BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Symphony Orchestra has hired Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons to succeed James Levine, an iconic American conductor known for his wild hair and dramatic manner, who left in 2011 due to health problems, it said on Thursday.
Nelsons will be the leading U.S. symphony's youngest conductor in more than a century when he begins the 2013-14 season as "music director designate." He will assume the full title of music director for the 2014-15 season.
"Sought after by the top orchestras and opera houses of the world, Maestro Nelsons, at age 34, is already considered one of the most brilliant conductors of our time," said Chairman of the BSO Board of Trustees Ted Kelly in a press release.
Nelsons, who is currently conducting the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the United Kingdom, said in the release that his appointment to the BSO marked "one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime."
The Boston Symphony has been without a permanent music director since 2011, when Levine - one of the leading forces in U.S. classical music for the last four decades - left after seven seasons because of back problems and other health issues.
Levine, who also serves as music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, is due to return Sunday to the podium in New York, where he will conduct excerpts from Wagner's Lohengrin and Schubert's "Great" Symphony.
Nelsons is scheduled to make his first official appearance at the head of the orchestra in Boston in October, leading Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, and Brahms's Symphony No. 3.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)