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Another sea-change in Boston

For the first time in living memory, the BSO music director is not a client of Columbia Artists Management Inc. CAMI has not just held the baton contract in Boston since forever, it has been responsible for a disproportionate number of guest conductor and soloist engagements.

Ronald Wilford, its director, had hoped to implant Roccardo Chailly as James Levine’s successor, but the Italian’s debut was cancelled for health reasons. Other CAMI candidates failed to pass muster.

The new music director does not even have a US agent. Andris Nelsons is represented out of Germany by Cornelia Schmid, managing partner of Konzertdirektion Schmid. That marks quite a sea-change in the business practice of US orchestras.


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  1. Anna Thompson says:

    How does it mark a ‘sea-change’? Dudamel in LA, Nezet-Seguin in Philadelphia, Welser-Moest in Cleveland, Vanska in Minnesota, van Zweden in Dallas, Honeck in Pittsburgh, – they are all represented worldwide by a UK or European-based management company….

  2. That’s perfectly fine, what is wrong that another major artists agency, a non US based, implants their star artist as the new Boss in Boston. After all Yannick has AskonasHolt behinds him, Gustavo has Fidelio Arts and Uncle Riccardo in Chicago is a free agent for himself……so give everybody the chances to make their incomes!

  3. Daniel Farber says:

    The “sea-change” will occur if Nelsons is able to bring to the BSO even a fraction of the energy, innovation, and ability that Levine brought right to the very painful end of his tenure. And I doubt that it is an “accident” that BSO management, in its small-minded bitterness toward Levine, made its announcement just prior to the latter’s long-anticipated return to the podium in NYC.

  4. PK Miller says:

    I agree whole heartedly w/Daniel Farber above. If Andris Nelson can bring 10% of James Levine’s energy, musicianship, and discipline to the BSO it will be tremendous. We cannot control health issues. I certainly did not expect nor control 3 weeks hospitalization due fractured hip & diabetes out of control. And it’s easy to forget one is not a “kid” anymore. I’m only 5 months younger than Levine and, believe me, I understand! Let’s give the new guy a chance regardless of who represents him. All I can say is Jimmy left big shoes to fill.

  5. John Kelly says:

    I expect a lot here from Nelsons. The BSO is in good if not superb form, based on the two concerts they gave recently at Carnegie under Daniele Gatti. I heard Nelsons last year in Berlin (a wonderful Madama Butterfly and two orchestral concerts including a terrific Eroica with Barenboim’s opera orchestra). He is energetic and his concerts with the CBSO (those I have managed to glean from the radio) have been generally interesting and on some occasions, very exciting indeed. This is a good move for Andris, and is a very good appointment for the BSO in my opinion, since Levine’s health issues have clearly got in the way of what was otherwise an inspiring arrangement.

    • Francesca LaPlante Sosnowsky says:

      Good luck to anyone who tries to fill Maestro Levine’s shoes. He is an icon in his business, a genius musician, and a general all round wonderful person! He will be missed. Let’s hope the Orchestra doesn’t lose it’s prominence in the American music world. It is a precarious business these days.

      • Daniel Farber says:

        Good point, Francesca. Lots of empty seats in the orchestra’s director-less years, but they have never experienced the labor problems that have undermined the fortunes of many orchestras in the US. (Interestingly, they were the last of the major orchestras to unionize.) On the musical front, the BSO, largely thanks to Levine’s work with them, remains a first-class ensemble and, unlike some other major orchestras, has always maintained the pride and professionalism to maintain its standards no matter who management has put on the podium.

  6. Let’s agree that you will probably have some health issues when you agree to conduct Rheingold in New York and Mahler 2 in Boston on the same day.

    • Daniel Farber says:

      Yah right: I’m sure that led to his kidney cancer, his spinal stenosis, and the fall he took in Vermont!

  7. Agreed that James Levine is a great conductor, and a wonderful pianist, but his health issues made continued tenure on a full or half time basis at the BSO too problematic. In his case it has been painful, but that is what we all face at some point in our lives.

    One will only know how Nelson and the orchestra will perform after he gets started, but if he is what the reviews of performances in Europe have indicated, he could give the orchestra something important with his interpretative skills, and, beyond that, youth, energy and serious involvement in the Boston community. If he is creative, and can also connect with the younger audiences to raise interest in the orchestra and its repertoire, it will only be a plus for the BSO and its future sustainability.

  8. Richard says:

    What are you guys smoking? The BSO was stagnant and in shambles when Ozawa left. Then we had the “wait for Levine” for which many feigned excitement. Then we were left with half- realized tenure by a guy who only ever half-committed to the orchestra never mind committing to the city.

    Basically the “great” BSO has been in artistic crisis since about 1995. We keep telling ourselves that things are good but they are terrible. As a former employee of CAMI I couldn’t be happier that its not one of their guys. But Nelsons will not be a transformative figure. The BSOhasnt been a relevant cultural and music making entity for a long time….probably since Symphony of Psalms and Concerto for Orchestra.

    They will play classical chestnuts till all the blue hairs die away and what will be left?

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