Exclusive: Boston Symphony cuts London for no good reason

Exclusive: Boston Symphony cuts London for no good reason


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2022

The Boston Symphony’s much-vaunted Richard Strauss tour has hit a major problem in London.

The five-day residency at the Barbican and South Bank was supposed to be shared between the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Boston Symphony, both conducted by Andris Nelsons.

But Boston has inexplicably pulled out.

This is all they will say: The Boston Symphony Orchestra regrets the cancellation of its concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on May 12 and 13. The cancellation is due to unforeseen logistical complications between England and Austria, the first two stops on its originally scheduled tour. The BSO’s tour, under the direction of Music Director Andris Nelsons, will move forward with concerts in Vienna, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Paris, May 15-24.

We have asked the BSO for clarification of the reason and they have no further comment.

This is a kick in the teeth for the London concert halls and public. A hugely expensive concert series has been undermined by an unknown cause and London has been abruptly downgraded in the ranks of European cities.

This is really bad conduct.

It also exposes the fundamental flaw in two major orchestras trying to collaborate under the same music director.




  • Rob says:

    That’s a good thing for London. The further away that awful conductor is, the better for everybody.

    • Couperin says:

      My friend in Boston Symphony said Nelsons was a bit off at their Carnegie Hall concert last week. I said, “Maybe he needs to eat something?”

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        He has GOT to lose weight as we can’t afford to lose him!!

      • music lover says:

        How low can you sink??? Instead of any musical arguments,you resort to body shaming…The level of many comments on this side has become incredibly primitive,pathetic and disgraceful.Apart from a few eloquent,erudite,civilized ,open minds, it has become some kind of therapy for people with narcisstic personality disorders,attention defiency syndrome and a total lack of social skills(i don´t want to start about the musical knowledge or appreciation level)….That is really sad,because,some years ago,it was a place for intelligent,cultivated exchange of educated minds,even when opinions clashed….Even people like Fabio Luisi or Leonard Slatkin shared their views with the readers…Now we have mostly people let ting go loose their frustrations and shortcomings , hidden by the anonymity of the world wide web….Sign o´the times

    • Istics says:

      I doubt this is Nelsons’ fault.

      Austria wants to mimic EU policy by making it hard for non-member UK to interact with the Block.

      • Tamino says:

        First the geriatric backward English show the EU the middle finger, and then they whine how hard the EU makes it for them to interact. For real. LOL.

        • Istics says:

          Boston should have cancelled the two *Vienna* dates and then skipped to Leipzig (leaving a hole but changing nothing else), whose orchestra had no trouble making its London plans. That would have overcome the “EU” hurdle and taught the arrogant Austrians a lesson!

          • Tamino says:

            Leipzig hires a truck in Leipzig and it does one roundtrip. BSO starting in London would have to hire a truck in continental EU driving to London empty. Plus they as Americans probably have to do customs twice. Once for UK, once for EU. I can see how it annoys the hell out of anyone trying to run a tight tour budget.

    • music lover says:

      Another armchair conductor lamenting his missed chance.Pity the poor soul who finds it necessary to post such negative rubbish,for a second of attention .albeit anonymously…

  • Lindsay Wallace says:

    The Southbank Centre website says -“The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Andris Nelsons regret to announce the cancellation of this event, due to complications in connection with the ongoing pandemic.”

  • Brian says:

    London has indeed been downgraded in the ranks of European cities, but the BSO had nothing to do with it. Maybe they just decided to cut out the cultural backwater.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Perhaps you’ve got the wonderful London of former decades with the present one, which doesn’t seem so flash.

  • RW2013 says:

    The less Nelsons the better.

    • music lover says:

      The less RW 2013,the better…Armchair conductors always remind of the thousands of football trainers in pubs…

  • Gunter Brass says:

    logistical complications between England and Austria = Brexit related complications.

    Probably when they made their numbers several years ago they could not predict the reality of how much more expensive would be adding an non-EU stop in the middle of an EU stop.

    It’s not bad behaviour, it’s money.

    And the UK decided itself to cut away from the major european cities circuit

  • Colin says:

    Norman, I received this advice from the Southbank Centre on Friday morning and posted it then: http://www.colinscolumn.com/the-strauss-project-with-andris-nelsons-the-boston-rfh-half-is-cancelled/.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    My word. I do believe that NL’s sensibilities, ever quivering like Aspen leaves and waiting to be affronted, need to take a rest. I read the news myself, and there is currently rather a lot to offend my sensibilities. This ain’t one of ’em, especially as we do not know the details of those Austria-UK logistical problems.

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    So many assumptions, so little proof of bad faith. Maybe, not enough ticket sales? Lack of interest on the part of London audience? Problems with air transportation/labor?

  • Minnesota says:

    “Logistical complications” can be very real. Better find out what they were before claiming it is an insult.

