Montreal-born Yannick Nézet-Séguin was appointed as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 2018, adding this to his Music Directorship of The Philadelphia Orchestra (where he has served since 2012) and to the Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), of which he has been Artistic Director and Principal Conductor since 2000. He joined Harnoncourt and Haitink to become the third-ever Honorary Member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in 2016-17. The end of his ten-year tenure with Rotterdam Philharmonic coincided with the orchestra’s centenary celebrations in its home city and culminated in an acclaimed European summer festivals tour in 2018.
Yannick has worked with many leading European ensembles and has enjoyed many close collaborations with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Chamber Orchestra of Europe, as well as with London Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he was Principal Guest Conductor from 2008 to 2014. He has appeared several times at the BBC Proms and at many European festivals, among them Edinburgh, Lucerne, Salzburg, Berlin and Grafenegg. North American summer appearances include New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Lanaudière, Vail and Saratoga. Once Chorus Master, Assistant Conductor and Music Adviser at Opéra de Montréal he has since conducted at the Wiener Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival.
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Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin discusses highlights of the 2018-19 season
From The Green Room
- More info Mozart
- More info DESTINATION RACHMANINOV · DEPARTURE - RACHMANINOV Piano Concertos 2 & 4
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 12 Oct 18
Daniil Trifonov · The Philadelphia Orchestra
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
2. Adagio sostenuto
3. Allegro scherzando
BACH Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006
Arr. Piano by Rachmaninov
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 40
1. Allegro vivace (Alla breve)
3. Allegro vivace
- More info WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART La Clemenza di Tito
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 06 Jul 18
Rolando Villazón · Marina Rebeka · Joyce DiDonato · Tara Erraught · Regula Mühlemann · Adam Plachetka ** Chamber Orchestra of Europe ** RIAS Kammerchor
After a slightly lacklustre Nozze di Figaro a couple of years ago, the dramatic temperature is back to white-hot, and the women in particular are as fine as any I’ve heard on record…Rebeka sweeps… — Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 13th July 2018
- More info Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra, BB 123, Sz.116 / Dvorák: Symphony No.8 in G Major, Op.88, B.163
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 08 Jun 18
Collegium Vocale Gent, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945)
Concerto For Orchestra, BB 123, Sz.116
1. Introduzione (Andante non troppo – Allegro vivace) – 10:18
2. Giuoco della coppie (Allegretto scherzando) – 6:47
3. Elegia (Andante, non troppo) – 8:13
4. Intermezzo interrotto (Allegretto) – 4:43
5. Finale (Pesante – Presto) – 9:56
Antonín Dvorák (1841 – 1904)
Symphony No.8 in G Major, Op.88, B.163
1. Allegro con brio – 10:09
2. Adagio – 11:24
3. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace – 6:07
4. Allegro ma non troppo – 9:57
Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
Nocturnes, L. 91
1. Nuages. Modéré – 7:50
2. Fêtes. Animé et très rythmé – 6:27
3. Sirènes. Modérément animé – 11:13
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)
Symphony No.44 in E Minor, Hob.I:44 -“Mourning”
1. Allegro con brio – 6:07
2. Menuetto (Allegretto) – Canone in Diapason – 4:49
3. Adagio – 4:35
4. Finale (Presto) – 3:33
Total Playing Time 2:02:34
- More info Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 / Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini, Op.32, TH 46 / Turnage: Piano Concerto
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 08 Jun 18
Marc-Andre Hamelin, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
1. Allegro vivace e con brio – 9:02
2. Allegretto scherzando – 3:51
3. Tempo di menuetto – 5:05
4. Allegro vivace – 7:35
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
Francesca da Rimini, Op.32, TH 46 – 24:09
Mark-Anthony Turnage (1960 – )
1. Rondo-Variations – 5:01
2. Last Lullaby for Hans – 9:02
3. A Grotesque Burlesque – 7:59
Total Playing Time 1:11:44
- More info ANTON BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 08 Jun 18
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896)
Symphony No.8 In C Minor, WAB 108
Version Robert Haas 1939
1. Allegro moderato – 16:31
2. Scherzo: Allegro moderato – 16:10
3. Adagio: Feierlich langsam; doch nicht schleppend – 28:17
4. Finale: Feierlich, nicht schnell – 25:46
Total Playing Time 1:26:44
- More info GUSTAV MAHLER Symphony No. 10
- More info Shostakovich: Symphony No.4 in C Minor, Op.43
- More info Bruckner: Les 9 symphonies
Label: ATMA Classique
Release Date: 02 Mar 18
A 10 year project to record the complete symphonies of Anton Bruckner. The First and Fifth Symphonies were recorded in 2017, and are being released for the first time as part of this set. These two symphonies will also be available individually, in digital format only.
