Canada’s NAC takes on another maestro

Canada’s NAC takes on another maestro


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2015

Pinchas Zukerman’s time is almost up. They’re calling in extra batons. Press release below.




January 6, 2015 – OTTAWA (Canada) – Today, the National Arts Centre Orchestra strengthened its artistic leadership with the appointment of John Storgårds, Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, as its Principal Guest Conductor, effective September 1, 2015. It also announced contract renewals for Alain Trudel as Principal Youth and Family Conductor and Jack Everly as Principal Pops Conductor.


The Storgårds appointment is a three-year contract. The orchestra musicians and administration are all smiles.


Storgårds made his conducting debut with the NAC Orchestra in 2013 with an all-Finnish program to great acclaim, and last year shaped and conducted the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No 8.


Commenting on the appointment, NAC Music Director Designate Alexander Shelley said, “I’m thrilled that distinguished Finnish conductor John Storgårds has accepted this post. I admire his work and look forward to his exciting artistic contribution.”


  • CDH says:

    Good catch.

  • Milka says:

    It is sad and reflects poorly that Canada
    with all the musical talent running around seems not able to find a native
    born musician to head up their NAC
    orchestra.Deplorable …….

    • MWnyc says:

      The Canadian conductors who are on a high enough level for this may all already have other jobs.

      And I’ll hazard a guess that a National Arts Centre Orchestra conducting post may involve more politics than similar positions would elsewhere – or, at least, that politics would come into play with a Canadian conductor more than with one from overseas. If a conductor wanted to avoid the NACO for that reason, I could understand that.

      • CDH says:

        I imagine their first choice in all the world would have been Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He has appeared annually for some years, so the Orchestra probably likes him. However, he was first choice of too many others to take this on at the moment.

        I doubt the NACO is any more political than any other. For all its sins, the government seems to keep its paws out of most things. The NACO commissions more Canadian work than any other Orchestra in the country, and tours the regions in turn. It also incorporates something reflecting the aboriginal community every season.

        I think it was a smart move to replace celebrity with youth. Both are well known to the players, who would have been consulted. Storgards conducted an all-Finnish concert not that long ago. Perhaps Shelley will give us an all-English…that would be a treat.

  • chappa says:

    Like the Berlin Phil, Concertgebouw, London Symphony &c.

  • Milka says:

    Chappa : It is not quite the same thing.I am positive that Canada with all the wonderful artists it has given the world
    must have a home grown conductor
    to match this 2nd, stringer.

    • MWnyc says:

      And where would all the wonderful musicians that Canada has given the world be if orchestras in other countries had that same there-must-be-a-home-grown-conductor-for-this-job-and-giving-it-to-a-foreigner-is-shameful attitude?

  • Hooterguy says:

    Maestro Storgårds is hardly the “second stringer” that our clearly uninformed armchair correspondent claims. There are fine conductors and musicians in countless orchestras working and playing in countries other than their native lands. That is how it works. Musicians and conductors are chosen for positions because they are the best candidates for the particular position at that particular time. Sir Simon Rattle, preceded by Claudio Abbado in the Berlin Philharmonic is but one example. Sir Simon was seriously considered for the BPO directorship upon von Karajan’s resignation but in his (then) mid-thirties was considered to be too young. Being a non-German was a non-issue.
    For the National Arts Centre Orchestra both Maestros Shelley and Storgårds are the best choices under the circumstances and I heartily applaud the choices.

  • JEJ says:

    Canada has only produced one world-class maestro: Nezet-Seguin.

  • CDH says:

    Sir Ernest Macmillan was, I think by most standards, a world-class maestro. That he dedicated his career to building up classical music and its institutions on Canada was to his credit as a performer, conductor, innovator and educator. But he was a frequent conductor int he US, notably at the Hollywood Bowl,.and he did conduct elsewhere in the world. I appreciate that he did not make much of a mark in Europe, and that that does rather affect a reputation, but he had a mission — his influence on music at the CBC meant exposure for all Canadians to great music.

  • Milka says:

    It is a given that many people are
    mentally challenged when addressing a given premise and wander all over the map with pointless insights . The premise here was that an orchestra
    representing Canada seemed not able to find a Canadian conductor to lead
    the NAC orchestra.To compare the NAC with historically established
    orchestras is stupid . The NAC is
    a very young orchestra , not one
    of the less than half dozen conductors
    to head it up were Canadian talent .
    All have come and gone except for Zukerman who should have gone long ago . The orchestra was used as a stepping stone to other positions except for Zukerman who has no where to go .
    Hooterguy may well make whatever
    lame insights on” uninformed armchair
    claims” and applaud the present two Shelley and Storgards,
    his standards seemingly not rising above the 2nd. stringers he applauds .

    • CDH says:

      1. The founding conductor was Mario Bernardi, Canadian. With NACO 1969 (its founding) till 1984.

      2. I hardly think Trevor Pinnock and Franz-Paul Decker, to name only two, were using the NACO as a stepping stone to anything. They were well-established and high demand conductors whose experience was invaluable to the young NACO.

      3. Can’t quarrel with you re Zukerman: as a conductor he is a very good violinist (and violist) but his departure will not engender many tears from Orchestra or staff. He may get invited to conduct here and there again but I would be surprised if he gets another orchestra. Though for some reason the Royal Phil has retained him as Principal Guest for five seasons. That’s an awful lot of Brahms (the only thing he conducts brilliantly, in my view).

      4. There are Canadian conductors, at various stages of readiness. Not all available right now. Shelley will be a breath of fresh air, but I think Storgards is more the coming star, and they are lucky to be seeing a lot of him over the next three years or more.

      • Milka says:

        Sorry , meant to exclude Bernardi-
        Decker & Pinnock to my standards,
        were second stringers ,Pinnock
        more down the ladder , you can’t take seriously anyone who joins forces with the likes of Vengerov.
        There are Canadian conductors or would be conductors who rarely if ever will get a chance to show what they might be able to do,Stogards will be learning his trade at NAC and at the first better $ offer will be gone like a shot . Shelley is past history .My point being
        why not give a home grown talent a chance to learn the trade as Stogards will be doing.The board could have held off for a home grown talent .
        Trudel a family conductor ? what in
        hell is a family conductor?and they import Everly a sort of jack of all musical trades ? The NAC orchestra need a good house cleaning
        but instead they import another 2nd. stringer .Provincial isn’t the word for it .

  • Linda says:

    When it comes to music nationality really doesn’t matter.