Yannick: I will keep all three jobs

The incoming music director of the Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, has told his hometown newspaper, Le Devoir, that he can make the new job work without giving up either the Philadelphia or the Orchestre Métropolitain in Quebec.

He also plans to tour a lot with the Met Opera orchestra:

 

 

Je peux vous révéler que la direction du MET et moi pensons refaire tourner l’Orchestre du MET avec des projets concrets de programmes vocaux. Dans mon monde idéal, il y aurait donc trois territoires : l’Amérique, l’Europe et l’Asie avec une rotation de mes trois ensembles [MET, Philadelphie, Métropolitain] sur ces trois secteurs. Je suis à l’aise avec ça. 

He goes on to attack the higher level of subsidy that Nagano’s Montreal Symphony Orchestra receives in comparison to his own. Yannick says his orchestra truly represents French Canada, whereas Nagano’s is made up 50 percent of outsiders, including many US musicians.

La différence est énorme. Je ne veux pas être nationaliste ou chauvin : il s’agit simplement d’adéquation entre notre fierté à propos des conservatoires et l’excellence de la formation musicale et le fait que le grand orchestre du Québec, quand il fait des auditions nationales, plus personne n’y va tant tout le monde sait très bien désormais qu’ils ne vont prendre personne pour aller recruter à l’international.

‘Je ne veux pas avancer une statistique saugrenue, poursuit le chef, mais l’OSM a probablement 50 % de l’orchestre qui n’est pas du Québec avec un bon 30 % d’Américains. Je n’ai rien contre cela, c’est la règle internationale.’ À Rotterdam, lui-même compte beaucoup de Russes, de Français et de Belges. ‘Mais si on en arrive à la francophonie, votre question touche au fait de mettre les ressources nationales [ou d’une province] au profit d’un ambassadeur qui représente toutes les valeurs dont on s’enorgueillit dans cette province. Sans avoir besoin d’aucune béquille, d’aucune aide, nous sommes arrivés à prouver qu’on pouvait être non seulement d’un niveau international, mais aussi véhiculer des dimensions uniques québécoises.’

Read more here.

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  • I heard one of the most boring and poorly executed Mahler 1sts by this guy in Philadelphia. This guy is more over-hyped as Dudamel these days.

  • This makes my heart sink. Where are the great maestros? Those who built wonderful relationships with great orchestras and attracted huge loyal audiences? Philadelphia: Ormandy and Muti for example. Look at the Halle. Elder – 18yrs and counting and you can hear the difference. But I don’t blame this poor fellow. Perhaps his manager who should know better. I wonder who it is? But it’s all about money. What a terrible shame.

    • “This makes my heart sink. Where are the great maestros? Those who built wonderful relationships with great orchestras and attracted huge loyal audiences? Philadelphia: Ormandy and Muti for example.”

      Ormandy is a good example, but I’m pretty sure Yannick spends as much time conducting in Philly as Muti did during his tenure. And Muti took on La Scala when he already had the Philly job.

    • “Where are the great maestros?”

      I think the days of the great maestros are over. Their ranks have been thinning through death for several decades now, and few now remain of the great 20th century maestros who came of age (and became truly world-famous during the golden age of classical recordings) in the post-war era.

    • “Where are the great maestros? Those who built wonderful relationships with great orchestras and attracted huge loyal audiences? …But it’s all about money.”

      I think YNS is displaying those same characteristics in his relationship with the OM; and I doubt he’s staying with them for the money.

      FWIW, Kent Nagano remained music director of the Berkeley Symphony for a long time after becoming famous; and I remember reading about a small recital series in California somewhere that gave singers like Bartoli and Hagegard their first opportunities to perform in the US early in their careers. Those singers kept returning long after their fees had outgrown the series’ budget. If I know about these examples, and I’m nobody special, there are probably lots of others like this (famous soloists coming back to perform with their hometown orchestras or concert series for small $$, etc).

