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Andris Nelsons conducts Andres and Brahms

Andris Nelsons conducts Andres and Brahms

Boston Symphony Orchestra

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The second program of the BSO's two-week Brahms mini-fest encompassing Brahms's symphonies and piano concertos opens with a brief new work commissioned from the Brooklyn-based American composer Timo Andres (the first program having included a new work by American composer Eric Nathan). Andres's new piece opens this week's programs, which feature Hélène Grimaud as soloist in Brahms's magisterial Piano Concerto No. 2. The Third Symphony concludes the concerts of November 15 and 17; the Fourth Symphony completes the concerts of November 18 and 19.

Featured Performers

Andris Nelsons, conductor
Andris Nelsons, conductor View biography in full page >

The 2020-2021 season is Andris Nelsons seventh as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Ray and Maria Stata Music Director. In summer 2015, following his first season as music director, his contract with the BSO was extended through the 2021-22 season. In February 2018 Mr. Nelsons was also named Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. On October 5, 2020, the BSO and GHO jointly announced extensions to Mr. Nelsons current contracts. His contract with the BSO was extended until 2025, and his GHO contract until 2027. An evergreen clause in his BSO contract reflects a mutual intention for a long-term commitment between the BSO and Mr. Nelsons beyond the years of the agreement.

Mr. Nelsons’ two positions, in addition to his leadership of a pioneering alliance between the institutions, have firmly established the Grammy Award-winning conductor as one of the most renowned and innovative artists on the international scene today. In fall 2019 Mr. Nelsons and the BSO hosted the Gewandhausorchester in historic concerts at Symphony Hall that included two performances by the GHO as well as concerts featuring the players of both orchestras together.

In the 2019-20 season, Andris Nelsons led the BSO in repertoire ranging from favorites by Beethoven, Dvořák, Grieg, Mozart, Mahler, Ravel, and Tchaikovsky to world and American premieres of BSO-commissioned works from Eric Nathan, Betsy Jolas, and the Latvian composer Arturs Maskats. The season also brought the continuation of his complete Shostakovich symphony cycle with the orchestra and collaborations with an impressive array of guest artists. Mr. Nelsons’ work with the BSO resumes with his return to Boston at the start of 2021.

Andris Nelsons’ and the BSO’s ongoing series of recordings of the complete Shostakovich symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon has included the composer’s symphonies 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11 (The Year 1905), and most recently a two-disc set pairing Shostakovich’s symphonies 6 and 7 (Leningrad). The cycle has earned three Grammy awards for Best Orchestral Performance and one for Best Engineered Album. The next installment, featuring symphonies nos. 1, 14, and 15 and the Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a (arr. Rudolf Barshai), is scheduled for release in summer 2021. Future releases will go beyond the symphonies to encompass the composer’s concertos for piano, violin, and cello, and his monumental opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Mr. Nelsons’ other recordings with the orchestra include the complete Brahms symphonies for the BSO Classics label and a Naxos release of BSO-commissioned world premiere works by four American composers: Timo Andres, Eric Nathan, Sean Shepherd, and George Tsontakis.

The fifteenth music director in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011, his Tanglewood debut in July 2012, and his BSO subscription series debut in January 2013. In November 2017, Mr. Nelsons and the BSO toured Japan together for the first time. They have so far made three European tours together: immediately following the 2018 Tanglewood season, when they played concerts in London, Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Lucerne, Paris, and Amsterdam; in May 2016, a tour that took them to eight cities in Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg; and, after the 2015 Tanglewood season, a tour that took them to major European capitals and the Lucerne, Salzburg, and Grafenegg festivals. A scheduled February 2020 tour to East Asia was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

In his capacity as BSO Music Director and Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Mr. Nelsons brings the BSO and GHO together for a unique multi-dimensional alliance including a BSO/GHO Musician Exchange program and an exchange component within each orchestra’s acclaimed academy for advanced music studies. A major aspect of the alliance is a focus on complementary programming, through which the BSO celebrates “Leipzig Week in Boston” and the GHO celebrates “Boston Week in Leipzig,” highlighting each other’s musical traditions through uniquely programmed concerts, chamber music performances, archival exhibits, and lecture series. The two orchestras have jointly commissioned and premiered works from Latvian, American, and German and Austrian composers.

In addition to his Shostakovich recordings with the BSO, Mr. Nelsons’ exclusive partnership with Deutsche Grammophon includes two other major projects. With the Gewandhausorchester he continues his critically acclaimed Bruckner symphonic cycle under the Yellow Label, of which four volumes have been released to date. His recordings of Beethoven’s complete symphonies with the Wiener Philharmoniker were released by Deutsche Grammophon in October 2019.

Mr. Nelsons frequently leads such orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. As an opera conductor, he has made regular guest appearances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Bayreuth Festival. Born in Riga in 1978 into a family of musicians, Andris Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying conducting. He was Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (2008-2015), Principal Conductor of Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany (2006-09), and Music Director of the Latvian National Opera (2003-07).

 

Andris Nelsons, conductor Hélène Grimaud, piano
Hélène Grimaud, piano View biography in full page >

She could be called a Renaissance woman for our times. Hélène Grimaud is not just a deeply passionate and committed musical artist whose pianistic accomplishments play a central role in her life. She is a woman with multiple talents that extend far beyond the instrument she plays with such poetic expression and peerless technical control. The French artist has established herself as a committed wildlife conservationist, a compassionate human rights activist and as a writer.

