Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gewandhaus taps Nelsons

Andris Nelsons, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will succeed Riccardo Chailly as chief conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, and will head a new partnership of the US and German orchestras.

“They are starting a joint commissioning program that will begin in the 2017-18 season with a new work by the German composer Jörg Widmann that will be played in both cities. And over the course of that season, the Boston Symphony will hold a ‘Leipzig Week in Boston’ and the Gewandhaus a ‘Boston Week in Leipzig,’ with each ensemble playing repertoire the other is known for,” The New York Times’ Michael Cooper reports:

With the Gewandhaus appointment, the 36-year-old, Latvian-born Nelsons becomes the leading conductor of his generation on the international circuit. And the budding partnership links orchestras and cities that boast pivotal roles in their countries’ musical histories.

As Cooper notes, the Boston Symphony has significant historical ties to the Gewandhaus. Artur Nikisch, one of the earliest conductors of the Boston Symphony (1893-95), subsequently took over the Leipzig orchestra, which he led until his death in 1922. A later Boston music director, Charles Munch (1949-62), had been concertmaster of the Gewandhaus (1926-33).

The Bostonians could easily fill several programs with works by American composers who studied in Leipzig. A short list would include William Mason, George Templeton Strong, George Whitefield Chadwick, Miklós Rózsa, Herman Berlinski and Harl McDonald.

The Leipzigers, in turn, could fill several seasons with composers linked to their city and orchestra – the Germans, starting with Johann Sebastian Bach and continuing with Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Reinecke and Reger; and the many non-Germans who were schooled in Leipzig, among them Grieg, Busoni, Delius, Albéniz, Janáček, Erwin Schulhoff, Ethyl Smyth and Arthur Sullivan.