Let’s split a conductor: the Boston-Leipzig fine print

Let’s split a conductor: the Boston-Leipzig fine print


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2015

The press release below has just been issued by Boston. We’re still awaiting the Leipzig announcement.

andris nelsons

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons will enter into a unique multidimensional partnership with Leipzig’s Gewandhausorchester in connection with Mr. Nelsons’ appointment as that orchestra’s Gewandhauskapellmeister, starting with the 2017-18 season. Mr. Nelsons takes on this new title with the Gewandhausorchester in addition to his long-term commitment as the Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director through 2022 and beyond; the GWO appointment also plays a role in consolidating Mr. Nelsons’ European activities. The BSO/GWO Alliance will explore the many historic connections between these two world-famous orchestras, inspire new cultural exchanges, and create a wide spectrum of performance and educational programs designed to bring a new dimension of concert experience to each of the orchestra’s respective audiences. As the central figure in bringing the BSO and GWO together, Andris Nelsons will be intricately involved in the planning and implementation of all the programming initiatives between the two orchestras.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester Alliance will informally begin in May 2016 when the BSO, as part of a European tour to the major musical capitals of Austria, Germany, and Luxembourg, makes its debut performance in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, one of the great European halls after which Boston’s Symphony Hall was modeled (1884 version). The BSO/GWO Alliance officially takes place over a five-year period beginning with the 2017-18 concert season. Mr. Nelsons’ 5-year contract with the Gewanhausorchester begins in the Fall of 2017; the terms include eight subscription weeks, special concerts, touring, and recording.

Co-commissions and Educational Initiatives
[Jorg Widmann, photo by Marco Borggreve]The BSO/GWO Alliance, under the leadership of Andris Nelsons, will feature a series of co-commissions, with new works presented each year of the partnership, starting with a work by German composer Jörg Widmann to be premiered in Boston and Leipzig in the 2017-18 concert season. The commissioning program—featuring an array of international composers representing a diversity of styles and generations—will create new works to be performed by both ensembles during their subscription seasons. The Alliance will also focus on some key educational initiatives including a program that will give Conducting Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center (BSO’s acclaimed summer music academy in western Massachusetts) an opportunity to assist Andris Nelsons with his work with the Gewandhausorchester. BSO musicians will also take part in the GWO’s chamber music series.

Programming Highlighting Each Orchestra’s Musical Heritage
During the 2017-18 subscription season, the BSO will celebrate “Leipzig Week in Boston” at Symphony Hall and the GWO will celebrate “Boston Week in Leipzig” at the Gewandhaus, giving each orchestra an opportunity to focus on some of the repertory for which their partner organization is best known. Since its founding in 1743, the GWO has been associated with some of the greatest figures of music history.  The orchestra has given the premiere of works by such luminaries of classical music as Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms; this tradition has continued into the 20th and 21st centuries with scores by such significant composers as Henze, Kancheli, and Rihm, among others.  The BSO’s own compositional legacy is, likewise, without parallel, including some of the seminal scores of the last century from composers ranging from Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Bartók, to Messiaen and Dutilleux, and a myriad of Americans including, Copland, Bernstein, Sessions, Carter, and Harbison, among others. This programming strand—with each orchestra spotlighting the other’s musical tradition—will also be featured in chamber music performances, lectures, panel discussions, and exhibits, with the goal of bringing audiences a new understanding of this great repertoire.

BSO Performing at Gewandhaus and GWO Performing at Symphony Hall
One of the most exciting components of the Alliance will be a chance for the BSO to perform at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and the GWO to perform at Symphony Hall in Boston, giving each orchestra’s audience a chance to appreciate this new partnership first hand. The BSO/GWO Alliance will also explore musician exchanges between the two orchestras.

Christoph Wolff to Serve as an Artistic Advisor to BSO/GWO Alliance
Christoph Wolff, Adams University Professor at Harvard University, former Director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig (2001-13), and author of numerous acclaimed texts on the history of music from the 15th and 20th centuries, will serve as an artistic advisor to the BSO/GWO Alliance (please see biography below). Further details about the programs of the BSO/GWO Alliance will be announced at a later date.

