The Boston Symphony Orchestra is getting an infusion of new life with the choice of Andris Nelsons as music director. He will be the 15th director in the BSO’s 132-year history and the youngest in a century, at 34 just about half the age of his predecessor James Levine. It has been over two years since Levine, now 69, made his last appearance at the podium, so the orchestra has been director-less while the search committee came to a decision.
The announcement last week was greeted with applause from the players, and the BSO’s managing director Mark Volpe said that the choice, made after lengthy consideration, is just what the BSO needs to move onwards and upwards. Though Levine brought tremendous strengths to the orchestra during his 10 years at the helm, by 2010 he was conducting from a chair due to health issues. Nelsons, by contrast, is a vibrantly energetic conductor.
Said Volpe: “People respond to personalities. You want a great musical force, you want somebody who is incredibly well trained, but let’s not kid ourselves. People respond to personalities. Watch a video of him conducting. It’s visceral, it’s exciting.”
Nelsons’ contract with BSO begins in the 2014-15 season; he is currently still under contract with the City of Birmingham symphony orchestra and will finish out that commitment even as he conducts eight to ten performances for Boston. He first conducted the BSO in 2011 in Mahler’s “Symphony Number 9” at Carnegie Hall, and has led many of the world’s finest orchestras in Europe and Japan.
What’s so exciting for the Boston group, according to most observers, is that Nelsons is solidly grounded in the classics but also eager to embrace the best of contemporary composers.
His list of favourites includes the familiar masters but adds contemporary British and Australian composers, and he has admitted to being a fan of Michael Jackson and Sting, as well as reruns of “Friends” and “Frasier”. His future with the BSO promises to be a bright one for both the players the public.