918–1920 Fredric Fradkin
    1920–1962 Richard Burgin
    1962–1984 Joseph Silverstein
    1984–2019 Malcolm Lowe
    2024- Nathan Cole

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — June 4, 2024 at 9:19 am

  6. Eesh, I failed to post the most helpful link I meant to lead off with for Anthony (within the Fleezanis obit):

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/02/12/arts/what-does-concertmaster-actually-do-our-critic-pulls-back-curtain-bso-searches-its-next-leader/

    Horowitz got at least one strong informed knock for his shots.

    Comment by David Moran — June 6, 2024 at 2:38 am

  7. Perhaps, if Joseph Horowitz were told that Furtwangler’s ghost was asking for that imprecision in order that the orchestra not sound so American, he might have approved.

    Comment by SD Gagliano — June 12, 2024 at 1:16 pm

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