Performance Thursday, October 22, 2015 | 8 PM

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The triumphant new partnership of Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra thrills in two scintillating Russian masterpieces. Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, taken from his complete score to Eisenstein’s famous film, comprises music that accompanied its iconic scenes, including the menacing chant of invading Teutonic Knights, the Russian people’s stirring exhortation to battle, a tender lament, and the colossal Battle on the Ice. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances is a spectacular orchestral showpiece that weaves threads of Russian Orthodox chant with the chilling Dies Irae, resulting in a blockbuster finale.


  • Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
  • Nadezhda Serdyuk, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Tanglewood Festival Chorus
    James Bagwell, Guest Chorus Conductor


  • PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky
  • RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission. Please note that there will be no late seating before intermission.


  • Andris Nelsons

    In 2015-2016, his second season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Ray and Maria Stata Music Director, Andris Nelsons leads the BSO in 13 wide-ranging programs highlighted by concert performances of Strauss's Elektra, three weeks marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the continuation of the orchestra's Shostakovich recordings project in collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon, and new works by Hans Abrahamsen, Sebastian Currier, Giya Kancheli, and George Tsontakis. This past August, his contract as the BSO's music director was extended through the 2021-2022 season. In 2017, he becomes Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, in which capacity he will also bring the BSO and GWO together for a unique multi-dimensional alliance encompassing a variety of musical and educational collaborations between the two organizations. Following this past summer's Tanglewood season, Maestro Nelsons and the BSO undertook a 12-concert, eight-city tour to major European capitals; a tour to Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg is scheduled for May 2016. Mr. Nelsons also continues his collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra. A regular guest at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Vienna State Opera; and Metropolitan Opera, he returns to Bayreuth next summer for a new production of Wagner's Parsifal. From 2008 to 2015, he was critically acclaimed as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

    The 15th music director in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011 and his Tanglewood debut in July 2012. His first compact disc with the BSO--live recordings of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture and Sibelius's Symphony No. 2--was released last November on BSO Classics. Their first Shostakovich disc--the Symphony No. 10 and the Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk--was released by Deutsche Grammophon this past summer.

    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 principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford, Germany, from 2006 to 2009 and music director of the Latvian National Opera from 2003 to 2007. He is the subject of a DVD from Orfeo, a documentary film entitled Andris Nelsons: Genius on Fire.

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  • Nadezhda Serdyuk

    Nadezhda Serdyuk won prizes at the International Elena Obraztsova Young Opera Singers Competition, the International Rimsky-Korsakov Young Opera Singers Competition, and the International Glinka Vocalists Competition. She graduated from the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 1997, and since 2007 has been a soloist with the Mariinsky Opera Company, where in the current season she sings Amneris in Aida and Preziosilla in La forza del destino. Her repertoire includes Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Leonora in La favorite, Albine in Thaïs, Mother in Mavra, Death in Le rossignol, Joan in The Maid of Orleans, and Mistress of the Inn in Boris Godunov, as well as Bach's Magnificat; the Requiems of Mozart, Verdi, and Saint-Saëns; Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; Mahler's Eighth Symphony; Stravinsky's Les noces; and Szymanowski's Stabat Mater. She has toured with the Mariinsky Opera Company to New York (Metropolitan Opera), London (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), Paris (Théâtre du Châtelet), Milan (La Scala), Washington (Kennedy Center), Tokyo, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Baden-Baden, and has appeared at Finland's Mikkeli Music Festival. Ms. Serdyuk has sung Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges in Aix-en-Provence, Luxembourg, and Madrid, and Albine in Thaïs and Polina in The Queen of Spades at Turin's Teatro Regio. She has collaborated with such conductors as Valery Gergiev, Gianandrea Noseda, Yevgeny Kolobov, Yuri Bashmet, Saulius Sondeckis, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Helmuth Rilling. Among her recordings are The Love for Three Oranges, Thaïs, and Mozart's Requiem.