- More info Bernstein: Mass (Live)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 16 Mar 18
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Westminster Symphonic Choir
Temple University Concert Choir
The American Boychoir
Temple University Diamond Marching Band
Kevin Vortmann, Tenor (Celebrant)
Sarah Uriarte Berry, Soprano
Julia Burrows, Soprano
Morgan James, Soprano
Meredith Lustig, Soprano
Hilary Ginther, Mezzo-soprano
Bryonha Marie Parham, Mezzo-soprano
Lyn Philistine, Mezzo-soprano
Pearl Sun, Mezzo-soprano
E. Clayton Cornelious, Tenor
Devin Ilaw, Tenor
Benjamin Krumreig, Tenor
J.D. Webster, Tenor
Timothy McDevitt, Baritone
Kent Overshown, Baritone
Nathaniel Stampley, Baritone
Zachary James, Bass
Douglas Butler, Boy Soprano
Daniel Voigt, Boy Soprano
- More info Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20; Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2
- More info Duets
- More info MENDELSSOHN: Symphonies Nos. 1-5
- More info Bruckner Symphony No. 3
- More info WALDBÜHNE Czech Night
- More info W.A Mozart: The New Complete Edition
- More info Bruckner 2
- More info Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 08 Jul 16
MOZART Le Nozze di Figaro
Luca Pisaroni: Figaro
Christiane Karg: Susanna
Sonya Yoncheva: Countess Almaviva
Thomas Hampson: Conte
Angela Brower: Cherubino
Anne Sofie von Otter: Marcellina
Maurizio Muraro: Bartolo
Rolando Villazón: Basilio
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
- More info Mahler: Symphonie Nr.1
- More info Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé / Pavane
- More info Schumann: The Symphonies
- More info Miloš / Aranjuez
- More info Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring; Transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski
- More info Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6; Selected Romances opp.6 & 73
- More info Mozart: Così fan tutte
- More info Bruckner Symphony no.6
- More info Mozart: Don Giovanni
- More info Bruckner: Symphony no.4
- More info Strauss: Ein Heldenleben / Vier letzte Lieder
- More info Florent Schmidt: La tragédie de Salomé / Franck: Symphony in D minor
- More info Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique & La mort de Cléopâtre
- More info Bizet: Carmen (DVD)
- More info Brahms: A German Requiem
- More info 08 Mar 19 Jan Lisiecki Philadelphia Orchestra Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
“But as is his inclination, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin ambushed more-probing ears with covert connections between the pieces, creating fresh contexts for these revisited classics.
Nézet-Séguin seemed determined that Schubert’s four movements wouldn’t be isolated musical islands but a larger, forward-moving narrative. The stark but sturdy musical pillars in the first movement gave way to an idiosyncratically marching second movement that morphed into something more relentless and menacing.
The shattering, masterfully built climax was suitably powerful, and the reassembling of the thematic pieces (which can never be the same) was more so. The waltzing third movement had a particularly glittering Viennese lilt until the especially pronounced bass suggested darkness that lay around the corner.
The final movement’s many thematic reinteractions can seem needlessly repetitive in less capable hands, though here a breathless, anxious treatment of the rhythm created edge-of-the-seat suspense.
Rooted in the wide-open key of C-major, the broadly etched Schubert symphony easily mirrors the conductor’s psyche. And though no radical diagnosis was to be had from Nézet-Séguin, the interpretation was the work of a conductor who was going to have it all — crisp tempos and strong pulse of the current historically informed performance movement, the grandeur of his mentor Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005), and the emotional candor of the great Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954).
Nothing was done for mere effect. Once a chord did its job, it got out of the way. This was among the best Schubert 9ths of my experience.”
- More info 17 Jan 19 Pelléas et Mélisande Metropolitan Opera, New York
“Pelléas et Mélisande, Metropolitan Opera — Nézet-Séguin lets the orchestra sing
The conductor’s presence on the podium is the main reason to see this New York production of Debussy’s opera.
When the Met last performed Pelléas et Mélisande eight years ago, Simon Rattle conducted a memorable performance that in particular valued linear clarity and transparent textures. Now Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in his second production as the company’s music director, takes a quite different yet hardly less satisfying approach to Debussy’s incandescent score, one that allows the music to soar by releasing its energy and stressing colour.
He seems to revel in moments of musical unrest and sometimes encourages phrases to surge even at the risk of covering the voices. Through pointed emphasis, he makes one aware of just how closely Debussy ties his music to the drama, all the while drawing first-rate, meticulously precise playing from the orchestra.
Nézet-Séguin’s presence on the podium is the fundamental reason for visiting this revival of Jonathan Miller’s production, but there is some fine singing too.”
- More info 05 Dec 18 La traviata Metropolitan Opera, New York
“Nothing less than the start of a new period in the Met’s history: the Yannick Nézet-Séguin era.
To begin his tenure as the company’s music director, Mr. Nézet-Séguin led an uncommonly fine rendition of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” in a new staging by Michael Mayer that stars the soprano Diana Damrau and the tenor Juan Diego Flórez. And in a rare gesture of respect and good will, the Met’s musicians joined Mr. Nézet-Séguin on stage for a bow after the show.
Since making his Met debut in 2009, Mr. Nézet-Séguin has proved his excellence in nearly 70 performances. I expected his “Traviata” to be good, but not this good.
During the poignant music that opens the prelude to Act I, Mr. Nézet-Séguin drew radiant yet delicate playing from the strings. Then he shaped the melody that unfolds in sighing, descending phrases with elegance and refinement.
A little later, during the duet when the passionate young Alfredo expresses his long-brewing love to the courtesan Violetta, Mr. Nézet-Séguin excelled at the most essential requirement for a Verdi conductor: the ability to keep a simple oom-pah-pah accompaniment in the orchestra steady and undulant, while giving the singers just enough leeway to expressively bend vocal lines. Then, in moments of intensity, he drew vehemence without a trace of melodramatic excess.
Even if it was in traditional style, the Met has opened a new chapter with this “Traviata.” Early this season, Mr. Nézet-Séguin and the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, laid out ambitious plans, including commissions, unusual repertory and collaborations with Mr. Nézet-Séguin’s Philadelphia Orchestra.
But the company’s music director’s job, of course, also involves leading performances of staples like “La Traviata.” How did he do? Splendidly.”
- More info 09 Nov 18 Joyce DiDonato Philadelphia Orchestra Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
“Joyce DiDonato and Yannick Nézet-Séguin pair their star power at Philadelphia Orchestra
The banner attraction was star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato singing Chausson’s Poeme de amour et la mer, and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin found conceptual offshoots from that piece, both obvious (Respighi’s Fountains of Rome) and up to the -minute (Mason Bates’ Anthology of Fantastic Zoology).
