Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Newest Music Director: Symphony Hall Is ‘Best In the World’

Andris Nelsons spent time with musicians preparing for a series of performances.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

Demonstrating his vocal range, and nervously picking at the buttons on his dress shirt, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s newest maestro, Andris Nelsons, discussed his excitement to be in the city, and what he expects will happen as he takes the reigns as music director at “one of the best” performance spaces in the world.

“The [BSO] is, of course, a combination of wonderful musicians and individuals playing at an extremely high level, [and] of great traditions of conductors…and the concert hall. That all makes [up] a combination of the sound of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” he said. “The possibilities are so huge, that I am going to enjoy many years together with exploring more and more.”

At age 34, the newest musical director is the third-youngest of the 15 maestros in the history of the BSO. Nelsons signed his contract at Symphony Hall in June, securing his spot for the time being, and on Tuesday, he took the stage during rehearsal, for the first time, in preparation for a series of concerts coming up Thursday, October 17, through Saturday. The concerts will feature performances of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, with soloist Paul Lewis, and the Brahms Third Symphony. Nelsons’ first full season as BSO music director, when he will lead the orchestra through two-months worth of subscription programs, will begin in the fall of 2014.

The Latvian musical director said he hopes to build a musical family during his time in Boston; enough so that as the years progress, he will be able to rely simply on his gestures during rehearsals in order for musicians to understand what it is he is looking for. “I want people to feel free while performing,” he said, while also directing the musicians through his actions, in order to create a tightly knit ensemble. “The same as the Army. You should know which direction to aim.”

Of course, Nelsons is no stranger to the BSO, having served as a guest maestro at Symphony Hall during his career, but now, as he takes steps into his role, his perspective on how things will be conducted has shifted somewhat. “What’s important to me, is that we can go where the fantasy leads us, and [play with] imagination, rather than pure playing,” he said, adding that he will stick to Germanic traditions to bring a rich sound to listeners crowding Symphony Hall during future performances. “The combination with the conductor and the orchestra creates a special unity which you can’t find anywhere else.”

Nelsons was welcomed to the city, from London, over the summer, with a concert in his honor, as well as the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. His first official appearance as music director, during a show at Tanglewood, was delayed after her suffered a concussion in Germany, however. Now that he finally had the chance to spend time with the orchestra, he said he expects his first year as musical director will take some getting used to, but that as time passes, his relationship with the hall, the orchestra, and the city, will grow. “You build the chemistry, and you build the family, and you also build the musical journey,” said Nelsons. “If the chemistry is better, the music is also better.”