Andris Nelsons, the acclaimed young music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, has signed a three-year extension to his contract after the an outstanding first season which has seen record ticket sales.
The 30-year-old Latvian has committed himself until the end of the 2013-14 season at the end of a first year in which the CBSO sold more tickets than ever before for its concerts in Birmingham, generating more than £2 million.
During the 2008-9 season the CBSO sold 112,521 tickets for its concerts in Birmingham, a 4.4 per cent increase on the previous year and the third consecutive year, setting a new record. However, the average capacity, 72 per cent, is lower than during the Sir Simon Rattle era.
In recent years audiences for the main evening concert series have been declining, a trend which has been more than offset by support for the matinee and popular Friday night concerts. But this season has seen figures for the evening concerts go up for the first time in more than a decade.
CBSO chief executive Stephen Maddock believed the record sales were partly due to the attraction of Andris Nelsons but added that the orchestra was also seeing larger younger audiences as a result of its increased work with universities.
Despite the recession, the upward trend appears to be continuing, with ticket sales for next season more than one per cent up on the same time last year.
In financial terms, the orchestra exceeded its box office target by £53,000. For the first time this year this target was above £2 million, which is believed to be higher than for any other British orchestra and represents about 25 per cent of its turnover.
Mr Nelsons, who walks to work from his apartment in the Rotunda, said: “I’m excited and honoured to be extending my contract with this fantastic orchestra, and I have enjoyed every moment of work and music-making in our first season.”
Widely recognised as one of Europe’s most exciting young conductors, the former principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera has quickly forged a dynamic partnership with the orchestra. It will reach another milestone on Tuesday, when they make their debut together at the Proms.
Mr Maddock added: “These contracts always tend to be three years in the first instance, and usually there’s a review built in after a year.
“In our case it was a very straightforward conversation with the orchestra and Andris – they only had to think about it for a few seconds.
“There’s just a very, very positive feeling on all sides – from the orchestra towards Andris and how much they have enjoyed his music-making, in feedback from the audience and from promoters. It’s no good us having a conductor we all like if the combination of orchestra and conductor are not in demand around the world.
“We’ve got the most wonderful extensive plans over the next few seasons for UK work and international touring. The next thing is the Lausanne Festival at the end of August. When Andris started that was something long-term we thought we might do after three seasons, but it’s come after one. And there’s a big German tour next March.
“Finally, Andris is enjoying Birmingham, he’s enjoying the really hard work he’s doing with the orchestra, and he’s enjoying the range of opportunities. His first season has included kids’ concerts, Star Wars, La Boheme – he’s enjoying the range and finding there’s a lot more he can do here than in some other places he might have gone.”
Andris Nelsons next conducts the CBSO at Symphony Hall tonight, in a concert which includes the premiere of John Woolrich’s concerto for contra-bassoon, Falling Down, and Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, which Nelsons will also conduct at the Proms on Tuesday.