BSO bringing Mahler and Shostakovich to Europe in 8-city tour, will return in time for Tanglewood


Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra will be in Europe for a 9-concert, 8-city European tour, May 3-12, and will return for a short break before beginning their Tanglewood season. American orchestras touring the continent are no longer exercises in self-glorification but rather serve to provoke and stimulate the often jaded tastes of ever-curious Europeans.

The BSO will find a warm welcome in major musical cities in Austria, Germany, and Luxembourg, following their highly acclaimed first tour together in eight European cities this past August-September. The BSO’s 2016 European tour will feature the orchestra in performances at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper (5/3), Essen’s Philharmonie (5/4), Leipzig’s Gewandhaus (5/5), Dresden’s Frauenkirche (5/6), Munich’s Gasteig Philharmonie (5/8), Vienna’s Musikverein (5/9&10), Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle (5/11), and Luxembourg’s Philharmonie (5/12). The tour marks the orchestra’s debut performances in Leipzig, Dresden, and Luxembourg, as well as the BSO’s first returns to Frankfurt since September 1991, Vienna and Munich since March 1998, and Essen and Hamburg since August 2007.

Tour Details

Renowned soprano Kristine Opolais will join the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons for concerts in Essen (5/4), Munich (5/8), and Vienna (5/9), performing the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Rachmaninoff’s Zdes’ khorosho (How fair this place). These three concerts will also feature Mr. Nelsons leading the BSO in Shostakovich’s Suite from the incidental music to Hamlet, Debussy’s La Mer, and Ravel’s La Valse. In Frankfurt (5/3), Leipzig (5/5), Dresden (5/6), Vienna (5/10), Hamburg (5/11), and Luxembourg (5/12), the orchestra will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, which Mr. Nelsons conducted in his BSO debut in 2011 at Carnegie Hall. The Dresden performance will also feature acclaimed cellist Jan Vogler in Bruch’s Kol Nidrei.

Recording news from DGG

While it is a given that the BSO does not embark on a tour to launch a new CD, the timing is interesting. The European tour begins on the heels of an announcement of a contract extension with Deutsche Grammophon. The new contract, announced today, Monday, May 2, extends beyond the original agreement to record Shostakovich’s Symphonies 5-10, and now includes the composer’s complete symphonic canon, plus Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk. The video below shows the orchestra’s marvelous handliing of that composer’s works.

The BSO and DGG

In connection with the upcoming BSO tour, exclusive advance access to the orchestra’s latest Deutsche Grammophone release will be offered to concertgoers at tour venues in Germany and Austria, prior to the international release on May 27. This new double-length album features Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, and 9, along with the incidental music from Hamlet, and it comes following the BSO’s and Mr. Nelsons’ recent Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for their recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. It is the second in a series of three releases under the moniker Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow, with a special focus on the music Shostakovich composed during the years of his difficult relationship with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet regime. The third and last installment, also a double-length album, will feature Shostakovich’s Sixth and Seventh Symphonies and is scheduled for release in summer 2017 .

With performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony — the first piece I ever conducted with the BSO that started me on the wonderful journey of where I am today — and the compelling Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with the exceptional artistry of Kristine Opolais—as well as works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Ravel—the repertoire, with which the BSO have such a strong tradition, chosen for this tour is sure to give the fantastic audiences of these great musical capitals a glimpse into the BSO’s unique spectrum of musical gifts that inspire all of us that know and love the orchestra.” – Andris Nelsons

Nelsons considers it a privilege to focus on the music of Shostakovich, “A composer of such great personal courage and virtue, whose extraordinary work transcends even the circumstances in which it was written, and is timeless on many levels. At the same time, with my formative years spent in Soviet Latvia, the music of Shostakovich in particular speaks to me personally in a distinctive way and I’m sure that special affinity will be communicated in these recordings.”

All this, of course, is the continuation of the orchestra’s multi-year Shostakovich recordings project in collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon, “Shostakovich Under Stalin’s Shadow,” to be drawn from live performances at Symphony Hall of Shostakovich’s symphonies 5 through 10, the Passacaglia from his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and selections from Shostakovich’s incidental music to Hamlet and King Lear, all composed during the period the composer labored under the life-threatening shadow of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The BSO’s and Nelsons‘ first recording in this series—Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10—won the 2015 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. This summer, Mr. Nelsons will lead the BSO in four programs at Tanglewood; he will also lead the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and pianist Paul Lewis in an all-Brahms program for the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert on July 31.

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