Russians hire wild maestro of the north

Russians hire wild maestro of the north


norman lebrecht

November 26, 2020

The Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam has been named principal guest conductor of the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra.

Segerstam, 76, has an untamed beard, expansive concert gestures exotic habits and unfashionable views on women’s equality.

He should go down well with the Russians.



  • yujafan says:

    for all his view, eccentricities and numerous symphonies, at his best, Segerstam is a conductor of insight and standing

  • Marfisa says:

    A shocking comment on the man’s personal appearance; a female conductor would never be treated in this way.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Indeed. Also shockingly offensive about the Russians. The classical music world would be far poorer without them.

    • Marfisa says:

      From all the other comments and from what I have heard and seen rummaging around the web, this is a very great man. The image is a wonderful one, a powerful and rather terrifying Scandinavian god. Thumbs-downers, try a big pinch of salt and reversing the genders.

  • Gustavo says:

    There’s no such thing as sexual equality when it comes to sexually selected ornaments (untamed beards, peacock tails, Mahler symphonies) that are a result of male-male (sperm) competition and female choice.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    Of course, Russians are crazy, have always been and will be that way. So crazy they grabbed one among themselves and threw him up so high into the air in a fit of their typical Neanderthal Russian rage that he became the first human ( not entirely of course because he was Russian) to fly to space.

  • Tristan says:

    Leif is a maniac but is one of the most interesting conductors alive

  • fflambeau says:

    He’s unique and very talented.

  • Rachelle Goldberg says:

    I had the opportunity to attend the Helsinki Opera many years ago. He was conducting. It was a marvellous performance. Leif got the very best out of the soloists, chorus and orchestra. He is also a violinist, violist and pianist.

  • IP says:

    Stay calm and watch his Sheherazade on youtube.

  • Concerto says:

    Hello Rasputin!

  • orlando says:

    You forget that m
    any musicians will testify that he is one of the most incredible conductors to work with.

  • Robert Groen says:

    He can also conduct.

  • kaywarbrick says:

    “Unfashionable’ views on women’s equality – is that the best you can do Norman Lebrecht? The word should be “unacceptable”.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Wow – after all these months of quarantine, I’m starting to look like this picture! (I wear glasses though….)

  • I have known Leif, since he was a “normal” kid, weighing 65 kilos, back in the 1970s. I am not sure that I have ever – or will ever – meet anyone quite that talented. Just a couple of things:
    He won the very prestigious Maj Lind Competition in Finland in both violin and piano – with barely a week in between. He used to be a very talented trumpeter and recorder player. He has a marvellous high tenor voice. Perfect pitch down to one Herz – he can distinguish, without reference points, between, say, 439 and 440. He also has perfect pulse – wake him up in the middle of the night and ask him to beat, say , 147, and it comes. He reads a score – any score – better than I read a Swedish daily (and I read well) and immediately grasps all details. He jumped in at zero notice for my wife Sharon Bezaly and conducted the ultra-difficult Kalevi Aho Flute Concerto (meter changes everywhere) without breaking a sweat. He composes, well, OK, but some of the older works really are good. He must have an IQ of towards 200.
    A little story: I got the idea of having him and another genius conductor, Okko Kamu, playing the Bach double, conducted by a cellist. Both came, and quickly found out that they both had practised (well, OK…) the first part, and noone wanted to play second fiddle throughout. So I cut the Gordian knot by asking them to switch part in the middle of the second movement. They did, and noone, but noone has noticed in the 45 years the record has been out. And now finally for his brain and memory. I went backstage in Lahti a couple of years ago, after the concert, and we started to reminisce. I reminded him: do you remember that Bach recording we did in 1975? Immediate answer: yeah, where we changed parts on the third beat of bar (whatever it was – I don’t remember).

    A final story: he performed one of his symphonies, which had a lot of aleatoric elements in it, in New Zealand. One of the musicians stood up, asking how long he should play in a certain passage. Leif: “Until I look at you, stoppingly”.
    How many would have an brain, enabling him/her, to find such an answer at no notice?

    Yes, Leif is, to say it nicely, ususual, but the musical world wouldn’t be the same without him. He is just incredible, and I am proud to be among his friends.
    Robert von Bahr

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    Congratulations to maestro Leif Segerstam!

  • Leif is really a maverick and a legend among conductors! As a composer of numerous symphonies, can only say that 88 and 188 that he wrote for Bergen Philharmonic is one of finest symphonies he has done. He first-performed Polar Vortex in Gävle with the symphony orchestra and always congratulated any composer who could write for orchestra and was very patient of getting the sounds I needed to get out. He has a mind as a computer and musical genius overall. Still I can’t believe how he could make music out of mine or any other composer’s score, everytime is a bliss and memorable moment. Many congrats for the position in Saint Petersburg!!!