The perfect word to describe Andris Nelsons’ conducting is “exciting.” He elicits spectacular playing from the Boston Symphony and knows how to mold the sound of the orchestra to his taste. The strings now sound rich, deep, and solid rather than airy, transparent and elegant, as was their traditional, French–flavored style. This works well in a German-Russian program; I am curious to hear what they (Nelsons and the orchestra) will do with canonical French material such as the orchestral works of Ravel.
As everyone in New England knows, this winter was one long slog. But significant musical events actually got to take place, and some of these have been exceptional. But many have been frustrating and disappointing.
Andris Nelsons has garnered a lot of attention during his first season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—much coverage in the local and even national press; receptions for the public and an exhibition with a talking hologram at Symphony Hall; placards on buses around Boston and in the subway. He threw out a ball for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The BSO organization wants him talked about by the man and woman on the street—especially the younger set. It remains to be seen whether a new younger audience will be drawn to the BSO. Eventually, it’s the music that will matter, not publicity.
I don’t think I have heard the Boston Symphony sound this full and deep since Koussevitzky. This CD inaugurates Andris Nelsons’ era at the helm of the BSO and signals a reinforcement of the orchestra’s considerable strengths in the more brooding side of the continental repertory.
As life in the city slows down, life in the country west of Boston ratchets up. I went out to the Berkshires to catch as much as I could of Tanglewood’s fiftieth Festival of Contemporary Music, this year curated by Boston composers and longtime Tanglewood faculty members John Harbison (a composition fellow in 1959) and Michael Gandolfi (a fellow in 1986).
Yesterday BSO officials announced the dismaying news that Andris Nelsons, the new Music Director of the BSO, suffered a concussion last weekend as a result of a collision with a Read more…
In this special version of the popular annual “Tanglewood on Parade” concert, the 75th anniversary of the festival as we know it (more or less) was duly celebrated. On August 5, 1937, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed an all-Beethoven concert under Music Director Serge Koussevitzky. (I have already mentioned this in my review of the commemorative repreise of the same program on July 6.) This was the first concert of the Berkshire Symphonic Festival, as it was then known, both with the Boston Symphony and on the same property, Tanglewood, which has been the home of the orchestra ever since.
Do we live in a golden age of romantic conducting? Last summer I praised Christoph Eschenbach’s performance of Brahms Fourth Symphony for its vivid projection of every nuance, phrase-shape, and color, and last week I enthused about Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s high-tension drama in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Now comes Andris Nelsons, a potential future BSO music director, bringing his own brand of physical activism to the podium in order to micro-manage the details of Brahms’ Second Symphony and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Afterwards, as one enraptured audience member accurately pointed out, “He knew exactly what he wanted from each measure, and got it!” Compare this with James Levine’s comment on the conductor’s role in a performance (I’m paraphrasing): if you work the nuances out in rehearsal, you really do not need to do much more than show the beat. Of course, rehearsal time at Tanglewood is limited, what with three different programs to present every weekend; so Nelsons’ vividly demonstrative mimetics may be the most efficient way to birth a performance capable of reaching the back row of the Shed. This is Mr. Nelsons’ usual modus operandi (attested by You Tube videos) and it clearly delights both musicians and audiences.