BOSTON, Massachusetts –Except for the audience, youth now permeates the climate at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, thanks to the arrival last Saturday night (September 27) of its new conductor, 35-year-old Andris Nelsons.
In a sold out gala concert, his first concert as BSO Music Director, Nelsons, in a sleek Indian-style black collarless suit, conducted the orchestra with an energy he could barely contain (he does a little hop on crescendos), and the orchestra responded with a live electric sense of performance in the two-and-a-half-hour presentation of Wagner, Mascagni, Puccini and Respighi pieces.
Nelsons chose three Wagner pieces of music for his debut program, including the overture to “Tannhauser.” This was the first live opera Nelsons ever heard as a child in his native Latvia, and he conducts it with passion. He brought to the concert two acclaimed artists who have performed at the Metropolitan Opera, tenor Jonas Kaufmann and soprano Kristine Opolais, who happens to be his wife. She is the same age as her husband, and also Latvian.
The audience welcomed their new conductor with several standing ovations, expressing special delight when Opolais and Kaufmann carried on a musical love affair as they sang “Tu,Tu, Amore? Tu?” from “Manon Lescaut.” They sang inches away from the soprano’s husband, who was too busy with the orchestra to worry about the intense kiss of the singing couple, whose voices blended beautifully.
Conducted birdsong and antiphonal brass from the first balcony of Symphony Hall were part of the sparkling performance of Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” the finale at Saturday night’s celebratory concert. It’s a piece of music that is perfectly suited to showcase every section of this exceptional group of players.
Nelsons is the youngest conductor to hold the title of music director of the BSO in over 100 years, and the first Latvian-born conductor to assume the post. The fifteenth music director since the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s founding in 1881, he will lead a subscription program in three October concerts.
In November Nelsons will conduct three programs of works by Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, putting a special focus on the rich Slavic and Scandinavian music traditions that have made a deep imprint on the conductor since his early life as a music student. In addition, he will bring to the Symphony Hall stage several of his favorite frequent collaborators, including Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, and Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and composer Eriks Esenvalds.
Next summer Nelsons will lead the BSO in an eight-city tour to major European music capitals, including Berlin, Cologne, London, Lucerne, Paris and Salzburg. He will be in residency at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for three weeks during the 2015 season.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s website, BSO.org, is the largest and most-visited orchestral website in the country, receiving approximately seven million visitors annually and generating over $92 million in revenue since its launch in 1996.
To entice the elusive young audience that wasn’t part of Saturday night’s crowd at Symphony Hall, the BSO’s “under-40=$20” program allows patrons under the age of 40 to purchase tickets for $20.