Andris Nelsons has held major conducting posts on both the concert and operatic stages, and in each realm has distinguished himself as an incisive interpreter of a broad range of music. Whether conducting Puccini at the Met, Wagner at Bayreuth, or Stravinsky with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Nelsons has managed to win over both critics and the public alike. Nelsons was born in Riga, Latvia on November 18, 1978. His parents and stepfather were musicians, and at an early age Nelsons studied piano, but took up the trumpet at 12. He later sang in his mother's early music ensemble, and played trumpet in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra. After local studies, Nelsons began studying conducting at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Alexander Titov. In 2002, Nelsons began studying privately with famed conductor Mariss Jansons. Nelsons' orchestral repertory includes large portions of Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and Shostakovich. His operatic repertory takes in much Wagner and Puccini, as well as Bizet, Tchaikovsky, and Richard Strauss. Nelsons has conducted around the globe, including throughout Europe, the U.S. and Japan. He served as principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera from 2003-2007. In 2006, he took on a second important post, this one as chief conductor of the Herford, Germany-based Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, a position he held until 2009. From 2007, Nelsons began making regular appearances in the U.K., and that September was named music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, beginning in the 2008-2009 season. He held this post until the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season. 2009 saw Nelsons debut at the Met, leading a performance of Puccini's Turandot. The following year, Nelsons made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival with a production of Wagner's Lohengrin; this followed a concert performance given in Birmingham with the CBSO. In 2011, a highly praised reading of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall with the Boston Symphony Orchestra marked two more important debuts for Nelsons; this was his first performance at Carnegie Hall and his first time leading the BSO. Nelsons was named the BSO’s 15th music director in 2014, after several years of guest conducting. In 2018, Nelsons was named the 21st Gewandhauskapellmeister (music director) of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Nelsons has found success with recordings as well, having more than two dozen released by 2019; he has recorded with the labels Decca, Orfeo, and Deutsche Grammophon, among others. Among Nelsons' more critically acclaimed recordings is his 2016 Deutsche Grammophon release Under Stalin's Shadow: Shostakovich - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9 with the BSO. Leading the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Nelsons released Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 9; Wagner: Siegfried Idyll; Parsifal Prelude in 2019, also on the Deutsche Grammophon label.
© Robert Cummings & Keith Finke /TiVo
© Robert Cummings & Keith Finke /TiVo
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Classical - Released December 6, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)
The musical humorist Peter Schickele used to conceive of the relationship between conductor and orchestra as a sports contest, delivering a play-by-play account of the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, in the style of a radio announcer. Conductors leading the venerable Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra must feel that way at times: the orchestra does certain things, like honing a gorgeous string sheen, very well indeed, but it can be hard to push the group beyond certain lines. This recording of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, provides examples, as do other recordings in the complete Nelsons/Vienna cycle from which this release is a single-album excerpt. The first movement is taken slowly and, at times, lacks forward motion, but the colors in the open-fifth material at the beginning are impressive and subtle. Nelsons' dynamic range is low for the most part, extremely so in the first appearance of the famed "Ode to Joy" melody in the cellos and double basses, but it rises to normal and then above, first intermittently and then in quite an exciting choral-vocal finale, with strong soloists who are aware of what Nelsons is doing and give him plenty of space. Where string sheen and strong percussion are called for, in the third and second movements, respectively, the orchestra, of course, sounds great, and Nelsons brings the feeling of an unfolding sequence of events in many passages. The performance certainly has moments where it flags, but it also rewards repeated hearings, and it may be that individual listeners' reactions will vary widely. © TiVo
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Andris Nelsons in the magazine