Andris Nelsons
Andris Nelsons (Courtesy photo by Marco Borggreve)

LENOX - The Boston Symphony Orchestra has named a young, rapidly rising conductor as its new music director to succeed James Levine, who stepped down in 2011 because of ill health.

BSO music directors throughout the years The Boston Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1881 by Henry Lee Higginson. Here is a list of the music directors:
  1. Georg Henschel, 1881-84
  2. Wilhelm Gericke, 1884-89; 1898-1906
  3. Arthur Nikisch, 1889-93
  4. Emil Paur, 1893-98
  5. Karl Muck, 1906-08; 1912-18
  6. Max Fiedler, 1908-12
  7. Henri Rabaud, 1918-19
  8. Pierre Monteux, 1919-24
  9. Serge Koussevitzky, 1924-49
  10. Charles Munch, 1949-62
  11. Erich Leinsdorf, 1962-69
  12. William Steinberg 1969-72
  13. Seiji Ozawa, 1973-2002 (music director laureate, 2002-present)
  14. James Levine, 2004-2011
  15. Andris Nelsons, 2014-

Following a two-year search, the BSO announced that Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons will be the leader, starting with the 2014-15 season.


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At 34, he becomes the BSO's youngest music director in more than 100 years. The details and outcome of the search conducted by a 12-member committee of management, musicians and trustees remained hush-hush until the unheralded announcement following a unanimous vote by the orchestra's Board of Trustees at an early morning meeting on Thursday.

Nelsons conducted twice during Tanglewood's 75th anniversary season last summer. He is set to lead Verdi's Requiem on July 27, with his wife, the soprano Kristine Opolais, among the vocal soloists. She made a well-received Metropolitan Opera debut recently in Puccini's "La Rondine."

"He has an absolute commitment to spend time at Tanglewood every summer," BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe told The Eagle. "The more he experiences Tanglewood, the more the combination of music and nature will excite him."

But Volpe acknowledged that Nelsons has pre-existing summer commitments, so the exact number of weeks he can spend at Tanglewood remains to be worked out.

"He's aware of the composition and vocal programs at the Tanglewood Music Center," Volpe added, referring to the orchestra's summer institute for advanced studies. "It's really unique, so he's going to have to experience it and figure out his role."

Nelsons was the unanimous choice of the search committee composed of Volpe and Artistic Administrator Anthony Fogg, five trustees, and five musicians from the Players Committee. He will hold the title of music director designate starting this September before formally beginning his tenure in September 2014.

Nelsons has signed an initial five-year contract with the BSO and will conduct eight to 10 weeks of programs during the 2014-15 season in Boston, and 12 weeks of programs per season thereafter, as well as the unspecified number of appearances at Tanglewood.

Volpe noted that 12 weeks represents half of the orchestra's season in Boston, a typical commitment for music directors of American orchestras.

Nelsons, considered one of the most widely sought-after young maestros on the international music scene, is currently music director of England's prestigious City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He has led productions at New York's Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and the Vienna State Opera, and has been a welcomed guest conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw, widely considered Europe's three greatest orchestras.

Asked to describe the qualities that led to his selection by the BSO, Volpe said: "He's a great conductor focused on building and creating relationships on artistic and human levels. He's young, very visceral, with a lot of energy."

Nelsons is under contract as music director in Birmingham through the 2014-15 season. "He's incredibly gifted, and we focused on him from the get-go," said Volpe. "We're excited about his future with the orchestra."

As a matter of policy, Volpe noted, the BSO does not disclose the salaries of music directors. He acknowledged relief that the search has ended on a predetermined schedule to permit consideration of several other potential choices.

"I am deeply honored and touched that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed me its next music director, as it is one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime," said Nelsons in a prepared statement.

"Each time I have worked with the BSO, I have been inspired by how effectively it gets to the heart of the music, always leaving its audience with a great wealth of emotions.

"As I consider my future with the Boston Symphony, I imagine us working closely together to bring the deepest passion and love that we all share for music to ever greater numbers of music fans in Boston, at Tanglewood, and throughout the world," Nelsons added.

Levine began his stint as BSO music director in 2004 to widespread enthusiasm from the players and audiences, but soon suffered debilitating injuries and health crises, leading to numerous cancellations and his resignation in March 2011.

After two years of recovery, he is scheduled to conduct for the first time this Sunday, leading the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Nelsons, who began his career as a trumpeter, resides in Riga, Latvia, with his wife and their 17-month-old daughter, Adriana. He plans to visit Boston in late June to seek an apartment and to be introduced to the community through a series of events to be organized by the BSO.