NEWS: Boston-Leipzig orchestra partnership — one off or the start of a trend?

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

The Boston Symphony and Lepizig Gewandhaus Orchestra have announced a five-year program of exchanges between the two orchestras, both of which have Andris Nelsons as their music director. See the New York Times article HERE. The question is, “Is this a one-off sort of relationship or could it be the start of something bigger?”

The article doesn’t make it clear whether either of the orchestra’s audiences will actually hear their music director more, only that the musicians will apparently benefit from more contact with their leader and the audiences will get to hear both orchestras during the same season. It will be cool for the Bostonians to be able to play in the Thomaskirche, where Bach was once organist and music director, and — presumably — will enjoy spending part of their summer at Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home in the Berkshires.

In today’s world, music directors often direct 1/3 of their orchestra’s subscription concerts or less, and they often lead more than one orchestra.

For example, next season Gustavo Dudamel will conduct 12 of the orchestra’s subscription 31 weeks of subscription concerts Disney Hall. The number of performances is actually a bit more because several weeks have multiple programs. Moreover, Dudamel is leading an opening gala concert, taking the orchestra on its annual tour, and will conduct three of the 10 weeks of classical concerts during the summer Hollywood Bowl season.

In addition to the L.A. Phil, Dudamel is music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the flagship ensemble of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program. When Dudamel conducted all of the Mahler symphonies several years ago, both orchestras played — sometimes separately and together for the Symphony No. 8 — and the festival was held both in Los Angeles and Caracas.

However, the extent of the Boston-Leipzig sharing is unique. Part of what makes it possible is that both ensembles are traditionally thought of as among the world’s best. It would be interesting to see whether other orchestras will try to adapt something similar. Could, for example, the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics, both of whom will be led by Jaap von Zweden beginning next year, adopt a similar policy? We may need to see how the five years plays out in Boston and Leipzig to have a better understanding.

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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