Nelsons’ first BSO season will offer a personal mix of premieres and populism

March 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Andris Nelsons will open the BSO’s 2014- 15 season September 27 and lead ten weeks of concerts at Symphony Hall. Photo: Marco Borggreve

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In his first season as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons says he wants to present programs of both new and familiar works that have influenced his life as a musician.

“I wanted really to concentrate on deepening my relationship with the orchestra and its wonderfully enthusiastic audience and community,” the conductor said in a press statement released by the BSO Wednesday afternoon at a press conference announcing the 2014-15 season.

Nelsons will lead ten weeks of music at Symphony Hall for the 2014-2015 season will include music of Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart along with symphonies by Shostakovich, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky. In addition, the Latvian-born conductor will also lead the orchestra in Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin, Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Other highlights of the season will include the conductor and the BSO in performances of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, Bruckner’s Seventh, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Don Quixote, with cellist Gautier Capuçon and BSO principal viola Steven Ansell as soloists, and Prokofiev’s Symphony-Concerto, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Nelsons’ inaugural season will feature new works, including the premiere of a BSO commission by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, a new piece for organ and orchestra by Michael Gandolfi, and the first American performance of Brett Dean’s trumpet concerto Dramatis personae, featuring Håkan Hardenberger as soloist.

Other contemporary works to be programmed will include Sofia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium, with violinist Baiba Skride, and John Harbison’s Koussevitzky said.

Nelsons has likened the BSO to a Ferrari that he wants to show off every chance he can get. He echoed the same thought during Wednesday’s press conference.

“This first season, for me, is to introduce myself to the orchestra, to get to know the orchestra better, to enjoy driving this Ferrari,” he said.

Nelsons will open the CSO season September 27, Nelsons will lead the BSO in a program of operatic favorites. Soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Jonas Kaufmann will perform selections from Lohengrin, Cavalleria rusticana, and Manon Lescaut, and the orchestra will round out the concert with the overture to Tannhäuser, the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

Beyond performances in Boston, Nelsons and the BSO will perform music by Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, and Shostakovich in their annual concerts at Carnegie Hall in spring 2015. The tour will also include the New York premiere of Gunther Schuller’s Dreamscape.

In summer 2015, Nelsons and the orchestra will embark on a European tour, which will include concert appearances in Berlin, Cologne, London, Lucerne, and Paris.

“It’s important for the orchestra to go to festivals and venues to show what we can do,” Nelsons said at Wednesday’s press conference. “There are a lot of expectations. Vienna, Salzburg, they’re anxious for us to come.”

Out of American orchestras, he added “the Boston Symphony has one of the strongest European traditions. Many of the conductors who have been here have had European roots. I feel like I am at home”

Nelsons will also appear in Tanglewood next summer for a three-week residency, conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra to celebrate the academy’s 75th anniversary season.

The rest of the 2014-2015 BSO season will bring back a familiar lineup of guest conductors to Symphony Hall.

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will return in October to conduct Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 The Inextinguishable, Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, with Rudolf Buchbinder as soloist, and a program of sacred music, featuring Bach’s Cantata No. 82 Ich habe genug and Brahms’ A German Requiem, with soprano Rosemary Joshua and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.

In his return to Symphony Hall in February 2015, Charles Dutoit will conduct the BSO in Debussy’s Images, Brahms’s Violin Concerto, with violinist Julia Fischer, and Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks. On March 5 and 7 concerts, the Swiss conductor will lead the orchestra and Tanglewood Chorus in a concert version of Szymanowski’s King Roger, featuring baritone Mariusz Kwiecień in the title role along with soprano Olga Pasichnyk, mezzo-soprano Yvonne Naef, and tenor Edgaras Montvidas.

Vladimir Jurowski will also return in February to lead the American premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s Responses: Of sweet disorder and the carefully careless, with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Stravinsky’s complete Firebird, and music by Anatol Liadov.

In late March, Christoph von Dohnányi will lead a program of Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 39, 40, and 41. Pianist Emanuel Ax will join Dohnányi and the BSO that month in a program featuring Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 and Strauss’s Burleske for piano and orchestra.

In April, Jean-Yves Thibaudet will team up with Bernard Haitink and the orchestra for Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. Haitink will also conduct the composer’s complete Mother Goose Suite along with Mozart’s Linz Symphony and Thomas Adés’ Three Studies from Couperin.

Stéphane Denève will also return in February to conduct music by Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Poulenc.

Pianist Christian Zacharias (October 2014) and violinist Leonidas Kavakos (November 2014) will both return to Symphony Hall in dual roles as conductor and soloist.

Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev will make his BSO debut with music by Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, and Rimsky-Korsakov. And Asher Fisch, in his BSO subscription debut, will lead a program of Schumann, Prokofiev, and Israeli composer Avner Dorman (January 2015).

What makes the BSO special, Nelsons said Wednesday, is its familial nature, a closeness among the musicians that enables the most expressive playing. “The orchestra is about trust … [and] there’s a trust for even such a young guy [as myself],” he said.

That chemistry was evident in the rehearsal of Strauss’ Salome held earlier Wednesday morning. Nelsons, poised and relaxed, is a man of few words while on the podium. And the musicians and singers responded gracefully to his animated gestures.

It’s a relationship that Nelsons hopes carries through this first season and beyond.

“‘Friends, music, and family’ is what I would call next season,” Nelsons added. “This is just the beginning.”

Tickets for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-2015 go on sale March 10. bso.org; 888-266-7575

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One Response to “Nelsons’ first BSO season will offer a personal mix of premieres and populism”

  1. Posted Mar 07, 2014 at 9:46 am by Stephen Owades

    The Mahler Eighth in the summer of 2015 was announced as featuring the combined Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras, not the latter alone.