After a long search that provoked fascination in the music world, the Boston Symphony Orchestra named a new music director: Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons. The appointment came more than two years after James Levine announced his abdication of the podium.
Considered a front-runner for the job since Levine’s resignation, the 34-year-old Nelsons has conducted the BSO at its Symphony Hall base, at the Tanglewood Festival and at Carnegie Hall. Levine was paid $1.2 million for the 2010-2011 season and suffered back problems and other maladies.
Nelsons was born in the Latvian capital of Riga into a family of musicians, according to his website. Attending Wagner’s 1861 opera “Tannhauser” at age 5 inspired him to become a conductor, he said in an interview earlier this year on public broadcaster WGBH.
“I wanted to be involved with music in much more intensive (way) than just playing one instrument or singing,” he said in heavily accented English.
He began as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying conducting, later becoming music director of the opera. Since 2008, he’s been music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a previous stepping stone of Simon Rattle, now principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.
“This is food for our souls,” Nelsons said of live classical music. “There are doctors who take care of our bodies. There are department stores which sell food. We are doctors of soul.”
Founded in 1881, the BSO is one of the most prestigious U.S. orchestras. Nelsons is married to Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in January in Puccini’s “Rondine” and returns in “Madama Butterly” next season. They have an infant daughter, Adriana.
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