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Just in: Nagano’s out in Montreal

Reports in local media, undenied by the orchestra, say that Kent Nagano’s contract will not be renewed beyond 2016. UPDATE: The OSM has issued a partial denial.

The relationship, like many in Nagano’s career, has been productive but never warmer than warm and the orchestra has lost international profile. Nagano will have led the OSM for nine years by 2016, having taken over after Charles Dutoit’s stormy departure.

Top of the players’ want list when he goes is Yannick Nézet-Séguin, local boy made good in Philly.


More here.

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  1. Alan Booth says:

    That’s interesting as I didn’t even know he was there!

  2. Given that Yannick still conducts the Orchestre Métropolitan, that would be an interesting situation, I think he would finally have to give up that orchestra. I always thought he was trying to be like Nagano, who stayed with Berkeley for 30 years (long after it became ridiculous to do so) to show appreciation for the group that gave him his first chance. Nezet-Seguin would have to give them up, which might make their survival difficult. which would be a shame, as they definitely have a place in the local scene. He is a natural for OSM, of course, and it might be really appreciated to have someone who has a warm personality, which is something that no OSM MD has had in a very long time…just think…the last one who was congenial type was Mehta, and he was still just a kid at the time he left in 1967!

    • I take your point, and Nagano would probably not be a great fit for, say, Detroit or St. Louis, where warm American-style community relations are crucial. But whatever Nagano’s personality type, the public in Montreal sure seems to like it.

    • I thought I read somewhere that Yannick has never conducted the OSM because he was never invited to conduct there early in his career, and therefore there is some bad blood there.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        Well, he’s music director of the other Montreal Orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain. He is using the Métropolitain as a quiet base to launch his projects before he goes to Berlin, Salzburg, etc. A few years back, we got Don Giovanni before Salzburg and Baden-Baden (with a local cast, but still). This summer, he’ll be doing Lohengrin in Lanaudière.

        However, his ambition is to raise the Métropolitain to world class; he’s doing a Bruckner recording cycle with the orchestra, and invites higher-level soloists, giving better quality concerts. The gap in quality between the OSM and the Métropolitain that existed a few years back is clearly diminishing (I don’t think it’s disappeared, but critics like to speculate on whether the OSM is still dominant).
        In that sense, it makes more sense for him to stick to the Métropolitain. He doesn’t have anything to gain from conducting the OSM; similarly, I don’t believe Jurowski conducts the LSO or Gergiev the LPO (as far as I’m aware).

      • He did conduct them once or twice when he was pretty young. The NY Times quoted him in an article saying that invitations when he got a little bigger (but still a few years ago) were a bit condescending. OSM said they stopped inviting him because he kept turning them down. Somehow it just became awkward; it’s a little weird that the OSM now basically has to ignore one of the world’s hot young conductors who conducts in their own hall, but not them.

        The Montreal Gazette critic has a piece today saying the OSM denies the rumors, and points out the Nagano signed a two-year extension just this fall, which would make it a little early to extend again:

  3. Pity, as he is a good conductor. Nézet-Séguin is a magnificent young conductor, a Karajan without the ego, and all the talent. Would be nice–if a bit avaricious–for him to be home and in Philly. He should stay in Philly and give an up-and-comer like Andris Nelsons or Petrenko a gig in North America. After all, Montreal was Mehta’s first gig in the Western Hemisphere. Give it to a kid!

    • Frivolous to put YNS at the level of Karajan… Reading opinions like this, I fear for the future of music.

  4. The Macleans article takes a considerably more positive view of Nagano and the OSM. And can’t anybody do math? Nagano would be at the OSM for TEN years; he started there in fall 2016.

    The OSM surely mishandled YNS, but having lived in Montreal in 2001-3, I can understand why: he was 26 years old when I was there, hadn’t yet made a big international name, and had plenty of exposure in town because he was conducting the other orchestra – “rival” or not. – so what’s the point in having him at the OSM? And even he was better off conducting in Toronto or Ottawa than in Montreal – in front of a different audience. Then he rocketed to a new level, to a position where he doesn’t need the OSM. Anyway, unlikely that he’d take up the OSM if he’s in Philly, who may put up with him conducting the OM as a labor of love and loyalty, but another top-tier orchestra in North America? Unlikely.

    And if the OSM has lost international profile, what orchestra hasn’t, with the death of the record industry that Mr. Lebrecht has written about so extensively over the years? Nagano can hardly be blamed for churning out CDs the way Dutoit did.

    Maybe the OSM could attract Simon Rattle?

  5. Emil Archambault says:

    There is, as far as I know, only Claude Gingras in La Presse who has been speculating about Nagano’s departure. Nothing from any other source has confirmed or infirmed this report.