      In a world where money (along with, occasionally, publicity) is considered the only possible motivation for anything, the existence of loyalty and generosity is pooh-poohed. But they can still exist.

    • I don’t know if he is an idiot, and he certainly can conduct, but his comments are incredibly ignorant and self-serving. Unacceptable.

      • I read it and my comment still stands. Orchestras are never ambassadors of geographical or political entities primarily. Orchestras are ambassadors of music and art first of all. Particularly from the POV of a chief conductor!!! This is not a regional governor talking, this a conductor talking who is having a global career, doing 95% of his professional engagements in the English language.
        I know he is trying to avoid the traps in his meandering argument, but it doesn’t really help. To say one orchestra needs more subsidies than another because it hires more nationally, linguistically pure, whatever, is a slippery slope.
        Particularly if said region does not have a strong unique and original history in said art form, e.g. unlike the Italian orchestra and opera scene.

        • The way I read it, he was acknowledging that both orchestras have an important role to play (OSM as a high-profile “international” orchestra from Canada, and OM as an ambassador/showcase of specifically Canadian talent), and he feels that, since both roles are important, both orchestras should receive appropriate funding & support — or rather, if the big orchestra deserves funding & support, then the smaller orchestra does too.

  • It IS all about money. Or differently put: about milking the sponsorship/subsidies system as much as possible. Nobody gives a damn about music anymore.
    So much knowledge had been lost, that even if one would care – nobody would know where to begin.

    The saddest thing is that most young people can’t imagine it can be any different. Money is hard to argue with, especially for people who otherwise have very little of it.

    This is heartbreaking.

    • Ummm…The article says musicians are paid 220$ per concert, and that he wants more money to increase the size of the orchestra. Fact is, the OM is not, at regular strength, a full-size symphony orchestra (it regularly hires freelancers to get to full size). It has 8 first violins on its roster currently, and 4 listed double basses. So it’s hardly “milking subsidies” for Nézet-Séguin to wish to make the OM a full-size orchestra and to pay musicians decently.

    • What exactly does ‘greater’ mean? It’s not that difficult to be a ‘better’ conductor than Nagano, of course. Sir Mark Elder is a better conductor than either (the lates) Sir Charles Mackerras or Sir John Barbirolli, but he’s not a ‘greater’ conductor than either of them!

      • Mark Elder is not a better conductor than Barbirolli, and would not claim to be. He is just as good but quite different. The Halle play/played out of their skins for both of them.

    • I wonder if a player with the first name “Pedro” would feel accepted in the OM if he wasn’t born a purebred like YNS wants. Seriously manipulative and harmful to use race and language to further his ambitions for his group.

    • @Pedro – That’s not really saying much, is it? A bit like saying Arrau was a far greater pianist than Helfgott.

  • Another disaster in the making.
    Reminds me of the time Domingo became Manager of The,Washington National Opera some years ago.
    With his performances, conducting and La. Opera commitments he did not have adequate time in Washington and delegated too much.
    The result a disaster where,the Washington Opera could barely make payroll
    A friend,an attorney representing the opera would tell me how he had to place calls begging for money to make payroll.
    The result, horrible productions and facing bankruptcy the Washington National Opera had to be taken over by the management of The Kennedy Center and have Kennedy Center finances bail it out.
    Today they have ticket prices much higher than The Met and half empty house.
    This does not sound good.

  • A couple points:
    1- The OM does not have a full-time season. Its Maison Symphonique season, this year, comprises 13 programmes, of which Nézet-Séguin conducts 5 (each program also tours in smaller halls around Montreal, and he also conducted the European tour).
    2- A Montreal-NY/Philadelphia flight is around 90 minutes, and a NY-Philadelphia train is just an hour. So he is, in fact, in a better position than when he was in Rotterdam-London-Montreal.
    3- He schedules very intelligently; often, he uses the OM to test out programs he will then give at the Met or in Philadelphia. For instance, last year, he conducted a concert Parsifal in Lanaudière with the OM, which he is conducting at the Met next year.