  • Gareth Jones says:

    Got to be visas etc; i.e., Brexit, hasn’t it? They’ll fly direct into the EU

  • Schoenberglover says:

    On the Southbank Centre website, it said that this was down to “complications in connection with the ongoing pandemic”. But I’m just wondering – could the real reason be Brexit?
    I know that UK orchestras are having huge trouble transporting large instruments & equipment on lorries for tour to the EU, as lorries can only make a maximum of 2 stops in EU countries before they have to return to the UK. To overcome this, orchestras like the LSO have had to hire lorries from courriers based in EU countries to drive to London and pick up the necessary equipment for the tour, which in essence has meant that they’ve had to pay for 2 round trips (lorry travelling from EU country to London for pick up, to tour stops in the EU, then back to London, then empty lorry returns to EU).

    The BSO would probably have had to do what the LSO does since their tour has multiple stops in EU countries after London and may be they thought that this wasn’t possible given tight profit margins for these large scale tours.
    I’m only speculating but what a terrible shame for London – other international orchestras are bound to have these problems in the future.

  • Hmus says:

    Gee, it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the UK’s million new cases of Covid this week, could it? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-60872687

  • fflambeau says:

    “It also exposes the fundamental flaw in two major orchestras trying to collaborate under the same music director.”

    Bad reasoning, Norman, and you look petty here. I think the “logistical reasons” given are enough.

  • Easily Excitable says:

    Calm down, friend. Definitely you’re aware of the Brexit thing (and downstream difficulties of travel and logistics). To say nothing of the not-so-rosy Covid outlook currently. And general disruptions, price increases, and uncertainty due to the war. Hard to say circumstances are ideal.

  • Tamino says:

    It’s bad conduct? Certainly. By the geriatric English majority who voted for Brexit, thus creating this mess of additional costly customs procedures.

    “It also exposes the fundamental flaw in two major orchestras trying to collaborate under the same music director.”

    How so?

    • Tristan says:

      I totally agree – the bloody geriatrics should finally realise what they have done – populists de-iced them and they should now pay for it – BREXIT is a total disaster like the UK government, stupid gamblers

  • Bob says:

    Dude, it’s Brexit. That’s why. Your stupid blog isn’t helping anything.

  • Dr Tonreihe says:

    Unlike most European countries, Austria wants negative tests within 72 hours before entry; BSO probably didn’t want to risk high likelihood of a number of their players testing positive in London.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      If your hypothesis is correct, it proves that Austria mattered more than the UK: not flattering for the British.

  • Dave says:

    I know the BBC is banned from mentioning Brexit – which is obviously the cause of these logistical problems – but I didn’t think the Boston Symphony were as well.

  • Alan says:

    It’s Brexit. You got what you voted for. Stop complaining

  • Stephen says:

    Nobody wants to go to Brexitland.

  • Through the grapevine, Brexit problems.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    . . . or a hissy fit on N.L.’s part. I would much rather play in the Musikverein or Konzerthaus any day, but I’m sure that’s not the issue.

  • Adrienne says:

    The usual, predictable, offensive comments here. Since when has the US been a member of the EU?

    And people in the Arts world consider themselves ever-so civilised. It would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.

  • music lover says:

    Sorry,this is not the orchestras fault.The logistic problems in relation to Covid AND brexit are insurmountable,from what i heard from BSO musicians

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If it’s due to Brexit or Covid, why won’t Boston say so?

      • music lover says:

        Mmmh…Actually,they did.They blamed it on Covid related problems in the press release….They won´t mention Brexit,because,as a guest in a foreign country,you usually don´t adress political issues of your host country. It´s a bit delicate..I heard it only from BSO musicians…..

      • Bob says:

        Weren’t you complaining just a few months ago that this tour was irresponsible because of climate change? One would think you’d be happy that the tour has been shortened.

  • Fernandel says:

    Not a big loss. Nelsons is, artistically, crumbling.

  • Titurel says:

    So, would any of the Nelsons NaySayers care to provide ‘evidence’ that he’s “crumbling” artistically? Blanket assertions make no point without substantive examples.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    The Czech Philharmonic performed at the Barbican in the last couple of weeks ago to a sell out audience that included Sir Simon Rattle.

    Hardly London being a cultural backwater.

    In terms of standing up for culture, Germany has failed to send much in the way of arms for Ukraine to resist an invading army that has destroyed two of its opera houses. Obviously that pales into insignificance in comparison to tens of thousands killed or forcibly removed from their homeland.

  • Brian Bell says:

    I note with interest that the BSO announced on March 28th that Marlis Petersen is not singing the Final Scene from Salome on the Boston Symphony Hall concerts of April 28, 29m and 30.
    She was also scheduled to sing in London (only) with the BSO. Her non-appearance was “due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.”
    The BSO Principal ‘Cellist Blaise Déjardin will do the Saint-Saens 1st Concerto in her stead.

  • David Woodhead says:

    It looks like another Brexit problem.