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The Boston Symphony Orchestra's programming for 2017-'18 includes a season-long tribute to composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein and a number of firsts.
First, the orchestra is welcoming its first artist-in-residence, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Then there’s the debut of “Leipzig week in Boston,” a new partnership between the BSO and the Gewandhausorchester conceived as a way to connect the two cities — and two orchestras — that maestro Andris Nelsons leads. BSO artistic partner Thomas Adès will make his debut at the piano. Not to mention that Nelsons and his musicians will embark on their first tour of Japan together in November.
The opening night program will kick off the centennial celebration of composer and Massachusetts native-son Leonard Bernstein. Concerts sprinkled throughout the season will highlight the decades-long relationship he had with his hometown orchestra.
Born in Lawrence, Bernstein studied at Boston Latin, Harvard University and what's now called the Tanglewood Music Center. BSO managing director Mark Volpe says the musician’s early experiences in the Berkshires seeded the bond between the orchestra and Bernstein.
“This was before 'West Side Story,' 'Candide,' and the other pieces that made him famous,” Volpe explained. "And because Tanglewood meant so much to him, he came to Tanglewood basically every summer thereafter."
At Tanglewood, then-BSO music director Serge Koussevitzky recognized Bernstein’s talent and took him under his wing. The young musician went on to lead the New York Philharmonic and ultimately became one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century.
Nelsons will lead opening night, on Sept. 22, which includes excerpts from the iconic “West Side Story,” and a centennial commission titled, “Divertimento for Orchestra.”
In March, conductor Giancarlo Guerrero will lead Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish” and also the very timely Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety.” These performances are part of an “Insights Series” that explores questions Bernstein himself posed about society, politics and religion, with the hope of connecting them to today. There will also be film screenings, exhibitions and a concert in Lawrence, Bernstein’s hometown.
The 2017-'18 season will be Nelson’s fourth since taking the director position with the BSO.
When asked for a check-in now that the honeymoon period is over Volpe joked, “Technically you’re newlyweds for a year — so that has lapsed,” he said laughing. “I think there’s still great enthusiasm. The orchestra remains enamored with his music-making, his commitment, his humility and humanity.”
Volpe went on to cite the second Grammy Award the orchestra and Nelsons won for their series of Shostakovich recordings with Deustche Grammophon. In the coming season, Nelsons, the musicians and the production team will record three more symphonies, “so there’s a lot of energy,” Volpe said.
There’s one more “first” on the docket for the BSO next season: a tablet app that includes a “discover what my camera sees” feature, a “discover what is near me” function, and a meme generator, “allowing users to take a photo at Symphony Hall and post it as a meme to social media.”
It should be an interesting debut.
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