Citing his commitment to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, incoming music director Andris Nelsons announced Wednesday that he has decided not to renew his contract as music director for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. That decision, which will end his tenure in England at the end of the summer of 2015, gives him a chance to focus more on his BSO post, which he begins fulltime next fall.
The decision is an important one for BSO supporters, some of whom complained about James Levine’s busy schedule as the former music director balanced his posts in Boston and at the Metroplitan Opera in New York. This became particularly polarizing as Levine struggled with health issues that kept him off the podium. Music directors typically hold positions in multiple cities at the same time, but Nelsons has publicly stressed that he will concentrate most on his BSO position.
“It’s very good news,” said Mark Volpe, the BSO’s managing director. “It came up organically. He started looking at how he was going to organize his musical life and what he wanted to do in Boston and what he wanted to do in Tanglewood. It became clear, especially with blocking some family time, that something had to give.”
Nelsons and his wife, soprano Kristine Opolais, have a 1-year-old daughter, Adriana. Volpe said he does expect Nelsons to continue to visit Birmingham to serve as a guest conductor, as well as continue to do projects around the world.
Nelsons explained his decision not to renew in Birmingham:
“With an extremely heavy heart I have reached the decision not to continue in my role as music director with my beloved CBSO after the 2014-2015 season,” he said in a statement. “I have enjoyed five great seasons with this incredible orchestra and, while I look forward to another two in my current role, this difficult decision comes in view of my new position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra alongside my wish to protect precious time with my young family.”
Nelsons, 34, has been the music director in Birmingham since 2008, where he’s recorded the works of Strauss, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. He was hired in Birmingham after giving a private concert for the players, trustees and management, which is not standard. Under Nelsons, the Birmingham Symphony has expanded its touring.
“It was a very difficult decision and process for Andris,” said Volpe. “He was emotionally as well as artistically attached to the City of Birmingham Orchestra. It was clear, once we expressed an interest, this is a guy with a young family and a young child and a wife with a major career underway. He couldn’t do what he had to do here and keep another position.”
“He understands the magnitude of the opportunity here, both at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood and wants to maximize and realize the potential,” said Volpe.