Although it has only been four weeks since the musicians started digging into the season’s repertoire, it feels like we’re in the middle of a big season already. Maestro Honeck has strode through Pittsburgh and left us with a wonderful gala opening concert and a legacy of his interpretation of Mahler’s 1st Symphony (to be released soon on a CD comprised of the live performances of the weekend). It seemed to me like it had been years since we had worked as hard as we have in these first weeks of the ’08-’09 season. I think that the PSO thrives on leadership that challenges us, and we have that now in Honeck. I’m looking forward to the next time we see him. This week we’re meeting a conductor for the first time, and that can be a risky thing. Part of Bob Moir’s (artistic director of the PSO) job is to find new talented conductors to lead us in music making. I have to say, this week he kicked some artistic director booty! The only problem with finding talent, is that it doesn’t stay secret for long and gets snapped up quickly by some lucky organization.
Andris Nelsons brings an aura to Heinz Hall that hasn’t been there since Mariss Jansons left us a few years ago. I admit that when I saw him for the first time, I hadn’t read any of the publicity materials that are available……but it took about 10 seconds to see that there was a very real connection between this young talent and Jansons. By the time about 15 minutes had passed I was thinking that there’s no way that a student could pick up that much detail from another person’s life, and concluded that since he was from the same home town as Jansons that there certainly must be a genetic connection (I won’t continue on this path……but really…..it’s uncanny).
I can only assume that Nelsons is his own man, and that he is experiencing all this from his own unique perspective and it’s great, and very real and true to himself….he seems like the genuine article, that’s obvious. It’s just slightly creepy to see such a perfect similarity in style and substance. I loved having Jansons here, I have many proud memories of performances that he led, he is one of the most consistently inspiring musicians from the podium that I have ever seen. When I saw Jansons last he was 60 years old…..basically the prime of a conductor’s career. Nelsons is 29 years old and he already has so much of the skill and heart that Jansons showed us. Perhaps with even more joy from within! There was a moment in the rehearsal after everybody in the orchestra was giddy with the similarity between Jansons and this guy, and it happened…….Nelsons uttered the single most eagerly anticipated phrase that Jansons used frequently…."like small drum". The orchestra erupted in laughter and applause, and at first the look on Nelsons’ face was "what the…". Then the good nature of the orchestra seemed to infect him and he smiled and laughed with us. The week was filled with moments of fun between the musicians and Nelsons. I think that the result was a great concert that had tons of spark. I hope that we see Nelsons again and hopefully with regularity (hint, hint).