Boston Symphony Orchestra's Andris Nelsons says he'll extend his Tanglewood presence to 4 weeks next season


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LENOX — In a surprise on-stage announcement greeted by cheers and sustained applause from the audience and smiling Boston Symphony players, Music Director Andris Nelsons disclosed on Sunday afternoon that he will expand his presence at Tanglewood next summer, spending four weeks at the orchestra's summer home — half of the BSO season.

His schedule will include 10 concerts over the first two and last two weeks of the season.

Nelsons addressed the crowd during this summer's BSO finale — the annual, valedictory performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, including the "Ode to Joy."

Not only is it rare and virtually unprecedented for a BSO music director to speak to the audience during a concert, but it's also the first time that major outlines of a future Tanglewood season have been revealed earlier than mid-November, the norm in recent years.

According to German media reports, Nelsons has terminated his contract to conduct Wagner's "Parsifal" next summer at the famed Bayreuth Festival. He had already departed the shrine run by the composer's descendants early this summer because of apparent creative differences with the festival's music director, Christian Thielemann, over the new production of "Parsifal."

That made it possible for Nelsons to spend more time with the BSO at Tanglewood this summer. Originally slotted for two weeks, he agreed to stay on for a third when the scheduled conductor of Sunday's final concert, Christoph von Dohnányi, 86, had to cancel because of complications from cataract surgery.

Nelsons' commitment to Tanglewood next summer is his longest since officially becoming BSO music director in September 2014.

Berkshire audiences, BSO players and the orchestra management have been eager for Nelsons to be available for more of the summer, but until now this had been difficult to arrange because of his previous, now-canceled commitments to the Bayreuth Festival.

Next summer, according to the prepared announcement, Nelsons will lead the BSO's opening night on July 7, Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the "Resurrection," with vocal soloists and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Once again, he will close the season with the traditional Beethoven Ninth. Nelsons will lead the young performers of the Tanglewood Music Center in a program to be announced.

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"I am also very excited to announce that I will be leading two opera programs, one of them a complete concert performance of a major work," Nelsons stated. "Though we are still in the process of making final programming decisions for the 2017 Tanglewood season, we look forward to sharing the full season announcement about these and other programs this fall."

"Tanglewood's rich 79-year tradition — highlighted each summer by so many significant musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries — is breathtaking in its scope and impact, thanks to its founder Serge Koussevitzky," Nelsons stated.

"This tradition, along with incredibly loyal patrons and donors — all so fervently dedicated to their music festival, and the exquisite physical beauty of the grounds and surrounding Berkshire Hills — most definitely adds up to an extraordinary embarrassment of riches," he added.

Sunday's concert the first time a BSO music director had led a season-ending performance of Beethoven's Ninth since Erich Leinsdorf did so in August 1969.

During five minutes of informal remarks to the audience, Nelsons offered high praise for the orchestra's musicians and extolled the atmosphere created by the perfect late-summer weather and the large crowd.

He cited the calm, tranquil, peaceful feeling created by the opening work, Copland's elegiac "Quiet City," and described the Beethoven symphony's intimate sections devoted to "peace, love, friendship, respect, sacrifice, something which is very important in our lives. I hope this music somehow can lead us to think about these values of life and to think we can actually influence, even with our thoughts and by inviting people to concerts, the general atmosphere of the world."

The stage was set for Nelsons' enhanced commitment to Tanglewood on June 30, when the music world was startled by his abrupt withdrawal from the new "Parsifal" production at Bayreuth less than four weeks before opening night.

Nelsons has declined to discuss the reasons for his departure, but published reports, mostly in the German press, cited Thielemann's close scrutiny of rehearsals led by Nelsons and a supposed "Islamic" slant to the new production of "Parsifal."

A leading German newspaper, Die Welt, blamed Nelsons' departure primarily on artistic interference by Thielemann, the Bayreuth Festival's music director.

Since his first performance with the Bostonians in March 2011 at New York's Carnegie Hall, substituting for the ailing Levine, Nelsons has been embraced by players, management and audiences, leading to an extension of his initial contract until the end of summer 2022 after he cleared his schedule of multiple guest-conducting commitments.

He also signed on as music director for the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, Germany, depicting the decision as a means of consolidating his symphonic conducting schedule, plus one-week stints with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. He is expected to continue appearing at several of the world's leading opera houses from time to time.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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