[Andris Nelsons (photo by Marco Borggreve)]“I am thrilled to accept the appointment of Gewandhauskapellmeister alongside my music directorship with the remarkable Boston Symphony Orchestra,” said Andris Nelsons. “It is also an immense privilege to be partnering these two world class institutions—each with their own deeply rich musical heritage—and to be leading them in an innovative and forward-thinking alliance spanning two continents. This wonderful new alliance between the BSO and GWO will give us a unique opportunity to explore each of these orchestra’s great music traditions, as well as create exciting and meaningful new experiences for our audiences at home and around the world. We are very much looking forward to the musical journey that lies ahead.”

[Mark Volpe (photo by Stu Rosner)]“This new alliance between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which will celebrate the historical importance of each organization, highlight our shared heritage, and stimulate new artistic synergies, is uniquely collaborative in the orchestra world and will no doubt inspire a new dimension of creative programming for both orchestras,” said Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director. “This new partnership also emphasizes Andris Nelsons’ role as a visionary leader who thinks creatively about extending the reach of the BSO through unique programming, touring, recordings, new media, and artistic partnerships. Under Andris Nelsons’ guidance and leadership, the BSO/GWO Alliance will create opportunities for important musical and cultural exchanges and bring the extraordinary musical gifts of each orchestra to a greater world-wide audience.”

[Andreas Schulz]“I am overjoyed that we have been able to initiate an exceptional artistic cooperation between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhausorchester,” said Prof. Andreas Schulz, Gewandhausdirector. “And I am thankful that this cooperation will be lead by Andris Nelsons as our shared music director, employing his wide array of artistic concepts. I am looking forward to working closely with Mark Volpe and his team at the BSO, as well as the eminent music scholar Christoph Wolff, who will act as an artistic advisor. We are founding a new and unique musical family which will set new artistic standards. Our common musical history and our unique individual growth provide us countless opportunities to expand our view of the past and the present as we craft intriguing concerts with special programs that will resonate for our own and for our partner’s audiences.”


UPDATE: Here’s the Leipzig announcement:

Congratulations, Andris Nelsons! The Gewandhausorchester has chosen him as 21st Gewandhauskapellmeister. His appointment has been approved by the city council. He will take up his position in September 2017.


Endlich, two hours later, the Leipzig protocol:

Das Gewandhausorchester und das Boston Symphony Orchestra eint eine langjährige Verbindung. Mit dem Amtsantritt von Andris Nelsons in der Saison 2017/2018 kann diese weiter intensiviert werden.

Die Geschichte der engen künstlerischen Verbindung zwischen Leipzig und Boston begann im Jahr 1881, als Orchestergründer Henry Lee Higginson den am Leipziger Konservatorium ausgebildeten Georg Henschel als ersten Dirigenten des Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) engagierte. In der Folge wurden immer wieder Dirigenten berufen, die in Leipzig ausgebildet worden waren, oder Stellen im Gewandhausorchester (GWO) innehatten. Darunter Wilhelm Gericke, Emil Pauer, Max Fiedler, Karl Muck und – vielleicht der wichtigste – Arthur Nikisch. Mitte des Zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts wurde die Verbindung bekräftigt, als Charles Münch im Jahr 1949 Chefdirigent des BSO wurde (bis 1962). Münch hatte ebenfalls in Leipzig studiert und war von 1923 bis 1933 erster Konzertmeister des Gewandhausorchesters.

Darüber hinaus ist der Neubau der Boston Symphony Hall aus dem Jahre 1900 vom Zweiten Gewandhaus inspiriert.

Auf der Grundlage der historischen Bindung planen Mark Volpe, Managing Director des BSO und Gewandhausdirektor Andreas Schulz eine einzigartige Partnerschaft unter Leitung von Andris Nelsons, um das Erbe und die Stärken beider Orchester zu vereinen und zu erkunden.

