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Classical Notes

Poga wrapping it up as BSO’s assistant conductor

Andris Poga, the BSO’s assistant conductor, made his Tanglewood debut with the orchestra in August in a program featuring pianist Peter Serkin (right).Hilary Scott/File 2013/Hilary Scott photo

Andris Poga, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor, is in the midst of leading his final regular series of concerts with the BSO. It’s been a busy time for the young maestro: In addition to his BSO duties, Poga has also been serving as assistant to Paavo Järvi at the Orchestre de Paris. He will not slow down once he leaves Boston. Last year he was appointed music director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra (a post formerly held by incoming BSO music director Andris Nelsons). He has also conducted a number of Japanese orchestras.

Despite a hectic schedule, he’s enjoyed his time in Boston. “I have had a great time here,” he wrote in an e-mail earlier this week, praising both the “wonderful BSO musicians, guest conductors, and soloists” and the chance to learn “an incredible amount of new repertoire. And of course the opportunity to conduct one of the world’s top orchestras — quite rare for a young conductor.”


The assistant conductor’s chief duty is to cover for whoever happens to be conducting the orchestra during a given week and be able to step in at short notice in case of illness or other emergency. Poga hasn’t had to do that during his BSO tenure.

But he did have to do so recently in Paris, and under quite dramatic circumstances. Guest conductor Mikko Franck had to cancel his appearance with the orchestra because of illness — just 30 minutes before curtain. Luckily for Poga, the orchestra’s concertmaster stepped in to lead Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. That gave Poga a little extra time to brush up on Shostakovich’s mammoth Seventh Symphony (“Leningrad”), which he then had to lead after intermission.

Of course, Poga wrote, “to conduct such a grandiose piece as the Shostakovich for the very first time is a challenge even if you have prepared for it long before and have the rehearsals, which I hadn’t, obviously.” But even under those conditions, “the orchestra was extremely supportive and very flexible, and it was even possible to enjoy performing together.”


The symphony lasts around 80 minutes, and one might suppose that the young conductor would have been thoroughly exhausted when it was over. But, he wrote, “at the end I was very excited by the incredible power and depth of that music and felt thrilled by the support and responsiveness of the entire orchestra.”

Poga conducts Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony, along with music by Wagner and Lutoslawski, on Friday and Saturday.

Information: www.bso.org

Borromeo postponement

The Borromeo String Quartet has postponed a performance of and lecture on Bartok’s six string quartets. The quartet was to have given a lecture about the quartets this past Wednesday and played the six works this Sunday, both at New England Conservatory. Both have been rescheduled because of a family medical emergency. They will now take place on May 14 — the lecture at 3 p.m. in Pierce Hall, and the performance at 7 p.m. in Jordan Hall. Both are free and open to the public.

Information: www.borromeoquartet.org

Balsom cancels

Trumpeter Alison Balsom has withdrawn from this weekend’s performances with the Handel and Haydn Society because of illness. She was to have played the Haydn Trumpet Concerto with the Society’s period-instrument orchestra under guest conductor Richard Egarr on Friday and Sunday. In the concerto’s place, Egarr will conduct Beethoven’s “Coriolan” Overture.


Information: www.handelandhaydn.org

David Weininger can be reached at globeclassicalnotes@gmail.com.