Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, Music Director and Conductor
Steven Ansell, Viola
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
MOZART Symphony No. 23
JÖRG WIDMANN Partita, Five Reminiscences for Orchestra (NY Premiere)
R. STRAUSS Don Quixote
Event DurationThe printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
Pre-Concert TalkPre-concert talk starts at 7:00 PM in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage with Paul Berry, Adjunct Associate Professor of Music History, Yale University.
At a Glance
In this concert, Andris Nelsons leads the New York premiere of esteemed German composer Jörg Widmann’s Partita, co-commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and given its world and American premieres last month in Leipzig and Boston, respectively. As its title and subtitle—“Five Reminiscences”—suggest, Widmann’s rich, wide-ranging work is a kind of conversation with music history, referencing composers and styles significant to Leipzig and to the BSO. Opening the concert is Mozart’s brief, seldom-heard Symphony No. 23, written in 1773 at Salzburg when he was just 17, and which maintains the continuous, fast-slow-fast pattern of the Italian opera overture that was precursor to the genre of symphony. Mr. Nelsons has chosen this work because of the sweet, second-movement oboe theme, a close cousin to Strauss’s “Dulcinea” oboe melody in his Don Quixote, which concludes the program.
Strauss’s Don Quixote is one of a string of orchestral tone poems––also including Don Juan, Tod und Verklärung, and Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche––with which he made his reputation in the 1880s and 1890s as one of the day’s most progressive and skilled composers. In Don Quixote, Strauss makes the unusual choice of calling for solo cello and viola to represent Don Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho Panza. After a substantial introduction and then the main theme itself, there follow 10 variations and an epilogue evoking the knight’s death. The variations depict scenes from Cervantes’s famous novel, among them Quixote’s tilt at the windmills, his infatuation with Dulcinea, fights with magicians and evil armies, and a whimsical flight through the air. Perhaps the greatest musical illustrator of all time, Strauss evokes each episode with typically brilliant tone-painting to suggest horses galloping, wind howling, a wild and rushing river, the chanting of a group of monks, and the threatening bleats of a flock of sheep.
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.
Steven Ansell joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) as principal viola in September 1996, occupying the Charles S. Dana chair, having previously appeared with the orchestra in Symphony Hall as guest principal viola. A native of Seattle, he also remains a member of the acclaimed Muir String Quartet, which he co-founded in 1979 and with which he has toured extensively throughout the world. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Michael Tree and Karen Tuttle, Mr. Ansell was named professor of viola at the University of Houston at 21 and became assistant principal viola of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under André Previn at 23. As a recording artist, he has received two Grand Prix du Disque awards and a Gramophone Award for Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year. He has appeared on PBS’s In Performance at the White House; participated in the Tanglewood, Marlboro, Schleswig-Holstein, Newport, Blossom, Spoleto, and Snowbird music festivals; and premiered Ezra Laderman’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra with the Berkshire Symphony. Mr. Ansell teaches at the Boston University College of Fine Arts. As principal viola of the BSO, he is also a member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. His solo appearances with the BSO have included performances of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major, K. 364; Bruch’s Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra; Berlioz’s Harold in Italy; and Strauss’s Don Quixote, the latter on numerous occasions, including his first appearances as soloist with the BSO in April 1997.
Yo-Yo Ma’s multifaceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s social impact, or engaging unexpected musical forms, he strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity. Mr. Ma maintains a balance between engagements as a soloist with orchestras, recital and chamber music activities, and collaborations with a wide circle of artists and institutions. With partners from around the world and across disciplines, he creates programs that stretch the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore music-making as a means not only to share and express meaning, but also as a model for the cultural collaboration he considers essential to a strong society. Expanding upon this belief, in 1998 he established Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world who create music that engages their many traditions, also collaborating with museums and universities to develop training programs for teachers, musicians, and learners of all ages. Among his many roles, Mr. Ma is also the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, artistic advisor at large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, artistic director of the annual Youth Music Culture Guangdong festival, and UN Messenger of Peace, as well as the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees. Born in Paris to Chinese parents who later moved the family to New York, Yo-Yo Ma began studying cello at four, attended The Juilliard School, and in 1976 graduated from Harvard University. His numerous awards include the Avery Fisher Prize, Glenn Gould Prize, National Medal of Arts, Dan David Prize, Léonie Sonning Music Prize, World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center Honor, Polar Music Prize, Vilcek Prize for Contemporary Music, and J. Paul Getty Medal. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama at the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.