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Boston Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Andris Nelsons by Marco Borggreve, Jean-Yves Thibaudet by Decca / Kasskara
Bernstein has four characters search for faith in a New York City bar while Shostakovich’s symphony flirts with danger. W. H. Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety, an eclogue on man’s spiritual quest, inspired the pulsing jazz piano and vivid orchestral colors of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2. Echoes of Mahler are evident in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, especially the emotional arc of its finale. The composer cancelled the symphony’s 1936 premiere knowing its unorthodox style ran against Soviet cultural policy—a mistake that could have cost him his freedom or more.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is also performing April 12 and April 13.


Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Piano


BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety"


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.

Sponsored by KPMG LLP

At a Glance

From Leonard Bernstein’s own prefatory note to his Symphony No. 2: “W. H. Auden’s fascinating poem, The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue, began to affect me lyrically when I first read it in the summer of 1947. From that moment, the composition of a symphony based on The Age of Anxiety acquired a compulsive quality … I imagine that the conception of a symphony with piano solo emerges from the personal identification of myself with the poem. In this sense, the pianist provides an autobiographical protagonist … The work is no ‘concerto’ in the virtuosic sense, although I regard Auden’s poem as one of the most shattering examples of virtuosity in the history of English poetry. The essential line of the poemand of the musicis the record of our difficult search for faith … If the charge of ‘theatricality’ in a symphonic work is a valid one, I am willing to plead guilty. I have a suspicion that every work I write, for whatever medium, is really theater music in some way, and nothing has convinced me more than these new discoveries of the unconscious hand that has been at work all along in The Age of Anxiety.”

Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony was originally to be premiered in December 1936, but the 30-year-old composer was forced by the Soviet authorities to withdraw the work after he was viciously attacked in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda for his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. When it was finally performed in 1961—eight years after Stalin’s death—the score, lost during World War II, had to be reconstructed by the composer from the parts used in the rehearsals for the cancelled premiere. Lasting more than an hour and calling for a huge orchestra, the Fourth Symphony is enormous not only in size, but in its extraordinary wealth of instrumental colors and varied textures; in its vast dynamic range; in its frequent, striking contrasts (extended episodes for the entire orchestra are juxtaposed with others that are much more lightly scored); and in its extraordinary maintenance of tension over large architectural spans. By ending all three movements quietly, Shostakovich is doing more, one feels, than just pursuing his art: He is baring his soul.


Andris Nelsons

In 2017–2018—his fourth season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Ray and Maria Stata Music Director—Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 12 ...

In 2017–2018—his fourth season as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Ray and Maria Stata Music Director—Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 12 wide-ranging subscription programs at Symphony Hall, repeating three of them at Carnegie Hall. In November, he and the orchestra toured Japan together for the first time, playing concerts in Nagoya, Osaka, Kawasaki, and Tokyo. In February 2018, he became Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in which capacity he will bring both orchestras together for a unique multi-dimensional alliance. In the summer of 2015, following his first season as music director, Mr. Nelsons’s contract with the Boston Symphony Orchestra was extended through the 2021–2022 season. Following the 2015 Tanglewood season, he and the BSO undertook a 12-concert, eight-city tour to major European capitals as well as the Lucerne, Salzburg, and Grafenegg festivals. A second European tour to eight cities in Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg took place in May 2016, and a third is scheduled for September 2018.

The 15th music director in the history of the BSO, Mr. Nelsons made his BSO debut at Carnegie Hall in March 2011, his Tanglewood debut in July 2012, and his BSO subscription series debut in January 2013. His recordings with the orchestra include the four Brahms symphonies on BSO Classics recorded live at Symphony Hall in November 2016, and Grammy-winning live recordings of Shostakovich’s symphonies nos. 5, 8, 9, and 10 on Deutsche Grammophon.

In 2017–2018, Mr. Nelsons is artist-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Dortmund and continues his regular collaboration with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, leading that orchestra on tour to China. He also maintains regular collaborations with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra, and has been a regular guest at the Bayreuth Festival and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he conducts a new David Alden production of Lohengrin this season.

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 music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 2008 to 2015; 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.

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Jean-Yves Thibaudet

For more than three decades, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has performed worldwide, recorded more than 50 albums, and built a reputation as one of today’s finest pianists. The 2017–2018 ...

For more than three decades, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has performed worldwide, recorded more than 50 albums, and built a reputation as one of today’s finest pianists. The 2017–2018 season takes him to 14 countries, including extensive concerts in Asia. As Artist-in-Residence with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) this season, he has been soloist with the BSO in Boston playing Bach’s Triple Concerto (with pianists Thomas Adès and Kirill Gerstein), Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety, and has performed music of Haydn and Dvořák with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. He is considered one of the premier interpreters of the solo part in The Age of Anxiety, which he has recorded with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and which he also performs with the Atlanta and National symphony orchestras, the San Francisco and Houston symphonies, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, both at home and on tour in Germany, Austria, and Israel. Other season highlights include Ravel with the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, The Cleveland Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a Carnegie Hall recital with violinist Janine Jansen; a tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in California; and a trip to his hometown to play Qigang Chen’s Er Huang, which was written for him, with the Orchestre National de Lyon. This season, the Colburn School has extended his artist-in-residency an additional three years and has announced the Jean-Yves Thibaudet Scholarships; he himself will select students for the merit-based awards, regardless of their instrument choice. His passion for education and fostering young musical talent extends to his European tour with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, playing Gershwin and Messiaen. His concert wardrobe is by celebrated London designer Dame Vivienne Westwood. Born in Lyon, France, Jean-Yves Thibaudet won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire at age 15 and, three years later, the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York City. His numerous commendations include the Victoire d’Honneur and induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. Previously a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, he was awarded the title of Officier by the French Ministry of Culture in 2012.

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