From his end, Nézet-Séguin took the piece well beyond its typical orchestral mellifluousness in a microscopic tour of the orchestration — with the atmospheric tone painting mixed with dark undertones, often expressed in quiet timpani that felt more ominous than usual. My tastes are such that I wouldn’t want sound painting any more specific than this.
Respighi’s orchestral tone poems, in contrast, are pictorial snapshots that leave little room for a poetic dimension, like a film score without a film. But Fountains of Rome (which concludes with Chaussonesque melancholy) had Nézet-Séguin delivering meticulously molded orchestra sonorities that spoke expressive volumes and kept you from listening on only a descriptive level.
Coordination challenges are immense with music that goes in so many directions so quickly, though the Philadelphia Orchestra navigated seamlessly. This piece usually leaves me wanting more, but this performance felt like quite enough, as Nézet-Séguin sometimes probed for depths that are perhaps not discoverable.
Nézet-Séguin found marvelous details amid Wagner’s single, slow-motion musical gesture.”
- More info 28 Aug 18 "Prom 61: An affectionate Bruckner 4" Rotterdam Philharmonic Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
“Nézet-Séguin is clearly adored by his orchestra, whom he leaves as Chief Conductor during the course of this European tour, although their relationship will continue “as uncle instead of father” as he described it in a brief post-concert tribute to his players. The orchestra hangs on his every phrase, his every gesture, which range from fluid horizontal strokes, as if painting an imaginary landscape, to dramatic frozen poses to arms urgently stretched wide in a huge embrace. The Rotterdam players returned that hug with added interest.
From the poised opening horn call over Bruckner’s trademark tremolando strings, this was set to be a poetic account, unhurried, affectionate. Nézet-Séguin, making excellent eye contact, encouraged his players to listen attentively to each other, resulting in beautiful exchanges between buttery flute and misty-eyed oboe. Knees flexed, the Canadian conductor pointed the symphony’s dance rhythms balletically. The third movement Ländler was perhaps a little too coy, blushing preciously amid the boisterous hunting horn theme of the Scherzo, but it percolated pastoral charm.”
- More info 09 Jun 18 "Au revoir to Rotterdam" Rotterdam Philharmonic Grote Zaal, Rotterdam, Netherlands
“In September, Yannick Nézet-Séguin becomes music director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Taking on North America’s foremost opera house means that, while remaining with the Orchestre Métropolitain in his birthplace Montreal and the Philadelphia Orchestra, his tenure at the Rotterdam Philharmonic has come to its natural end. As the orchestra celebrates its hundredth birthday, it also bids farewell to its beloved principal conductor. The two jubilee concerts he conducted last weekend, starring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, were his last with the orchestra in that capacity.
Saturday’s concert was webstreamed across the globe and projected on a screen on Schouwburgplein, outside the orchestra’s home, De Doelen. An afternoon of live performances led up to the screening on the square, where indulgent weather contributed to a garden party atmosphere. Inside De Doelen you could get your photograph taken with a life-size cardboard cut-out Nézet-Séguin. The stage was hemmed with white garlands flecked with purple flowers, to match the purple seats.
The programme became more theatrical as the orchestra’s numbers swelled. In a Berio arrangement of a Boccherini guitar quintet, based on a tune played at the changing of the guard in Madrid, Nézet-Séguin built the scene with great dynamic finesse. The thematic significance of this choice, as he passes the baton to his successor Lahav Shani, was not lost on those present. Having left her trouser roles behind her, DiDonato returned after the break, in a stunning gown shot with gold, to sing the melting romanza from Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini. She then became a self-assured, ebullient Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Giving a delighted Nézet-Séguin conspiratorial looks, she made the audience roar at her head-spinning dexterity in “Una voce poco fa”.
The reciprocal love between Nézet-Séguin, his orchestra and the Rotterdam audience was evident every time he walked onstage to prolonged applause. With this encore, he reassured them that their love affair would continue. In a radio interview on Sunday he promised that his new job in Manhattan would spill over into future operatic projects in Manhattan on the Maas, as Rotterdam is sometimes called. Sounds like there are exciting times ahead.”
- More info 13 May 18 Tosca Philadelphia Orchestra Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
“There were few drawbacks, in any case, in tonight’s resoundingly successful performance. Indeed, the traditional placing was replicated in its way, in that the singers were in the choir balcony, still elevated above the orchestra. But the difference was we got to see and hear their rapport with the orchestra with much greater intimacy. Its playing under Nézet Séguin was captivatingly pacy, passionate and excitingly volatile. The orchestra was truly a living, breathing character – or all the characters at once or by turns. It certainly wasn’t a mere onlooker of the drama.”
- More info 10 Apr 18 Philadelphia Orchestra Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York
“Yannick Nézet-Séguin infused the piece with much energy, intensity and drama, and generated a taut, vital performance that made every effort to be larger than life.
One of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpieces, Chichester Psalms, opened the concert. With a strong emphasis on sonic power, heavenly serenity and propulsive energy, Nézet-Séguin led a most impressive performance. In the first movement, powerful sections were aggressive, softer ones sparkled with shimmering filigree.
The familiar Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition gave the Philadelphia Orchestra a chance to show how its once-famous timbre has at last returned. Although the Philadelphia sound created by Stokowski and maintained by Ormandy will probably never quite be duplicated, the Orchestra on this occasion played brilliantly. Special mention should be given to alto saxophonist Sam Caviezel for the purity of his tone, and tuba-player Carol Jantsch for her excellent solo in the lumbering ‘Bydlo’. Nézet-Séguin led a rather brisk treatment of the ‘Gnomes’ segment, but forceful outbursts followed by eerie stillness produced a chilling effect. A well-shaped ‘Old Castle’ generated a haunting atmosphere, yet elsewhere there was some hurry although concentration on impressionistic elements was quite fascinating. Nézet-Séguin heightened the contrast between the rapid, almost chaotic depiction of ‘Unhatched Chicks’ and the ‘Limoges’ marketplace (an interesting parallel) against the dark, foreboding caricature of Samuel Goldenberg. The characterization of Goldenberg’s cowering amanuensis Schmuyle by a mousey trumpet was mawkishly coy. The lugubrious ‘Catacombs’ was especially frightening, while the ‘Baba-Yaga’ section was simply riveting. Brilliant brass garnished the concluding ‘Great Gate of Kiev’, even if the bells (marked fff) were rather too withdrawn to fully engender the grandiosity of this magnificent conclusion.”