Die Kooperation umfasst unterschiedliche Aspekte:

Die Kooperation zwischen dem Boston Symphony Orchestra und dem

Gewandhausorchester, unter der Leitung von Andris Nelsons, wird in jedem Jahr

gemeinsam ein Orchesterwerk in Auftrag geben. Den Beginn macht eine neue

Komposition von Jörg Widmann, die in der Saison 2017/2018 in Boston

uraufgeführt und dann in Leipzig zu hören sein wird. Europäische und

amerikanische Komponisten, die verschiedene Stile repräsentieren und aus

unterschiedlichen Generationen stammen, werden mit Werken beauftragt.

Ausgewählte Mitglieder der Dirigenten-Akademie des Tanglewood Music Centre

(Sommerakademie des Boston Symphony Orchestra in Massachusets) sollen die

Gelegenheit erhalten, Andris Nelsons bei seiner Arbeit zu assistieren, wenn er

beim Gewandhausorchester arbeitet. Musiker des BSO werden außerdem in

Musikvermittlungsprojekten des Gewandhausorchesters partizipieren.

Kernrepertoire des Partnerorchesters interpretieren

Die beiden Orchester werden je eine Konzertwoche gestalten, in der sie Werke aus

dem Kernrepertoire des jeweils anderen Ensembles aufs Programm setzen. Seit

seiner Gründung ist das Gewandhausorchester mit einigen der berühmtesten

Auftragswerke und Musikvermittlung

Vertretern der Musikgeschichte verbunden und hat Weltliteratur des sinfonischen Kanons von

Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn und Brahms uraufgeführt. Diese Tradition reicht bis ins 20.

Jahrhundert mit Partituren von bedeutenden Komponisten wie Kancheli, Henze, Rihm, Mantovani

und vielen anderen.

Das Vermächtnis der fürs BSO komponierten Werke umfasst ebenso wegweisende Kompositionen des

letzten Jahrhunderts zum Beispiel von Strawinsky, Prokofjew, Bartók oder Messiaen sowie von

unzähligen amerikanischen Komponisten wie Copland, Bernstein, Sessions, Carter, Harbison und


Die Kooperation bietet dem Publikum die Möglichkeit, das musikalische Erbe des anderen Orchesters

kennen zu lernen. Die Orchesterkonzerte werden flankiert von Kammermusik, Vorträgen,

Diskussionen und Ausstellungen mit dem Ziel, den Blick auf die musikalische Entwicklung des

Partnerorchesters über die Grenzen hinweg zu weiten.

Gastspielkonzerte des BSO im Gewandhaus

sowie des GWO in der Symphony Hall Boston

Die Kooperation umfasst Gastspiele der Orchester im jeweils anderen Land, damit das jeweilige

Publikum die Partnerschaft aus erster Hand erleben kann. Dieser Teil der Kooperation beginnt am 5.

Mai 2016, wenn das Boston Symphony Orchestra erstmals in seiner Geschichte im Gewandhaus


Geplant ist außerdem der Austausch von Musikern zwischen den beiden Orchestern.

Christoph Wolff, Musikalischer Kurator

Musikalischer Kurator des Projekts wird Prof. Christoph Wolff, der von 2001 bis 2013 Direktor des

Leipziger Bach-Archivs war und unter anderem an der Harvard-Universität in Cambridge,

Massachusetts, lehrt. Er ist Autor einer Vielzahl von Artikeln über die Musikgeschichte des 15. und 20.

Jahrhunderts. Weitere Details zu den Programmen der Kooperation werden zu einem späteren

Zeitpunkt verkündet.

