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In a career spanning five decades, John Williams has become one of America's most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage. He has served as music director and laureate conductor of one of the country's treasured musical institutions, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and he maintains thriving artistic relationships with many of the world's great orchestras. He remains one of our nation's most distinguished and contributive musical voices.
Mr. Williams has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 films. His nearly 40-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood's most acclaimed and successful films, including Schindler's List, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones films, Lincoln, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, Munich, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Empire of the Sun. Mr. Williams also composed the scores for all six Star Wars films, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Memoirs of a Geisha, Far and Away, The Accidental Tourist, Home Alone, Nixon, The Patriot, Angela's Ashes, Seven Years in Tibet, The Witches of Eastwick, Rosewood, Sleepers, Sabrina, Presumed Innocent, The Cowboys, The Reivers, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, among many others. His most recent film project was The Book Thief. He has worked with such legendary directors as Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, and Robert Altman. He adapted the score for the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, for which he composed original violin cadenzas for renowned virtuoso Isaac Stern. He has appeared on recordings as pianist and conductor with Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Jessye Norman, and others. Mr. Williams has received five Academy Awards and a total of forty-nine Oscar nominations, making him the Academy's most-nominated living person. He also has received seven British Academy Awards (BAFTA), twenty-one Grammys, four Golden Globes, five Emmys, and numerous gold and platinum records.
A composition student of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mr. Williams also studied piano at the Juilliard School with Madame Rosina Lhevinne. He began his career in the film industry working with such accomplished composers as Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, and Franz Waxman. He went on to write music for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking, early anthology series Alcoa Theatre, Kraft Television Theatre, Chrysler Theatre, and Playhouse 90. His more recent contributions to television music include themes for NBC Nightly News ("The Mission"), the theme for what has become network television's longest-running series, NBC's Meet the Press, and the prestigious PBS arts showcase Great Performances.
Mr. Williams has composed numerous works for the concert stage, among them two symphonies, and concertos for flute, oboe, violin, clarinet, viola, and tuba. His cello concerto was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and premiered by Yo-Yo Ma at Tanglewood in 1994. Mr. Williams also has filled commissions by several of the world's leading orchestras, including a bassoon concerto for the New York Philharmonic, a trumpet concerto for the Cleveland Orchestra, and a horn concerto for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. "Seven for Luck," a seven-piece song cycle for soprano and orchestra based on texts by former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, was premiered by the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in 1998. And at the opening concert of their 2009-10 season, James Levine led the Boston Symphony in the premiere of Mr. Williams's "On Willows and Birches," a new concerto for harp and orchestra.
In January 1980, Mr. Williams was named nineteenth conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the title of Laureate Conductor, which he assumed following his retirement in December 1993, after fourteen highly successful seasons. He also holds the title of Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.
One of America's best-known and most distinctive artistic voices, Mr. Williams has composed music for many important cultural and commemorative events, including "Liberty Fanfare" for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, "American Journey" for the America's Millennium concert in Washington, D.C., on New Year's Eve 1999, and "Soundings" for the gala opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In the world of sport, he has contributed musical themes for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Mr. Williams holds honorary degrees from twenty-one American universities, including The Juilliard School, Boston College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston University, the New England Conservatory of Music, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, The Eastman School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the University of Southern California. He is a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government. In 2003 he received the Olympic Order, the IOC's highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He served as the Grand Marshal of the 2004 Rose Parade in Pasadena, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor in December 2004. In January 2009, Mr. Williams composed and arranged "Air and Simple Gifts" especially for the inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama.
John Williams, conductor
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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