- More info 15 Mar 18 "Met Opera’s Next Maestro Energizes His Philadelphians" Philadelphia Orchestra Carnegie Hall, New York, USA
“As my New York Times colleague Zachary Woolfe has suggested, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the successor to James Levine as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, may have cause to feel anointed: To judge from recent audience reactions, he is seen as the new grand maestro on the block, and quite possibly a savior for the troubled company.
But Mr. Nézet-Séguin’s response to audience acclaim for his concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday evening was distinctly unregal; indeed, un-maestro-like. It was hugs all around as Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who has been the orchestra’s music director since 2012 and was clearly energized by an hourlong immersion in Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, made his way through the ranks, congratulating individual players.
And congratulations were in order. The Philadelphia Orchestra became a sort of spiritual home for Rachmaninoff after he left Russia in 1917, and the ensemble maintained a close relationship with his work during its many years under Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy. If Mr. Nézet-Séguin and the current players can no longer claim primary ownership of Rachmaninoff’s music, evidently no one has told them.
The lush string playing, in particular, summoned memories of the Fabulous Philadelphians of yore. And individual contributions from others — particularly Ricardo Morales, the principal clarinetist, in the big tune of the third movement — enhanced that impression.
Showing total command, Mr. Nézet-Séguin led an unhurried account, giving full rein and ample breath to Rachmaninoff’s endlessly expansive lyricism. But he also imparted propulsive energy as needed, in the Allegro molto second movement and especially in the composer’s trademark evocation of cascading bells in the finale.”
- More info 05 Mar 18 Elektra The Metropolitan Opera, New York
“The Met’s Powerful ‘Elektra’ Could Turn Anyone Into an Opera Lover
The production premiered at the Met in 2016, but its current iteration marks a thrilling contrast from that debut. The company’s new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, has galvanized the orchestra into creating a soundscape pulsating with energy and detail. Strands of sound suddenly emerged with a high-definition precision of focus right on the edge of sensory overload. Further, the maestro’s propulsive tempos made the 100 minutes of the opera seem to race past with the lean, muscular grace of an athlete in a Jugendstil frieze.
But even allowing for her eccentricities, this dramatic Elektra is a performance to convert the most stubborn unbeliever to the cause of opera.”
- More info 22 Feb 18 Parsifal Metropolitan Opera, New York
“Parsifal” is currently running at the Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin—who is definitely not a fool; he is the man on whom the Met has pinned its hopes for redemption.
Nézet-Séguin, a Canadian conductor who is the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic (where he is completing his final season) and the artistic director of the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montreal, was appointed to the job last spring, when it was announced that he would assume the directorship in 2020. But, given the dire need for fresh leadership, the Met announced last week that his arrival as music director would be moved up, to September of this year.
The strength of Nézet-Séguin’s “Parsifal,” which I attended on Saturday afternoon, hardly surprised me, since his interpretation of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” last April had tremendous force and sweep.
The basic musical features of Nézet-Séguin’s “Parsifal” were strong. First of all was the singing, the rare abundance of sheer vocal health that radiated from the stage. The first-rate Wagnerians filling the cast—including René Pape, Klaus Florian Vogt, Evelyn Herlitzius, and an astonishingly potent Peter Mattei—were clearly happy to be there, as were the orchestra and chorus: the essential link between pit and stage was firm all afternoon. Nézet-Séguin is an outstanding musician who is well known to be an amiable colleague.
Wagner’s deed is dark magic here: though ostensibly a holy Christian scene, the music recalls the depressive eroticism of “Tristan und Isolde,” and Nézet-Séguin brought the music down, very soft and very slow, as the passage melted into the simple, lyrical loveliness of the “Good Friday Spell.” Perhaps Nézet-Séguin, informed by the perceptiveness of Girard’s production, realized that this moment was the point of resolution toward which the entire opera had been heading, and finally provided the deep-focus intensity of absolute expressive commitment. The rest of the performance was lit from within, whether in the almost atonal anger of the funeral scene or in the final, beatific elevation of the Grail. This could augur well for the future.”
- More info 18 Jan 18 "Otherworldly and Earthly" Philadelphia Orchestra Verizon Hall, Philadelphia, USA
“Philadelphia’s British Isles Festival ran the second of its three programmes tonight, with all works inspired by the endless imagination of the Celtic North: namely Scotland. From a cultural point of view, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s ‘discovery’ of the remote outposts of the kingdom was crucially important; two of the three works – Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony – owe their existence to the Victorian cult; the latter is indeed dedicated to the Queen herself.
Peter Maxwell Davies’ 1985 tone poem An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise was written with all the passion of an island convert. With folksy charm, the Philadelphia Orchestra seized upon its rhythms and endearing melodies, swaying easily into the drunk and disorderly part of the revels, with wood-block hiccups. The violin solo, followed by other instruments, sounded realistically inebriated and pleasantly disjointed. As dawn crept upon the revelers, a piece of theatre ensued, as the lights brightened over the stage and auditorium, and a splendidly-attired bagpiper, a veritable giant of a man, appeared dramatically at the back of the theatre, and with that unmistakably reedy sound cutting through the fog of hangover, made his way to the stage. In Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s enthusiastic hands, this seemed less gimmicky and more of a joyous, lovely surprise, breaking in at the end of a long boozy party.