Zitat Andris Nelsons

“Ich freue mich sehr, neben der Leitung des bemerkenswerten Boston Symphony Orchestra, die

Berufung zum Gewandhauskapellmeister anzunehmen“, sagt Andris Nelsons. „Es ist ein großes

Privileg, Partner dieser beiden Weltklasseorchester mit ihrer jeweils eigenen reichen Tradition sein zu

dürfen und darüber hinaus an der Spitze einer innovativen, zukunftsweisenden und Kontinente

übergreifenden Kooperation zu stehen. Diese wunderbare neue Verbindung zwischen BSO und GWO

eröffnet uns die einzigartige Möglichkeit, die großen Musiktraditionen beider Orchester zu erkunden

und aufregende, sinnstiftende Erfahrungen für das Publikum zuhause und in der Welt zu schaffen. Wir

freuen uns alle sehr auf die musikalische Reise, die vor uns liegt.“

Zitat Andreas Schulz, Gewandhausdirektor

„Ich bin überglücklich, dass wir eine außergewöhnliche künstlerische Kooperation zwischen dem BSO

und dem GWO initiieren können“, sagt Gewandhausdirektor Andreas Schulz zu der neuen

Verbindung. „Und ich bin dankbar, dass Andris Nelsons als unser gemeinsamer Chefdirigent diese

Kooperation mit seinen vielfältigen künstlerischen Ideen vorantreiben wird. Ich freue mich auf die

Zusammenarbeit mit Christoph Wolff und ebenso mit meinem Kollegen Mark Volpe sowie seinem

Team beim BSO. Wir gründen eine neue und einzigartige musikalische Familie, die künstlerische

Maßstäbe setzen wird. Unsere musikgeschichtlichen Gemeinsamkeiten und die individuellen

Entwicklungen geben uns zahllose Möglichkeiten, den Blick sowohl für die Geschichte als auch für die

Gegenwart zu weiten und für das eigene und jeweils andere Publikum in reizvollen Konzerten mit

besonderen Programmen zum Klingen zu bringen.“

Zitat Mark Volpe, Managing Director BSO

„Das neue Bündnis zwischen dem Boston Symphony Orchestra und dem Gewandhausorchester, das

die historische Bedeutung der Ensembles unterstreicht, betont unser gemeinsames Erbe und befördert

die künstlerische Kooperation. Die Zusammenarbeit ist einzigartig in der Orchesterwelt und wird

beide Orchester zweifellos zu einer neuen Dimension kreativer Programmgestaltung anregen“, sagt

Mark Volpe. „Die neue Partnerschaft verstärkt auch die Rolle von Andris Nelsons als visionärer

Leiter, der kreativ über die Erweiterung der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung des BSO durch besondere

Programmgestaltung, Gastspiele, CD- und DVD-Aufnahmen, virtuelle Medien und künstlerische

Partnerschaften nachdenkt. Unter der Leitung und Führung von Andris Nelsons werden das BSO und

das GWO Möglichkeiten für einen bedeutenden musikalischen und kulturellen Austausch schaffen

und die außergewöhnlichen musikalischen Gaben jedes Orchesters einer weltweiten Zuhörerschaft




  • herrera says:

    You would think Welser-Most could have done the same arrangement with Cleveland and Vienna. But of course, the Viennese would have had to go to…Cleveland.

    • Tom Chambers says:

      The VPO has gone to Cleveland, most recently under Muti. But indeed it would be nice if they visited Cleveland regularly instead of occasionally.

  • Olassus says:

    Candy coat!

  • Milka says:

    Great study in BS – and the stupids buy it .

  • urania says:

    Yes…..foam, foam, foam…! Wonder which PR agent did put this together!

  • Skippy says:

    Weird. Wonder what the story is behind this? Why would the BSO share its new music director with another orchestra, especially in the wake of James Levine’s tenure. And why would Nelson dabble with Leipzig, which is a fine, storied orchestra, but remotely in the BSO’s league.

    To put it another way, WTF?

    • urania says:

      Maybe this was cooked much earlier and Chailly left not on his own…!

      • Skippy says:

        Looks as if this deal with Leipzig is very Boston-centric: He’ll be in Leipzig in May, September, and December–months the BSO is either the Pops or is off doing whatever. He’s conducting eight concerts/year in Leipzig whereas he’s contracted to conduct 12 subscription concerts in Boston and three weekends at Tanglewood.

        Mr. Volpe is not so dumb, you know…

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        @Urania: I doubt it. I’ve spoken to Gewandhaus players and they love Chailly.

