MONTREAL — The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) announced Nov. 11 that Maestro Kent Nagano’s contract as the orchestra’s music director has been extended until 2020.
Since its association with Nagano, the OSM has consolidated its standing among leading North American orchestras and increased initiatives to get closer to its audience, while contributing to making the OSM a cultural institution that is well rooted in the community in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada.
After serving as music advisor for two years, Nagano became the orchestra’s music director in 2006. His first five-year term was renewed twice, most recently until 2016.
“Since Maestro Nagano has been with the OSM, he has not only measured up to his international reputation as an outstanding interpreter of the classical repertoire, he has also demonstrated his ability to bring people together around many key projects,” said Lucien Bouchard, chairman of the OSM’S board of directors. “He has contributed to raising the OSM’s profile while making a strong commitment to the community.”
“Maestro Nagano is an outstanding musician who has played a prominent role in Montreal’s cultural and social life,” said Hélène Desmarais, deputy chair of the OSM’s board. “He has forged relationships with many artists in Quebec and across Canada, which have resulted in memorable artistic collaborations.”
“We’re very pleased that our association with Maestro Nagano has been extended until 2020. This will enable us to build on the momentum of the recent years and move forward with new development projects that hold great promise for the OSM, the city of Montreal and Quebec,” said Marie-José Nadeau, vice-chair of the board of directors.
“Maestro Nagano’s vision, energy and passion have been decisive elements in the OSM’s success over the past 10 years. We’re delighted with the idea of continuing this excellent partnership and look to the future with great enthusiasm,” said Madeleine Careau, the orchestra’s CEO.
“My attachment to Montreal and the close relationships I have developed with the OSM’s talented musicians over the years are among the reasons that prompted me to renew my commitment to the orchestra,” said Nagano. “Montreal is a friendly city that abounds with creativity and a vibrant culture where European and North American cultures mesh perfectly. I’ve had the good fortune in recent years to be part of a great period in the orchestra’s history. I hope to help create and develop other important projects during my extended tenure as music director, which will raise the OSM’s profile both in Montreal and beyond.”
Since joining the OSM, Nagano has contributed to many of the orchestra’s major projects, including Maison symphonique, its new home, which opened in 2011, and construction of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, which will have its inaugural concert in 2014.
The OSM has become one of the foremost exponents of the rich Austro-German repertoire and the orchestra has recorded extensively, drawing attention for several recordings of Beethoven, among others. In addition, the OSM has seen growth and significant renewal of its audiences; in 2013, it had 1,300 subscribers under age 34.
Under Nagano’s leadership, the OSM’s musicians have demonstrated the breadth of their talent, both in their performances of the great classics from the European tradition and in major events. For example, in 2009, the OSM celebrated its 75th anniversary with a big concert before an audience of 12,000 at the Bell Centre, at the same time as the Montreal Canadiens marked 100 years of hockey, to the sound of François Dompierre’s Les Glorieux, followed by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
The orchestra’s tours have taken it to the four corners of the globe, from Japan and South Korea to Europe and across Canada, including Nunavik, where musicians from the OSM performed Stravinsky’s “Soldier’s Tale” in 2008.
Over the years, the OSM has commissioned a number of original works by Quebec composers. These include Simon Leclerc’s “Concerto pour animateur de radio et orchestre” and “Écoutez mon histoire” and a work by Denis Gougeon, inspired by Quebec folklore and featuring folk musician Yves Lambert. In 2011, Nagano and the OSM worked with storyteller Fred Pellerin to create a musical Christmas tale that was aired on Radio-Canada.
Nagano received in 2012 the Medal of Honour from Quebec’s National Assembly and last month was named a grand officer of the Ordre national du Québec. The maestro was also inducted into the Academy of Great Montrealers on Nov. 14, in recognition of his contribution to the arts community.
Leader in North America, Europe
Nagano is renowned for interpretations of clarity, elegance and intelligence. He is equally at home in music of the classical, romantic and contemporary eras, introducing concert and opera audiences throughout the world to new and rediscovered music and offering fresh insights into established repertoire.
