Breaking: Leipzig names its new music director

Breaking: Leipzig names its new music director


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2015

He is, as anticipated, Andris Nelsons.


Slipped Disc editorial: This is, whichever way you look at it, bad news for Boston. Nelsons was in line earlier this year to be music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. Had he won that vote, he would have been forced to reduced his Boston Symphony commitment. Much the same now applies to Leipzig.

Face has been saved, and the deal sweetened, by ‘a new cooperative partnership between the two orchestras’ which will mean each taking up residency in the other’s hall for a while. But that attraction will be held together only by the personality of the chief conductor, an element that is not limitless. When it fades, things will come apart.

The fact that the deal was announced in Boston more than an hour before it was confirmed in Leipzig underlines the heavy spin that has been put on the arrangement.

On the plus side, Nelsons is a terrific catch for Leipzig. He’s a brilliant, natural conductor with an insatiable appetite for hard work. He will build on the international kudos that Riccardo Chailly gained for the orchestra and he will probably point it a little more north and eastwards, towards his native Baltic and Russian culture.

Leipzig have done well, Boston much less so.

Further analysis here.


  • Karen Fodor says:

    Boston should have taken out an exclusivity clause?Or maybe they did and he refused ?

    This dilution is not good for either Boston or Leipzig

  • John Gayley says:

    Wow, great for Leipzig. Very exciting. In reality I think it would have been hard for Boston to hold Nelsons’ complete attention for as long as their recent extension implied. So this is perhaps the “best worst case”.

  • Halldor says:

    “This is, whichever way you look at it, bad news for Boston”

    *reaches for handkerchief and onion* What’s sauce for the goose, eh..?

  • Malcolm james says:

    Boston, Leipzig, Tanglewood, Bayreuth, young family. I fear something is going to give sometime.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Not necessarily. Valery Gergiev is proof that seemingly impossible schedules are in fact possible to maintain over prolonged periods.

  • herrera says:

    Look, James Levine couldn’t split his time between Boston and NY, and that’s just a train ride away, and eventually the Met won out. You would think Boston had learned a lesson. Well, it’s not like Boston had a choice.

    • Anon says:

      I’d suggest the Met is a very different situation with the amount of rehearsal an opera production may demand over a period of time.

      Nelsons will be in Leipzig for eight weeks a year, plus “recordings, touring, and special concerts”. That’s probably no more than four months total, probably less. I can’t remember what the Boston commitment is, but likely to be similar. That leaves him at least four months a year for other projects, time off, study &c. which I would think should be manageable. Obviously he thinks so.

  • herrera says:

    As much as it is bad news for Boston, it is worse news for Berlin. Both of Berlin’s original top choices will now be working in Germany with rival orchestras.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Au contraire, Herrera. Leipzig is not far from Berlin, so having Nelsons in Leipzig *enriches* the spectrum of choices available to Berliners; in fact, every time I am in Berlin, I also go to Leipzig to hear the GOL, just did so in June to hear them with Kremer and Chailly.

      Dresden (assuming you meant Thielemann as the other “original top choice”) is a little farther, but still very doable as a nice relaxed 2-day trip from Berlin.

      I had thought a really good choice for Leipzig would have been Fischer, but then again, that leaves him in Berlin with the Konzerthausorchester. And all these and the other orchestras and opera houses in the general area aren’t “rivals”; they are all part of the uniquely rich cultural landscape of the region which grows richer and richer all the time.

    • Simon S. says:

      Apparently, neither of them was “Berlin’s original top choice” – not in the sense that he would have gained the required majority. The supposed insider reports are contradictory on whteher any of them ever was a serious candidate, but AFAIK nobody claims Nelosns said no to Berlin after having been elected.

      Howvwer, let’s assume this for the sake of the argument – you still couldn’t say Leipzig now gets something Berlin wanted and didn’t get. Many things may have changed in the music world since Karajan’s death, but it still seems unthinkable the BPO would share his chief conductor with another orch (except maybe a short transition period) and, furthermore, coordinate their programme with them. What Leipzig has agreed to with Nelsons would have been utterly unacceptable for the BPO.

  • jim says:

    Why all the b1tchy negativity? It’s not as though there is anything unusual about a conductor having more than one orchestra at a time and if he actually does reduce the number of additional guest conducting jobs he accepts there is no reason to believe that he isn’t capable of both jobs.

    Regarding Levine’s commute between NY and Boston. The closeness of the two cities probably made that relationship more difficult than if they had been further apart. Levine once scheduled a matinee of one of the Ring Operas in NY on the same day he had an evening performance of Mahler’s 2nd in Boston. Even for a younger, healthier man that would have been an extremely risky proposition – for Levine it was insanity. He pulled it off, but all it would have taken is a little bad weather and all bets would have been off. I think it’s safe to say that Nelsons will not be in Leipzig and Boston on the same day.

  • Will says:

    Levine’s health made balancing two commitments impossible. Getting sick for near simultaneous season openings!

  • MacroV says:

    It’s a totally common practice in the music world for a conductor to lead two orchestras on different continents. This isn’t even as far as David Robertson conducting in St. Louis and Sydney! The only orchestra that ever seems to have an exclusive music director is…wait for it, Berlin! And I guess the NY Phil has been Alan Gilbert’s only job. So what, pray tell, is all the fuss about?

    • Nick says:

      Totally agree. The number of conductors with two “full time” posts is relatively high. Virtually no orchestra these days requires or wants exclusivity and MD appointments are rarely for more than 12 – 14 weeks a season. If van Zweden can commute between Dallas and Hong Kong with a few additional posts thrown in and Andrew Davis the equally long commute between his posts at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Melbourne Symphony with additional engagements at the Met and elsewhere, the Boston/Leipzig arrangement will work out extremely well both for Nelsons and the orchestras without one or other being favoured. How on earth this is bad news for Boston totally defeats me!

  • Jonathan Grieves-Smith says:

    Surely, this is – purely and simply – very good news?

  • Emil says:

    A few notes:
    1- As nearly everyone points out, nearly all major conductors have two posts.
    2- For Nelsons, I presume that he will want to reduce his guest conducting, given the young family. Having two stable bases consolidates that foundation.
    3- Given that his wife sings regularly on the American East coast and in Germany/Austria, having a continental base makes it easier for them to have a stable life.
    4- Weren’t you suggesting that Chailly – one of the few conductors adverse to double-posting – would be a top candidate for Boston, despite already having Leipzig?
    5- 10 weeks + 8 weeks = 18 weeks. That leaves plenty of time for Bayreuth, the Met, London, special projects, family time, vacations, and even travel by ferry if he wants to.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Great news.