Grimaud was born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence and began her piano studies at the local conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin before going on to work with Pierre Barbizet in Marseille. She was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire at just 13 and won first prize in piano performance a mere three years later. She continued to study with György Sándor and Leon Fleisher until, in 1987, she gave her well-received debut recital in Tokyo. That same year, renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris.

This marked the launch of Grimaud's musical career, characterised ever since by concerts with most of the world's major orchestras and many celebrated conductors. Her recordings have been critically acclaimed and awarded numerous accolades, among them the Cannes Classical Recording of the Year, Choc du Monde de la musique, Diapason d'or, Grand Prix du disque, Record Academy Prize (Tokyo), Midem Classic Award and the Echo Award.

Between her debut in 1995 with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado and her first performance with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur in 1999 - just two of many notable musical milestones - Grimaud made a wholly different kind of debut: in upper New York State she established the Wolf Conservation Center.

Her love for the endangered species was sparked by a chance encounter with a wolf in northern Florida; this led to her determination to open an environmental education centre. "To be involved in direct conservation and being able to put animals back where they belong," she says, "there's just nothing more fulfilling." But Grimaud's engagement doesn't end there: she is also a member of the organisation Musicians for Human Rights, a worldwide network of musicians and people working in the field of music to promote a culture of human rights and social change.

For most people, establishing and running an environmental organisation or having a flourishing career as a musician would be accomplishment enough. Yet, remarkably, Hélène Grimaud has also found time to pursue writing, publishing three books that have appeared in various languages. Her first, Variations Sauvages, appeared in 2003. It was followed in 2005 by Leçons particulières,  and in 2013 by Retour à Salem, both semi-autobiographical novels.

Despite her divided dedication to these multiple passions, it is through Grimaud's thoughtful and tenderly expressive music-making that she most deeply touches the emotions of audiences. Fortunately, they have been able to enjoy her concerts worldwide, thanks to the extensive tours she undertakes as a soloist and recitalist. She is also an ardent and committed chamber musician who performs frequently at the most prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators, including Sol Gabetta, Thomas Quasthoff, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen and the Capuçon brothers.

Recent performance highlights have included two collaborations with the Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon - firstly, tears become… streams become…, a large-scale immersive installation at New York's historic Park Avenue Armory, whose Drill Hall floor was flooded to become an immense field of water, and secondly, Neck of the Woods, a piece devised for the Manchester International Festival combining music, visual art and theatre, in which Grimaud shared the stage with legendary actress Charlotte Rampling. She also appeared at the opening-night gala of the new Philharmonie de Paris and gave two summer concerts at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (New York State) in her role as 2015 Artist-in-Residence. Her recital at the Philharmonie Essen in May, meanwhile, was crowned by the award of the 2015 Klavier-Festival Ruhr Prize, honouring her exceptional career and extraordinary artistry.

In her diary for the 2015/16 season are appearances with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra at St Petersburg's White Nights Festival and at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden's Summer Festival. She plays Beethoven with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Antonio Pappano and Brahms with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She also tours Asia and Europe, playing concertos by Ravel, Brahms and Mozart and giving a recital programme inspired by water.

In 2016, Grimaud released Water, a live recording of the performances from tears become… streams become…  which brings together works by nine composers: Berio, Takemitsu, Fauré, Ravel, Albéniz, Liszt, Janáček, Debussy, and Nitin Sawhney, who has written seven shortWater Transitions for the album as well as producing it. Grimaud has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002, and Water  follows the September 2013 release of her album of the two Brahms piano concertos, the first concerto with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the second recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic. Classic FM said: "Hélène Grimaud turns her thrilling, deeply personal brand of music-making to Brahms's first and second Piano Concertos. Throughout her playing is sensitive, graceful, and commanding without ever feeling forced." Limelightmagazine called it an "utterly remarkable, inspired and inspiring recording".

Duo, the album she recorded with cellist Sol Gabetta just prior to the Brahms concertos, won the 2013 ECHO Award for "chamber recording of the year". Previous releases include her readings of Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 19 and 23 on a 2011 disc which also featured a collaboration with singer Mojca Erdmann in the same composer's Ch'io mi scordi di te?.Grimaud's 2010 release, the solo recital album Resonances, showcased music by Mozart, Berg, Liszt and Bartók, while her other DG recordings include a selection of Bach's solo and concerto works, in which she directed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the piano; a Beethoven disc with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Vladimir Jurowski which was chosen as one of history's greatest classical music albums in the iTunes "Classical Essentials" series; Reflection and Credo (both of which feature a number of thematically linked works); a Chopin and Rachmaninov Sonatas disc; a Bartók CD on which she plays the Third Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez; and a DVD release of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado.

Hélène Grimaud is undoubtedly a multi-faceted artist. Her deep dedication to her musical career, both in performances and recordings, is reflected and reciprocally amplified by the scope and depth of her environmental and literary pursuits.

Hélène Grimaud, piano
Program Notes Audio
Timo ANDRES - Everything Happens So Much (world premiere; BSO commission)
BRAHMS - Piano Concerto No. 2 (47 min)
BRAHMS - Symphony No. 3 (38 min)
Full Program Notes - Audio Concert Preview
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