He became artistic advisor and principal guest conductor of Gothenburg Symphony in 2013. In 2015 he will take up the position of general music director of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra.
At the Bayerische Staatsoper, where he was general music director from 2006 to 2013, he commissioned new operas from Jörg Widmann (“Babylon”), Wolfgang Rihm (“Das Gehege”) and Unsuk Chin (“Alice in Wonderland”) and new productions there have included Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” and “Khovanshchina,” “Idomeneo,” “Eugene Onegin,” “Ariadne auf Naxos,” “Die Schweigsame Frau,” “Les Dialogues des Carmélites,” “St François d’Assise,” “Wozzeck,” George Benjamin’s “Written on Skin” and “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”
With the Bayerisches Staatsorchester Nagano has toured throughout Europe and in Japan, and together they have recorded Bruckner Symphonies No. 4, 7 and 8.
Highlights with the OSM include the complete cycles of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder,” concert versions of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” “Tristan und Isolde,” “Das Rheingold,” Honegger’s “Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher,” Messiaen’s “Saint François d’Assise,” and concert series featuring the works of Dutilleux (2010-2011) and Boulez (2011-2012).
Nagano and OSM’s recordings together include the Juno Award-winning album “Ideals of the French Revolution” with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” and Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, as part of a recording of all the symphonies by Beethoven. The Symphonies No. 3, 6, 8 and 9 have also been released by Sony Classical/Analekta.
As a much sought-after guest conductor, Nagano has worked with most of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin and New York philharmonics, Chicago Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus. He has an ongoing relationship with Sony Classical and has also recorded for Erato, Teldec, Pentatone and Deutsche Grammophon as well as Harmonia Mundi, winning Grammy awards for his recordings of Busoni’s “Doktor Faust” with Opéra National de Lyon, “Peter and the Wolf” with the Russian National Orchestra, and Saariaho’s “L’amour de Loin” with the Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin.
A very important period in Nagano’s career was his time as artistic director and chief conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin from 2000-2006. He performed Schönberg’s “Moses und Aron” with the orchestra (in collaboration with Los Angeles Opera), and took them to the Salzburg Festival to perform both Zemlinsky’s “Der König Kandaules” and Schreker’s “Die Gezeichneten,” as well as to the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden with “Parsifal and Lohengrin” in productions by Nikolaus Lehnhoff.
Recordings with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin for Harmonia Mundi include repertoire as diverse as Bernstein’s “Mass,” Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6, Beethoven’s “Christus am Ölberge,” Wolf Lieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, and Schönberg’s “Die Jakobsleiter” and “Friede auf Erden,” as well as Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and Schönberg’s “Variationen für Orchester” Op. 31.
In June 2006, at the end of his tenure with the orchestra, Nagano was given the title honorary conductor by members of the orchestra, only the second recipient of this honor in their 60-year history.
Nagano became the first music director of Los Angeles Opera in 2003, having already held the position of principal conductor for two years. His work in other opera houses has included Shostakovich’s “The Nose” (Staatsoper Berlin), Rimsky Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel” (Châtelet, Paris), Hindemith’s “Cardillac” (Opéra national de Paris), “Dialogues des Carmélites” (Metropolitan Opera) and at the Salzburg Festival, “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” Zemlinsky’s “Der Koenig Kandaules,” Schreker’s “Die Gezeichneten” and the world premiere of “Saariaho’s L’amour de loin.”
Other world premieres include Bernstein’s “A White House Cantata” and operas by Peter Eötvös (“Three Sisters”), and John Adams (“The Death of Klinghoffer” and “El Niño”).
Born in California, Nagano maintains close connections with his home state and was music director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra from 1978-2008. His early professional years were spent in Boston, working in the opera house and as assistant conductor to Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
He played a key role in the world premiere of Messiaen’s opera “Saint François d’Assise” at the request of the composer, who became a mentor and bequeathed his piano to the conductor. Nagano’s success in America led to European appointments: music director of Opéra National de Lyon (1988-1998) and music director of the Hallé Orchestra (1991-2000).