Andris Nelsons: I’m not interested in Berlin

The incoming Boston Symphony conductor has made a categorical statement about his medium-term plans.

‘I will be too young in 2018 to take over from Simon Rattle,’ he tells Die Welt. ‘That was a strategic decision. I signalled it when I decided to be, from this autumn, chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.’

Nelsons is 35. He knows exactly where he’s going.


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  • That’s a nice way to let the Boston Phil know that their chef considers them to be a second-rate band. In other words, “Give me a few years to learn the repertoire in Boston, then I’ll be ready for Berlin.” Ouch.

    • He won’t be at Boston forever. Even if he stays 20 years, he’ll only be 55 when he goes and will still be relatively young. Plenty of time still to take on the BPO!

    • I doubt the Boston Symphony Orchestra would seriously object to the implication that they’re not quite as good as the Berlin Phil.

      They might, on the other hand, prefer to be called by their proper name (they’re a Symphony Orchestra … not the Boston Phil, as you call them).

      • Isn’t it odd how trademark laws prevent a Phil and an S.O. in the same American city, yet Vienna, Tokyo, London and Berlin manage fine?

          • Interesting! So it is possible. I wonder if Zander had to buy the right … .

            So now we can add Boston, and I forgot Munich, to the list.

            Just not New York or any other U.S. city.

          • After Mr. Safford provided the link, I read a bit about the Boston Philharmonic and they are apparently considered a “semi-professional” orchestra. This may have something to do with the naming rights, as they may not apply to ad hoc or semi-professional ensembles.

  • Indeed. What Nikisch, Muck, Monteux, Koussevitzky, Munch, Leinsdorfnand Steinberg (among others) would have thought of such a statement…

  • [quote] “Nelsons is 35. He knows exactly where he’s going”

    And let all Brits hope his sights are set on the ROH, Covent Garden!

      • Yes, he is nothing special. He is even less special than Rattle. There are *many* stronger, more gifted young (<50) conductors, only the demise of the record industry prevented their careers from seeming great. Nowadays the hiring agencies really do have to think for themselves!

  • Interesting, since I thought he was supposed to be the Artistic / Music Director of the Boston Symphony. If he is the “Chief Conductor,” who is the AD/MD?

  • Nelsons will be 39 when the Berlin post opens up. Karajan was 47 when he took over Berlin.

    Why is 35 not too young for Boston, but 39 is too young for Berlin?

    It has less to do with conductor competence than with orchestral personality and organization. Berlin is musician run, everything is decided by a vote of all members, so unless the director is as strong a personality as the entire orchestra, things just won’t work out.

  • Dudamel is 33 and will be 37 on 2018. He and his supporters are 100% sure that he is already to get any position, even prime minister or Pope. Do you want to bet it?

    I can remember a post at this blog about Berlin/2018 some time ago, which many people were saying that to be a MD nowadays doesn’t need to be an experienced person as it used to be. Guess what!….Nelsons doesn’t agree with you.

  • Apparently he is old enough to have evolved into a perfect megalomaniac. “I decided to be chief conductor of BSO”. Besides, he knows well it’s Dudamel who is going to get Berlin. Sour grapes?

    • Dudamel?

      I thought it was Christian Thielemann who was the front runner for the Berlin job (with Daniel Barenboim as the other “likely” candidate). There’s no doubt that Gustavo sells out a lot of concerts here in Los Angeles, and he did pick up the slack for Rattle when he took time off this summer for the birth of his child. But has the relationship been so wondrous that the Berliners want this guy as their music director? His recording of Strauss with the orchestra paled in comparison to past readings with Karajan and Bohm, among others.

      Well, I guess stranger things have happened. And it’s true that the “front runners” after Herbert Von Karajan passed away (Maazel, Muti, Levine, Barenboim, Haitink) never seemed to get the crown.

    • Probably Thielemann, maybe Bychkov, with Dudamel having also a small but powerful minority vote in the orchestra… Popcorn is ready.

      • An extremely underrated talent, and clearly the first choice of the horn section of the Berlin Philharmonic. His Dukas is apparently second to none. Rumor has it he was offered the gig in Boston, but turned it down. He also politely declined the titles of Music Director and Head Cheese of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom he has enjoyed a close relationship since 1940, since Minnie didn’t like the acoustics of Verizon Hall and talked him out of it. The LSO was also a bridesmaid. Too many commitments in Orlando, Florida and Anaheim. But rumors persist that his schedule will open up around 2018, just in time for a certain post in Germany.

        • Maybe it was his “strategic decision” to wait until 2018 when he’ll be “old enough” to take over from Sir Simon.

          • Personally, I hope Nelsons makes another “strategic decision” to wait until HE is 90, as I find him utterly boring. Not that Dudamel has got everything, but at least he is genuine. The other one, imho, is a fake.

    • An amazing find, Rgiarola!

      This must have been one of his earliest provincial appearances. Listen to the tension that Mickey gets out of the brass and the lush playing from the strings. As far as I’m concerned, let the second-rate humans have the Boston Symphony and the true rodent masters of the art have the Berliners!

      And Bugs needs no accolades. His reputation speaks for itself.

  • So, then, you all assume that Nelsons sat down with a journalist and, unprompted, just started talking about Berlin?

    No-one thinks it possible that the journalist began by asking him a slightly ridiculous question (in what is his second or third language; at least, I’m guessing the interview wasn’t conducted in Latvian), and that – having been put on the spot – he then, as one would expect, attempted to answer it as best he could?

    Is that beyond the bounds of possibility?

  • Of course it is well within “bounds of possibility”. But so what? Even if your scenario is exactly the way it happened, it still does not invalidate most of the comments that have been made here.

    • It invalidates the suggestions that he’s trying to snub Boston or is himself floating the idea that he has his sights set on Berlin.

  • The important point of the suggestion made here was not that he was “trying” and “floating”, but that he actually showed what his thinking was by saying what he said. And the fact that he may have been “provoked” into saying that does not change either the substance or the tone of his statement if it is quoted accurately.

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