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Thursday, May 16, 2013

White Smoke Over Huntington Avenue

Andris Nelsons to take over Boston Symphony Orchestra.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Andris Nelsons is the new Music Director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Photo by Stu Rosner © 2011 Boston Symphony Orchestra.
There's a new sheriff in Boston.

The board of the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced today that Andris Nelsons will be the ensemble's new Music Director, filling a vacancy at one of America's "big five" orchestras. The post has been empty since James Levine's resignation in 2011.

Mr. Nelsons is the current principal conductor and music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a post that he has held since 2007. He will retain that position in addition to his Boston duties, and is currently extended with the CBSO through 2015.

The 34-year-old Latvian conductor won the position over a strong field of candidates. He is the youngest M.D. in Boston in over a century. Other names that drew speculation in recent years included French conductor Stéphane Denève, the Italian maestro Daniele Gatti and Sean Newhouse, a James Levine protége who stepped in for his mentor to conduct a riveting Mahler Ninth in 2011. Mr. Nelsons' debut with the BSO in 2011 also found him substituting for Mr. Levine.

This appointment follows a recent trend among major orchestras of hiring a younger generation of baton-wielders to major music directorships. Among other "Generation X" conductors: Yannick Nézet-Séguin (38) of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Daniel Harding (38, currently with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra) and Gustavo Dudamel (31) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

Mr. Nelsons' five-year contract begins with the 2014-15 season, although he will serve as "Music Director Designate" for the 2013 season. He is scheduled to conduct the BSO in the Verdi Requiem at Tanglewood this summer, and will lead orchestral performances in October 2013 (Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, a Mozart Piano Concerto and the Brahms Third) and a March 2014 concert performance of the Richard Strauss opera Salome.

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