Breaking: Boston Symphony names English composer as its artistic partner

In a sign that Andris Nelsons is breaking the Boston mould, the music director has just named Thomas Adès to the new position of artistic partner for the next three seasons.

The pair worked together in Birmingham, Andris’s previous job.

Andris said today: ‘It is incredibly exciting for me and my beloved BSO that the exceptional Thomas Adès will join us as Artistic Partner and work very closely with us to create fascinating programs for our devoted audiences here in Boston, at Tanglewood, and, through broadcasts and recordings, around the world. Universally regarded as one of the most creative souls in the world of classical music today, Thomas Adès and his accomplishments are extraordinary.  As the BSO’s Artistic Partner, Thomas will be involved with the orchestra on every level of his outstanding talents as a composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher. There is no doubt that he will inspire all of us at the BSO to ever greater achievements, which we hope will become special gifts for all of those who so love listening to the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.’

thomas ades christodoulou
photo (c) Chris Christodoulou/LebrechtM&A

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  • It’s a good move by BSO – Thomas Adès is an outstanding musician and an extremely pleasant man to work with. Their MD’s name, by the way, is Andris Nelsons.

  • “Universally regarded as one of the most creative souls in the world of classical music today, Thomas Adès and his accomplishments are extraordinary.” Quite an achievement to put so many over-the-top and very questionable pronouncements in one short sentence.

    • Adès produces saleable music that is easy to enjoy at the first listening. His use of popular music from tango to techno, lovely orchestrations of Couperin, and a jolly ability to outrage go home in a large segment of the public. That’s not the kind of music I go back to, but I have no objection to listen to some of it between serious music in a concert program.

      • Agreed. Compared with ‘Blut und Boden’ modernism, one can endure it, and whisper to one’s neighbour without being overheard.

  • I’d question whether this is something that Boston audiences are crying out for right now. Nothing against Ades, who’s a fine composer, but he has zero connection to the city and he’ll probably just fly in and out for a couple performances.

    Given all of the excellent music schools in Boston, you’d think they could have found someone more local.

    • Ades has already established a relationship with both the Orchestra and the audience here in Boston. He has conducted several memorable and very well received concerts over the last several seasons. And yes, the Orchestra should cultivate a more active relationship with the many local musicians and composers in this area, but that doesn’t diminish the excitement of the Ades appointment.

    • “…he has zero connection to the city and he’ll probably just fly in and out for a couple performances.”
      – Considering that this seems quite acceptable regarding a fair few music/artistic directors throughout the orchestral world, it shouldn’t be a problem in Mr. Adès’ case either.

  • Doesn’t say much for US musical education -whether it be Juilliard , Curtis and a slew
    of others . Deplorable that Boston symphony has to go outside the US borders to
    find suitable talent … can it be that in all of theUS millions there is not a composer to
    match the modest talents of an Ades and the conductor Nelsons .Quite pathetic .

    • Great idea. Let’s then also throw out all Americans who are now connected to European orchestras and opera houses. I wonder how many fine musicians might be hurt by that idea.
      Music and arts in general are not sports, where national teams can inspire a harmless form of nationalism. The nationality should not matter in music. And BTW, if you are opposed to Adès, why not throw out the conductor as well? I am sure that there is some American talent somewhere who’d be better qualified (at least according to a jingoistic, trumpean mob). Perhaps one of the many Americans who would be fired from their European positions, if your idea takes universal flight.

      • You betcha there is in the US some far better talent than what is at the present BSO
        Americans have been bamboozled into believing that great “classical ” talent comes only
        from Europe . The myth prevents many home grown superb talents from reaching their
        maturity on their own soil so they flee . Sadly most US classical music audiences hear
        greatness in a third rate central european conductor hack but not in a first rate home
        grown talent, the clever european hack has caught on to the fact and trades on it for what
        is worth . A first rate US player stands little chance against a second rate european
        prize winner, it’s the human condition .

  • Every success for Ades is a hammerblow to his jealous rival (and senior by 11 years), fellow Brit composer George Benjamin. So here’s to Ades

    • JB had already been grabbed by the Future Symphony Institute and is much too busy reading SD to be bothered by orchestral practice. Don’t tell anybody.


    • Me too. That would be a wise choice. By the way, can anybody show the score of “Psyche” to Christian Thielemann? I’m sure he would love that piece.

    • Seriously, that would be very wise, Bostonians would be very pleased with the choice and a work like “Psyche” would become standard repertoire, but unfortunately the people who make such decisions in orchestras and other cultural institutions are more interested in short-sighted sensational events than in culture, thus Adès is surely a better investment, we can have for sure that a concert version of a certain passage in “Powder her Face” would make headlines in the “Boston Globe” and maybe draw a quite new public to classical music.

      • ‘Psyche’ is in the forefront of a renaissance of traditional / classical music, already going-on here & there for quite some time, and maybe at some stage there will be orchestral programmers with enough brains to understand the opportunity that such revival means for their job, their orchestra and especially, for their audiences.

        The problem is, though, that most management employees have studied music at a time when ‘progressiveness’ was understood as ‘improvement’ instead of the other way around, which is the real professional approach.

  • So right. BSO is a snoozy organization. Nelsons doing his Shostakovich thing and all four Brahms symphonies in one week. Some new works sprinkled about without commitment or imagination. Ades is window dressing. Lame stabs at audience development.

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