Andris Nelsons: I’m not interested in Berlin

Andris Nelsons: I’m not interested in Berlin


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2014

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.



  • Benjamin Gordon says:

    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.

    • Malcolm James says:

      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!

    • John Fallas says:

      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).

      • sdReader says:

        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?

        • Max Grimm says:

          Isn’t or wasn’t there a Boston Philharmonic Orchestra as well though. I may be mistaken.

          • William Safford says:

            There is a Boston Philharmonic, conducted by Benjamin Zander:


          • sdReader says:

            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.

          • Max Grimm says:

            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.

    • Benjamin Gordon says:

      Thanks for pointing out my error – of course it should have read BSO, not Phil.

  • Michael Hurshell says:

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

  • PrewarTreasure says:

    [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!

    • Daphne Badger says:

      Let’s hope not. His Elektra wasn’t a patch on Bychkov’s or Elder’s….

      • sdReader says:

        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!

  • Douglas Nasrawi says:

    Not that they were going to ask him

  • Christy says:

    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?

  • Jonathan says:

    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.

  • Rgiarola says:

    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.

  • Mick says:

    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?

    • Rgiarola says:


      Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That’s it?

    • Papageno says:


      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.

  • Papageno says:

    Isn’t the next pope going to be Semyon Bychkov? Or do they not take him seriously for the big jobs anymore?

    • anonymus says:

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

  • Papageno says:

    Mickey Mouse is quite underrated. He has worked with Stokowski, after all.

    • Mick says:

      Excuse my ignorance, but who is Mickey Mouse?

      • Papageno says:

        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.

        • Mick says:

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

          • Papageno says:

            Mickey wanted to wait until he was at least 90.

          • Mick says:

            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.

  • Rgiarola says:


    Pappageno is right! You can see Mickey conducting Rossini on this video:

    I’m sure the opening concert in Berlin will be along Bugs Zimerman Bunny as soloist. You can see him in the video below at Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen 2013:

    • Papageno says:

      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.

  • Halldor says:

    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?

  • M2N2K says:

    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.

    • Halldor says:

      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.

  • M2N2K says:

    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.