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The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons agreed to extend Nelsons' contract as music director for an additional three years. Nelsons, who joined the symphony in 2014, will remain through the 2024-25 season.
It’s not the first time the BSO has extended the acclaimed conductor’s contract. After Nelsons’ first season, the orchestra increased the duration of his first contract from five years to eight. “I would not give up leading the orchestra because this is such an amazing orchestra, and it's just so lucky being part of this team,” Nelsons said.
Nelsons is highly regarded around the world, and in addition to his work at the BSO, he also leads the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, Germany, which he has done since 2017. (His contract there has simultaneously been extended.)
“I'm very thankful to both orchestras about the trust and about giving me the opportunity to continue our journey,” the Latvian-born Nelsons said.
The BSO and Gewandhausorchester will continue their partnership, launched in 2018. This has included musician-exchanges with Boston musicians having the opportunity to play with the Leipzig orchestra, while members of the Gewandhausorchester have played at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood.
BSO CEO and president Mark Volpe praised the collaboration between the orchestras. He said sometimes renowned conductors and orchestras do not coexist easily, but, “in this particular instance, we have a great orchestra and a great conductor who remain absolutely committed to each other, excited by each other.” The next joint project between the BSO and Gewandhausorchester will feature major symphonic works of Richard Strauss.
Plans for future seasons at the BSO include building on the Shostakovich cycle. The BSO has won several Grammys for their recordings of Shostakovich symphonies on Deutsche Grammophon, and they plan to explore the composer’s piano, violin and cello concertos, and the Jazz Suites. The orchestra will also commission works by younger composers of diverse backgrounds.
Nelsons will also support the new BSO Resident Fellowship Program, scheduled to launch in the summer of 2021. The one- to two-year program is intended to help train early-career orchestra musicians of color from historically underrepresented communities. Fellows will study with BSO musicians and perform with the orchestra and Boston Pops, as well as participate as fellows in the BSO’s summer music academy, Tanglewood Music Center.
Since the pandemic began, the BSO has lost $35 million in revenue. Last month, the organization announced a three-year labor agreement. Musicians will take a salary reduction averaging 37% in the first year. The agreement will last through August 2023. The BSO also laid off 50 of its 180 administrative staff in September.
After the BSO canceled live concerts in mid-March, it began to offer digital events. Online performances have drawn viewers from 84 countries and 13 million views. Volpe said it has been challenging to balance the reality of the pandemic with hope. “What Andris absolutely inspired us to do is stay connected with each other, stay connected with our audiences, albeit in a virtual context, stay connected to the broader musical community,” Volpe said.
Nelsons and Volpe are embracing the larger audience the BSO has attracted with its online programming. Volpe said Nelsons encouraged the orchestra’s media innovation, and that going forward the BSO would take a hybrid approach to digital and in-person performances.
Nelsons said he has been spending a lot of time with his family since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, he is not expected to return to Boston until early 2021. Until then, he’ll conduct the Gewandhausorchester at concerts in Leipzig, Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna.
Nelsons is anticipating his return to Massachusetts. “I'm looking forward to being back in Boston, and when it will be safe, of course, for us to perform,” he said.
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