After two years without a music director, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has one with the potential to carry the institution into a bold, vibrant future. Andris Nelsons, who combines youth with experience, is an imaginative choice to become the BSO's 15th director, and only its third in the last 40 years.
Mr. Nelsons will succeed James Levine, a hugely respected maestro whose health issues, which caused him to miss many dates at Tanglewood toward the end of his tenure, eventually forced him to step down entirely. The 34-year-old Latvian conductor won't take over the BSO officially until 2014 as he winds down his commitment to the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which he has served as music director since 2008, but he has stepped in for Mr. Levine in recent years and will be at Tanglewood July 27 to lead the BSO in a performance of Verdi's "Requiem."
Mr. Nelsons obviously impressed BSO management and orchestra members since he first stepped in for Mr. Levine to conduct the BSO in 2011 at Carnegie Hall. His conducting style is athletic and demonstrative, as he displayed in a July weekend last year when he shared conducting duties for Tanglewood's 75th anniversary celebration on a Saturday night and led the BSO on Sunday afternoon. His youth should help him build rapport with students in executing the instructional aspect of his role at Tanglewood.
The new music director may not be with the BSO for three decades as was Seiji Ozawa, but he plans on making Boston his base (Mr. Levine divided his duties between the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera) which indicates a full commitment to the orchestra. That bodes well for the BSO and for Tanglewood as the start of its 76th season approaches.