Kent’s back. It’s been awhile.

Kent’s back. It’s been awhile.


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2015

It was 2009 when he last set foot in London.

Have we missed Kent Nagano?

Press release follows.



After more than 5 years, Kent Nagano is returning to London on 31 January 2015 to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra inWolfgang Rihm’s “Tutuguri” – a work for large orchestra, percussionists, taped chorus and speaker. The performance at the Barbican in London is the UK premiere of Rihm’s “Poeme danse”. Kent Nagano has conducted this monumental piece before to great acclaim – at the rostrum of the BR Radio Symphony Orchestra Munich in 2012.


The concert is part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s “Total immersion: Percussion” – an interactive day featuring masterclasses, performances, talks and workshops at the Barbican, London.


  • Mikey says:

    How interesting that Nagano will conduct large-scale works by contemporary composers in other countries, but refuses to program anything half-decent by Canadian composers at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He’s been pushing his Messiaen intégrale on Montreal for years. How about using Canada’s flagship orchestra to promote great Canadian works? And yes, there ARE great Canadian symphonic works.

    • mr oakmount says:

      It seems to me that Mr Nagano is doing more for contemporary (or at least 20th century music) than mort other conductors. Did Mr Dutoit conduct Canadian composers when he was in charge?
      It also makes sense to me for Mr Nagano to do Messiaen since the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has always prided itself on their excellence in French repertoire.

      • Mikey says:

        The MSO under Nagano is doing far fewer Canadian works, and far fewer large-scale Canadian works, than when Charles Dutoit held the baton.

        They do the requisite “new work” (no longer than 10 minutes) every few months to justify their governmental subsidies. These works seem to always be from the same tiny pool of avant-garde composers who appear to have a death-grip on both arts councils and composer-in-residency programs. It’s the usual “you scratch my back and I’ll get my conductor to play your piece” deal.

        It’s disgusting, and it’s no wonder that symphony audiences detest “new music”. Montreal audiences are notorious for standing outside in the lobby while the new work is played (they are always performed first on the program). There is no effort expended whatsoever to expand the definition of “new music”, to explore programming of new works that do not fit into the academic “new music” protocols.

        Amazingly, the MSO has performed large-scale works by John Adams and other neo-tonal American composers. Somehow, Canadian composers are left out of the running… that is, unless they belong to that tiny elite group who hold the reins.

        Yannick Nezet-Séguin and the Orchestre Metropolitain have a far better track record of performing audience-pleasure new music, and of giving upcoming composers a chance.

    • skeptic says:

      Name two.

  • Len says:

    In total agreement, Mikey. It’s also an unfortunate reality at the Canadian Opera Company ever since the passing of Richard Bradshaw a number of years ago. It’s been left to many regional orchestras and opera companies (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary here in the west) to promote new works in Canada.

  • mr oakmount says:

    Kent Nagano’s recording of the Turangalîla Symphony is quite outstanding, and I’ve heard other performances and CDs that were, at least, very good. Is there a particular reason that he seems to be unpopular?

    • Mikey says:

      Possibly because his first act upon becoming baton of the MSO was to send a note to the MSO chorus telling them that they had to “shape up or ship out” – apparently, monsieur Nagano didn’t think that the award-winning MSO chorus was good enough for him.

      After Charles Dutoit, Kent Nagano is a terrible let-down. He is musically far inferior to the Swiss maestro (personal issues aside… I suspect ALL conductors of any value have faces we’d like to slug).

      • Stereo says:

        The Halle apparently hated him,odious man. So no change there,certainly not a patch on Dutoit.

        • Mr Oakmount says:

          They played fantastically for him on their Britten “Billy Budd” recording.

          • MRENTERZARCO says:

            Hmmm, Mr Nagano certainly seems to polarise opinion, between and within orchestras and audiences. I am not sure that it’s true to say that all of the Halle “hated him”, but he can be highly demanding, and the MSO chorus anecdote rings true. The Gothenburg violist’s comments on their Bruckner 9 rehearsals at their website are telling too. Kent inherited a fairly stale situation in Manchester where an orchestra that could and often did play like angels had lapsed into an occasional sense of routine. He bought in new players, new repertoire and ended up as one of the fall guys for a financial predicament that was not entirely his responsibility. Under his directorship, the orchestra could play extraordinarily well; I recall much of what might be called “Ansermet repertoire” but also some outstanding Bruckner and some fine British performances, notably Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten. Sometimes things went badly wrong as in an patchy Klagende Lied and an awful Mahler 10 Adagio at the Proms; orchestra morale was also somewhat patchy too at this stage. Performing in Manchester and then recording with the LSO wasn’t particularly tactful, but eventually the microphones came north and records like that excellent Billy Budd resulted. The 1999 Halle Saint Francoise D’Assise on DG from Salzburg was arguably the pinnacle of this period on disc.

  • Stereo says:

    The Halle apparently hated him,odious man. So no change there,certainly not a patch on Dutoit.