In classical music, as in politics and many other endeavors, every new regime is a reaction to the one before it. When, in 2004, James Levine became music director of the Boston Symphony, he was taking over an orchestra that had been led for 29 years by the colorful Seiji Ozawa. But as Ozawa aged from wunderkind to maestro, the BSO lost its spontaneity, and some observers fretted that its reputation was in jeopardy. Enter Levine, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, a certified innovator who, at 60, looked to the BSO as an opportunity to push the artistic envelope. He did, but poor health soon limited his appearances, and furthered the perception that his deeper allegiance was to New York.
Andris Nelsons, the young Latvian conductor who emerged, after a two-year search, as the BSO’s new leader, is the orchestra’s answer to Levine’s health woes and wavering loyalties. At 34, Nelsons will be making his reputation in Boston; he and the BSO will rise or fall together. He has said he will make a home in Boston. If so, the Greater Boston community will be eager to embrace him.