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  • Tanglewood Festival Chorus
    James Bagwell, Guest Chorus Conductor
    John Oliver, Founder and Conductor Laureate

    Originally formed under the joint sponsorship of Boston University and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus (TFC) was established in 1970 by its founding conductor John Oliver, who stepped down from his leadership position with the TFC this past August. Awarded the Tanglewood Medal by the BSO to honor his 45 years of service to the ensemble, Mr. Oliver now holds the newly created lifetime title of Founder and Conductor Laureate, and will occupy a Master Teacher Chair at the Tanglewood Music Center beginning next summer. Though first established for performances at the BSO's summer home, the TFC was soon playing a major role in the BSO's subscription season and performances at Carnegie Hall. Now numbering more than 300 members, the ensemble performs year-round with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. It has performed with Seiji Ozawa and the BSO in Hong Kong and Japan, and with the BSO in Europe under James Levine and Bernard Haitink, also giving a cappella concerts of its own on the two latter occasions. Its first recording with the BSO, Berlioz's La damnation of 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 James Levine, Seiji Ozawa, Bernard Haitink, Sir Colin Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Keith Lockhart, and John Williams. Its most recent recordings on BSO Classics, all drawn from live performances, include a disc of a cappella music led by John Oliver and released to mark the TFC's 40th anniversary, and, with James Levine conducting, Ravel's complete Daphnis et Chloé (a Grammy winner for Best Orchestral Performance of 2009), Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem, and William Bolcom's Eighth Symphony for chorus and orchestra (a BSO 125th Anniversary Commission). The TFC had the honor of singing at Senator Edward Kennedy's funeral, has performed with the Boston Pops for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics, and can also be heard on the soundtracks of Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, John Sayles's Silver City, and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.

    James Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. Recently named associate conductor of The Orchestra Now, Mr. Bagwell was appointed principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in 2009, leading it in concerts at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. As music director of the Collegiate Chorale from 2009 to 2015, he conducted such wide-ranging works as Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda, Rossini's Möise et Pharaon, Boito's Mefistofele, Philip Glass's Another Look at Harmony, Osvaldo Golijov's Oceana, and the New York premiere of Glass's "Toltec" Symphony, and also prepared the ensemble for performances at the Verbier and Salzburg festivals. His live recording of Kurt Weill's Knickerbocker Holiday for Gaslight Records is the only complete recording of that musical. Mr. Bagwell has trained choruses for the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with such noted conductors as Charles Dutoit, Alan Gilbert, Gianandrea Noseda, Valery Gergiev, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Louis Langrée, Leon Botstein, Iván Fischer, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Raymond Leppard, James Conlon, Jésus López-Cobos, Erich Kunzel, Leon Fleisher, and Robert Shaw. Since 2003, Mr. Bagwell has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival. Other conducting appearances include the San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Light Opera Oklahoma, Little Opera Theatre of New York, the Dessoff Choirs of New York, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Symphony, Interlochen Music Festival, and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. James Bagwell holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University. He is professor of music at Bard College and director of performance studies in the Bard College Conservatory.

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PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky (Prelude)
Yuri Temirkanov, Conductor | St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
RCA Victor Red Seal

At a Glance

Sergei Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky cantata resulted from the first of two film scores created in a remarkable collaboration with the master Russian director Sergei Eisenstein. Nevsky, made in 1938, was followed a few years later by Ivan the Terrible. Prokofiev’s gift for musical illustration and mood closely matched Eisenstein’s ability to reflect broad swaths of humanity via a few sharply drawn, unique characters and dramatic scenes. Conceived for propaganda purposes to steel Russian will in case of Third Reich aggression, the film was withdrawn when the two nations signed a pact of non-aggression. Soon afterwards, Prokofiev reshaped some 40 minutes of the film score to create a work for the concert hall, the various episodes of which correspond closely to scenes from the film.

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, written in 1940, was the last piece he composed, one of only a very few major works of his final decade, along with the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Third Symphony, both written in the 1930s. He and his family moved to California at the end of 1939 due to the threat of war, and it was there that he finished the Symphonic Dances. It had originated at choreographer Michel Fokine’s suggestion, following his creation of a dance based on the PaganiniRhapsody, but ultimately the two, separated by geography and both aging, were unable to bring the ballet to fruition. Symphonic Dances is in three movements. While exhibiting a tighter compositional structure than many of the composer’s works, it nonetheless features bright and colorful orchestration and a number of wonderfully Rachmaninoffian melodies. He dedicated the score to Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, who had given the first performances of the composer’s previous three orchestral works and who premiered the Symphonic Dances on January 3, 1941.
Program Notes
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