Nézet-Séguin has an immaculate attention to what each desk is doing, or ought to be doing; and there were passages which electrified for the bringing-together of rhythms, sounds and volumes. We were drenched in all sorts of dreams about Scotland tonight – dreams of its other-worldliness and remoteness but also images of its earthy pleasures of dance and drink.”
- More info 03 Dec 17 "Nézet-Séguin brings Elgar to Paris" L'Orchestre Métropolitain Philharmonie de Paris, FRANCE
“It’s always interesting to hear non-English orchestras and conductors playing Elgar. Daniel Barenboim, for example, has established a strong tradition with his Staatskapelle Berlin, as heard at the BBC Proms this summer. Here in Paris, on the last leg of their first international tour, there was the opportunity to hear the Orchestre Métropolitain and Yannick Nézet-Séguin fully embrace the Enigma Variations in a heart-on-sleeve rendition that was as English as roast beef. Paired with a francophone first half of Berlioz and Saint-Saëns, the Montréal orchestra paid its respects to its twin cultural influences.
Fellow Québécoise Marie-Nicole Lemieux was the sensuous soloist in Berlioz’s song cycle Les Nuits d’été, her lustrous contralto cranked up to full throttle for Sur les lagunes.Lemieux lightened the tone for the frothier outer numbers, reserving a naughty twinkle in her eye for Nézet-Séguin during L’Île inconnue. The OM didn’t quite sparkle here, lacking vivacity in what felt like an earthbound voyage. Elsewhere, however, smoky clarinets and airy flute caught my ear in Villanelle and veiled strings caressed Le Spectre de la rose, taken at a daringly slow tempo.
The afternoon’s second soloist was Jean-Guihen Queyras, launching straight into the parlando introduction to Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto no.1 in A minor after the orchestra’s dramatic opening chord. Queyras’ light timbre was like butterscotch to Lemieux’s burnt caramel and his delicacy of touch and eloquence made for an engaging performance. Nézet-Séguin and the OM were attentive partners, the graceful minuet of the Allegretto con moto introduced by pianissimo strings, Queyras responding in kind with the most elegant phrasing. Nézet-Séguin drove the orchestral accompaniment to add gutsy symphonic sweep to the rousing finale, which Queyras dowsed in icy sul ponticello and spiccato effects in his Dutilleux encore.”
- More info 21 Jul 17 CD: Mendelssohn Symphonies 1-5 Deutsche Grammophon
“A first-rate, inspired rendering of Mendelssohn’s five superb Symphonies. Here is a remarkable manifestation of musical intent.
From the opening bars it is clear that French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Chamber Orchestra of Europe together make an inspired combination for this recording project. Everyone appears to be at one in wholly advocating these valuable and highly imaginative creations. Playing on this occasion with very little vibrato and in perfect balance, the ensemble embodies the fascinating Mendelssohnian sound world straddling the Classical and Romantic that I have only heard as successfully accomplished by Philippe Herreweghe. Tuning is spot-on and ensemble rapport excellent, with beautiful phrasing evident throughout. Prominence is given by the director to Classical form that Mendelssohn obviously savoured in these works with an easy, clearly felt and articulated rhetoric emanating from every member of the ensemble. Heard in a fresh new light, there is unimpeded delight in hearing performances by this band and its fine director of works which have at times been criticised (by Wagner in particular). These very fine live recordings made in February last year in the brand new Grande Salle Pierre Boulez, Paris, are honoured with superb technical recording technique, a first-rate balance and warm blooming sound such as we expect from the distinguished yellow label.
Here is an outstanding manifestation of musical intent. Music to play at volume and warmly recommended.
5 stars out of 5”
- More info 14 May 17 Orchestre Métropolitain La Maison Symphonique de Montréal
The last couple of weeks were quite busy for the high-flying forty-two year-old Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who led all his current and future East Coast ensembles over that time span. He conducted three subscription concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra, repeating the same program – Bernstein, Mozart, Schumann – at Carnegie Hall. In between, he led Der Fliegende Holländer performances at the Metropolitan – where he will assume the title of Music Director Designate next season – and he contributed to the success of the Metropolitan Opera 50th Anniversary at the Lincoln Center Gala. Finally, Nézet-Séguin conducted three other performances with the Orchestre Métropolitain, the other ensemble for which he serves as Music Director. The last concert in Montreal was prefaced by a rather emotional ceremony during which the city’s native son was presented with an honorary degree by the prestigious McGill University.
La Maison Symphonique was packed for a Sunday afternoon performance that, at least on paper, didn’t look too exciting. The main work on the program was Bruckner’s Symphony no. 1 in C minor, a work that today’s public is still less familiar with. Contrary to recent trends favoring the earlier, “Linz” version of the symphony, Nézet-Séguin opted for the late, less unruly and more conventional “Vienna” score. It has always been accepted that Bruckner’s first numbered symphony owes more to Mendelssohn, Liszt or Berlioz than to Wagner. In his introductory words, the conductor emphasized a Schubert link and his interpretation minimized the importance of those moments recalling the massive sound world of Wagner. He chose instead to accentuate the melodicity, repetitions and the “divine lengths” redolent of Schubert’s 9th Symphony. Surprisingly for such an energetic conductor, Nézet-Séguin leaned largely towards an early 19th century-inspired lightness and clarity, putting a lesser accent on the Romantic effusiveness and impassioned intensity that are, after all, an integral component of this score’s fabric. At the same time, all the premonitory elements – successive unresolved climaxes, unstable rhythmic patterns – that make this score so important for understanding Bruckner’s subsequent evolution, were properly underlined. The arch of the “Adagio” was beautifully constructed. The “Finale”, arguably one of Bruckner’s most accomplished ones, was relentlessly driven. The orchestra played with suppleness and refinement, producing an admirably balanced sound.
