Andris Nelsons’ shared history with the Boston Symphony Orchestra began with Gustav Mahler. In 2011 he took over at short notice as conductor of the Ninth Symphony and impressed the orchestra so much that it soon invited him to return and in 2013 nominated him as its new Music Director. His contract was then extended after only one season at the orchestra’s request.
And it is with Mahler that Nelsons now makes a second guest appearance with “his” Boston Orchestra at Musikfest Berlin. In 2015 he conducted Mahler’s Sixth: now he has chosen the other D minor Symphony, the great Third, about which Mahler made his most famous remark: “To me a symphony means creating a world with all the means and techniques available.” And that is what he did. The Third creates a musical universe that runs through everything from a gigantic symphonic movement to gently sentimental and child-like folklore, containing dramatic, grotesque, mellow, sublime and humorous elements and at the end a great deal of singing, first with and then without words. And just like the profane world, holding it together is not easy. Nevertheless its calm finale shifts everything that has gone before into a virtually boundless space of time and sound; thus casting the mild light of utopian beauty over the drama, grotesque, profundity and folklore.
Mahler has his own tradition in the USA which also began with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This was revived and extended there in the era of Erich Leinsdorf and during Bernard Haitink’s period as visiting conductor. It has now found a faithful and original continuation under Andris Nelsons.