BSO’s new assistant conductor set to make her (virtual) debut

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Russian-born conductor Anna Rakitina has spent much of the past decade traveling the globe for work. One month has the 31-year-old Rakitina with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the next it’s Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, after that the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Rarely has her family had a chance to see her conduct, but when Rakitina makes her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut she’ll have a special guest watching.
“I am particularly happy that my grandmother will be able to watch the concert,” she said from Russia. “I am so happy that the orchestra has given me this opportunity to perform. Yes, it’s without the audience, but this opportunity is no less valuable for me.”
The BSO’s new assistant conductor will make her debut on bso.org/now, the online portal into Symphony Hall that has replaced in-person concerts this season. The BSO brought Rakitina on for the 2020 Tanglewood season but cancellations forced her first Massachusetts podium appearance to be delayed until this month — available to subscribers on Thursday.
“I hope next summer I will have the opportunity to play my program at Tanglewood,” she said. “But we don’t know, do we? But I can hope.”
While missing out on Tanglewood was a disappointment, Rakitina will jump in this month with works from a pair of Russian-born icons. The program will highlight Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 and Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite, a favorite of the maestro’s.
“Most Russians have a kind of connection with Stravinsky not only because he is a Russian composer but also because he took the Russian fairytale (of the Firebird) for the ballet so the story behind it is very well known,” she said. “All the characters, the situations came from our popular fairy tales and folk songs. It gives me a special kind of connection with this music. I feel at home with this music.”
Now she says she feels at home with the BSO too, calling the organization the “friendliest group of high-level professionals” she has worked with.
“It’s been a pure joy,” she said of joining the team.
What’s also been a wonder: getting back to work. Unlike a dancer or pianist or painter, a conductor needs to be in front of an ensemble to stay sharp. Preparing this first program has honed Rakitina’s craft.
“The time when you’re not conducting, if it lasts for a long time, it harms your skills,” she said. “We really need to go to our orchestras. We really need to be in good shape to make good concerts. I was lucky to be able to perform several concerts this winter. It was very good luck for me to get to work with (the BSO).”

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