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Boston Symphony Conductor Andris Nelsons on Why Symphony Hall Tops Lists of the World’s Be st Classical Music Venues

Photo Credit: Boston Symphony

Ever since he made his electrifying Boston Symphony Orchestra debut in 2011 conducting Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 9, Andris Nelsons has captivated audiences at Symphony Hall with his signature style and dynamic direction. Now in his fifth year as Music Director, the 41-year-old Latvian conductor has a lot of memorable performances under his belt, and many more tricks up his sleeve. 

To celebrate his achievements leading the world-renowned orchestra and look ahead to the most exciting performances still to come this season, Boston spoke with Nelsons during his holiday stint with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where he is also the Music Director. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

How do you continue to keep the Boston Symphony fresh and engaging as you head into your sixth year as Music Director?

Being surrounded by such talent, creativity, and intelligence, I find that I hardly ever tire of my work or lack inspiration. Even if there is a piece I have performed many times before, there is always more to discover and more to learn. 

I have had the pleasure over the years of working with such fantastic musicians, outstanding soloists, and wonderful contemporary composers. We are also constantly looking at the work of composers who are new or less familiar and discuss new ideas that we believe will inspire and energize both the orchestra and audience. 

Photo Credit: Boston Symphony

What are a few defining BSO performances from the last five years that stick out to you?

The Shostakovich project has been one of the most inspiring projects of my musical life. The orchestra has completely embraced the musical and historical meaning behind this genius music of Shostakovich and we are so thrilled that the greater music community has given the project such affirmative recognition. It is so fantastic that we have won four Grammys for the project!

Another unique experience I’ve had is leading the Boston Symphony outdoors in Boston’s historic Franklin Park, an event that attracts parents with children and people of all ages who might not otherwise have the chance to hear the glorious music-making of our orchestra live. We performed a movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and I was so touched by all the people who approached us after the performance to tell us how much they were moved by the music.  

What is it about the Boston Symphony and Symphony Hall that’s so special, and continues to attract huge audiences year after year?

The Boston Symphony players’ musicianship is second to none, and their capacity to respond to direction and to each other is remarkable. They can take on any musical challenge, but at the heart of the orchestra’s tradition is the way they’ve developed this special sound world. Whenever I take the podium, I have complete confidence in their abilities. Symphony Hall—beyond its acoustical excellence—holds so much history within its walls and is like a gift to any artist on its stage. 

Photo Credit: Hilary Scott

What would you tell someone who’s never been to a Boston Symphony concert to convince them to attend?

I hope they would come to a Boston Symphony concert to experience the true greatness of the orchestra and its hall, which is considered to be one of the top three halls acoustically in the world. Quite simply put, the orchestra and hall combined generate some of the most beautiful sounds imaginable to the human ear.

In these difficult times in which we live, I find nothing more comforting and inspiring than to enter a concert hall and focus together with the musicians and audience on recreating some of the most inspiring music ever written. 

Anything else you would like to add?

I want to extend a huge welcome to the Boston community to get to know their hometown orchestra, whether attending a Boston Symphony or Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall or Tanglewood, bringing their children to Youth Concerts, or coming to hear a free chamber performance by BSO members in their own neighborhood. Open Rehearsals, Rush Tickets, and discounted tickets for those under 40 and for students can be the first step in a music lover’s journey to becoming a lifelong patron and supporter. I would also like to thank the Boston community for welcoming me and making me feel so at home in this great city that has so many wonderful experiences to offer its citizens and its visitors alike.  

To see a full schedule of upcoming performances at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and purchase tickets, visit bso.org.