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NSO extends music director Gianandrea Noseda’s tenure

The Italian conductor will stay on with the National Symphony Orchestra through the 2026-2027 season

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda leads the National Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Scott Suchman/Washingtonian Magazine)
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The National Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday it would extend the contract of Gianandrea Noseda by two years, through the 2026-2027 season. The announcement comes as Noseda concludes the current NSO season with concerts through the weekend at the Kennedy Center.

“Despite the pandemic interruption, Gianandrea and the NSO have made extraordinary artistic strides,” National Symphony Orchestra executive director Gary Ginstling said in a statement. “We look forward with tremendous anticipation and excitement to what the next five years will bring.”

Noseda, now in his fifth season as music director, was named as the NSO’s seventh music director in 2016 after stints as principal guest conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and the Israel Philharmonic, and as music director for the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, England, and the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy. Since September, he has also served as general music director of the Zurich Opera House.

The extension of his contract will make Noseda’s the longest tenure for a music director at the NSO since Leonard Slatkin, who left in 2008 after 14 years at the helm.

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In an interview Thursday, Noseda, 58, greeted the extension as an opportunity to make up for two seasons that, despite a boost in digital programming, were mostly lost to the pandemic. But the extension also represents insurance for Noseda’s primary goals with the NSO: to raise the orchestra to the level of a national ambassador and to test that mettle through a resumption of recording and touring activities.

(An extensive Asian tour planned for the spring of 2020 was dashed entirely by the pandemic, and full-cycle recordings of Beethoven symphonies as well as the sinfonias of American composer George Walker are already underway.)

“You know, six or seven years is not enough,” Noseda said. “After five or six years of strong work, you can really enjoy the results, you can even go deeper inside, refine our playing to be even more respectful of the different repertoire, increase the variety and quality of sound we can produce as an orchestra. We can continue our journey together.”

Noseda said the additional time with the NSO will allow further pursuit of works that combine orchestra and voices. (He’s already led acclaimed performances of Verdi’s and Britten’s respective requiems.) And although there are no official plans, he also expressed interest in recording the works of Kennedy Center composer-in-residence Carlos Simon.

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In his five seasons with the NSO, Noseda has hired a considerable number of musicians to the orchestra — 20 of its 98.

Aaron Goldman, principal flute, voiced excitement at the news, and suspected his enthusiasm was shared across the orchestra, which he says has transformed under Noseda’s baton.

“However long we can keep him,” he said, “we want to.”

Goldman, who was among the players on the search committee in 2015, had his first experience with Noseda when the conductor led Rachmaninoff’s second symphony as a guest. He recalls thinking, “This is the guy, this is what the orchestra needs.” (Washington Post classical critic Anne Midgette appeared similarly struck, noting that Noseda “got the orchestra to sound pretty darn good.”)

“Having watched the last couple of years and the trajectory of the orchestra,” Goldman continued, “I feel like he was absolutely the right choice and has done all the things that we could have hoped for and more. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”

Goldman cited Noseda’s openness to performing new repertoire — from Mahler’s symphonies to the work of contemporary composers. (If the maestro is taking requests, Goldman mentioned he wouldn’t mind some Bruckner.) And he pointed to Noseda’s leadership style, an all-hands-on-deck attentiveness that makes the entire orchestra feel equally invested.

“The thing about Noseda that’s amazing is that he embraces everyone in the orchestra,” said Goldman. “I think that’s really why he’s able to get us to sound the way he does. His personality and that chemistry reaches everywhere throughout the orchestra.”

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The Noseda effect goes beyond the orchestra pit. The NSO cites a 20 percent increase in ticket sales and a 15 percent jump in subscriptions pre-pandemic, as well as a concurrent 23 percent jump in overall fundraising. An extension of his contract signals not just faith in his skills on the podium, but also his impact as the face of the organization.

For his part, and on the morning of his final string of concerts for the season (a program of Alexander Borodin and Nino Rota), Noseda sounds far more caught up in the simple thrills of the work at hand, and hungry for the opportunity to continue doing it.

“Sometimes it happens that I start the concert more tired than when I finish,” he says. “That means that the energy revitalized me. It’s a fantastic feeling when that happens.”