It is truly admirable that Nézet-Séguin – who, at this point of his stunning career, could have practically picked any ensemble to collaborate with – has remained faithful to the group that he has overseen since 2000. The results are obvious and commendable. The few recordings that exist don’t give enough credit to their achievements and the instrumentalists of the Orchestre Métropolitain deserve to be seen and heard more outside Quebec.
- More info 05 Sep 16 Lohengrin Wiener Staatsoper
“Certainly the high point of this Lohengrin was the music. Nézet-Séguin offered a brilliant reading from start to finish, as he usually does. There’s no doubt that he is one of the most accomplished conductors today, and he has once again proved it. Unfortunately, he’ll only conduct three performances here: his post at the Met claims his presence in New York. Under his baton the orchestra was magnificent, particularly bright on this occasion, and the chorus was excellent.”
José M. Irurzun, Seen and Heard International, 06 September 2016
- More info 08 Jul 16 CD: Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro Deutsche Grammophon
“… [from the first chords of the “Figaro” overture, Nézet-Séguin] establishes a bold, fully crystallized concept of Mozartean sonority… ”
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 July 2016
“Luxuriously presented and cast … [Nézet-Séguin’s Mozart recording] oozes confidence … You are in his safe hands the moment Mozart’s upstairs-downstairs comedy kicks off.”
Neil Fisher, The Times, 01 July 2016
- More info 19 May 16 The Philadelphia Orchestra Hong Kong Cultural Centre
“Two works, by Brahms and Rimsky-Korsakov, made for the ideal programme to bask in the Philadelphia Orchestra sound. No concerto, no overture to get in the way, just non-stop orchestral magic.
Like a great Hong Kong milk tea, the beauty of orchestral sound comes from the complex depth and blend of flavours. The rich string legato is key but so are faultless brass, singing woodwinds and crisp percussion.
Nézet-Séguin’s youthful demeanour belied his serious approach to Brahms’ Symphony No 2, in which he showed himself a master of the romantic line and of forceful statements.
The Brahms No 2 is a tuneful piece, and the first movement, Allegro non troppo, kept returning to sunny, swaying waltzes, their arrivals beautifully paced.
The power of the orchestra was never raw, but revealed with control; there were no hard edges in transitions. At the endings, no cut-off was audible – the sound simply wasn’t there any more.
The cello and French horn were Brahms’ signature instruments, and the cello section and violas played gloriously. The horn solos, courtesy of principal horn Jennifer Montone, had such round perfection it was a physical pleasure to the eardrums.
In the third movement, with its lilting shepherd melody for oboe, the musical ideas seem to bloom rather than develop technically. The brass and rolling timpani married with the double basses as the music gained force.
The fourth movement, Allegro con spirito, started with a soft tread that broke into a spirited stomp. The brass ended with giant descending stair steps supporting the full power of the orchestra.
In contrast to Brahms’ lush brown-velvet textures, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade uses a rainbow of woodwinds, harp, and percussion. He literally wrote the book on orchestration and he loved high, sparkling, ear-teasing sounds, such as piccolo paired with triangle.
Again Nézet-Séguin brought out the serious side of this piece, making it symphonic and urgent. The opening trombones were ominous and heavy-footed.
The blizzard of tempo changes in the last movement created electric tension, leading to the grand statement of the main theme in the brass under swirling flutes. The extreme, exposed high notes in the violin made a poignant and appropriate ending.
After well-deserved applause for each and every section, Glazunov’s Autumn: Petit Adagio from The Seasons was a ravishing encore.”
Alexis Alrich, South China Morning Post, 20 May 2016
- More info 05 Feb 16 London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jean-Yves Thibaudet Royal Festival Hall, London
“Gershwin and Rachmaninov may not be immediately obvious bedfellows but the two works performed on Friday night were packed with big tunes. Whether heart-swelling or toe-tapping, the ear candy on offer, judging by the full house, was always going to be a box-office winner. And what better partnership than guest conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to realise this melodic jamboree in these top-notch accounts.
Joining the LPO for the Gershwin’sPiano Concerto in F major was the acclaimed French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet….With his outsize gestures and encouraging demeanour, Nézet-Séguin ensured crisp delivery of the Charleston rhythms and drew from the expansive tunes a warmth of tone from the strings that made the link with Rachmaninov all the more clear.
Stylistically conservative, Rachmaninov’s emotional appeal finds marvellously expressive outlet in his Symphony no. 2 in E minor, begun in 1906 at a time when his young family had temporarily settled in Dresden. Nézet-Séguin (now conducting without a score) charmed especially committed playing from the LPO; Rachmaninov’s arching phrases were nicely-shaped and climaxes well-prepared. Energy and passion drove forward the second movement where Nézet-Séguin teased out every nuance in order to reach its emotional highs and lows. Opulent strings gave support to an expressive clarinet (Robert Hill) in the third movement where Nézet-Séguin proved to be a master phrase builder. Here he allowed melodic contours to unfold naturally, judging to perfection when to hold back or move forward so that when the first climax arrived it was shattering. The last movement was no less intense, the coda exhilarating. In short it was a terrific evening, with magnificently prepared performances.”
David Truslove, Bachtrack, 7 February 2016
- More info 03 Feb 16 London Philharmonic Orchestra, Lisa Batiashvili, Maximilian Hornung Royal Festival Hall, London
“Nézet-Séguin drew a ripe string sound from the LPO and unleashed fearsome brass playing in the score’s violent denouement.
Nézet-Séguin has an infectious presence on the podium. Stretching up on tiptoe or feet planted wide, he rarely stays still for long. At his most animated, he stabs away furiously with his baton, parrying and thrusting like a fencer; at his most tender, his cupped hands gently coax, as if tickling a cat under its chin. And his smile. Throughout the performance of Dvořák’s Symphony no. 6 in D major, he barely stopped beaming at his faithful charges.
