Richard Strauss’s Festive Prelude for organ and orchestra calls for a massive ensemble, and this fall the combined forces of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra delivered—to the tune of 118 musicians onstage at Boston’s Symphony Hall, which extended its stage by thirteen feet for the event. The October 31 gala performance highlighted the BSO/GHO Alliance, a five-year partnership between the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester launched in February 2018 by Andris Nelsons, who is music director of both orchestras. The alliance also features co-commissions, educational initiatives, and more. It was the first full residency in Boston for the Leipzigers, a week that included five performances by musicians from both ensembles, separately and together. German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was on hand on October 31 to welcome the audience and announce the official culmination of the Federal Republic of Germany’s year-long celebration of its friendship with the United States. The program also included Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante in B-flat for oboe, bassoon, violin, and cello, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, and Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy. At the end of the performance, there were beer and pretzels: what would a German-American fest be without that?


Caption: German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier with BSO Music Director and Gewandhaus Orchestra Kapellmeister Andris Nelsons at Boston’s Symphony Hall on October 31, 2019. Photo by Winslow Townson.