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Latvian Andris Nelsons follows James Levine as Boston Symphony Orchestra music director

Submitted by on May 16, 2013 – 1:02 pm

Report: At age 34, youngest BSO music director in more than a century, Nelsons officially takes up duties in 2014. He calls his appointment the achievement of a lifetime.

By Lawrence B. Johnson

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons was named Thursday as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Nelsons will become officially installed as the BSO’s 15th music director effective with the 2014-15 season, but meanwhile will act as music director-designate for the 2013-14 season.

At age 34, Nelsons becomes the BSO’s youngest music director in more than 100 years and the third youngest since its founding in 1881. He is the 15th music director in the orchestra’s 132-year history.

In a statement, BSO board chairman Ted Kelly said Nelsons’ “unique creativity and visionary instincts will bring a remarkable inspiration” to the orchestra.

“I am deeply honored and touched that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed me its next music director,” Nelsons said in the announcement. “It is one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime.”

Nelson’s appointment comes three years after his predecessor, James Levine, last conducted the BSO. Health issues and injuries troubled the latter years of Levine’s tenure. He officially stepped down in September 2011.

The BSO’s new music director, whose career has included extensive work in opera houses as well as concert halls, has held the same position with the City of Birmingham Symphony since 2008. He has regularly conducted the major European orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra.

[NOTE: Shortly after his Vienna Philharmonic debut, Nelsons conducted the Orchestre de Paris for this first time, in October 2010, at a concert I heard. It was mainly Strauss, “”Ein Heldenleben” and “Metamorphosen.” What endures in memory is the melding of clarity and dramatic urgency Nelsons brought to both works — notably in the “Metamorphosen,” for strings alone, which the young conductor (only 31 years old at that time) drew through subtle degrees to surging life.]

Nelsons also has been a familiar presence at the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. This summer he will return to the Bayreuth Festival.

The conductor’s path to the podium began in the trumpet section of the Latvian National Opera. Born into a musical household, Nelsons first studied piano, turning to the trumpet at age 12. An interest in conducting led him to master classes with Neeme Järvi and Jorma Panula as well as Mariss Jansons, who would become Nelsons’ principal mentor.

Beginning with his appointment as principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera in 2003, Nelsons’ career has advanced swiftly. In 2011, he was honored as Conductor of the Year by the German Phono Academy for his recording of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and Symphony of Psalms with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Before making his debut as BSO music director in October, Nelsons will conduct the orchestra in June at the Tanglewood Festival, in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem with his wife, Kristine Opolais, as soprano soloist.

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Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Andris Nelsons, newly appointed music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Marco Borggreve) Descending: Andris Nelsons (Photo by Marco Borggreve) Video of Andris Nelsons rehearsing with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The maestro in rehearsal. (Photo by Marco Borggreve) Conducting Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka” with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. 


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