    So if he cuts down on guest conducting – as the article seems to suggest – it seems like a fairly manageable schedule.

  • Good for him, he’s actually the greatest younger conductor living today. You lot should listen to his Tchaikovsky 6, it’s one of the best.

  • Recenttly surfaced allegations aside, many on this site blamed Maestro Levine for remaining for too long a time at the Met…nearly 45 years now. They ignore the fact that a talented long-time, resident conductor has the ability to truly shape an ensemble, not to mention the overall musical profile of an opera company, including orchestra, chorus, and soloists Regardless of the amount of talent involved, much time must be devoted, otherwise you are simply waving your arms and letting the assistant conducturs bear the brunt of the real work. Ever clock Maestro Gergiev’s actual time spent in rehearsal? He barely makes the curtain time…and there is much evidence of that.

    So far, Maestro Nézet-Séguin has a good track record at the Met. Let’s all hope he proves equal to his talent and potential and doesn’t succumb to the temptatons of the profession and become the maestro of many and master of none.

  • It’s ridiculous to pronounce judgement on him based on one or two performances. I’m a Philadelphia subscriber and have seen probably the majority of his programs since he took over as music director in 2012 along with his earlier guest conducting appearances.

    There have been a few disappointing performances during that period, but those have been the exceptions. He’s led outstanding performances of nice range of composers since he came to Philadelphia.

    Perhaps more importantly, it’s my sense that he’s improved fairly substantially over the past 5-6 years. I was luke warm on his selection initially based on his early guest conducting appearances in Philadelphia. At the time, I was disappointed that they picked him over Jurowski. I haven’t felt that way for a long time now and have no doubts whatsoever the Philadelphia management made the right choice.

    Having said that, naturally, nobody wants an overworked conductor as a music director and I hope he knows what he’s doing. The fact that all three of his jobs are relatively close to each other helps.

  • As the author of the interview and this feature in Le Devoir seing the comments above, I am quite upset by how low, mean and stupid a “crowd” can get, based on a partial, biased and sensationalist presentation.

    All the purpose of that feature which follows a whole series is the need to assess the situation of the Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal after its highly successful first tour in Europe with Yannick Nézet-Séguin

    The title “Find a new model for the Orchestre Metropolitain” is very clear.

    On one side we have an orchestra which got standing ovations in Dortmund, Köln, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hambourg and Paris. Die Welt wrote about Hambourg concert “ein Orchester das nur schwer zu toppende Qualitätsmaßstäbe setzte und auf Anhieb begeisterte”.

    This “schwer zu toppende” orchestra (it was their first appearence out of Canada) gets 80 000 dollars public subsidies from Canadian Arts Council !!! This is the 16th row among Canadian Orchestras.
    This “schwer zu toppende” orchestra rehearses in a little room in a basement with no access to the concert hall where the “big” “A” orchestra is free to leave the instruments on stage for something like 280 days/year.

    So the point of the feature is not the little sentences you point out or any “ego trip” of the Maestro.
    It is to analyse how quickly, what Canada, Quebec and Montreal can do to support this orchestra accordingly to its new status.

    It obviously does not fit in established plans here that a same city could have 2 great orchestras. So what do we do now with that tremendous success and how do we go on. THAT, is the feature and its bottom line.

    • So let me get this straight. This part-time orchestra goes on one tour, their first, and now they have to get everything? The other orchestra in town gets accused by YNS of having foreigners in it, and you think it’s a good thing to publish? Then again if one reads your reviews of the Orchestre Metropolitan tour, where you were a paid guest, one can question your journalistic integrity.

      • +1. I wonder if Huss would be able to write an impartial review if he wasn’t a paid guest on this tour. Think he felt good about himself that he had friends for two weeks in those European hotel bars?

