The Philadelphia Orchestra Appoints New Music Director
By Jim Cotter and Susan Lewis
After a three-and-a-half-year search, the Philadelphia Orchestra has a new artistic leader. The orchestra has tapped 35-year-old French Canadian Yannick Nezet-Seguin, current music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal since 2000. Nezet-Seguin conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2008 and 2009. When he spoke to WRTI late last year, he was enthusiastic about his early experiences with the ensemble.
"I found an ideal response to my way of making music and my way of conceiving of rehearsal work, said Nezet-Seguin, and I also found a very friendly atmosphere...all dedicated to the music. And I liked the relationship with the audience, I liked everything about it..."
Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Davyd Booth says Nezet-Seguin has a rare combination of qualities: "He's an absolute wonderful musician, a wonderful personality. He's very knowledgeable, has a wonderful sense of humor, and almost explosively comes to life in performances."
The orchestra has been without a leader since Christoph Eschenbach stepped down more than two years ago. The veteran Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit has been acting as chief conductor in the interim. When Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Alison Vulgamore took up her position in February, appointing a new music director was top of her to-do list. She says the search committee had already done most of the heavy lifting; it fell to her to sort out the details.
"We have been in wonderful conversations these four-and-a-half months since I've been here and there's...just joy to figure out when we can start and how to do things."
Despite a recent trend for major orchestras to hire younger music directors, Vulgamore says Nezet-Seguin's age was not a major factor. "The search that brought Yannick to the Philadelphia Orchestra is about his scope of repertoire, Baroque and opera, notions of oratorios, and what he can do onstage with the orchestra. I think, for us, it was about creativity, not about youth."
Nezet-Seguin will be on the podium as music director designate for two weeks this coming season, and five weeks in the following season before taking over officially as music director in the fall of 2012.
During that first year, he'll lead up to seven weeks of concerts, followed by 15 or 16 weeks each season thereafter. Music director duties typically include overseeing programming, hiring musicians, and playing a significant role in fundraising and strategic planning.