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LEIPZIG WEEK IN BOSTON J.S. BACH Christmas Oratorio

LEIPZIG WEEK IN BOSTON
J.S. BACH Christmas Oratorio

Boston Symphony Orchestra

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Assembled and composed for Leipzig's Christmas season, Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a celebration of the nativity of Jesus Christ originally performed over the course of six days beginning on Christmas Day 1734. As was often Bach's practice, he re-used music from several earlier works, including the independent secular cantatas nos. 214-216. In addition to chorus, the work features soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, as well as an orchestra configured differently for each of the six sections. The BSO hasn't performed this important work since Charles Munch conducted it in 1960. For these performances, Andris Nelsons and the orchestra are joined by an outstanding group of soloists and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Featured Performers & Ensembles

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 Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Carolyn Sampson, soprano View biography in full page >

Equally at home on the concert and opera stages, Carolyn Sampson has enjoyed notable successes in the UK as well as throughout Europe and the US.

On the opera stage her roles for English National Opera have included the title role in Semele and Pamina in The Magic Flute.  For Glyndebourne Festival Opera she sang various roles in Purcell's The Fairy Queen, now released on DVD.  In 2012 she sang Anne Truelove The Rake's Progress in Sir David McVicar's new production for Scottish Opera.  Internationally she has appeared at Opéra de Paris, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Montpellier and Opéra National du Rhin. She also sang the title role in Lully's Psyché for the Boston Early Music Festival, which was released on CD and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in 2008.  In the 16/17 season she debuts the role of Mélisande Pelléas and Mélisande  for Scottish Opera.

Carolyn Sampson's numerous concert engagements in the UK have included regular appearances at the BBC Proms and with orchestras including The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The English Concert, Bach Collegium Japan, Britten Sinfonia and The Sixteen. She is a frequent guest with the Hallé and has performed with City of London Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras.

In Europe her many appearances have included concerts with Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerische Rundfunk, WDR Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Gürzenich Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra.

In the US Carolyn Sampson has featured as soloist with San Francisco Symphony, Boston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, St Paul Chamber Orchestra and is a regular guest at the Mostly Mozart Festival.  In October 2013 she made her Carnegie Hall recital debut to a sold-out audience in the Weill Recital Hall.

Carolyn works with conductors such as Sir Mark Elder, Markus Stenz, Ivor Bolton, Philippe Herreweghe, Harry Bicket, Trevor Pinnock, Riccardo Chailly, Louis Langrée, Harry Christophers, Robert King and William Christie.

A consummate recitalist, Carolyn Sampson appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall where a recital of lute songs with Matthew Wadsworth was recorded on the Wigmore Live label and released to huge critical acclaim. She has given regular recitals at the Saintes and Aldeburgh Festivals as well as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.  In the 14/15 season Carolyn was a "featured artist" at London's Wigmore Hall.

Carolyn has built up a partnership with the pianist Joseph Middleton over recent years.  Her debut song recital disc, 'Fleurs', with Joseph was released early in 2015 featuring songs by composers from Purcell to Britten, and was nominated in the solo vocal category of the Gramophone Awards. They recently released their second recital disc together, 'A Verlaine Songbook', exploring settings of the poetry of Paul Verlaine for BIS Records.

Carolyn's Harmonia Mundi recording of Poulenc's Stabat Mater and Sept Répons de Ténèbres was awarded the Choc de l'Année Classica 2014. Other recordings include Mozart's Requiem with Bach Collegium Japan and her recording of Purcell songs for BIS which was selected as Editor's Choice in the December 2007 issue of Gramophone Magazine. Her many recordings for Hyperion with The King's Consort include a highly acclaimed CD of Mozart sacred music 'Exsultate jubilate' which was selected as BBC Music Magazine's "Record of the Month" and was also the recipient of an ECHO Award.  She recorded a highly-acclaimed CD of Stravinsky's Les Noces and Mass for Harmonia Mundi and Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly for the Decca label.

Her recent recording with Ex Cathedra on the Hyperion label, 'A French Baroque Diva' - celebrating Marie Fel, a star soprano of Rameau's time won the recital award in the 2015 Gramophone Awards.

Recent highlights include Carolyn's debut with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra, concert performances of Semele with Concerto Köln and Ivor Bolton, recordings and concerts with both Bach Collegium Japan and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, two BBC Prom 2016 performances (Mozart's Mass in C minor with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov, and a duet programme with Iestyn Davies), a tour of Orlando (Dorinda) with the English Concert, concerts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, as well as further recording plans and recitals with Joseph Middleton and Matt Wadsworth including the Lincoln Centre New York, San Francisco, Wigmore Hall, and Japan.

Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano Sebastian Kohlhepp, tenor Sebastian Kohlhepp, tenor
Andrè Schuen, baritone Andrè Schuen, baritone
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Tanglewood Festival Chorus, (TFC) View biography in full page >

Tanglewood Festival Chorus
James Burton, BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
John Oliver (1939-2018), Founder

The Tanglewood Festival Chorus joins the BSO this season for performances of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Poulenc’s Gloria led by Andris Nelsons (September 19-21, the opening program of the 2019-20 subscription season); Galina Grigorieva’s On Leaving and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 2, also under Maestro Nelsons (November 21-26); Duruflé’s Requiem under Giancarlo Guerrero (February 27-March 3), and Stravinsky’s Perséphone with Thomas Adès conducting (March 26-28). In addition, to mark the TFC’s fiftieth anniversary in April 2020, James Burton leads the ensemble in a post-concert Casual Friday performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil (April 17). Originally formed under the joint sponsorship of Boston University and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus was established in 1970 by its founding conductor, the late John Oliver, who stepped down from his leadership position with the TFC at the end of the 2015 Tanglewood season. In February 2017, following appearances as guest chorus conductor at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, and having prepared the chorus for that month’s BSO performances of Bach’s B minor Massled by Andris Nelsons, James Burton was named the new Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, also being appointed to the newly created position of BSO Choral Director. Mr. Burton occupies the Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky Chair on the Boston Symphony Orchestra roster.

Though first established for performances at the BSO’s summer home, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was soon playing a major role in the BSO’s subscription season as well as BSO concerts at Carnegie Hall; the ensemble now performs year-round with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops. It has performed with the BSO on tour in Hong Kong and Japan, and on two European tours, also giving a cappella concerts of its own on those two occasions. The TFC made its debut in April 1970 at Symphony Hall, in a BSO performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Leonard Bernstein conducting. Its first recording with the orchestra, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust with Seiji Ozawa, received a Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance of 1975. The TFC has since made dozens of recordings with the BSO and Boston Pops, with Seiji Ozawa, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, Leonard Bernstein, Sir Colin Davis, Keith Lockhart, and John Williams. In August 2011, with John Oliver conducting and soloist Stephanie Blythe, the TFC gave the world premiere of Alan Smith’s An Unknown Sphere for mezzo-soprano and chorus, commissioned by the BSO for the ensemble’s 40th anniversary. Its most recent recordings on BSO Classics, all drawn from live performances, include a disc of a cappella music marking the TFC’s 40th anniversary; Ravel’s complete Daphnis et Chloé (a 2009 Grammy-winner for Best Orchestral Performance), Brahms’s German Requiem, and William Bolcom’s Eighth Symphony for chorus and orchestra (a BSO 125th Anniversary Commission). On July 4, 2018, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus joined Keith Lockhart for the “Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular” on the Charles River Esplanade.

Besides their work with the BSO, TFC members have also performed with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic and in a Saito Kinen Festival production of Britten’s Peter Grimes under Seiji Ozawa in Japan. The ensemble had the honor of singing at Sen. Edward Kennedy’s funeral; has performed with the Boston Pops for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics; and can be heard on the soundtracks of Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, John Sayles’s Silver City, and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. TFC members regularly commute from the greater Boston area and beyond to sing with the chorus in Boston and at Tanglewood. For more information about the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and upcoming auditions, please visit www.bso.org/tfc.

 

James Burton
James Burton, conductor View biography in full page >

James Burton was appointed Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and to the newly created position of BSO Choral Director, in February 2017. He made his BSO subscription-series conducting debut in October 2018, leading the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in Maija Einfelde’s Lux aeterna. In August 2019 he led the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir and Boston Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of his The Lost Words, a BSO co-commission, as part of the summer’s gala Tanglewood on Parade concert. In April 2020 he will conduct the Tanglewood Festival Concert in a post-concert Casual Friday performance of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil to celebrate the TFC’s fiftieth anniversary. Mr. Burton made his debut with the Boston Pops in December 2017, returned to the Pops podium last December—as he will again for Holiday Pops concerts in December 2019—and led the Pops this past June at Tanglewood in a program celebrating Queen with Marc Martel.

Born in London, James Burton holds a master’s degree in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Frederik Prausnitz and Gustav Meier. He began his training at the Choir of Westminster Abbey, where he became head chorister, and was a choral scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He has conducted concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata. Opera credits include performances at English National Opera, English Touring Opera, Garsington Opera, and the Prague Summer Nights Festival, and he has served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera and Opera de Paris. Mr. Burton’s extensive choral conducting has included guest invitations with professional choirs including the Gabrieli Consort, the Choir of the Enlightenment, Wrocław Philharmonic, and the BBC Singers, with whom he performed in the inaugural season of Dubai’s Opera House in 2017. From 2002 to 2009 he served as choral director at the Hallé Orchestra, where he was music director of the Hallé Choir and founding conductor of the Hallé Youth Choir, winning the Gramophone Choral Award in 2009. From 2002 to 2017 he was music director of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford. Well known for his inspirational work with young musicians, he was director of the National Youth Choir of Japan in 2017 and founded the Boston Symphony Children’s Choir in 2018. Mr. Burton has given conducting master classes at the Royal Academy of Music in London and at the Tanglewood Music Center, and founded a scholarship for young conductors at Oxford. His growing composition portfolio includes works for commissioners including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and the Exon Festival, where he was composer-in-residence in 2015. His works are published by Edition Peters. As BSO Choral Director and Conductor of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton occupies the Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky Chair, endowed in perpetuity.

 

Program Notes Audio
J.S. BACH - Christmas Oratorio
(150 + 20-minute intermission after Part III)
Audio Concert Preview - Full Program Notes
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