    • I assume that when Mr. Huss refers to a “partial, biased and sensationalist presentation”, he is referring to his journalism. He uses the word stupid, which sounds very much like President Trump. Actually, his article seems somewhat reflective of Mr. Trump’s borderline fascist way of thinking. Those evil Americans that threaten the Quebequois Nationalism that he references have colleagues who have welcomed some fine Quebequois musicians into their orchestras. (L.A. Phil Concertmaster, New York Phil. Principal Flute, and Pittsburgh Sym. Principal Trombone, just to name a few) Those fine musicians pay taxes in the U.S., just as the Americans in the Montreal Symphony pay in Canada and Quebec. Fortunately, a larger part of those tax dollars in CA and QC go to promoting the arts.

      Another comparison of his article to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric: Fake News. The percentage of Americans in the OSM was inflated by YNS, and not verified by Mr. Huss. My sources tell me it’s less than 20%, but the percentage is less when you count those who have chosen to obtain Canadian citizenship. (Maybe that doesn’t count in Mr Huss’s eyes, or in the eyes of YNS.)

      Also, he neglected to point out that the reason Maison Symphonique exists is because of the tireless efforts that Maestro Nagano. He is the reason that hall exists in the first place. While I understand that many of the OSM musicians aren’t too sad to see him go, they are grateful for the work he did to get that hall built. Why should the OM live in a house they didn’t build? Maybe a thank you note from YNS to KN might help him get Kent’s spare key.

      Another bit of fake news. (or at least misleading) My sources tell me that one of the OM musicians referenced was actually offered a position in the orchestra. He was denied tenure because of errors made in performances, as well as personality conflicts with some of their members. The other musician has auditioned 3 times, including an international audition, all held behind a screen. If he is deemed a world-class musician, wouldn’t he have easily won the international audition?

      I have also been told that 9 of the hires in the past 10 years were native Quebequois. That number includes 5 titled positions. That being said, my source tells me the OSM has had several “no-hire” auditions, both on the national and international levels.

      My sources also tell me that YNS was passed over several years ago for an Assistant Conductor position with the OSM. Here’s a suggestion: Given his current résumé, perhaps he could apply for the current vacancy for the M.D. position with the OSM. I’m sure they would give him a key and his own dressing room.

    • So much for journalistic neutrality and thick skin.

      The real bottom line is that Nagano inherited a great (magnificent, actually, thanks to Dutoit) 100 piece orchestra and, over the years, made it good. Nezet-Seguin inherited a mediocre 50 piece orchestra and made it great (though not yet magnificent). Still, OM is now certainly a much, much better band than the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the highest paid orchestral musicians in Canada, thanks to Nezet-Seguin.

      OM hires pure laine, and rehearses in French because of all the money it receives from a rich separatist family. That family is also the reason Nezet-Seguin was made MD. If they were going to fund the OM, and not the more cosmopolitan and bilingual OSM, then they wanted a Quebecois in charge. So Joseph Rescigno, who was Nezet-Seguin’s non-Quebecois predecessor at the OM, got the boot.

      All good and well, I suppose. But also terrifyingly paranoid and insular, like French Quebec society in general, with its language police prowling the streets looking for illegal English words on signs. What a joke!

      Now watch as the journalist from Le Devoir goes off on me for my stupidity.

      • As a tourist, I can’t even use my fluent French in the shops in Montréal anymore. They all reply in English. When I finallly asked one of them why, he replied, “I’m from Toronto. I don’t know French. Almost everybody from Toronto comes to Montréal to get jobs.” I think it’s a bit sad, and I’m glad the Québécois are fighting to retain their native language and culture. Why does Québec need two orchestras that rehearse in English? But yes, they should be grateful to use the building obtained by the OSM even if rehearsing in the basement.

        • Both orchestras rehearse in French. Like all orchestras in the world, not all conductors speak French and so when non French-speaking guest conductors are hired they rehearse in English. The OM is no exception like everywhere else.

      • “OM hires pure laine, and rehearses in French because of all the money it receives from a rich separatist family.”

