Conductors

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Music Director, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Music Director, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal)
Music Director, Metropolitan Opera (from 20/21, Music Director Designate from 17/18)

Credit: Hans van der Woerd

Introduction

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 around Europe. In 2020/21 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.


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Discography

  • 05 Sep 16 Lohengrin
    Wiener Staatsoper
    More info  

    “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

  • 08 Jul 16 CD: Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro
    Deutsche Grammophon
    More info  

    “… [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

  • 19 May 16 The Philadelphia Orchestra
    Hong Kong Cultural Centre
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    “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

  • 05 Feb 16 London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jean-Yves Thibaudet
    Royal Festival Hall, London
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    “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

  • 03 Feb 16 London Philharmonic Orchestra, Lisa Batiashvili, Maximilian Hornung
    Royal Festival Hall, London
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    “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

  • 10 Feb 15 Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra US Tour
    Various
    More info  

    “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

  • 28 Mar 14 London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    More info  

    “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

  • 22 Aug 13 BBC Proms Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Albert Hall, London
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    “… 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

  • 20 Aug 13 Chamber Orchestra of Europe
    Edinburgh International Festival
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    “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

  • 11 Aug 13 Orchestre Métropolitain
    Festival de Lanaudiere
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    “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

  • 01 Sep 13 CD: Mozart - Così fan tutte
    Deutsche Grammophon
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    “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

  • 04 Feb 12 London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall, London
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    “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

  • 30 Nov 11 The Metropolitan Opera
    The Metropolitan Opera, New York
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    “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