January at the BSO
Andris Nelsons Conducts
By: BSO - Dec 29, 2023
The new year begins with Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons conducting the orchestra in two blockbuster programs that spotlight the BSO’s enduring creative partnerships and major recording projects. Both programs will first be performed in Boston: works by Maurice Ravel, Tania León, and Igor Stravinsky with acclaimed pianist Seong-Jin Cho on January 11–13, followed by a concert version of the landmark 1934 Dmitri Shostakovich opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk on January 25 and 27. Performances of the two complete programs will be repeated at New York’s Carnegie Hall on January 29 and 30, respectively.
Jan. 11–13 (in Boston), Jan. 29, 2024 (at New York’s Carnegie Hall): Nelsons Conducts Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with Seong-Jin Cho, Tania León’s Stride, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
Continuing a survey of Ravel’s works for piano and orchestra with the BSO, 2015 Chopin Competition Winner Seong-Jin Cho performs the composer’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in a program closing with Igor Stravinsky's revolutionary Rite of Spring. Opening the program is the 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning work Stride by Cuban-born New Yorker Tania León, who holds Carnegie Hall’s Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for the 2023–24 season. Inspired by the suffragist movement, Stride is dedicated to Susan B. Anthony.
The Ravel concerto with Cho as soloist will be recorded in Boston for a future release on the Deutsche Grammophon label. Please note that an abbreviated Casual Friday performance on January 26 at Symphony Hall of the León and Stravinsky works omits a performance of the Ravel concerto.
Jan. 25 & 27 (in Boston), Jan. 30, 2024 (at New York’s Carnegie Hall): Nelsons Conducts a Concert Performance of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in its Entirety, with the BSO and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Andris Nelsons and the BSO maintain the orchestra’s tradition of presenting great operatic works in concert with Dmitri Shostakovich’s intensely dramatic and socially critical opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which follows recent acclaimed performances of early 20th-century operas by Alban Berg, Richard Strauss, and Giacomo Puccini as well as complete acts from Wagner’s music dramas. Portraying the role of Katarina Ismailova, the oppressed, ambitious, and ultimately murderous wife of a provincial merchant, in these performances is celebrated Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais; she headlines an impressive international cast of nearly 25 singers, which includes American tenor Brenden Gunnell as Sergei, British tenor Peter Hoare as Zinovy Izmailov (a BSO debut), and German bass Günther Groissböck as Boris Izmailov. They are joined by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (James Burton, conductor). The opera is sung in Russian with English supertitles.
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was a critical and popular worldwide sensation following its 1934 premiere, but that success helped bring about the greatest crisis in the Russian composer’s life. After Josef Stalin attended a performance of the opera in January 1936, an unsigned editorial titled “Muddle Instead of Music,” unequivocally damning the opera, appeared in the newspaper Pravda, Shostakovich and his allies immediately understood it as an official condemnation as well as a warning to comply with increasingly constrained Soviet artistic styles.
Nelsons and the BSO's performance of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk comes as part of a multi-season focus on Shostakovich's works, begun upon Nelsons' appointment as music director in the 2014–15 season. In the years since, a complete cycle of the composer's 15 symphonies appeared on the recording label Deutsche Grammophon—an eight-year effort that collectively earned three Grammy Awards and a mountain of rave reviews. The last recording in the symphony cycle, featuring symphonies nos. 2, 3, 12, and 13 (Babi Yar), was released in October 2023. Future releases will include the composer’s complete concertos (featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Baiba Skride, and pianist Yuja Wang) and the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, captured in the BSO’s live January 2024 performances at Symphony Hall.