        Nice try Andy, but with a sentence like that, you discredit yourself and show a lack of basic understanding of the local parameters here. The “rich separatist family” you refer to – the Desmarais family, owners of Power Corporation and long time supporters of YNS’s orchestra – are the least separatist people you could think of. They own La Presse, the biggest local French newspaper (with the largest readership in the province by far), which is known for its very federalist editorial views.

        In addition to that: YNS was hired as MD way before the Desmarais family was heavily involved in the financial support of the orchestra. He was hired because the orchestra management saw genius in that very young guy. And they were right on the money. The rest is history.

        Another unescapable fact: the “Maison symphonique” (OSM’s hall) was built entirely with public funding – that is, taxes coming out of every tax-paying resident in the province. It does not belong to the OSM (no more than the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City belongs to Les Violons du Roy, even though the hall was built for them – it’s owned by the city). Yes, the OSM was the driving force behind the ‘Maison symphonique” project – thanks not to Nagano, who had just arrived in town a few years before, but to the very powerful Lucien Bouchard, chairman of the OSM board and ex-prime minister of the province of Quebec. Who happens to be the former leader of the Parti Québécois, if you absolutely want to find a separatist in the picture…

        • A small point perhaps, but the Maison Symphonique was paid for through a public-private partnership, and not with 100% of taxpayers’ money. And it was indeed Nagano who lobbied for it and made sure the powers-that-be got the hall built.

          • Point taken Joe Louis, you are right about the public-private partnership (but the private part is not OSM). My point is: the OSM doesn’t own the building, it belongs to the community, and sharing it merely seems natural in that context. Obviously OSM is the flagship of the hall, and deservedly so. This is no secret in the milieu however that the OSM management was utterly protective of the orchestra’s prime access to the building in the first years after its opening. With the rise of YNS, the OM was seen as the wolf that shouldn’t be allowed in the henhouse.

            Things have obviously become much smoother with time, and the truth is that both orchestras are now immensely successful in that hall, and there is obviously room for both of them, not to mention other groups who use the facility regularly (Les Violons du Roy are there a few times a year, and there are others).

            Interesting ancillary point: the hall doesn’t belong to OSM, but the organ in the hall does… and was offered by Jacqueline Desmarais, who is also YNS’s champion supporter. Let’s call it cross pollination. 🙂

            I still think Lucien Bouchard was the main figure pulling the strings – if Charles Dutoit had someone like him back in his days, I believe the orchestra would have gotten the hall much earlier. No disrespect to Mr. Nagano. But these were very different times anyways.

            I find it a bit sad reading the full thread from the beginning that this is seen as a case of OSM vs OM. I believe the point of the much discussed original article is that the OM is not the ugly duckling anymore and deserves more consideration from the governments, and that includes a better access to the Maison symphonique. And wanting to improve musicians’ salary when they earn 143$ per concert is not a case of give-it-to-me-simply-because-I-deserve-it; it’s just a matter of decency.

            At the end of the day, the bottom line should be that Montrealers ought to feel extremely lucky and proud to live in a city which is home to two wonderful orchestras. They should cherish and support their local musicians – whatever the passport they own and the language they speak.

    • Anyone who has read more than one Huss “review” sees through his petty behaviour and recognizes his provincial, self-aggrandizing agenda. It’s actually a huge joke here in Québec amongst many readers. He’s obviously entitled to his opinion, but he constantly undercuts himself when his diatribes reflect his personal xenophobic bias. Somehow he thinks it’s widely accepted here. It’s not. As a native-born Montréaler who cherishes my language and culture, I’m ashamed of people like him. Be better.

