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Andris Nelsons conducts Bermel, Prokofiev and Strauss featuring violinist Leonidas Kavakos

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Greek-born violinist Leonidas Kavakos returns to Symphony Hall as soloist in Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Composed in the mid-1930s, the concerto is by turns beautifully lyrical and scintillatingly virtuosic, with a Spanish-flavored finale as a nod to Madrid, where the work was premiered in 1935. Opening these concerts is American composer Derek Bermel's "spectral love potion" Elixir, which combines colorfully tranquil music for strings with exuberant, Messiaen-like exclamations from wind instruments deployed throughout the auditorium. Completing the program is Richard Strauss's cinematic tone poem An Alpine Symphony, illustrating an excursion up, then down (at a faster pace!) a mountain, with a huge range of instrumental and compositional effects.

Featured Performers

Andris Nelsons, conductor
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In 2017-18, his fourth season as the BSO's Ray and Maria Stata Music Director, Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in twelve wide-ranging subscription programs at Symphony Hall, repeating three of them at New York's Carnegie Hall in March. Also this season, in November, he and the orchestra tour Japan together for the first time, playing concerts in Nagoya, Osaka, Kawasaki, and Tokyo. In addition, in February 2018 Maestro Nelsons becomes Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, in which capacity he will bring both orchestras together for a unique multi-dimensional alliance; under his direction, the BSO celebrates its first "Leipzig Week in Boston" that same month. In the summer of 2015, following his first season as music director, Andris Nelsons' contract with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was extended through the 2021-22 season. Following the 2015 Tanglewood season, he and the BSO undertook a twelve-concert, eight-city tour to major European capitals as well as the Lucerne, Salzburg, and Grafenegg festivals. A second European tour, to eight cities in Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg, took place in May 2016.

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. His first CD with the BSO-live recordings of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Sibelius's Symphony No. 2-was released in November 2014 on BSO Classics. April 2017 brought the release on BSO Classics of the four Brahms symphonies with Maestro Nelsons conducting, recorded live at Symphony Hall in November 2016. In an ongoing, multi-year collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon initiated in 2014-15, he and the BSO are making live recordings of Shostakovich's complete symphonies, the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and other works by the composer. The first release in this series (the Symphony No. 10 and the Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance and Gramophone Magazine's Orchestral Award. The second release (symphonies 5, 8, and 9, plus excerpts from Shostakovich's 1932 incidental music to Hamlet) won the 2017 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. Also for Deutsche Grammophon, Andris Nelsons is recording the Bruckner symphonies with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Beethoven symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic.

In 2017-18, Andris Nelsons is artist-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Dortmund and continues his regular collaboration with the Vienna Philharmonic, leading that orchestra on tour to China. He also maintains regular collaborations with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Maestro Nelsons has also been a regular guest at the Bayreuth Festival and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he conducts a new David Alden production of Lohengrin this season.

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 from 2008 to 2015, principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009, and music director of Latvian National Opera from 2003 to 2007. Mr. Nelsons is the subject of a 2013 DVD from Orfeo, a documentary film entitled "Andris Nelsons: Genius on Fire."

Andris Nelsons, conductor Leonidas Kavakos, violin
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Leonidas Kavakos is recognized across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. In recognition of this, he was voted Gramophone Artist of the Year 2014.

Born and brought up in Athens in a musical family, where he still lives, Kavakos's first steps as a violinist were guided by his parents. He studied at the Hellenic Conservatory with Stelios Kafantaris, one of the three important mentors in his life, together with Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados.

By the age of 21, Leonidas Kavakos had already won three major competitions, the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. This success led to his recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4), the first recording of this work in history. It won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991. He was also accorded the honour of performing on the famous 'Il Cannone' Guarneri del Gesù, which belonged to Paganini.

Kavakos's international career has allowed him to develop close relationships with the world's major orchestras and conductors, such as the Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons, London Symphony Orchestra/Gergiev and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Chailly. Kavakos also works closely with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich Philharmonic, Budapest Festival orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala and in the USA, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras.

Leonidas Kavakos has now established a strong profile as a conductor and has worked with the London Symphony and Boston Symphony orchestras, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Vienna Symphony, Budapest Festival, Finnish Radio Symphony and Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestras. In the forthcoming season, Kavakos will return as conductor to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and will meet, for the first time as conductor, the Russian State Symphony and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestras.

Leonidas Kavakos is an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist and his first release on the label, the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace, resulted in the award of 'Instrumentalist of the Year' at the 2013 ECHO Klassik Awards. The duo has presented the complete cycle at New York's Carnegie Hall, Salzburg Festival, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, in Hong Kong and Shanghai and at the Beethovenfest Bonn.

Kavakos's second disc with Decca Classics (October 2013), was the Brahms Violin Concerto recorded with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly, and the third disc, Brahms Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang, was released in spring 2014. Kavakos and Wang performed the sonatas on tour throughout Europe and in the coming season, will appear in London's Barbican Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Barcelona, Madrid, Salzburg and the Vienna Musikverein.

Following the Sibelius and other early recordings for BIS and ECM, Kavakos recorded Mozart's five Violin Concertos and Symphony No.39 in concert for Sony Classical, conducting and playing with Camerata Salzburg. He then recorded Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, again with Camerata Salzburg, for which he received an ECHO Klassik 'Best Concerto Recording' award in 2009.

Kavakos has always retained strong links with his native Greece. For 15 years he curated a chamber music cycle at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) which featured some of his close musical friends, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinrich Schiff, Emanuel Ax, Nikolai Lugansky, Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon. For the past two years Kavakos has curated an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions.

Leonidas Kavakos is passionate about the art of violin- and bow-making, both past and present, which he considers a great mystery and, to our day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the 'Abergavenny' Stradivarius violin of 1724 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bague. Bows by F.X. Tourte, D. Peccatte, J.P.M. Persois and J. Henry are his most precious companions.

Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Program Notes Audio
Derek BERMEL - Elixir(8 min)
PROKOFIEV - Violin Concerto No. 2 (27 min)
STRAUSS - An Alpine Symphony (48 min)
Concert Preview - Full Program Notes
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