        • Urania says:

          Yes, they love him, but the strings are pulled somewhere else…maybe. Nowadays people would sell their mother for much less. Anyhow I know Maestro Chailly, I am not convinced about Mr. Nelsons. But he might get a burnout with all these actions.

        • Max Grimm says:

          I wouldn’t look to the players but more in the direction of the “Stadtrat”.

    • Holger H. says:

      Leipzig Gewandhaus hardly in the league of the BSO? That’s BS and written either by someone clueless, or by a poster boy of the BSO.

      • Skippy says:

        Neither. I’ve heard both orchestras in their own halls on multiple occasions. Clearly, you have not.

        Leipzig’s strings are marvelous (player for player, not as strong as Boston, but the ensemble work is superb), but their woodwinds and brass are not in the same league. At all.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    In one respect this appointment is quite disgraceful. When Nelsons was named as the Boston Symphony’s Music Director it was made expressly clear to him that he could not continue in a similar role with the CBSO. So what has changed, given that the CBSO is arguably as good an ensemble as the Lepzig orchestra? The cynical explanation is that Nelsons wants to earn megabucks and add to his many haloes before he finally baton-charges into an early grave……. And the more charitable explanation? Answers on a postcard please!

  • william osborne says:

    A principle of history: as art forms die, their stylistic variations become more and more homogenized and finally descend to orthodoxy. The Gewandhaus is a very different orchestra than Boston, German trumpets and trombones, German clarinets, the German oboe sound, etc., but this phony fusion will be one more step in the Germanic orchestral sound and style being lost.

    A second principle of history: as art forms die, the more they thump their own chests. Genuinely living, intelligent art forms have no need for such self-aggrandizing pronouncements.

    A third notable fact: the USA with its extreme wealth, power, and population of 320 million can’t produce a conductor qualified to lead the BSO. Bravo Juilliard, Eastman, New England Conservatory, Yale, Manhattan School, USC, UCLA, San Francisco Conservatory, Indiana University, University of Michigan, etc.. We see what your true abilities in training conductors really are. To put it colorfully, they are expensive, empty sepulchers issuing worthless diplomas.

    No? Then point to the American conductors of our “big six” orchestras. There’s one, and he’s on his way out after a short and undistinguished tenure. Well, maybe they can find a conductor from the New World in evil Venezuela…

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      “To put it colorfully, they are expensive, empty sepulchers issuing worthless diplomas…”

      Wow, the quote of the day. Alan Gilbert, MTT, Marin Alsop, Michael Stern, Yannick (who is at least North American and the product of a North American Conservatory) eat your collective hearts out. There are even some sepulchral Brits who will be lurking about on the continent in important positions like Orchestre de Paris.

      As a former caretaker of several “weighed in the balance and found wanting…” institutions, I agree that there were, are now, and will be about 10 conductors world-wide at the highest level. Is Andris Nelsons among them? Only time will tell.

      Perhaps they all need to take up a toothpick as a baton like Mr. Putin’s favorite maestro.

      • V.Lind says:

        Yannick is Canadian and principally Canadian-trained. He is still Music Director of Orchestre Metropolitaine, not a million miles from Philadelphia, and of Rotterdam, until 2017-18. Canada is not just an adjunct of the United States, whatever the latter thinks.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          Thanks for clarifying that Yannick is Canadian. I mistakenly thought that they were part of North America. My point is that all of these fine conductors on my very incomplete list were educated outside of Europe in “empty sepulchers issuing worthless diplomas.”

          • V.Lind says:

            Mr. Osborne was talking specifically of the USA. Granted, he overlooked another conductor from the “New World” to the north rather than the southern continent. Just reminding you that Canada is just as sovereign as Venezuela, or the us. Canada punches above its weight in terms of international music stars. All too often they are lumped in with generalisations about Americans. Gets annoying after a bit.

      • william osborne says:

        The names you list come to 5 conductors over a 40 year period out of a population of 320 million. And still only one for the big 6 orchestras. Meanwhile look at Finnish conductors from a country of 5.5 million people: Esa-Pekka Salon, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Osmo Vänskä, and Susanna Mälkki. For me, at least, a cause for thought.

