Gewandhausorchester & Boston Symphony Orchestra: a ground-breaking collaboration

Under the direction of the incoming Gewandhauskapellmeister, Andris Nelsons, the Gewandhausorchester will enter into an unprecedented collaboration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the fields of programme conception and performance, personnel development, education and training.

Andris Nelsons will assume the position of 21st Gewandhauskapellmeister in the 2017/18 season. In parallel, Mr Nelsons is Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), a position he has held since the 2014/15 season. With the combination of these two roles, Mr Nelsons has had the vision to create a pioneering and comprehensive collaboration between these two world-renowned institutions. Mr Nelsons views the alliance between the Gewandhausorchester and the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a unique opportunity for both orchestras, with respect to programme conception and performance, personnel development and the training of orchestral musicians:

“I am incredibly grateful to all my colleagues at the Gewandhausorchester and Boston Symphony Orchestra for coming together with me in a spirit of great camaraderie to create a new and absolutely unique partnership in music-making. By bringing the tremendous strengths and gifts of these two remarkable orchestras together, we have developed a new and dynamic approach to programming. From commissioning new works to be performed in Boston and Leipzig, to creating musician exchanges at the professional and student levels, and presenting a wide spectrum of programs about the wonderful legacies of these two great orchestras. This unique partnership has a huge potential to bring a new and powerful perspective to our world of classical music“, says Andris Nelsons.

"Under the creative leadership of Andris Nelsons, with his passionate commitment to both orchestras, the Gewandhausorchester and the BSO want to initiate a modern collaboration, the structure and content of which not only serve the demands of our audiences for stimulating programmes but also reflect the function and work of orchestras in today's world. Beyond the conception of diverse and exhilarating programmes, we are creating structures and opportunities of a quite exemplary nature to promote our musicians' development", summarises Gewandhaus General Director, Andreas Schulz.

“This new alliance between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester—which celebrates the great traditions and vibrant ongoing influence of each organization, highlights our shared heritage, and stimulates new artistic synergies—is unprecedented in the orchestra world and has inspired a new dimension of creative programming for both orchestras. The depth and breadth of the BSO/GWO Alliance's offering emphasize Andris Nelsons' role as a visionary leader who thinks creatively and passionately about his deep commitment to these two great orchestras and to the world of orchestral music at large. Under Andris Nelsons’ guidance and leadership, the BSO/GWO Alliance has created many opportunities for important musical and cultural exchanges that will bring the extraordinary musical gifts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester to a greater world-wide audience”, Mark Volpe, Managing Director BSO.


One of the hopes of the collaboration is to offer new musical horizons to the audiences of both orchestras. The Gewandhausorchester and the BSO will jointly commission new repertoire and, once per season, each orchestra will present a 'Leipzig Week' in Boston’s Symphony Hall and a 'Boston Week' in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus.

“I am determined to invest my energies into the individual and joint musical direction of my two orchestral families; our aim is to bring artistic enrichment to both orchestras and audiences", explains Andris Nelsons. "The creation of an alliance is a natural step, since these two respected ensembles have, in the course of their history, already been closely associated with one another."

"This constellation, created by the Gewandhausorchester’s appointment of Andris Nelsons, has challenged us to question our repertoire anew", explains Gewandhausorchester Head of Artistic Planning, Sonja Epping. Under the leadership of Mr Nelsons and her Boston counterpart, Anthony Fogg, Ms Epping is in the process of selecting composers from whom the orchestras will commission new works, as well as planning the themed concert programmes in which quintessential Boston and Leipzig repertoire will be showcased, respectively, by the partner orchestra. The first joint commission partners are the Munich composer Jörg Widmann (*1973) and the New Yorker Sean Shepherd (*1979). Future commissions will include new works by both European and American composers of diverse styles and generations.

The Leipzig and Boston Weeks, which give each orchestra an opportunity to focus on some of the repertory for which the partner organization is best known, will furthermore be complemented by chamber music, lectures and panel discussions. This area of the collaboration will be curated by Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig from 2001 until 2013, and currently Adams University Professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The orchestras will delve into the core repertoire of their partner orchestra. Each of the individual concerts within the Boston and Leipzig weeks will contain unique and unrepeated programs”, explains Andris Nelsons.

Since its founding in 1743, the Gewandhausorchester has consistently and very actively upheld its extraordinarily rich tradition of commitment to the promotion of new music by premiering works by the leading composers of the age. Central pillars of the symphonic repertoire of the 19th century by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Bruckner, to works by Schnittke, Henze and Rihm in more recent decades, have received their first performances by the Gewandhausorchester. Led by Andris Nelsons - a musician equally accomplished in the repertoire of the classical and romantic eras as he is in contemporary music - the Gewandhausorchester will, from the 2017/18 season, vigorously intensify its commitment to this ideal: alongside the great symphonic masterpieces, it will perform an unprecedented number of new, progressive works for orchestra, also commissioned jointly with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Andris Nelsons unites a unique tradition and an insatiable appetite for discovery.

