Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Biography

This biography is for reference only and should not be reproduced.

In 2012, Montreal-born Yannick Nézet-Séguin added the Music Directorship of The Philadelphia Orchestra to his roles as Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and long-time Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), where he has served since 2000.  2017/18 will be his tenth and final season with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and will draw to a close with the orchestra’s centenary celebrations in Rotterdam and round Europe.  In 2020/2021 he succeeds James Levine as the third Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, New York and remains in post with The Philadelphia Orchestra until at least summer 2026.  

Mr Nézet-Séguin has worked with many leading European ensembles and enjoys close collaborations with the Berlin Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, Bayerischer Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester and Chamber Orchestra of Europe; between 2008 and 2014 he was also Principal Guest Conductor of London Philharmonic Orchestra.  He has appeared three times at the BBC Proms and at many European festivals, among them Edinburgh, Lucerne, Salzburg and Grafenegg.  North American summer appearances include New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Lanaudiere, Vail and Saratoga. 

He made his Salzburg Festival opera debut in 2008 with a new production of Roméo et Juliette, returning in 2010 and 2011 for Don Giovanni.  In the 2009/10 season, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut with their new production of Carmen and has returned each season (Otello, Don Carlo, Faust, La Traviata and Rusalka). Next season, he conducts Wagner there for the first time (Der Fliegende Holländer).  

He has conducted for Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera and Vienna State Opera and in 2011 began a cycle of seven Mozart operas for Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, all recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon.  Le nozze di Figaro, the fourth of the titles, is scheduled for release later this year.

Highlights of 2013/14 included concert performances of Der fliegende Holländer in Rotterdam; his first tour to China with The Philadelphia Orchestra; and projects with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Bayerischer Rundfunk.  It also marked the start of his three-year term as Artist-in-Residence at Konzerthaus Dortmund which has since featured The Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestra of Europe.  2014/2015 included tours to North America (Rotterdam Philharmonic) and Europe (The Philadelphia Orchestra); and projects with the Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The current season has included Elektra (Opéra de Montréal), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, alongside his subscription and tour commitments with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra. The season concludes with a return to the 2016 Salzburg Festival with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. 

Recent Deutsche Grammophon releases include the complete Schumann symphonies and Cosi fan tutte with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, The Rite of Spring and Rachmaninov Variations with Daniil Trifonov and The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Tchaikovsky with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Lisa Batiashvili.  The discography also includes recordings with Rotterdam Philharmonic (EMI Classics, BIS and DG); London Philharmonic (LPO label); and Orchestre Métropolitain (ATMA Classique). 

Mr Nézet-Séguin studied piano, conducting, composition, and chamber music at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in Montreal and choral conducting at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey before going on to study with renowned conductors, most notably the Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini.  His honours include Musical America’s Artist of the Year (2016), Royal Philharmonic Society Award; Canada’s highly coveted National Arts Centre Award and the Prix Denise-Pelletier, the highest distinction for the arts awarded by the Quebec government.  He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Quebec in Montreal (2011), Curtis Institute in Philadelphia (2014) and Westminster Choir College of Rider University (2015).  He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2012.

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  • PROKOFIEV Symphony no.5

Schedule

Verizon Hall, PHILADELPHIA

THEOFANIDIS Rainbow Body
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished”
MOZART Mass in C minor, K. 427

Lucy Crowe, soprano
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Philippe Sly, baritone
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Westminster Symphonic Choir

Verizon Hall, PHILADELPHIA

SMITH "The Star Spangled Banner"
BERNSTEIN Three dance episodes from "On the Town"
GERSHWIN An American in Paris
RAVEL Rapsodie espagnole
RESPIGHI The Pines of Rome

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Verizon Hall, PHILADELPHIA

THEOFANIDIS Rainbow Body
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished”
MOZART Mass in C minor, K. 427

Lucy Crowe, soprano
Kate Lindsey, mezzo
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Philippe Sly, baritone
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Westminster Symphonic Choir

Verizon Hall, PHILADELPHIA

THEOFANIDIS Rainbow Body
SCHUBERT Symphony No. 8, “Unfinished”
MOZART Mass in C minor, K. 427

Lucy Crowe, soprano
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Philippe Sly, baritone
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Westminster Symphonic Choir

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Press

Concert: 19 May 2016

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

Concert: 05 February 2016

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Royal Festival Hall

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

Concert: 03 February 2016

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Lisa Batiashvili, Maximilian Hornung, Royal Festival Hall

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

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra US tour, February 2015

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

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Festival Hall (London), March 2014

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

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

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

BBC Prom, August 2013

[...] 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

Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Edinburgh International Festival, August 2013

**** 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

Wagner: Lohengrin

Festival de Lanaudiere, August 2013

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

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Festival Hall (London), February 2012

*****

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

Gounod: Faust

The Metropolitan Opera, November 2011

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

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