There may be little profound to say in Dvořák’s symphony, but that didn’t stop Nézet-Séguin and the LPO telling it most beguilingly.”
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 3 February 2016
- More info 10 Feb 15 Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra US Tour Various
“Conductor adds French flair to Rotterdam Philharmonic
In Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, which began the program, Nézet-Séguin colored the ensemble’s bravura playing and ripe colors with a distinctly French accent. The piquant opening melody in woodwind octaves, for example, signaled the kind of highly refined and elegant sound Nézet-Séguin may be starting to get from the players. There was also plenty of focused power, with the second movement and finale taken at a fast clip but never overdriven.
By contrast, Tchaikovsky’s more personal and sometimes anguished Fifth Symphony was imbued with warmth and hair-raising rhythmic control, especially in the final movement. Nézet-Séguin’s controlled abandon, along with his ability to conjure myriad colors and polished playing from the orchestra, sustained the score’s inner drama.
… Every section of the orchestra showed a solid identity, but Nézet-Séguin’s finest achievement may be how finely he blended the bright woodwinds, warm-hued brasses, dark strings and percussion while maintaining a secure hold on each symphony’s overarching structure.”
Rick Schulz, Los Angeles Times, 11 Feburary 2015
“Rotterdam shows its refinement … Nézet-Séguin sculpts an impressive program from the Rotterdam Philharmonic … the Rotterdam Philharmonic musicians offered a display of sensitivity and refinement, but above all, musical flexibility and an uncanny ability to become an extension of their conductor.
Nézet-Séguin is anything but a dictator on the podium, and yet his influence was evident in every measure of the program. If a symphony orchestra is in a sense a musical instrument played by a conductor, rarely to you see that demonstrated in such extreme fashion and with such excellent results.
Nézet-Séguin is akin to a sculptor. He’s always shaping, reforming, looking from another angle, attending to details while keeping the larger form in mind, and the remarkable thing was how the orchestra responded to every movement he made, whether as subtle as delaying the ending of a phrase by just a touch, or as pronounced as the work’s explosive conclusion.
In the Ravel concerto, however, everybody became an extension of Grimaud. Nézet-Séguin seemed to be in her head, which is no small achievement given that she performs with a combination of spontaneity and willfulness, and for lack of a better description, uncommon musical honesty.”
James Chute, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 February 2015
“… it took the RPhO only about eight minutes, the length of the second movement of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, to deliver firm and unequivocal proof that it is a simply fantastic orchestra, and that Yannick Nézet-Séguin is a phenomenal conductor.
The energy of this second movement, marked Allegro marcato, encapsulated the remarkable interaction between Nézet-Séguin and RPhO in its most condensed form. It was fascinating to see him at work with the orchestra.
A masterful manipulator, his hands and eyes are everywhere. Conducting with broad shoulders, arms extended wide and sans baton, he massages the orchestra, marks every detail, extracts phrases, shapes melodic lines and dynamics while his musicians respond with split-second precision.
If Nézet-Séguin acted as a musical manipulator in the Prokofiev symphony, he played a more mediating role when French pianist Hélène Grimaud performed Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major.
Without interfering, he drew soloist and orchestra together, riding the meditative spirit of Grimaud’s carefully constructed opening statement in the central movement (Adagio assai) and gently draping the orchestra over the piano part as it turned inward into a simple progression of accompanying chords.
Ravel’s five-piece suite Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose), which opened Monday evening’s concert, showed Nézet-Séguin in yet another role, of facilitator. With a minimum of intervention, he allowed Ravel’s music to unfold and emanate naturally from the orchestra.”
Niels Swinkels, San Francisco Classical Voice, 19 February 2015
“In one telling stroke, with Ravel’s elegant and deceptively exacting “Mother Goose” Suite, Nézet-Séguin showed his mettle as a maestro of the first rank. The technical finesse and expressive sensibility the Montreal-born maestro displayed in these gossamer evocations of Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb and Sleeping Beauty brought to mind the proposition that a conductor who can do Mozart well can do anything. But Mozart also edged this listener’s thoughts in more than that.
In Nézet-Séguin’s animated presence, in the sheer joy of music-making he conveyed, but also in the strict command he asserted, I saw the kind of public musician Mozart must have been. Everything seemed so spontaneous and effortless, though the musical result bespoke deep reflection and understanding. That easy assurance likewise resounded in the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s sparkling turn through the “Mother Goose” Suite, and no less so in a second portion of Ravel that followed – the Piano Concerto in G with soloist Hélène Grimaud.
… even more striking than the orchestra’s ability to create a blaze of sound was its evident conditioning to rein it in, to make a compelling musical point by subtle means. It was a disposition on display constantly in a thrilling performance of Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony.”
Lawrence B. Johnson, Chicago on the Aisle, 22 February 2015
- More info 28 Mar 14 London Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, London
“Under the meticulous direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s strings formed a pale gold halo around the organ as James O’Donnell navigated the crazy-mirror harmonies of Poulenc’s concerto with brisk, unflappable agility.
In the Saint-Saëns, Nézet-Séguin’s talent for managing thematic development came to the fore. It’s a splendidly profligate exercise in orchestration, now with one pianist (Catherine Edwards), now two (John Alley), now with the organ (O’Donnell); a hymn to the age of industrial progress and Great Exhibitions.”
Anna Picard, The Times, 28 March 2014
- More info 22 Aug 13 BBC Proms Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Albert Hall, London
“… an absolutely sizzling account of Prokofiev’s 5th Symphony. What Nézet-Séguin brought to this piece was a wonderfully spontaneous fluidity, ever responsive to the tiny shifts of pulse in the first movement which combined songfulness with an epic reach. The great ice-breaking climax here was ferociously impressive, the Rotterdam brass regaining their power and poise, the strings their darkest saturation.
