Official: Andris Nelsons is DG’s new Karajan

Official: Andris Nelsons is DG’s new Karajan


norman lebrecht

May 19, 2016

They have just signed him to record a substantial Bruckner series with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, along with a Beethoven symphonic cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Shostakovich symphonies in Boston.

Actually, even Karajan never signed so much away in a day.

Press release below.

nelsons nobel

Andris Nelsons, widely considered as one of today’s most charismatic and compelling conductors, signs an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The announcement, made in Berlin on 19 May 2016, represents a major milestone in the Latvian artist’s recording career and prepares the way for three landmark projects.

Earlier this month, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and DG announced that their Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich project with Nelsons had paved the way for an extension to the yellow label’s ongoing series of live Shostakovich recordings, which will now encompass the composer’s complete symphonies and his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.

Advanced discussions are underway between Deutsche Grammophon, Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig about a collaboration that will shed new light on the symphonies of Bruckner, redefining Bruckner’s very distinctive sound world.

In addition, Nelsons will record Beethoven’s complete symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker in the calendar years 2016-2019, and he returns to perform the complete Beethoven cycle in 2020, the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. “I am absolutely delighted to be substantially partnering with Deutsche Grammophon,” comments Andris Nelsons. “Deutsche Grammophon’s commitment to our Shostakovich cycle in Boston and the tradition, expertise, and excellence they bring to each recording has been so important to me. I look forward to partnering with Deutsche Grammophon, welcoming them into my musical family with the two extraordinary musical institutions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Furthermore, I am so honoured to be invited to perform and record a Beethoven cycle with the Wiener Philharmoniker. These revelatory works by the genius composers of Shostakovich, Bruckner and Beethoven will be the focus for my upcoming recordings with three of the world’s greatest orchestras. I could not be happier – it is both a dream and an honour.”


  • Peter says:

    Why would anyone want Nelson in Bruckner with the Gewandhaus, an orchestra he barely knows yet? I’ll happily stick with a number of live discs of Blomstedt with the Gewandhaus in Bruckner, which are his life-time’s achievement of studying that composer and a considerable number of years performing them in partnership with the Gewandhaus.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Fully agree regarding Bruckner by the Gewandhausorchester & Blomstedt.
      Regarding Nelsons’ Leipziger Bruckner Cycle, there is the old “joke”…
      Concertgoer: “What’s the Maestro conducting this week?”
      Orchestra Musician: “I don’t know but we’re playing Bruckner.”

    • Olassus says:

      Totally agree.

      In any case, none of this stuff is going to sell in large quantity.

  • Mike says:

    Oh good Lord. What some marketing, a baby face and a few planted rumours do, ay?

  • Doktor Avalanche says:

    From Boston, congratulations to Andris Nelsons! While he’s a real talent and I believe he will become even more formidable as he gains more experience and wisdom, personally I think it’s a mistake for him to be recording a cycle of the Bruckner symphonies at this age and level of experience/conducting wisdom. Going one step further, I don’t think any conductor under the age of 60 should be recording a Bruckner cycle.

    Can anyone think of a single conductor whose recorded Bruckner at a young age is better than their recorded Bruckner at a later age? I honestly can’t think of even one example.

    • mario lutz says:

      Only one example, for Bruckner 9 Vienna Philharmonic Zubin Mehta DECCA
      Only one example (full cycle symphonies) young Daniel Barenboim for DG

    • jim says:

      Have you heard him conduct Bruckner here in Boston? I have. Last year he did the 7th and this season the 3rd and both performances were excellent and well worth preserving.

      • Doktor Avalanche says:

        Yes, Jim, I heard both. I thought the 7th was unsuccessful, and the 3rd was successful, albeit of the 3rd version of the symphony. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the only version of that symphony that truly works to my ears is the 1st version.

    • Patrick Gillot says:

      well I just listened to an amazing concert in HK of Bruckner 4 with Philadelphia and Nezet Seguin

  • Manu says:

    Incredible, specially the Beethoven cycle in Vienna…

  • Geoffrey says:

    He’s an excellent young conductor. Among the concerts I’ve seen him conduct, his Salome at Carnegie Hall in 2014 with the Wiener Staatsoper was beyond words. He conducts well beyond his age, and I’m sure a Bruckner cycle from him with ANY orchestra would be of interest and perhaps even great. His Schostakowitsch 10th with the Boston Symphony is far better and deeply emotional than Petrenko’s with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. It’s gritty and lifelike where Petrenko’s is smoothed over.

    • Peter says:

      One record company executive to another. “Do you think Mr Nelsons in Bruckner will be of interest and perhaps even great?” “If so, we should definitely go for that, especially as Bruckner is so cheap and is always a big seller”.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      And Skrowaczeski is better than both of them – heard him both in concert and on disc. But in the end, as DH Lawrence wrote, all criticism is rationalised prejudice.

    • Sue says:

      Absolutely agree. Nelsons can turn his hand to anything and do it well. I’ve seen him on the podium; he’s on fire!! And gorgeous.

