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Yannick Nézet-Séguin has made it
to the top. He was recently named the youngest recipient of Quebec’s
highest prize for an artist, the Prix du Québec’s Denise Pelletier
award, usually given for lifetime achievement. The 36-year-old conductor,
however, says: “I still feel that I’m at the beginning of my musical
journey.” But it’s not only this prize; the true measure of success
for an artist is international demand, and on December 10th,
Nézet-Séguin will be doing a double header normally reserved for the
likes of Gergiev and Maazel. In the afternoon, Nézet-Séguin will be
conducting Gounod’s Faust live at the Met, broadcast to millions
on the radio and in HD cinemas, and then immediately driven by car to
Philadelphia for an evening concert (Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony
will be on the program).
With Nézet-Seguin at the helm, reviews
have been superb for the financially troubled Philadelphia Orchestra.
Less than a year from officially taking over as Music Director, Nézet-Séguin
is full of optimism. “The energy is really great,” said the young
maestro. “I believe now that in a few months’ time, we’ll be forgetting
those financial troubles.” It helps that the orchestra’s home, the
Kimmel Centre (an Artec hall) has undergone a recent refurbishment that
has improved the way the orchestra can hear itself on stage. It has
made a noticeable difference.
However, nothing seems to beat the
Maison symphonique de Montréal (another Artec hall), in Nézet-Séguin’s
opinion. He conducted his Orchestre Metropolitain in two different programs
at Montreal’s new concert hall for the first time in October 2011.
And he has only good things to say. “I have been in many Artec halls
recently, and I feel this one is quite special. It’s such a pleasure
to play on stage and I was in the audience a lot during the rehearsals,
listening and adjusting,” said Nézet-Séguin, who believes once the
adjustments have been made in a few years, this will be one of the finest
halls in North America.
How does it feel? “It’s very
rare to say that an orchestra is able to hear themselves and each other
so well. You don’t have to make up for the lack of clarity on stage.
This is really rare. In special halls like Amsterdam and Vienna, it’s
not so easy on stage. They are wonderful [in] their own right because
they create a magnificent sound, but it’s also a little bit capricious.
Walt Disney Hall is praised as a great hall, but to me it is a bit too
clear and clinical. In Montreal, I felt that there is always a certain
resonance to the sound and atmosphere, which is also something I like.
“We hope to connect with the audience
with much less effort compared to playing in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier,”
Nézet-Séguin explained. “We have to learn to [perform] at pianissimo
and piano level. The quality has to be very different because we have
to play softer. So there is a learning curve for every musician that
will [perform] in this hall. In the second rehearsal, everyone said
that if they played a wrong or imperfect intonation, they would hear
it so much that it became intimidating individually. This is in a way
a good thing, but it’s a bad thing if it starts to have a thinner
sound, so I had to encourage them to play slightly more, instead of
being more timid with the playing.”
Those two concerts in October showed
Nézet-Séguin and the OM in perfect accord. The performance of Strauss’s
Alpine Symphony showed a sumptuous orchestra sound, almost equaled
in Nézet-Seguin’s new recording of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony
on ATMA. What’s the secret? “Nothing replaces time,” said Nézet-Séguin.
“There still are many areas when I come to my players in OM, they
already know what I want. I have developed [a relationship] with the
musicians and it’s beautiful to see how a partnership and relationship
over time is better.”
For a young conductor, it seems odd
that Nézet-Séguin would excel in the colossal works of Mahler and
Bruckner. “I sometimes ask myself why I’m so attracted to and comfortable
with these end-of-life and end-of-civilization works. I was attracted
to Mahler’s Second and Bruckner’s Ninth and I decided
to go with what I love most. In order to one day do them justice, it
would be a good idea to start and have a fresh take on the way I did
them when I was still in my 20s. Zubin Mehta did the same. The way I
did them 10 years ago is different from the way I would do them now,
and hopefully very different in 20 years’ time.”
Yannick-Nézet Séguin conducts l’Orchestre
Métropolitain in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: December 11, 16,
17, 18 and 21. www.orchestremetropolitain.com
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio|
|“I think the
Christmas Oratorio is a mixture of music that is folkloric, not
spiritual. The opening chorus in unison is almost a vulgar effect for
Bach. It’s something that really represents all the people rejoicing.
Yet you have so many numbers where the intimacy of the soloists is really
extreme. I’m thinking about many of the mezzo arias, and the fourth
cantata has two of my most favourite arias. There is a soprano aria
with an echo of oboe. It’s such a pure manner of expressing the music
and yet it creates such a big effect. The other is the tenor aria with
two violins. We go to a more varied emotional journey than [with Handel’s]
Messiah because of the contrasts, which are so wide with the intimacies
and the big chorus and the trumpets. Once we are immersed in the world
of Bach, I think you can get every human emotion.”|