    • Mr. Huss!! ENOUGH with your garbage about the OSM!!!! Why do you need to tear that orchestra down in order to make a case for the OM? Would Montreal be better off without the OSM? You would think so reading your reviews. The OSM has built itself up over many decades from nothing, just as the OM is now doing. It’s unbelievable how you feel so free to publish assumptions and biased petty remarks. Of the long, long list of garbage you write amid the musical criticisms (which I remind you the latter is your job, not an evaluator of administration decision making or gossip). Writing that the orchestra “feels free to leave their instruments on stage 280 days a year” is childish, unprofessional, petty, and so clearly aimed at demeaning a very fine musical part of Montreal that you should be ashamed of yourself. The OSM plays concerts nearly every week of the season in the Maison Symphonique, and you can be sure that due to the cost of using the space it is not a big storage locker for instruments while not in use… Are you in the hall every day to see how the space is or isn’t used? If not then you need to admit your standards of fact finding are little more than biased assumptions and hearsay. Do you think the OSM doesn’t deserve to rehearse there for it’s concerts? You’re an embarrassment to your profession. Wake up, own up to your vendetta, and be really sure you think it is worth your attempt at destroying audience attendance and the reputation of that very, very fine ensemble. YES the OM is wonderful, YES government money would be wonderful, but NO the OSM is not the evil force you believe it to be. They are musicians who strive for great art and they deserve your respect. You, however, do not deserve the public’s respect until you seriously raise your standard of professionalism.

      • Would all these pitiful cowards who insult shamelessly people here (without any moderation, from the blog owner) come up with their real names please ?
        Poor Mr “Frederic”, get some pills, please!

        • Mr. Huss,
          Once you put down your Kleenex box, perhaps you should realize that it was your biased article, filled with its false information, xenophobic commentary, and pettiness that started this blog. Maybe you should have put more thought into the article when you were on your paid vacation with the OM. Reading your article made me wonder if you and YNS would like to build a border wall between QC and the USA. BTW, the last time I attended an OSM concert, Mr. Nagano spoke to the audience (in his long-winded and enternainig way) en francais. I’m sure he probably spoke in French when he continuously lobbied the government to build a new concert hall. Still waiting for you to give credit where credit is due.

          • @Jacques C.: While Mr. Huss has demonstrated why critics should stay away from impulsive comment section “debates”, you have given a masterclass on questionable ethics in anonymous info-dumping (see diatribe above). Nobody is buying your “my sources” bogus and we suspect that you’re a musician in the OSM (probably a bass player given your lack of subtlety) airing years of rumors told among your colleagues – whether true or not – to appease your insecurity at the fact that YNS gets all the love. Enjoy your cushy job and be happy that your colleagues in OM may achieve better working standards and create jobs for your students. Montreal is big enough for two good orchestras.

  • It’s a good article; people who don’t know the Montreal musical scene protest too much.

    His key points:

    -The OSM gets a lot more government support, and that with proportionate support, OM could do a lot more.

    -OM is treated as a second-class citizen even in the Maison Symphonique.

    -Nothing wrong with the OSM being an international orchestra, that works primarily in English, but OM, as a Francophone orchestra with a largely local membership, is special and worth supporting.

    YNS also deserves a lot of credit for remaining loyal to OM. Though he probably doesn’t spend a lot of time there so should be able to manage it with the MET and Philly.

    BTW, for those who love to cite their one live experience as an indicator of a conductor’s merits: Back around 2002 I saw YNS lead the St. John Passion in Montreal – not even with OM but with a little chamber orchestra/ chorale he had founded called “La Chappelle de Montreal” if memory serves. He was all of 27, leading from the harpsichord, and it was clear he knew his business.

    • I must reply that grants are given in proportion of needs. The OSM has a $30 million budget, the OM has a $4.5 million budget. The governments(municipal, provincial and federal) help both orchestras proportionately. The OSM works 360 services a year and the OM works 120! Everyone is happy for the success the OM has had on their tour but the real debate has to do with the board members of the OM who, along withYNZ, have done nothing to improve, increase both the musician’s working conditions or the resizing of their season. They have been playing 120 services a year for forty years. Until that changes they can’ Receive more grants. They need more than one successful tour. I wish them luck. By the way, YNZ has been their conductor for fifteen years.

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