Breaking: Kent Nagano calls time on Montreal

press release:

MONTREAL, June 29, 2017—The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and Kent Nagano are announcing today that, after a long deliberation, he has decided not to accept the invitation by the OSM to extend his contract as music director beyond 2020.

“We intend to continue the relationship with Maestro Nagano at the end of his term in three years so that the public and all of us can maintain a relationship with the conductor who, ultimately, will have spent 16 memorable years in Montreal,” commented Lucien Bouchard, chair of the OSM’s board of directors. Mr. Bouchard further wishes to highlight the outstanding accomplishments of the maestro, saying Kent Nagano will “leave an indelible mark on the institution,” and to praise Maestro Nagano’s leadership, creativity and discipline.

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  • He has detractors, including sometimes, it’s said, within the orchestra. But ticket sales have been consistently very strong, even as programming has often been audacious; the orchestra is back to recording frequently, in a much more challenging environment for classical-music recording than in the 1980s; the orchestra plays in a very good new hall that was built by the Quebec government precisely because Nagano wanted one; and, for reasons I’ve frankly never entirely understood, ordinary Montrealers are head-over-heels for this slightly frosty conductor. He’s been an absolutely superb music director, and he’s given the orchestra plenty of time to figure out how to match or top his appointment.

    • Caution: The magnificent collection of Dutoit-Montreal recordings on Decca were recorded, owned and distributed around the world by Decca. Musicians were paid hundreds of dollars per recording session at the Saint Eustache church, and recordings were produced by some of the finest audio engineers in the world.

      The Nagano-Montreal recordings, some of which approach magnificent, were produced by the orchestra itself, and subsequently licensed to Analekta, Sony Classical and Decca for commercial release and distribution. The musicians were paid dozens of dollars per recorded performance under the terms of the Live Recording Agreement.

      Yes, they’re recording again, but they’re doing it themselves. A sign of the times, but also telling, since none of the big recording companies are knocking on the orchestra’s door anymore to record them.

      It seems to me that the magnificent orchestra Nagano inherited has been well maintained, but, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, is the orchestra better now than it was 15 years ago? Nowhere near in my estimation.

      • Harder to elevate from a higher level. And few orchestras are recording on the old terms; even the Berlin Philharmonic is largely producing its own recordings; Chicago, too.

      • Seems to me that Nagano has really elevated the orchestra and provided stability during a time when Philadelphia, Minnesota, Detroit, and to a lesser extent Toronto and New York was have teetered (and this is just in North America).

        I recognize a passable argument can made about Nagano’s artistic mettle- strong but ultimately tepid German repertoire- he certainly gets better results in Beethoven, Brahms, etc with his old orchestra the DSO. But then again, the MSO played less Beethoven or Brahms in 1999.

        MSO currently my favorite Canadian orchestra.

  • Nagano was an assistant conductor here in Boston during the Ozawa years so perhaps one of the lessons he learned was to get out while they still want you to stay. It will be interesting to see who replaces him. Ludovic Morlot, another former Boston assistant conductor, leaves Seattle in 2019. Time for another French conductor in Montreal?

  • will maestro nagano once visit tel aviv with mso?knowing his performances only from recordings it will be most delightful to see and hear under his baton the orchestra which he leaves in 2020.

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