Yannick Nezet-Seguin, in his thirties and already the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, is a hugely successful emerging artist, having received rave reviews and audience adulation for his London Philharmonic Orchestra concerts.
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Resident at Southbank Centre, talk with their Principal Guest Conductor about his interests and insight into his career so far:
What is your earliest musical memory? I was apparently trying to use the LP player all the time (yes, those old 33 rpm discs) when I was 2 or 3. Then, I started to play the piano at the age of 5, but I mostly remember spending hours exploring sounds and harmony by myself.
When did you know that music was going to be your career? I took that decision at age 10… strange… I said to my parents: I will become a conductor and that was it. I don’t know how or why it happened. I had various temptations later (lawyer, journalist, economist (!), and mostly, architect) but none was strong enough to change my focus.
What was your first conducting experience and how did it go? I conducted a big choir (adults and children) in the National Anthem of Canada for a convention when I was about the same age (10), and it felt very, very natural.
You first conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in March 2007. What were your first impressions of working with our players? I will never forget the concert, but also the rehearsals: even when we ran through Dvorák’s 6th Symphony at 10 in the morning, as our first encounter in music together, there was already such dedication in the playing, and such energy. Later, the dreamy atmosphere of working on Debussy’s L’Après-midi was unforgettable. I value so much the work in rehearsals, but the most important thing is to make it happen in concert, and these players have limitless emotional involvement and power in performance, which is a gift to any conductor.
What are you particularly looking forward to in your first season of concerts with the London Philharmonic? The wide range of repertoire and genres: a trombone concerto from the 20th century, one of the greatest choral masterpieces of all time, a uniquely grand and profound symphony, the London première of a newly reconstructed work, some French, Russian, German…. all of this is what I need as a musician: to have the widest view possible of the wonderful heritage of concert music we are blessed with today, in order to look towards the future.
Are you surprised that your career has developed so fast in Europe rather than in North America? Strangely enough, this is how I was imagining it would happen when I was dreaming of travelling around the world making music with fabulous musicians everywhere. In Montreal, we almost feel more ‘European’ than North American. However, I made my debut last April with the National Symphony of Washington DC, and with debuts lined up in Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles this season, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in autumn 2009, the United States will now be part of my schedule!
Do you have time for interests outside music? I am a very new tennis fan; I love to watch the greatest players. I think it is a very inspiring sport for us musicians. I admire so much how Rafael Nadal goes for every shot he plays, in a passionate way. It inspires me… and that Wimbledon final! I had some tennis lessons, and I am also running and working out. Sport, after being virtually absent from my life as a teenager, is now providing me with the right elements to balance my musical life.
If you could only take one recording with you to a desert island, which one would it be? Oh, that question… actually, there is one, and it is strangely related to one of this season’s concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra: Brahms’s Requiem with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, and with Barbara Bonney as a soloist.
Yannick performs with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Southbank Centre with two French programmes this month:
Wednesday 10 February 2010, Royal Festival Hall
Saturday 13 February 2010, Royal Festival Hall
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