Breaking: Andris Nelsons signs with DG

Breaking: Andris Nelsons signs with DG


norman lebrecht

April 03, 2015

This has been in the air for weeks, and the deal’s been done just before the Easter break. It’s a game-changer for all three parties.

Nelsons moves off niche labels into mainstream, DG climbs back into the US market and Boston leapfrog their Big Five rivals in world media.

nelsons shost


press release, just in:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon have announced a new partnership that will feature a series of live recordings under the direction ofBSO Music Director Andris Nelsons.  This new recording initiative will launch with a project entitled Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow, focusing on works composed during the period of Shostakovich’s difficult relationship with Stalin and the Soviet regime—starting with his fall from favor in the mid-1930s and the composition and highly acclaimed premiere of his Fifth Symphony, and through the premiere of the composer’s Tenth Symphony, one of the composer’s finest, most characteristic orchestral works, purportedly written as a response to Stalin’s death [Andris Nelsons (photo by Chris Lee)]

in 1953. In addition to Symphonies 5-10, the project will also include performances and recordings of the incidental music from King Learand Hamlet and the Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.  The recordings of these works will take place at Symphony Hall—one of the world’s most renowned halls for acoustical excellence—during performances scheduled in the BSO’s 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 seasons, all under the direction of BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons.  This announcement about a new relationship and recording project between the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, and Deutsche Grammophon is being released in conjunction with the 2015-16 Boston Symphony Orchestra season announcement, details of which are available here.

The first of the BSO’s five live recorded albums—to be released by Deutsche Grammophon in three installments between summer 2015 and summer 2017—will feature the Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the opera that appalled Stalin and propelled Shostakovich out of the dictator’s favor, and Symphony No. 10.  The album will be recorded during the BSO’s upcoming concerts at Symphony Hall, April 2, 3 & 4, under the direction of Mr. Nelsons.

Andris Nelsons—born in Riga, Latvia in 1978, when it was still a part of the Soviet Union—is certain to bring a unique perspective to the performances and recordings of Shostakovich’s music. One of the last conductors trained under the Soviet music tradition, and having studied extensively in St. Petersburg, Andris Nelsons now represents the last of a distinct musical voice that is influenced heavily by both those great Russian masters and later by Western European masters of the core Germanic repertoire.

[Andris Nelsons (photo by Marco Borggreve)]

“I am completely thrilled and honored to be leading this very exciting collaboration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon.   It is an immense privilege to focus on the music of Shostakovich, a composer of such great personal courage and virtue, whose extraordinary work transcends even the circumstances in which it was written, and is timeless on many levels. At the same time, with my formative years spent in Soviet Latvia, the music of Shostakovich in particular speaks to me personally in a distinctive way and I’m sure that special affinity will be communicated in these recordings.”


  • herrera says:

    Exciting news. For 1980!

    C’mon, who outsources their recordings today, 2015, 21st century? Boston can’t afford its own recording technology?

    Why give a third party a cut of your revenues?

    Even Berlin doesn’t record with DG.

    • Stephen Owades says:

      This is of course a profoundly silly comment. The BSO has its own label, BSO Classics, on which it has released many fine, and award-winning, discs (SACD and CD) and high-res downloads. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s reason enough to desire the marketing reach and clout of DG for a big project like this. DG has never released a complete Shostakovich cycle (which this aims to become), so this is a good deal for all parties. Berlin has chosen a high-price, limited volume route for its releases, seemingly capitulating to the small market of today and rather exploiting their ardent fans. I don’t think it’s a good long-term strategy.

      • Andrew R. Barnard says:

        I sure hope Berlin gets out of this insanely priced, limited releases craze. Look at BR Klassik and the LSO Live, modeling how orchestras should do it. I sincerely hope Berlin gets the hint. The more releases, the better, and no other orchestra has such a dazzling pool of concerts to pull from.

        • Anon says:

          Insanely priced??? I don’t think you know what you are talking about. If you take the Schumann Symphonies box for instance, it is RIDICULOUSLY cheap, considering the content, presentation and packaging.

