Designated Gewandhauskapellmeister Andris Nelsons: "Classical music is for everyone"

As Riccardo Chailly steps down from the position of Gewandhauskapellmeister, his designated successor Andris Nelsons is preparing to lead the world-famous Gewandhausorchester. Nelsons, who is also Chief Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, talked with DHL InMotion about the art of conducting, the relationship between Boston and Leipzig and the reason why classical music has nothing to do with arrogance.

In spring 2018, the Latvian-born musician will take over the reigns of the Gewandhausorchester, a position he can't wait to fill. Likewise, the entire staff at the Gewandhausorchester looks forward to working together with the young (he is only 37 years old) and down-to-earth conductor. Since his first performance in Leipzig in 2011, Nelsons has felt an exceptional bond with the musicians and audience in the Eastern German city. "There's a special musical and human connection with the orchestra", says Nelsons. "It's a family-like feeling with the audience and the whole institution."

"There's a special musical and human connection with the orchestra."

Andris Nelsons

Nelsons, considered to be one of the most innovative conductors on the international scene, has big plans. He wants to deepen the relationship between the Gewandhausorchester and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The two ensembles are very different but similar in one sense – both have a deep, rich and embracing sound. According to Nelsons, this is due to old traditions developed through the centuries. The Gewandhausorchester was founded in 1743, the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881. It's not the first time that a conductor has worked both in Leipzig and Boston. In the late 19th century, the Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch moved from the United States across the Atlantic. He was Gewandhauskapellmeister until his death in 1922.

One common trait of the two ensembles is their hard work and constant strive for improvement. They are very disciplined and eager to rehearse, explains Nelsons: "They want to do the best they can, they don't sit on their fame. This is why people connect with them so quickly, they are not arrogant." Being down to earth seems to be very important to the 37-year-old conductor. "Classical music doesn't have anything to do with arrogance. It's for everyone. Our mission is to share this great repertoire with all people", says Nelsons.

"Classical music doesn't have anything to do with arrogance. It's for everyone. Our mission is to share this great repertoire with all people." 

Andris Nelsons

His love for music is infectious. Nelsons breaks into spontaneous singing during the interview to make his point. During rehearsals and performances his gestures are big, scooping down with one arm or another, breaking into sweat. Every emotion, every beat is visible in his face. "I'm more physical because I'm still young", explains Nelsons, quickly adding that there is no right or wrong way to conduct. But he acknowledges differences in styles. "Sometimes you cannot explain why musicians decide to follow one conductor more than the other, why it sounds better, more exciting with one than another. I think it has to do with charisma, energy, personality and psychology of the conductor", says Nelsons.

The designated Gewandhauskapellmeister will move back and forth between Boston, Leipzig and Riga where he lives with his family. In order to concentrate his energy on the two orchestras, he decided to reduce guesting with other ensembles. "It's important to be with the institutions regularly and on a long-term basis to build great and strong relationships", says Nelsons.

Traveling will continue to be a big part of his career, though. The conductor will go on tour with both orchestras to perform across the globe. Touring is an important part of shaping the ensembles: "Playing in different halls brings the orchestra even closer together and shapes the personality and quality of sound", explains Nelsons. "Traveling can be exhausting but then you are excited to go home and play even better", he adds.

"Playing in different halls brings the orchestra even closer together and shapes the personality and quality of sound."

Andris Nelsons

DHL is looking forward to accompany Nelsons on his first tour with the  Gewandhausorchester. DHL has been the Official Logistics Partner of the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester since 2009. The collaboration with the world-famous orchestra initially began in 2005. Today, the partnership includes the logistic planning of the orchestra's tours, transport of sensitive musical instruments and other essential equipment including music stands, stools as well as the conductor's rostrum and wardrobe on concert tours across Europe, Asia and North America.

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