I loved the suaveness of that pink Cadillac of a trio in the scherzo while the shot-silk fabric of the slow movement duly brought a return of Verona’s star-crossed lovers in those exquisitely pained dissonances. What a cry from the heart in the climax, too.
The Rotterdam woodwinds were a terrifically spry chorus of disapproval throughout scherzo and finale but one of their number – the first clarinet, Julien Hervé – was a feline star with a touch of Gershwin in his soul. And that amazing coda, like a dog chasing its own tail, brought clockwork percussion (let’s hear it for the wood-block) and Red Army brass to a cheer-worthy pay-off.
Nice, too, that the encore – “Folk Festival” from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly (with its tantalising burst of Festival Overture in its tail) – brought Prokofiev’s great compatriot to the party.”
Edward Seckerson, 23 August 2013
- More info 20 Aug 13 Chamber Orchestra of Europe Edinburgh International Festival
“Here surely was a prime illustration of why Canadian conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin is such an admired talent among the younger names on the international concert platform. The Philadelphia’s new man took the opening bars of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony–the most rhythmic feast of melody in the great composer’s symphonic canon–at such a leisurely pace, it might have sound-tracked the final exhausted moments of a dance marathon.”
Keith Bruce, The Herald, 20 August 2013
“Under Nézet-Séguin, the orchestra generated a sizzling performance of Beethoven’s Seventh
Nézet-Séguin, the greatest generator of energy on the international podium, shows a subtler appreciation of the music’s tension and relaxation, creating the elastic intensity the slow movement needs but rarely receives, and calibrating the spring-coil effect on which the Scherzo depends. The performance sizzled, not least in the race to the end, where Nézet-Séguin underlined how much the classical era depended on those repeated stamping chords to create momentum.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 21 August 2013
- More info 11 Aug 13 Orchestre Métropolitain Festival de Lanaudiere
“Above all, Lohengrin is a conductor’s opera – with hidden difficulties. While Wagner’s Ring operas offer a succession of explosive events behind which an inexperienced conductor can take refuge, Lohengrin has minimal action, unfolding in a contemplative narrative over long spans of music. Despite an occasional slack recitative, Nézet-Séguin sustained everything in masterly fashion. His best moments were intimate ones, in which he drew a sweet glow from the strings, buoyed by subterranean tension. Bigger moments were more thrilling than usual because you knew what they’d grown out of, musically and emotionally.”
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 August 2013
“We never noticed, or I never did: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a jet-setting career encompassing Salzburg, the Met and Covent Garden, had not conducted an opera by Wagner. Not before Sunday, when he concluded the Lanaudière Festival with a concert performance of Lohengrin that ranks among the greatest things ever heard in the Fernand Lindsay Amphitheatre.
A Wagnerian is born? More like developed, this native Montrealer having approached Wagner from the platform of his symphonic contemporaries and counterparts. Certainly there was nothing tentative or first-time-like in this masterly presentation, as impressive in arching trajectory as it was vivid in dramatic thrust.
Nézet-Séguin, as athletic as ever, surely played a role in maintaining audience interest, but his real success was on the other side of the podium. It would be hard to imagine a more radiant treatment of the opening pages or a more electrifying Prelude to Act 3. The Orchestre Métropolitain — at its heart an opera orchestra — was in magnificent form, the strings lustrous, the brass warm, the woodwind chorales rich and lucid. Setting aside a few shaky stage trumpets, this ensemble was every inch a match for the OSM we heard in Mahler the night before. Maybe more than a match.
The problem with a performance like this is the expectations it raises for the next Lanaudière season. Give us Yannick and the OM in The Flying Dutchman. Or else!”
Arthur Kaptainis, Montreal Gazette, 12 August 2013
- More info 01 Sep 13 CD: Mozart - Così fan tutte Deutsche Grammophon
“Perfect listening for a late summer, Mozart’s comedy (albeit with very dark undertones) fairly fizzes with life in this concert performance from Baden-Baden. Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting is buoyant and forward-moving, but with romantic touches like the voluptuous flutes in the first-act finale.”
Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer, 1 September 2013
“Times Critics’ Favorite Classical Recordings of 2013
The superb young conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin draws a dynamic, nuanced and miraculously natural performance of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” from the excellent Chamber Orchestra of Europe and an impressive cast, including Miah Persson as Fiordiligi, Angela Brower as Dorabella, Rolando Villazón as Ferrando, Adam Plachetka as Guglielmo, and Mojca Erdmann as Despina.”
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 19 December 2013
- More info 04 Feb 12 London Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, London
“Nézet-Séguin’s Bruckner, and especially this Bruckner, is hugely—some would say controversially—expansive. His fantastic sense of its inevitability and inexorability requires great courage and patience and above all belief from his LPO players. Listening to the string phrasing in the second subject of the first movement one was struck by how personal and intimate it sounded and more than that how it felt illuminated from within.
Nézet-Séguin’s Bruckner sound is blended, never brass dominated, except in key moments of shock and awe like the mocking laughter of the trombones in the scherzo and the howling dissonance of the slow movement’s ultimate climax. He achieves mystery in pause and stasis and the harmonically unexpected in his conviction to “hurry slowly”. I’ve not heard Bruckner quite like this before.”
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, 5 February 2012
- More info 30 Nov 11 The Metropolitan Opera The Metropolitan Opera, New York
“Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the much applauded conductor, dared restore passages often cut (including the Walpurgisnacht episode, here mimed rather than danced). He also managed to enforce unusually broad tempos without compromising sentimental nuances. He gave his singers steady support and rose gratefully to the gushing climaxes. The stage may have been cool, but the pit was warm.”
Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 30 November 2011