Just in: Lucerne names Abbado successor

Just in: Lucerne names Abbado successor


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2014

The festival has been heavily reliant on Claudio Abbado and Pierre Boulez, both of whom command high ticket prices. With Abbado’s death and Boulez’s infirmity, they have been left in a quandary. The solution is to instal Andris Nelsons – but it is short term. The incoming Boston conductor has summer commitments to Bayreuth that he won’t give up any time soon. Tanglewood, too, is calling. Lucerne is left looking for a long term solution. Press release follows.

Andris Nelsons

Media Release


In place of the late Claudio Abbado, Andris Nelsons will conduct the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA during LUCERNE FESTIVAL in Summer 2014

Lucerne, 14 February 2014. Andris Nelsons will conduct the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA’s  concerts during the 2014 Summer Festival. Two different programs will be performed, each featuring works by Johannes Brahms. Claudio Abbado himself had planned these programs for the summer. “We are extremely pleased to be able to have Andris Nelsons, one of the leading conductors of our time, agree to take on these LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA concerts,” says Michael Haefliger, Executive and Artistic Director of LUCERNE FESTIVAL. “We are furthermore happy that we are able to present these two Brahms programs originally conceived by Claudio Abbado. In this way, the memory of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA’s founder remains alive in the Festival’s artistic program­ming as well.” For the opening concert on 15 August as well as the concert on 16 August, the works to be performed include the Serenade No. 2 in A major, the Rhapsody for Alto, Male Chorus, and Or­chestra, with Sara Mingardo as the soloist, and the Symphony No. 2 in D major. The program for

22 and 24 August consists of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, featuring Maurizio Pollini, as well as the Symphony No. 3 in F major.

Andris Nelsons, “artiste étoile” of the 2012 Summer Festival in Lucerne, was born in 1978 in Riga. At the start of the 2014-15 season, Nelsons will officially assume his position as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Since the 2008-09 season, he has been at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and with the CBSO he made his LUCERNE FESTIVAL debut in the summer of 2009. Nelsons will be heard during LUCERNE FESTIVAL at Easter on 12 April, when he will conduct the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the third act of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal. Along with the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA’s concerts, during  LUCERNE FESTIVAL in Summer he will also lead the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on 30 and 31 August.


  • Very best decision for Luzerne!

  • James Brinton says:

    I wonder how much time he’ll have to work with the LFO. The BSO and Tanglewood are not minor commitments. I’d also be surprised if Nelsons didn’t get some push-back from BSO management over this; they have been expecting to get increasing amounts of his time as he phases in as music director.

    The Susanna Mälkki faction in Boston probably is thinking, “I told you so.”

    • MWnyc says:

      James, this Lucerne gig is for this summer only; Nelsons doesn’t even start in Boston until this fall. If the Mälkki faction in Boston is thinking, “I told you so”, it’s not about this.

  • Martin says:

    He’s rather a replacement conductor for this summer’s concerts, than a successor. Nothing long term has ben announced yet.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    From Abbado and Boulez to Nelsons is a huge step—down several levels. Let’s hope that the Lucerne Festival can, in the long run, do better: a LOT better actually.

    • sdReader says:

      … and of course who can wait to travel to Luzern to pay Swiss francs to hear a concert version of an entire act of — ooh — Parsifal?

      • Martin says:

        A concert version of a Wagner act has made me a regular opera attender.

        The 1st maybe 15 minutes I could stand of the 1st act of yesterday’s Cosi fan tutte from Munich wasn’t much more than what one could see in a concert. Some ladies stanging and screaming on a stage with a few fiddlers… Ok, I didn’t like the opera anyway, but the singers didn’t do much more than they could have done on a concert stage too.

        Concert performances makes one focus on the music only. Therefore I couldn’t imagine listening to a concert performance of Eötvös’s Three Sisters or Zimmermann’s The Soldiers, despite I loved the recent stagings in Zurich.

      • @sdReader: Nelsons is going to be conducting Parsifal in Bayreuth pretty soon, so maybe he’s using Lucerne for a dummy run. Dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerians are a special breed; I can think of (quite) a few people who’d be only too happy to shell out helvetian wonga to hear the first act of Wagner’s last offering.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      It’s a surprising choice since there are plenty of young conductors around who ape Abbado, down to the fine details of his trademark gestures, even his facial expressions – while Nelsons is actually a Mariss Jansons impersonator, albeit a very good one.

  • nimitta says:

    It’s now October. Nelsons is done with Lucerne for the year. The verdict: mostly spectacular, from an otherworldly Brahms Rhapsodie für Alto with Sara Mingardo to the most magnificent Third Symphony I’ve ever heard, live or recorded. The response of the orchestra and audiences was positively rapturous.

    It turns out the idea that Nelsons was a ‘step down’, or that the LFO could have ‘done a lot better’, was silly, bitchy nonsense. Of course those of us who’ve had the very good fortune to hear Nelsons many times knew he’d be brilliant. He is a unique and remarkable musician, unparalleled at engaging and uniting an ensemble in a shared purpose. The Boston Symphony Orchestra know exactly how lucky they are to have him for awhile – players and management tell me how intuitive and inspiring he is at drawing out the best from them – just as the Berlin Philharmonic may be at some point in the future.