Two new recordings mark the groundbreaking continuation of Leipzig’s Bruckner Cycle with Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester
Spring 2018 sees the release of two new albums by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester and Andris Nelsons on the Deutsche Grammophon label, coinciding with the orchestra’s 275th anniversary and the conductor’s inauguration as the new Gewandhauskapellmeister. These live recordings, each coupled with pieces from Wagner operas, form part of a complete Bruckner cycle on the yellow label. Bruckner’s Symphony No.4 will be released on 16 February, Symphony No.7 on 6 April 2018.
In Leipzig, past and present have always gone hand in hand, a successful fusion that will soon be encapsulated in a very special four-week-long music festival. Taking place in the city between 18 February and 24 March, the festival will mark both the 275th anniversary of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, and the official inauguration as the 21st Gewandhauskapellmeister of the exceptional Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, one of the most exciting musicians on the world stage today. Deutsche Grammophon is joining in the celebrations by releasing two new albums that not only showcase Nelsons and his new orchestra, but also continue the long-established links between Leipzig and Bruckner.
The first of these albums, scheduled for release on 16 February 2018, features Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony alongside the Prelude to Wagner’s Lohengrin. The pairing reveals the remarkable affinities between the two composers’ idioms. Rich in contrast and musical imagery, both works have the power to captivate their listeners, a quality enhanced by Nelsons’ highly focused and sensitive interpretations.
The second Bruckner/Wagner album to appear this spring will feature the Austrian composer’s Seventh Symphony, a work more closely connected with Leipzig and the Gewandhausorchester than virtually any other ever written. Under the baton of the then Gewandhauskapellmeister Arthur Nikisch, the orchestra gave the symphony’s world premiere in the city’s municipal theatre in 1884, and the Seventh has been performed in Leipzig countless times since. It was therefore an obvious choice to include this legendary work in the orchestra’s 275th anniversary gala concert which Andris Nelsons will conduct on 11 March 2018. Captured live, this unique performance will be released on 6 April in Germany and 20 April worldwide, in a pairing with Siegfried’s Funeral Music from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
Both albums are part of Deutsche Grammophon’s upcoming complete Bruckner cycle with Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester. In each case, the Bruckner symphony in question will be complemented by an excerpt from one of Wagner’s operas, an innovative programming decision which, along with the high-calibre performers involved, gives the new cycle a distinctive edge. Coupling the symphonies with music by Wagner enables listeners to discover two composers of contrasting character whose works nevertheless display some fascinating similarities of conception.
“Wagner’s music, like Bruckner’s goes way beyond the intellectual,” observes Nelsons. “Both composers use their work to address existential questions and open up new spiritual dimensions.” This is music of concentrated, raw emotion, music that goes straight to the heart, and it is hard to think of any orchestra capable of interpreting it with greater intensity than the Gewandhausorchester. As Nelsons adds, “The orchestra’s incredible variety of sounds is particularly vividly displayed in Bruckner’s compositions. I hope through our recordings to further cultivate and disseminate this immense spectrum of colours and the orchestra’s special authority in the Romantic repertoire.”
Andris Nelsons himself is one of the most dynamic and innovative conductors of our time. As Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra he has already broken new musical ground, and his inauguration as Gewandhauskapellmeister represents another major milestone in his career. “It is an extraordinary honour to be part of this tradition,” he says, adding that the orchestra should aim to keep evolving. Their mission together, as he sees it, is to look to the future by commissioning new works as well as respecting the past and keeping the music of the great masters alive.
That aim is reflected in Leipzig’s upcoming four-week festival, whose programmes embrace past and present, with music by composers ranging from Bach to Tchaikovsky, to Jörg Widmann. Shortly after these celebrations, Nelsons will embark on his first European tour with the Gewandhausorchester, performing at such prestigious venues as Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Vienna Musikverein.
All in all, it promises to be a rousing start to a new era in Leipzig’s musical history.