Breaking: Boston quits Europe tour

Breaking: Boston quits Europe tour


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2022

The ill-advised joint tour with conductor Andris Nelsons and his other orchestra from Leipzig has been cancelled for various reasons listed in the press release, and some others that are not. The tour had already been shadowed by the elimination of its London stopover, on grounds vaguely associated with Covid and Brexit but never specified.

The project was always quixotic. It has just hit an inevitable windmill. The insurers will be asking questions.

Here’s the press release:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra regrets to announce the cancellation of their European tour to Vienna, Leipzig, Hamburg, and Paris, May 15–24. The cancellation is due to growing concerns over the recent rise in COVID-19 numbers in Europe and the United States and the potential for travel disruption during a multi-city overseas tour, as well as an increase in cases among the members of the orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus following recent Symphony Hall performances.

The BSO’s European performances were to have been part of a unique Strauss-focused tour partnership with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (GHO), May 9–31, under the direction of Andris Nelsons, who is the music director of both ensembles. The GHO’s performances will continue as scheduled

“Given the ongoing presence of COVID, brought home by its unfortunate impact on a significant number of our own artists, we must keep as our first priority the health and safety of everyone involved with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Sadly, the only prudent and responsible course of action is, with deep regret, to cancel the European tour,” said BSO President and CEO Gail Samuel (pictured).

“All of us at the Boston Symphony Orchestra offer sincere thanks to those who have tirelessly worked to organize our performances in Europe and wish Andris Nelsons and our Alliance partners, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, great success with their tour performances. We look forward to returning to our devoted audiences in Europe when conditions allow.”


  • RW2013 says:

    Are there really “devoted audiences” of the BSO in Europe?!

  • Tamino says:

    Unfortunate but absolutely reasonable in these times. How were ticket sales going for these concerts? How big and long – or ever – lasting will the impact of the pandemic be for the touring business?

  • Dave says:

    “…due to growing concerns over the recent rise in COVID-19 numbers in Europe and the United States…”

    The UK is one of the few places where the government – or rather the corrupt hoodlums that pass for government here – would have you believe, for the ideological reasons that drive its intention to weaken and sell off the National Health Service, that Covid is no longer a thing.

    I’m not necessarily one of their “devoted audiences”, but credit to the BSO for facing reality.

  • CA says:

    Sorry but my cat could see this coming months ago.

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Other ensembles have plans to go overseas in the coming months. The New York Philharmonic is planning a residency at a festival in Usedom, Germany, next month. The Philadelphia Orchestra is planning a tour of Europe in late summer.

  • MacroV says:

    COVID’s the reason. No need to make more of it than that.

  • just saying says:

    Looks like folks in the BSO weren’t as careful as they could have been…it’s unfortunate that the entire organization has to suffer because of a couple few.
    Having said that, why couldn’t they just have toured with sub musicians???

    • MacroV says:

      If it’s not John Ferillo, Elizabeth Rowe, James Sommerville, Thomas Rolfs, etc., it’s not the Boston Symphony.

  • Michael Blim says:

    The word among choristers in Boston is that both the orchestra and chorus suffered an uptick in infections after the Britten War Requiem concerts. But… the cancellation was posted here almost week ago. Timing of today’s “announcement” odd.

    • MBrown says:

      The previous announcement cancelled only UK concerts, due to Brexit issues, not COVID cases. This announcement refers to remaining tour dates. Due in part to rising case numbers in Europe plus War Requiem performances at Symphony Hall 10 days ago that resulted in many, many positive tests among players and choristers.

  • Agassiz says:

    I long for the day when Norman LeBrecht will show some understanding about the sheer logistics about orchestra touring and real-world events. The now-cancelled Boston Symphony Orchestra tour of five European concert halls was five years in the making. So, well before Brexit had happened with its possible impact on travel between the UK and the EU. And well before COVID took the wind out of much music-making. In 1956, I was part of the press corps accompanying the BSO on its six-week European tour, mostly on chartered KLM planes, one for orchestra, another for instruments and concert garb in those massive trunks. There had been the slightest thaw in the Cold War, and so the BSO played a week in Leningrad and Moscow. This, only because the New York Philharmonic withdrew at short notice. (One reason was that so soon after World War II, the Phil still had stateless players who feared the USSR, and for that reason several BSO players sat out that part of the trip, rejoining in Vienna.) In Prague, the cargo plane was late arriving, and only a few players (fiddles, reeds) had carried on their instruments. The joke back stage was the BSO would have to perform as a male chorus with principal flute Dorio Anthony Dwyer piping them on.

    • Nick2 says:

      Perhaps Agassiz should be advised that everything to do with orchestral touring has changed massively over the last 55+ years. That the cancelled tour of the Nelson’s bands should have been 5 years in the planning in our times is more than slightly ridiculous. It may have been a sunbeam in someone’s eye 5 years ago but planning orchestral touring even with two orchestras from different continents would hardly take more than half that time today – if that.

      Covid and Brexit no doubt have played their part. But neither is a new phenomenon and both should have been factored in to the planning well over a year ago. If they were not, then good luck to the orchestras, agents, concert halls etc. in claiming on insurance policies!

      To suggest that NL is not fully aware of the complexities and logistics of present day orchestral touring, to say nothing if his awareness of world events, is one of the most silly suggestions I have seen made in this forum!

  • Bostonian says:

    As a student at one of the local music tertiary institutions in Boston and with weekly contact with BSO musicians for various classes, they are currently dealing with well over 30 cases of Covid. Although the financial implications of the UK/EU travel might be a plausible theory, in actuality, the exponential rise of Covid cases in the Symphony is the reason why the tour was inevitably cancelled.