    As for your assertion that the relationship has never been “warmer than warm”, that is simply not true. The musicians like him, the critics appreciate his interpretations (read Gingras’ review of Beethoven’s 1st and 7th; his Mahler, Bruckner and Berlioz got excellent reviews, and were indeed fantastic) and the public adores him (almost literally). Nagano has been the face of the orchestra, tying links with the public and instituting many new events which make the OSM part of the community. That includes a one day “virée classique” which attracted over 11 000 people, series of chamber concerts with OSM musicians, concerts around the Montreal Canadiens (hockey team), the storytellers Fred Pellerin (broadcast on national television) and Bryan Perro.

    Among his greatest achievement lies of course the new concert house, the Maison Symphonique. This would not have happened without Nagano (the project had been dormant for 25 years), and is a tremendous success. With that new hall, the OSM has been able to attract international orchestras like never before; The Mariinsky will visit for the third time in Nagano’s tenure next year, and the LA Phil will also visit. Nagano’s recordings have been well reviewed (notably his Das Lied Von Der Erde and the Beethoven Concertos 4 and 5 with Till Fellner), and he is almost done with the cycle of Beethoven Symphonies. To say that the orchestra has lost international profile is simply not true.

    The quality of the orchestra has improved with the new hall. The orchestra has acquired a taste for the German repertoire without losing its specialization in French romanticism. True, Nagano is not Dutoit, but he has hired many skilled guest conductors (Denève, Plasson) to preserve this repertoire. The overall quality of the guest conductors is excellent, as are his programming skills. Compare this season’s program with the OSM to the LSO’s or any other orchestra, and you will see what I’m talking about.

    Nagano’s relationship has been much more than “warm”. I would even say he has been more present in Montreal than Nézet-Séguin in the past years, despite YNS being the homegrown kid. As for your assertion that Nézet-Séguin might switch from the Orchestre Métropolitain to the OSM, I don,t see that happening. He (YNS) loves his orchestra, and is already too committed in Philadelphia, the MET, Rotterdam (which does expire in 2015), etc.

    You (and many others) seem to hold a grudge against Nagano since his tenure with the Hallé. I can assure you he has done much good for Montreal’s orchestra and I, as most others here, will be sad to see him go (if he indeed does go).

  6. Not at all surprised he was hated at the Halle..He had a nickname which one can’t use in a forum such as this,but have a guess!!

  7. Nagano is a fine conductor who should be seriously considered by the major orchestras.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      The OSM *is* a major orchestra. Before Montreal, Nagano held positions with, among others, the DSO in Berlin and the opera in Munich, two highly visible posts in the capital and in one of the biggest opera houses in Germany, and he has on the whole been very well liked in both places. He will soon move on to another major opera house in Hamburg. So I think he has been noticed, and he has done very well so far.

      • You are correct about the OSM. I was thinking of the next tier. Also, thanks much for the additional information about Nagano.

  8. Mati Braun says:

    I never thought much of Nagano as a conductor except trying to imitate Ozawa.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Nagano has a very different conducting style and podium demeanor from Ozawa. Musically, they are quite different, too. Nagano emphasizes clear outlines and transparent textures while Ozawa pursues a more karajanesque sound esthetic with blended textures, rounded-off edges and emphasis on the smooth flow of sound. The only thing they have in common really is that they both look Japanese. My impression though is that that is not necessarily the result of Nagano trying to imitate Ozawa.

  9. I think the reasons the Montreal Symphony has lost its international profile are largely financial. Like most orchestras, they no longer have a contract with an international label, and the funders-that-be have been unable or unwilling to finance many overseas tours. (To me, it’s hard to argue against the idea that Canadian taxpayers’ money is better spent on tours within Canada.)

    By most reports, Nagano has been very popular with Montreal audiences, and the orchestra continues to have a good reputation in New York, at least among the people who pay attention to international orchestras.

    By 2016, Nagano will have been in Montreal for ten years, which is a pretty typical music director tenure these days, and he will be 65, an age when many people are ready to make a change. So perhaps he might be ready to move on.

    As for Yannick, I know he’s devoted to his hometown, but I’d be surprised if he were to forego jobs at places like the PhilOrch to be music director of the OSM. (If nothing else, it would be a big pay cut.)

    • Maclean’s magazine has a good take here:

      Speaking of tours, the column mentions that the Montreal Symphony will be going on several overseas tours between now and 2016.

      And it occurs to me that if MTT were to move on from the San Francisco Symphony for some reason (a big if), Nagano, who is from Berkeley, would be an obvious candidate there.

      • OSM did a couple of weird as hell programs at Carnegie last year for the “Spring for Music” series that mostly is the domain of 2nd rate groups (like Nashville or Albany symphony, though the formidable Houston also played). I thought Nagano’s repertoire choices were silly and unappetizing.

