Yannick Nézet-Séguin's Way

Alexandra Szacka draws an intimate portrait of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin's success holds to the priviledge relation he nourishes with the public, and most of all with his musicians. Explanations.

To watch the Montreal-born maestro in concert, now a classical music’s world-class star, is quite something. The way he uses his communication abilities to share his love of music with his audience is obvious. With his audience, and with his orchestra as well. Even his posture tells a great deal about the way he approaches the role of a conductor. His whole upper body is bent forward, as if he is trying to hug the musicians and their instruments.

The Power of the Rehearsal

It is, however, during rehearsals that one can fully appreciate his extraordinary talents. “You must see Yannick Nézet-Séguin during a rehearsal with his musicians—this is when you clearly see and appreciate the quality of his work,” says Christian Merlin, Figaro’s musical critic and author of numerous books on orchestras and conductors. “It is during rehearsals that you can witness this perfect balance between discipline, kindness, enthusiasm and love for the musical work he conducts. That is the Nézet-Séguin mystery.”

It is mysterious and fascinating to see this young conductor’s career evolution, now that his name is on every lip. Consider this: last summer, he offered no fewer than 39 concerts, in 25 cities on 3 continents. He conducted 7 different orchestras in about 50 musical works.

Music director of three orchestras (Philadelphia, Rotterdam and Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain), Yannick Nézet-Séguin has just been appointed as Music Director of the most important American cultural institution, the Metropolitan Opera in New York. At 41 years old, the Montreal conductor replaces the legendary James Levine, who has directed this famous institution for the last 40 years. It’s All About How You Do It

The relationship between Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his musicians is at the same time respectful and firm. And this goes both ways. This collaboration is highly valued from both sides. Consider this young cellist, just hired by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, working for the very first time with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, being kindly told by him how she should sit during rehearsals. “You know, you and I, we are not very tall,” he says to her, “therefore we must compensate for our small size.” The young Korean-born musician is delighted. To work with this maestro is pure delight, from beginning to end.

And the reaction is the same with some of the best soloist in the world: for example, brothers Gautier and Renaud Capuçon (cellist and violinist), or again long-time MET superstar soprano Renée Flemming, all affirm they surpass themselves when they play under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Serving music

He sees himself as a servant: of music, musicians, and the public. His deepest motivation? To share his unconditional love of music which animates him. Carlo Maria Giulini, an Italian maestro now deceased for about a decade, is the person that most influenced Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He was very young when he met the Italian conductor, and says now that he owes Giulini his passionate love for music, as well as his humility.

Today, Yannick Nézet-Séguin confesses feeling dizzy sometimes, thinking about the responsibility of conducting the MET orchestra. Yet at the same time he savours his happiness, knowing that the sky is the limit.

I’m like a kid in the candy store” - Yannick Nézet-Séguin

He has already started to think about all kinds of projects. Even crazy ones. How about this: he would love to have Celine Dion sing opera with him, at the MET, the most prestigious—and perhaps elitist—opera house in the world. Talk about a serious attempt at opera democratization!

Translated from French by Louise Charland

Read the French article on ici.radio-canada.ca

« Nézet-Séguin nage dans cette musique (R. Strauss) avec une telle volupté et il entraîne avec lui musiciens et auditeurs avec un tel enthousiasme que personne ne peut résister. »

Claude Gingras, La Presse, 2015