        Why has there only been one American in history among the world’s top conductors even though we have had a fairly high ratio of top orchestras? Why do so many American conductors occupy secondary positions and never rise higher? Who can answer these questions? Or better, who even asks them?

        • william osborne says:

          One might also observe that Alan Gilbert, MTT, Marin Alsop, Michael Stern, and Yannick are all in the second tier. And let’s not forget Slatkin. Even if such evaluations are subjective, the BSO isn’t calling them. Why not?

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          De gustibus…The Finns mentioned are not on my short list of the top 10 world-wide. I assume that the one-in-320-million is Leonard Bernstein who, by accident I’m sure, received part of his musical formation (piano and conducting) at the local sepulcher in an east coast city.

          I put this out there as my final word: the enemy of great conducting is the jet plane which enables the gifted few to conduct everywhere. No one stays still long enough to learn the craft or to mold an orchestra’s musical personality like Szell, Ormandy, Koussevitzky, Karajan, and even Muti today who accepts precious few guest conducting gigs. I also remember a certain Simon Rattle staying in Birmingham for a few years to learn the trade.

          • william osborne says:

            True, the jet has made conducting a superficial art — part of the death of orchestras. Whatever a top ten list might be, I suspect most would put Salonen and Vänskä above any current American conductors. On a per capita basis we would have 64 conductors of their quality. So why is the Sibelius Academy doing so much better? Isn’t that a worthwhile question?

            True about Bernstein being very American and American trained, but one conductor in the top tier is paltry pickings for a country so big and rich, no? Perhaps such an autocratic, feudalistic profession is antithetic to the American spirit.

            So where do conductors come from and why? From a recent historical perspective, what do Germans, Austrians, Finns, and Italians all have in common? Ah, another embarrassing question…

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Exactly as I wrote in The Maestro Myth, back in 1991.

  • Joel Stein says:

    As a long time subscriber of the BSO, they still need a composer in residence or at least an artist in residence. I can’t get too enthused about the PR surrounding the joint alliance. The BSO has plenty of money to commission works and any Bostonian who wants to hear any orchestra can trip down to NYC for a weekend. But I expected Nelsons to take another job. Twelve weeks is twelve weeks.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    There is too much hand-wrenching here along nationalistic lines. Nobody has so far mentioned the catastrophic situation in Germany, which used to provide the world with top-notch conductors and is now struggling: Thielemann is almost 60 and there is nobody else in his generation of similar stature and certainly nobody under 40 who has the potential to become a star on the world’s stage rather than just another of the many technicians we are currently plagued with. So, what’s the fuss all about? Just as the great wine terroirs do not produce fantastic vintages year in year out, and great literature from one cultural provenance gives way to years of drought and desperation, so commentators will just have to get used to the fact that talent can be nurtured but not manufactured. What’s the betting that a generation from now Finland or Il Sistema for that matter will not be producing great musical exports in the current numbers?

    • william osborne says:

      Your observations might be a confirmation of the above observations. As countries like Germany, Austria, and Italy have left behind authoritarian traditions and strong devotions to Romantic cultural nationalism, they will also weaken their capacity for producing great conductors. People like Thielemann come across as anachronisms in more ways than one.

      At the same time, the Sibelius Academy illustrates that conducting is comprised of many skills that can be taught, and that the proper teaching of those skills puts young conductors ahead of the competition.

      We should also note the relationships between the production of conductors and orchestras per capita in countries like Finland (the highest ratio in the world) and Germany and Austria which are also at the top. American conductors and opera singers have to go to Europe to build and establish their careers because the continent offers many high quality regional orchestras and houses where they can develop their skills. ROPA orchestras in the USA, by contrast, are so underfunded and under-recognized, that they can’t serve the same function.

      A case in point is the New Mexico Phil in my home state. After a bankruptcy and reformation, the tutti string players who have worked in the orchestra for decades are now making about $3000 per year serving a metro population of close to a million people.

  • Urania says:

    Here a video about the ‘important’ event! Der Stadtrat is enchanted!