          It costs half of what you pay for a dinner for two in a good restaurant in a metropolis on this planet yet people like you scream “high price!”. I want to shoot myself due to all this idiocy around.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      In my mind the question is about is the value of the Yellow Label. Is it still the classical equivalent to a halo? I honestly don’t know.

      • Anon says:

        The Yellow label is no label anymore. They are a cynical corporate shadow of their former self without any artistic ambitions or competence. There is also a bad side.

    • Anon says:

      technology itself doesn’t do recordings. You need very skilled people for that. Not so easy to find actually, contrary to the technology, which you can buy easily.

  • Michael says:

    Norman – please, cut it out. This is not Nelsons signing a contract with DG. You are good at reading between lines and the press release is quite transparent: DG is licensing tapes from the BSO, conducted by Nelsons. You can grind your axe about who wins and who loses, but at least don’t give us garbled facts. Thanks.

  • SDReader says:

    What does “Big Five” mean?

    • Peter Barach says:

      “Big Five” is an old term for what were considered the top American orchestras–New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia.

      • Halldor says:

        In recent years, I’ve understood the term “Big Five” to mean “any US orchestra that has a massive endowment and made some good recordings about half a century ago”.

      • Mathieu says:

        Peter, I take it that Sdreader’s comment was sarcastic…

  • harold braun says:

    The”big five”is a ridiculously outdated term.There are at least”big ten or big 15″these days.San Fran,Dallas,Washington,Cincy,LA,Atlanta,St.Louis,and so on…wake up and listen,please…!

  • Larry W says:

    Such a breathless headline for something that’s been in the air for weeks. Pollution comes to mind sooner than a classical recording contract. It is highly doubtful the parties rushed to have the deal completed so as not to interfere with Easter break. For musicians, Easter is not a break.

    Regarding the two remaining sentences, virtually any classical recording is niche, regardless of label, and the name DG will not produce more sales than the many excellent self-produced orchestral recordings. People buy recordings based on the repertoire and the quality of the performances, not labels.

    The label Big Five is an anachronism. In the US, any of several orchestras on any given day can be considered the “best.” Those five should now include Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, St. Louis, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, and soon, Houston and Dallas. The Met Orchestra often performs on stage and has been called the finest in the world. Before our frog jumps to a conclusion, we should see that Boston’s rivals number many more than four.

  • Iain Scott says:

    But that’s why we all read Slpped Disc- for Norman’s headlines. It’s the classical world’s equivalent of Heat magazine. Or so I’m told.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    Have you actually HEARD the National Symphony, assuming that is what you mean by “Washington”? They are as much a “rival” of the BSO as the Tamp Bay Buccaneers are rivals of the New England Patriots.

  • Steve de Mena says:

    DG climbs back into the U.S. market?
    I guess Dudamel’s recent DG recordings of Mahler 9 and John Adams with the LA Phil don’t count as DG being in the US market?

  • Larry W says:

    Yes, I have heard the fine National Symphony, and performed with four of the orchestras listed. Judge as you wish, but if you have ever PLAYED music, other than on your iPod, you would know it is not a sport.

  • Anon says:

    Isn’t Nelson in the middle of recording all Shostakovich Symphonies with the Concertgebouw? Why would he compete with himself? Is that smart?

  • Richard says:

    Firstly, an announcement of is kind means nothing. These recordings sell in the few hundreds. This isn’t 1976. No one cares.

    More interesting was the BSO season announcement. It’s as boring as it gets. As both a big Shostkovich and Bruckner fan, I’m happy to see those old boys in Boston for the first time in a long time. On the other hand, it’s in the air that Nelsons is using the BSO as a stepping stone to Berlin. If that is the case, he’s only going to be here four years. Boston has been rudderless more or less since Seiji and deserves much more. Very little of vision was contained in “his first full season at the helm.”

  • Robert Holmén says:

    If previous reports posted here about the small numbers in classical music sales are true… how much of a game changer can this be? It’s a very small game.