        I also agree that the OSM prestige loss is not KN’s fault but rather the loss of their record contract and other major industry currents, so it’s unfair to blame him entirely.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Do you mean the program at Carnegie Hall in which they played short pieces by Gabrieli, Stravinsky, Webern and then Beethoven 5? That didn’t strike me as “weird as hell”. I thought that looked really interesting and I would have liked to go but even though I was in the area, I unfortunately couldn’t make it. I also rather liked their recording of Beethoven 5. Not necessarily a big “revelation” but a convincing, coherent interpretation, very well played by the orchestra. I want to hear some of the other Beethoven symphonies they recorded.

          I don’t see how the OSM “lost prestige”. Hardly any orchestra these days has a recording contract with any of the former “big labels” which aren’t all that “big” anymore anyway. But the OSM has made a number of recordings with Nagano, they have a new concert hall and I hear their concerts are very well attended. What more can one ask for?

  10. In other conductor appointment news: the board of the Finnish National Opera has today proposed Michael Güttler (b. 1966 in Dresden) as the new chief conductor. The appointment will likely be confirmed on 25 April after consulting the staff of the opera. Mikko Franck’s term will end in July. The story in Helsingin Sanomat (Finnish):

    • James Dean says:

      I think that Mikko Frank conducts no these days, except in his bedroom, or am I wrong. When will he be at the MET?

      • harold braun says:

        Actually Mikko Franck conducts a lot,sitting in a chair,it has to be said.He did some concerts in Paris with the Orchestre de Paris(you can watch it on the webpage of cite de la musiue),and this month did Parsifal in Zurich.

      • According to FNO’s web page, Franck is conducting a run of Pagliacci and Bluebeard’s Castle, starting on 12 April. Apparently he’s alternating with visiting conductors. He’s the artistic director of FNO in addition to being the chief conductor, and he’s stepping down from both positions. The new artistic director, starting in August, will be mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi.

  11. I can’t imagine how Nezet-Seguin could possibly take on the OSM at this time — even if the opportunity presented itself. Here’s something I wrote about him a little while ago …

    • Good article, Colin.

      I think you’d have done well, though, to talk to both of the Inquirer‘s critics rather than just Dobrin, especially with respect to Eschenbach’s tenure.

  12. David Boxwell says:

    Universal Editions is still maintaining its 15 minute video interviews with current Mahler conductors on its site (NL is also featured). Nagano’s is, by far, the most low-key and uncharismatic. It’s very much in keeping with his conducting–he just doesn’t have the “wow factor” everyone wants nowadays (especially when “Yannick!” is mentioned).

    • Emil Archambault says:

      On the contrary, his Mahler (and Beethoven, Berlioz, Dvorak, etc.) here in Montreal has been thrilling, well executed and full of energy. Do not underestimate Nagano; rather, come to any of his concerts in Montreal, and see by yourself.

    • As I wrote above, it depends on the city. Nagano has been wow-ing Montreal’s audiences for the entire time he’s been there.

      In North America even more than in Europe, I think, each major orchestra lives in its own metro area’s distinct cultural ecosystem, and they’re all very different from each other.

      To take a memorable recent example, Christoph Eschenbach was a very good fit with Houston and not at all a good fit with Philadelphia. (I’m not clear on how well he’s fitting in with DC as a whole, though the critics seem to like him.) Wolfgang Sawallisch was an excellent fit with Philadelphia, but Los Angeles and San Francisco audiences would probably be bored with him, while Philadelphia audiences would probably have been put off by Esa-Pekka’s programming and (to a lesser extent, perhaps) MTT’s.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      David Boxwell says:
      April 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      “Universal Editions is still maintaining its 15 minute video interviews with current Mahler conductors on its site (NL is also featured). Nagano’s is, by far, the most low-key and uncharismatic.”

      That’s true – he doesn’t grin and grimace nearly as much as Tilson Thomas or Rattle. How dare he just sit there and talk instead of playing to the gallery!

  13. Luciano says:

    Why do people compare Nagano to Ozawa? They have nothing in common – only their Japanese heritage. Completely different conductors and music makers.
    Nine years is a good stint, and let’s face it, Montreal is not really on the map any more.

    • Depends on whose map.

      The Philadelphia Orchestra may have seemed to fall off some people’s maps during the Wolfgang Sawallisch years (mainly because they weren’t releasing recordings), but they were very, very good.

      The Montreal Symphony may not be on most Europeans’ maps right now; maybe that will change when they visit Europe in the next year or two.

  14. Graf Nugent says:

    Does Nagano still benefit from Ronald Wilford’s powerful protection? I’ve yet to meet anyone who was terribly enthusiastic about his conducting.

    • Emil Archambault says:

      I’m very pleased to meet you!

      • James Dean says:

        I thought Ronald Wilford is managing God!! Is he still alive. He must be almost 100….

      • Graf Nugent says:

        In person, I mean! That said, it’s good to read positive accounts of his work; I get a bit dubious when I only hear negative reports.

  15. maybe i read the macleans article too quickly, but who says that the OSM musicians want YNS?

  16. Emil Archambault says:

    Nagano’s departure is now formally denied by the Orchestra:

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