A highlight of the BSO/GWO Alliance—sure to be greatly anticipated by Boston and Leipzig audiences alike—is an opportunity for Boston audiences to hear the Gewandhausorchester live in Symphony Hall and for Leipzig audiences to hear the BSO live in Leipzig's Gewandhaus. To that end, major joint project initiatives will include Boston Symphony Orchestra performances in Leipzig in September 2018, to include performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 3, and Leipzig Gewandhausorchester performances in Boston in Autumn 2019.Further details about all of the BSO/GWO joint projects will be announced at a later date.


In addition to the alliance’s influence on the individual orchestras' concert programmes within certain subscription weeks, the Gewandhausorchester and the BSO will cooperate in the areas of both professional development and the training of future orchestral musicians.

The planned musician exchange program offers musicians from each orchestra a rare opportunity to spend three to six months performing with its partner orchestra in their partner orchestra’s home city. In this way, the alliance is offering the orchestras' musicians a structured opportunity to expand their artistic perspectives.

"Gaining experience in cultural contexts which differ from one's own is of fundamental significance for a musician's development. The sharing of ideas, perceptions and experiences of both an intellectual and an emotional nature with colleagues on an international level, as well as encountering different professional environments, broaden one's own horizon in every possible regard", explains Gewandhaus General Director, Andreas Schulz.

Usually, musicians wishing to gain different cultural experience to this degree are required to make arrangements independently. Furthermore, orchestral schedules replete with rehearsals, concerts and opera performances, not to mention chamber music and solo activities, further limit time to coordinate opportunities for significant personal development.

"This measure is to become a fundamental component of our personnel development programme, commensurate with the extensive advanced training our administrative and technical staff regularly take", added Andreas Schulz.


A future component of the two-year, advanced training programme in the Gewandhausorchester's Mendelssohn Orchestra Academy (in cooperation with the University for Music and Theatre 'Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy' Leipzig) will be the participation in the Summer Academy of the BSO's Tanglewood Music Center (TMC). The TMC, founded in 1940 by Serge Koussevitzky, offers not only instrumentalists, but also composers and conductors the opportunity to polish their abilities to an exceptional level. The TMC Conducting Academy counts Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado and Seiji Ozawa among its most celebrated graduates.

Correspondingly, each year a Fellow of the TMC composition program will compose a work for the Gewandhausorchester academists, to be subsequently performed in Leipzig and conducted by a student of the TMC conducting program. This conducting Fellow will also have the opportunity to assist Andris Nelsons in his rehearsals with the Gewandhausorchester.

Gewandhausorchester - Boston Symphony Orchestra

The history of the close artistic association between Leipzig and Boston began in the year 1881, in which the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Henry Lee Higginson, appointed Leipzig Conservatoire-trained Georg Henschel Chief Conductor of the BSO. Subsequently, numerous conductors, who had either studied in Leipzig or had been members of the Gewandhausorchester, assumed the musical direction of the Orchestra: Wilhelm Gericke, Emil Pauer, Max Fiedler, Karl Muck and, perhaps most significantly of all, Arthur Nikisch. The relationship between the two orchestras was reaffirmed in the middle of the 20th century on Charles Münch's appointment as Music Director of the BSO in 1949 (until 1962); Münch had studied in Leipzig and was, from 1923 until 1933, 1st Concertmaster of the Gewandhausorchester. Boston Symphony Hall itself, dating from the year 1900, was decisively inspired and influenced by the architecture and acoustics of the second Gewandhaus.

Leipzig Weeks in Boston

February 2018

1) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
Works by JS Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Sean Shepherd (world premiere of a joint commission)

2) Chamber music
Gewandhaus-Quartett and BSO musicians Works by Copland and Mendelssohn

3) Lectures about the history of the Gewandhausorchester and its concert halls, Mendelssohn and Schumann, as well as a panel discussion about concert hall acoustics.
Featuring Christoph Wolff, Alexander Rehding, Carolyne Abbate, Claudius Böhm and others.

November 2018

1) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Boston Weeks in the Gewandhaus

June 2018

1) Gewandhausorchester, Andris Nelsons
Works by Stravinsky, Carter, Copland & Bernstein

2) Chamber music
Boston Symphony Chamber Players & Gewandhaus-Quartett
Including works by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

2) Lectures and film about the history of the BSO and BSO Symphony Hall.
Featuring Christoph Wolff, Ken-David Masur Anne Shreffler, Anthony Fogg, Bridget P. Carr (BSO archivist)

September 2018

1) Gewandhausorchester, Andris Nelsons, Yo-Yo Ma, violoncello
Including works by Sean Shepherd (European premiere of a joint commission) and Béla Bartók

2) Yo-Yo Ma recital in Leipzig

3) Boston Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig, Andris Nelsons

Gewandhaus zu Leipzig
Eigenbetrieb der Stadt Leipzig
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