Nelsons says his new Leipzig post will create an “alliance” with BSO

September 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Andris Nelsons Photo: Marco Borggreve

Andris Nelsons
Photo: Marco Borggreve

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced a new partnership with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and Andris Nelsons is to be at its head.

Nelsons was recently named Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, replacing Riccardo Chailly beginning with the fall of 2017. His duties with that ensemble, which incudes conducting eight weeks of subscription concerts as well as touring and recording commitments, will work in tandem with his post as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which extended Nelsons’ contract through 2022 this past summer.

“I am thrilled to accept the appointment of Gewandhauskapellmeister alongside my music directorship with the remarkable Boston Symphony Orchestra,” said Nelsons in a statement. “It is also an immense privilege to be partnering these two world class institutions-each with their own deeply rich musical heritage-and to be leading them in an innovative and forward-thinking alliance spanning two continents.

“This wonderful new alliance between the BSO and GWO will give us a unique opportunity to explore each of these orchestra’s great music traditions, as well as create exciting and meaningful new experiences for our audiences at home and around the world.”

The Latvian conductor’s new post is being heralded as a “new multidimensional relationship” between the two orchestras. The alliance will take place over a period of five years beginning in the 2017-2018 season that will involve shared and complementary programming, new educational initiatives, and the co-commissioning of new works.

During the 2017-2018 season, each orchestra will celebrate the musical heritage of the other by holding a “Boston Week in Leipzig” and a “Leipzig Week in Boston,” events that will feature performances of works that have come to define the two ensembles. In Boston that will mean hearing pieces by by Henze, Kancheli, and Rihm in addition to works by Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. In Leipzig, the Gewandhaus Orchestra will program works premiered by the BSO, with attention likely given to American works.

One anticipated aspect of the partnership is that the orchestras will perform in the concert hall of the other. The relationship will begin informally next May when Nelsons will lead the BSO in the orchestra’s debut performance at the Gewandhaus. The Gewandhaus Orchestra is expected to make a trip to Boston in the future to perform in Symphony Hall.

The co-commissioning project will involve a new piece every year of the alliance. German composer Jörg Widmann will be the first to write a new piece that will be premiered by both orchestras in the 2017-2018 season.

In addition, an educational initiative will give conducting fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center the chance to assist Nelsons with his work with the Gewandhaus Orchestra when his contract begins. And renowned Harvard musicologist Christoph Wolff will serve as artistic advisor of the alliance between the two orchestras.

The partnership puts an exclamation point on a close history between Boston and Leipzig. The BSO boasts a string of conductors who were trained in Leipzig, including Georg Henschel, the orchestra’s first conductor, and Arthur Nikisch served as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1895 to 1922. Symphony Hall, too, was modeled on the second Gewandhaus concert hall, which stood from 1884 to 1944.

The artistic collaboration will “celebrate the historical importance of each organization, highlight our shared heritage, and stimulate new artistic synergies,” said BSO managing director Mark Volpe in a statement. “Under Andris Nelsons’ guidance and leadership, the BSO/GWO alliance will create opportunities for important musical and cultural exchanges and bring the extraordinary musical gifts of each orchestra to a greater world-wide audience.”

“We are founding a new and unique musical family which will set new artistic standards,” added Gewandhaus director Andreas Schulz. “Our common musical history and our unique individual growth provide us countless opportunities to expand our view of the past and the present as we craft intriguing concerts with special programs that will resonate for our own and for our partner’s audiences.”

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