      • DESR says:

        Casual sexism and objectivisation! You do seem to have lost focus on the music, of late.

        But get to the back of the line, anyway: have you SEEN his wife? Way hot. Her voice is ok too.

      • Peter says:

        Well, well, well, I have yet to see him conduct one legato, one organic long phrasing. He sure can mobilize energy, raw force. If that’s what today goes for a good conductor, I rest my case and Furtwängler is dead and we have killed him.

        • jim says:

          I suggest you go to the BSO website and stream his recent performance of the Mahler 9th. The string playing in the beginning of the 4th movement in particular was as beautiful as anything I’ve ever heard in a concert hall and the phrasing was exactly as it should have been.

        • Stefan Solyom says:

          Dear Peter, just out of curiosity: what do you do for a living?

    • Ppellay says:

      I heard both conductors in the same work and my impressions were precisely the opposite! Go figure………..

  • Pedro says:

    Why do you need a new Karajan? I am happy with the one we had.

    • urania says:

      Bravo…these kind of headlines…thumbs down…

    • Andrew Matthews says:

      Well said Pedro, my sentiments entirely. I heard him Nelsons 12 months or so ago conduct Brahms at RFH. 4th was dire. No beat to it, timing was all over the place.

  • Milka says:

    It’s a business for DG– one suspects if a monkey could be found to beat time it would
    instead of Nelsons be engaged to do a Beethoven cycle , a monkey would sell more based on the novelty though Mr. Nelsons might give it a good run from the visual standpoint .

    • DESR says:

      Blimey, even Milka has lost her artistic centre and objectivity over wee Andris…

      The little chipmunk…

      • Larry W says:

        You can’t lose something you never had.

      • Milka says:

        Rest assured the centre is still there ..have you heard the dreary BSO lately?
        Nelsons putting on a ridiculous visual show and the orchestra going its own way.
        It is but a matter of time …………….

        • jim says:

          I suspect a monkey with a typewriter would have more intelligent things to say about music than Milka ever has.

        • Larry W says:

          Speaking of time, Milka, it’s about time you tell us what violinist levels all of Bron’s students past and present (i.e. Repin and Vengerov).

        • nimitta says:

          Milka: “…have you heard the dreary BSO lately?”

          Oh dear, have you? I mean, did you even hear one of these superb performances during the 2015-16 season under Nelsons?:

          Shostakovich 9th, 5th, Hamlet suite, 8th
          Strauss Elektra
          Berg VC
          Henze 8th
          Abrahamsen ‘let me tell you’
          Tsontakis Sonnets
          Bruckner 3rd
          Mahler 9th
          Debussy La Mer
          Ravel La Valse

          I can’t imagine you did, for there wasn’t a ‘dreary’ bar among the lot. However, if you did hear any of these – or think you did – you might want to see an audiologist.

    • Larry W says:

      Milka’s fan base is growing.

  • Mark Stenroos says:

    Of course, Karajan never had to sign on to DG for a mountain of projects. They would record just about anything he wanted at any time (well, maybe not so much when it came to Schoenberg), and he had EMI and later Sony to play off DG to get the best deal possible.

  • MacroV says:

    I get the Shostakovich and Bruckner, but DG is just competing against itself (Bernstein, Bohm, others?) in recording a Beethoven cycle with the VPO.

    • Fred says:

      I disagree, if only because both orchestral players and recording sonics keep improving. A cycle recorded next year of equal artistic merit to one recorded decades ago will be the preferable cycle purely due to the technological improvements. So, now it’s up to Nelsons to try to reach the artistic excellence of his predecessors.

      And if we STOP trying to make recordings that outdo the older masters, then we might as well pack up the whole classical repertoire recording thing now, right?

    • Bruce says:

      Wasn’t there an Abbado/VPO Beethoven cycle back in the day?

      (Yes there was: )

      • Petros Linardos says:

        There were three DG Abbado cycles: one with the Vienna Philharmonic in the late 80s, one with the Berlin Phil in the 90s, and then a live from Rome one with the Berlin Phil from 2001. The Rome cycle was recorded after Abbado’s bout with cancer, and is a more deeply felt version of the earlier Berlin cycle. The Rome set, however, still had the Berlin 9th, not the one from Rome.

  • Daniel Andrews says:

    New Karajan? Karajan made the vast majority of his recordings for DG with the same orchestra.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Whether or not Nelsons records Beethoven, Bruckner or Mantovani with either the Berlin Phil or the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, no one is forcing anyone to actually BUY the discs.

  • RW2013 says:

    how disappointing….
    I had hoped that it would be announced that HE would also record the cycles of Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius as well as all the Wagner operas to “shed new light” on what all those old conducting masters didn’t “define” enough for us.

  • cherrera says:

    Vienna’s Beethoven cycle with Thielemann (available all over youtube) is so uninsightful as to be a waste of time. That goes to show the Viennese don’t always get it right as to whom it hands its cycles to. I have no particularly great hope for Nelson’s.

    In general, no conductor should do any cycle unless he or she has done some ground breaking research that merits doing a cycle.

