BOSTON — After nearly a one-year absence due to COVID-19 restrictions, Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Andris Nelsons returns to the Symphony Hall podium this week to lead the orchestra in a series of Beethoven-inspired recordings.
The recordings will be made throughout this month and released on BSO NOW, the orchestra’s new expanded digital content series, on Feb. 11, 18 and 25, at bso.org/now.
The February concert streams — “The Spirit of Beethoven,” Thursdays at noon — will feature Nelsons and the orchestra in Beethoven symphonies, Nos. 3, 5, 6, and 7, as well as orchestral works by Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi, British composer Hannah Kendall, and American composer Carlos Simon.
In honor of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Nelsons was to have conducted the Beethoven symphonic cycle with the orchestra this past October and November before the forced cancellation of the entire BSO 2020-21 season.
Feb. 11 — Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” and Hannah Kendall’s “Disillusioned Dreamer.” Also on the program is a chamber music performance of Caroline Shaw’s “Blueprint,” featuring BSO musicians Xin Ding and Catherine French, violins; Mary Ferrillo, viola; and Mickey Katz, cello.
Feb. 18 — Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” and Iman Habibi’s “Jeder Baum spricht.” There also will be a chamber music performance of Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola, and harp, featuring BSO musicians Cynthia Meyers, flute; Danny Kim, viola; and Jessica Zhou, harp.
Feb. 25 — Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 and Carlos Simon’s “Fate Now Conquers.” Also scheduled is a chamber music performance of Schoenberg’s Phantasy for violin and piano, featuring BSO violinist Haldan Martinson and guest pianist Max Levinson.
The Symphony Hall sessions also mark Nelsons’ first time back in Boston since the Oct. 5, 2020, announcement of a three-year extension of his contract as BSO music director through August 2025, with an evergreen clause in place reflecting a mutual intent for a long-term commitment well beyond the years of the new contract extension.
The 15th music director since the orchestra’s founding in 1881, Nelsons began his tenure in that role in the fall of 2014.
BSO NOW is part of the BSO’s continuing series of online offerings created in response to the live performance hiatus imposed by regulations around the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing health crisis. In response, the BSO launched its expanded digital offerings on March 26 with BSO at Home and BSO HomeSchool, followed by Boston Pops at Home (bso.org), and the Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival (tanglewood.org).
New video streams available this month — Thursdays at noon — include three BSO performances with the theme “New Beginnings”:
Jan. 14 — Stefan Asbury leads a Boston Symphony Orchestra program including Thomas Adès’ “Dawn,” Debussy’s “Printemps,” Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” with violin soloist Elena Urioste, and Smetana’s “The Moldau.”
The Boston Symphony Chamber Players, with guest conductor Jorge Soto, performs Elena Langer’s “Five Reflections on Water.”
Jan. 21 — Thomas Wilkins leads a BSO program with selections from Kareem Roustom’s "Aleppo Songs," Piazzolla’s “Aconcagua” — Concerto for Bandoneón and Orchestra, with soloist Hector Del Curto; and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler.
This program also includes a chamber performance of Carlos Simon’s “Warmth” from “Other Suns,” featuring BSO musicians Victor Romanul and Wendy Putnam, violins; Mary Ferrillo, viola; and Adam Esbensen, cello
Jan. 28 — Making her BSO debut, Anna Rakitina leads a BSO program featuring Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1, “Classical;” Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres,” with violin soloist Gil Shaham; and Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite. Also on tap is a chamber music performance of Missy Mazzoli’s “Set That on Fire,” featuring BSO musicians Elizabeth Klein, flute; Thomas Martin, clarinet; Thomas Siders, trumpet; and Valeria Vilker Kuchment, violin; with guest pianist Vytas Baksys.
Over the next few months, BSO NOW also will stream selected performances from the BSO Archives, including concerts led by Seiji Ozawa, William Steinberg and Colin Davis. Details will be announced at a later date. BSO NOW programming details for March and April also will be announced at a later date in order for the BSO to respond effectively to any changes in restrictions that might be implemented around official COVID-19 protocols.
Working with 9 Foundations, Inc., the BSO’s reopening strategy for its BSO NOW online recording schedule at Symphony Hall has included a robust testing schedule, two layers of daily screening, social distancing, universal masking, engineering controls and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
“With the health and safety of everyone involved the highest priority,” orchestra officials said in a released statement, “the BSO is continuing to monitor official government updates and input from its own team of experts to determine when it can gradually start inviting audiences back to Symphony Hall. The timing of this process will not be known for at least several months.”