Interview with Andris Nelsons
He was a terror at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, careening around the campus in a staff golf cart, his gangly 6-foot-2 frame spilling out of the driver’s seat. Andris Nelsons, the 35-year-old Latvian conductor who this month became the venerable orchestra’s music director, and who doesn’t even drive a car, had come upon a new toy.
And that’s also how he feels about the orchestra, which he was conducting during two weekends of concerts at Tanglewood. “I’m very simply happy like a kid, like I was driving for the first time with the golf carts,” he said in an interview in July, shortly after one of the joy rides, when asked how he was faring in the weeks before assuming his new position. “It is really, of course, a great honor, a great dream,” he added. “This is one of best orchestras in the world, but it is not only that. I come from Europe, with a European education and tradition, and the orchestra also has a very strong European tradition from the great conductors of the past. It is a great journey for me.”
So Mr. Nelsons takes his place in a youth movement that has swept across American podiums in recent years: perhaps fate’s final revenge on the grizzled, tyrannical maestros of the mid-20th century (Arturo Toscanini, Fritz Reiner, George Szell and the like), who rained taunts and threats on pre-unionized musicians, many of them struggling immigrants. Mr. Nelsons joins Gustavo Dudamel (now 33) at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (39) at the Philadelphia Orchestra, Ludovic Morlot (40) at the Seattle Symphony and Alan Gilbert (44) at the New York Philharmonic in dealing with musicians who are often older, more experienced and more thoroughly steeped in the traditions of their ensembles.
This is not a situation that rewards arrogance. A certain humility, even a touch of subservience, is in order, a lesson that Mr. Nelsons has evidently taken to heart and that has served him well.“
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