  • not-so-stupid-as-you-are says:

    all of you, cynics, and stupid. none of you was at the Berliner Philharmoniker concert where Nelsons conducted Bruckner’s 3rd. and you stupid people think that you know anything. you don’t know a damned thing. period.

    • Michael says:

      But I WAS at that Bruckner 3rd concert in the Philharmonie. And left, as usual after a Nelsons concert, underwhelmed. What’s your point?

  • OhGlorioso says:

    I cannot imagine why anyone would purchase these. Just the idea of listening to yet another Beethoven cycle conducted by (whomever) is a cure for insomnia.
    Irrelevance thy name is DG.

    • Greg from SF says:

      I suggest you give a listen to THESE Beethoven symphony cycles, ohglorioso – they will revive your Beethovenian passions:
      Mengelberg / Concertgebouw Orch.
      Toscanini / NBC Symphony
      Schuricht / Paris Conservatory Orch.
      Klemperer / Philharmonia Orch. (the live concert performances, not the commercial studio recordings)
      Furtwangler / Berlin PO / Vienna PO (wartime live concerts – incomplete cycle: syms. 3,4,5,6,7 and 9)

      • Max Grimm says:

        One could argue that Ohglorioso’s statement about “yet another” cycle (which I take to mean a newly recorded/programmed cycle) is bolstered by your list.

  • Patrick says:

    Nelsons is no Karajan.

  • Jim says:

    I, for one, welcome this unique opportunity to hear what will undoubtedly be uniquely articulated and distinctly nuanced readings of these core elements of the Germanic-Russian repertory. Perhaps Andris can reveal the evolutionary relationship between the klaxon trumpet calls in the 2nd symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, and Shostakovich. I predict the entire project will be abandoned midway in favor of yet another reiteration of Orff’s Carmina or some other warhorse. Admittedly, DDG missed their opportunity when they did not have Boulez commit to doing, for instance, some Dvorak, Elgar, Tchaikovsky, or Sibelius. Those would have been some recordings to pique your interest. How about a modicum of imagination from DGG? Oh, I know, we have the Anne-Sophie Mutter goes clubbing album and Max Richter’s From Sleep. To paraphrase an American politician’s saying – “Andris – I knew Karajan, and you are no Karajan, Karajan told better jokes at rehearsal.” To DGG – Sarcasm abounds.

  • cherrera says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, do you (does anyone) have the sales numbers for Nelson’s Shostakovich recordings with Boston under DG? Just curious. It’d seem DG would not forge ahead with such ambitious plans unless the numbers were at least (relatively) encouraging. The press release cites just the Grammy award as the reason for more projects, not high sales. I guess in today’s anemic market, an industry/magazine award is all the justification an orchestra, a conductor, and a recording company need.

  • Eric says:

    Are there plans for him to record any repertoire that isn’t already recorded countless times elsewhere? I don’t know, maybe he could champion some Baltic composers. Has he ever recorded Vasks, for instance? Or the Tubin symphonies might be interesting.

    I know the record companies are behind this, but the market is absolutely saturated with these cycles… At least it’s not Mahler, yet…

  • CounterTenor says:

    I suspect the same old arguments were brought out when Karajan churned out his Beethoven cycle: on the lines of “Surely he won’t be better than Furtwaengler…”
    Plus ca change…

  • Rationalist says:

    All of this ranking and comparing and categorising and labelling is, quite frankly, tiresome, pointless, and unnecessarily divisive. What’s the objective? That the other person will say, “oh dear, I guess my taste was wrong?” Maybe we’d like to also challenge them on their preferred foods and beverages? Those of you interested in Andris Nelsons’ recordings, go ahead and enjoy them. Those of you not interested, buy something else.

  • Halldor says:

    A few modest suggestions.

    – Think Nelsons is “just a pretty face” Try using your ears.

    – Think he’s a “triumph of PR”? Talk to some orchestral musicians. OR try using your ears.

    – Think no-one needs more symphonic cycles? Then don’t buy them.

    – Think record labels are over-reaching themselves? Relax. That’s why they have accountants.

    – Think only sexagenarians can conduct Bruckner? Steer clear of Furtwangler. Or try using your ears.

    – Think no-one will ever equal Karajan? Enjoy your CDs. OR rejoin the living and…try using your ears.


  • Dan Oria says:

    There is another DGG business which I cannot understand: Dudamel. Now they seem also starting one with Zurich Tonhalle’s Bringuier, by publishing a complete Ravel CD set. Just wonder who financed this and who is going to buy this…

  • barry guerrero says:

    “Can anyone think of a single conductor whose recorded Bruckner at a young age is better than their recorded Bruckner at a later age?”

    Yes, Barenboim. I think his earlier Chicago Bruckner cycle is the best of his three.

  • barry guerrero says:

    “Can anyone think of a single conductor whose recorded Bruckner at a young age is better than their recorded Bruckner at a later age?”

    Yes, Barenboim. I think his early Chicago Bruckner cycle is the best of his three.