Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Andris Nelsons Chess Moves

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced today that Andris Nelsons won't be renewing his contract with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. "“It’s very good news,” said Mark Volpe, the BSO’s Managing Director. “It came up organically. He started looking at how he was going to organize his musical life and what he wanted to do in Boston and what he wanted to do in Tanglewood. It became clear, especially with blocking some family time, that something had to give.”

The announcement on the CBSO site is rather more discreet. In August 2012, the CBSO announced the extension of his contract formally through the 2014-2015 season, and then for subsequent seasons on the basis of an annual rolling renewal. So the "rolling renewal" is terminated barely a year after it was announced.

Nelsons says: " I have enjoyed five great seasons with (Birmingham) and, while I look forward to another two in my current role, this difficult decision comes in view of my new position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra alongside my wish to protect precious time with my young family."

For Boston, Nelsons is a coup: no wonder they're over the moon. While other US orchestras are running into problems and losing conductors, Boston has managed to lure the hottest conductor on the circuit, a man seriously tipped for Berlin when Simon Rattle steps down in 2017. But what's in it for Nelsons?  European and American orchestral cultures are different in so many ways that it's not simply a matter of switching podiums. Many US conductors would give their best batons for opportunities across the Atlantic.  American orchestras tend to think in terms of long tenure and orchestral development. If the BSO had to coast while James Levine divided his time between them and the Met, and his illness, how will they cope with a conductor whose real future lies in the international scene? A conductor like Nelsons isn't going to stay in one place and give up Bayreuth or Berlin, or Salzburg, or Vienna, or wherever. Besides, Nelsons is shaping up as one of the greatest opera conductors on the circuit. Indeed, he was conducting opera from a very early stage in his carer. Whatever Boston might have to offer, it's not quite in the European league.  Besides, Boston's a lot futther from Latvia. So what's Nelsons planning long term? What's in his best interests, and in the best interests of music in general?


Evan Tucker said...

I seem to be the only person who thinks that Nelsons was a bad mistake. Management wanted Nelsons, the orchestra liked Nelsons, but they wanted Deneve and Deneve was the right pick. Nelsons won't last more than ten years with them unless he also lands the Met when Levine (finally) leaves. But he has to compete for that podium with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and the Met has clearly put their eggs in YNS's basket, giving him a first rate production and cast for a different opera every year. Ultimately, I think Berlin should pick Nelsons, but I'm sure they'll either pick Thielemann or Dudamel because of their celebrity factor. And even if Nelsons doesn't get Berlin, there's talk of his replacing Jansons at one or both of his orchestras. And that doesn't even cover what might happen of Covent Garden or Vienna comes open sooner or later.

Doundou Tchil said...

You're right on the money there, Evan ! Nelsons is far too good not to stay on the international circuit, so his future lies outside BSO> They prob need rejuvenation after years in relative limbo, but a major star isn't necessarily the way to go. The Berliners are sharp enough to separate celebrity from genuine musical challenge, so Dudamel's not a contender there, esp after Rattle leaves. So Theie3lmann and Nelsons. But as you say, Covent Garden, where Nelsons is dearly loved. His wife is adored there too. And they're only 3 hours from home.