Andris Nelsons Visits Boston and the BSO

Andris Nelsons and Mark Volpe
Andris Nelsons and Mark Volpe at Symphony Hall (photo by Stu Rosner, courtesy of the BSO)

Andris Nelsons, the newly named 15th Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, greeted a large audience at Symphony Hall to begin a day of celebration and introduction to Boston.

On May 16, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that its 15th Music Director would be Andris Nelsons. Just over a month later, the 34-year-old Latvian conductor visited Boston to sign his five-year contract and meet an audience of around 850 enthusiastic listeners and BSO supporters at Symphony Hall.

Introduced by BSO Chairman Ted Kelly, Nelsons used a pen made from the original flooring of the stage of Symphony Hall to sign his contract, after which BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe interviewed him. Volpe, the son of a Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter, asked Nelsons about the role of breathing in the art of conducting. Nelsons, who began his musical career as a trumpeter, replied by drawing a connection between the heartbeat and breathing of an individual and the listener's perception of music.

Volpe also asked about leadership styles, particularly in light of the classic image of dictatorial conductors like Fritz Reiner and George Szell. Nelsons replied that the only way he knows how to conduct is as a collaborator, enabling the orchestra to perform at its best by creating a vision to which the players contribute. To demand a particular vision with force, he said, would lead to performances that are not honest.

Members of the audience also asked questions. In response to a question about which composers Nelsons wants to focus on, the conductor mentioned two composers whom his predecessor, James Levine, avoided: Bruckner and Shostakovich. In response to another question, he emphasized the importance of music education in not only building audiences for classical music, but also in nourishing the lives of young people.

Following the event, Nelsons left to visit Fanueil Hall, where he was presented with a proclamation honoring his appointment to the BSO. Later that evening, with a bit of pre-game coaching from Pedro Martinez, he threw out the first pitch for the Red Sox game at Fenway Park.


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