As part of the multidimensional artistic alliance established between his two world-class orchestras, visionary conductor Andris Nelsons has recorded all the major orchestral works of Richard Strauss with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. The BSO is joined by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma in Don Quixote, while star pianist Yuja Wang appears with the Leipzig players in Burleske. The two orchestras join forces on the recording of the Festliches Präludium for large orchestra and organ, made with organist Olivier Latry in Symphony Hall in November 2019 while the Gewandhausorchester was on tour in Boston. Their 7-CD anthology is set to be issued by Deutsche Grammophon on 6 May 2022. The recordings will also be released digitally, and will be the first Strauss orchestral cycle available in the immersive Dolby Atmos format.
“This joint Strauss project is very dear to my heart,” says Andris Nelsons. “Throughout the past few years, it has been a source of hope and comfort. The music of Richard Strauss means so much to me in its great emotional scope, its story-telling powers and significant influence on the development of classical music. I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to share it with our music communities in Boston and Leipzig and throughout the world. The collaborative efforts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhausorchester are a dream come true for me, and I will be forever thankful to my dear colleagues at both orchestras and at Deutsche Grammophon for all they have done to achieve this unique project. Our hope is that these recordings will bring much joy and inspiration.”
A unique partnership
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (GHO) have been working closely together since 2018. Their alliance project involves collaborative ventures on an organisational as well as artistic level and includes exchange programmes for the musicians, educational initiatives, shared commissions and complementary programmes on both sides of the Atlantic. Among these initiatives are an annual Boston Week in Leipzig and a Leipzig Week in Boston.
Gewandhaus director Andreas Schulz explains:
“With the GHO-BSO alliance we initiated a modern and innovative cooperation that sets new trends in programming and adapts to the challenges facing today’s orchestral organisations. For the musicians, the exchange with colleagues on an international level and the contact with different professional circumstances form a lasting enrichment.”
Gail Samuel, Eunice and Julian Cohen President and CEO of Boston Symphony Orchestra, notes:
“The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester have a wonderful relationship which has offered meaningful performance opportunities under the leadership of Andris Nelsons. The Strauss recordings shine a new spotlight on what these orchestras do together to present inspiring experiences for their music communities at home and around the world.”
Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon, adds:
“Led by Andris Nelsons, the new alliance established between two orchestras on opposite sides of the Atlantic is proving to be a model of musical, cultural and educational cooperation. We at Deutsche Grammophon are delighted to continue our work with Andris, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester by releasing this extensive Richard Strauss anthology. A fitting tribute to a composer who enjoyed a close association with both orchestras, these exceptional recordings will showcase not only their brilliant musicianship but also the latest immersive sound technology, applied here to Strauss’s orchestral works more comprehensively and convincingly than ever before.”
Celebrating a shared history
One of the goals of the alliance between the BSO and GHO is to breathe new life into the rich and varied shared past of these two orchestras. Destroyed in the Second World War, the second Gewandhaus served as a model for Boston’s Symphony Hall, while no fewer than five of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s former music directors and principal conductors either studied at the Leipzig Conservatory or were former members of the Gewandhausorchester.
The Strauss project pays tribute to this shared history by both celebrating each orchestra’s individual connection with the composer’s music and recognising the remarkable dynamic of this unique alliance.
Richard Strauss in Leipzig and the United States
Richard Strauss first conducted the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in 1887 and returned to its podium no fewer than 12 times. Arthur Nikisch, former principal conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhauskapellmeister from 1895 until 1922, appointed Strauss as the GHO’s first official guest conductor in 1907. During his penultimate season in Leipzig in 1920/21 Nikisch was the first conductor to programme all nine of Strauss’s tone poems as a cycle; in so doing, he laid the foundations for a longstanding tradition that has also included Strauss cycles under two later Gewandhaus conductors, Kurt Masur and Riccardo Chailly. In 2014, the sesquicentenary of the composer’s birth was marked by performances of these works. Andris Nelsons’ alliance project continues the Gewandhausorchester’s Strauss tradition in its own distinctively innovative way – exactly a century after Nikisch’s first Strauss cycle in the Gewandhaus. Moreover, the recording of the Schlagoberswalzer included in the new box set recalls the premiere of the Schlagobers orchestral suite by the Gewandhausorchester in October 1932, conducted by Bruno Walter.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra also played an important role in Strauss’s career. In 1904 he undertook a major tour of America that was to leave a lasting mark on the reception of his music in Europe. “The Boston orchestra is wonderful,” Strauss wrote to his father the day after his concert. “Its sound and its technique attest to a perfection that I’ve rarely encountered.” He led a number of his own tone poems with the orchestra, going on to tell his father that he had “conducted a wonderful concert here with one of the greatest orchestras in the world”. Among the works on that evening’s programme was Don Quixote. Recalling this historic occasion, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has now recorded this piece with Yo-Yo Ma as part of its new cycle of Strauss’s works for Deutsche Grammophon.
“I am filled with gratitude for the unexpected gifts that have come through this partnership,” concludes Andris Nelsons. “It has been wonderful to observe how these two extraordinary orchestras – each with unique, deep traditions and impressive accomplishments – enjoy and respect each other’s commonalities and differences. My special thanks go out to our dear audiences, who have expressed such sincere appreciation for all our offerings.”