Andris Nelsons is to leave the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in summer 2015 ‘with an extremely heavy heart’, having decided that his new appointment as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra would give him too little time with his family unless he quit the CBSO.
‘I have enjoyed five great seasons with this incredible orchestra,’ said the 34-year-old Latvian in a statement released last night, ‘and, while I look forward to another two in my current role, this difficult decision comes in view of my new position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra alongside my wish to protect precious time with my young family.’
Nelsons’ first concerts with the BSO as music director designate take place later this month before he takes over the role full time, initially for five years, from the 2014/15 season.
Previously a trumpeter, Nelsons succeeded Sakari Oramo for the CBSO’s 2008/9 season after holding positions at the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Germany and Latvian National Opera. Having once already extended his CBSO contract by three years to summer 2014, in August 2012 it was announced that he would hold a rolling contract with the CBSO until at least 2015 ‒ a flexible relationship which suggested Nelsons was considering a future away from Birmingham if the right job became available.
The CBSO’s chief executive, Stephen Maddock, reiterated that the decision to step down ‘has not been an easy one’.
‘He is one of the world’s best conductors, and has recently accepted a second music director role at one of the world’s greatest orchestras, the Boston Symphony; while his desire was to do everything that he could, he has to consider his family and his future.’
The CBSO is now looking for a successor, and Maddock drew attention to the orchestra’s record as a conducting talent-spotter. ‘Andris is one in a line of conducting superstars that have taken the role of music director in the last 35 years. Sir Simon Rattle, appointed at just 25 years old, held the post for 18 years before moving to the Berlin Philharmonic. He then passed the baton to the superbly talented Sakari Oramo who is now with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
‘As Andris heads to the Boston Symphony Orchestra it’s clear to everyone that we have very good taste in music directors and, whilst our search for our next music director is only just beginning, you can trust the CBSO to bring another outstanding talent to the podium in Birmingham.’
While the CBSO’s search will be international, British conductors including English National Opera’s Edward Gardner and Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Glyndebourne music director Robin Ticciati could fit the CBSO’s brief. In 2015 Ticciati will have been the SCO’s principal conductor for six years. Gardner started at ENO in 2007 and is the CBSO’s principal guest conductor. He will become chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2015 but might be tempted to move his UK base from London to Birmingham.
Helsinki’s Helsingin Sanomat newspaper mentions Osmo Vänskä, who has now resigned from the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, who recently stepped down as music director of contemporary specialists Ensemble Intercontemporain, as possible replacements.
With Vasily Gergiev set to leave the London Symphony Orchestra in 2015, two major British orchestras find themselves in the market for music directors. Former CBSO principal conductor Simon Rattle has been tipped for the LSO position by The Times critic Richard Morrison (£).
The CBSO’s current season sees Nelsons leading the orchestra on its biggest-ever touring schedule, with 35 overseas concerts in 12 months.
Bridget Blow, chair of the CBSO trustees, emphasised the importance of touring to the CBSO’s international reputation: ‘The CBSO has, for many decades, brought the best music, artists and musicians to Birmingham while also acting as a proud ambassador for the city through extensive touring. This season alone will be the busiest touring year ever, almost a third of our performances will be abroad in Europe and Asia, which is testament to the quality and reach that the CBSO and Andris have.
‘We will make sure that we continue to operate at the highest level as we go forward.’