Maestro, fighting cancer, composes 14 symphonies

Maestro, fighting cancer, composes 14 symphonies


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2015

It could only be one conductor. You can see him coming from miles off.

leif segerstam


Leif Segerstam was told last summer that he had prostate cancer and required surgery.

His response was to compose 14 symphonies, bringing his total to 285.

He is performing one of them, together with Sibelius 4th and 7th at the Heinävesi Festival and has given an interview to the Helsingin Sanomat. He says, among other things, that Sibelius thought he might die after a tumor was found in his throat. It became the inspiration for the fourth symphony.

The interview is full of ‘Leifisms’. His inspiration, he says, comes from nature, woman, testosterone, also just from the ‘lovely female body’. And he is quite sure that the third note of the beginning of Sibelius no 4 means farting.

There’s rehearsal video here.


h/t: Vesa Siren



  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    A treasure not to be mocked.

  • Robert Roy says:

    I once heard him conduct Sibelius 5, 6 & 7 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in one evening. A shattering experience!

  • Ljubisa says:

    I was playing with him 15 years ago! Great energy, great talent and passion!

  • David says:

    Norman, you start this post with a joke about Leif’s size, but in your “Fat Singers…” post you write “Have they learned nothing from the fattist Glyndebourne furore? Body image slander can kill great art.” A bit hypocritical, isn’t it?

  • DESR says:

    He gave an immense Bruckner 8 earlier this year with the BBCSO. Epic. Made Radio 3 schedulers rather cross, as it threatened to go on for ever.

    Petroc was reduced to explaining to the radio audience that this doesn’t normally last nearly that long!