One of Toronto’s favourite musicians is a Montrealer: conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin. And it’s been fascinating to watch the rise of this gifted artist, from Toronto’s vantage point.
In 2003, Quebec conductor Bernard Labadie suggested that Toronto’s Bach Consort invite Nézet-Séguin to conduct Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. (According to Toronto Symphony Orchestra bass player, Tim Dawson, who carries much of the responsibility for the Bach Consort, Labadie said, “Yannick is really very good, you know.”) In October 2004, he stepped in to conduct the Toronto Symphony at the last minute, replacing an ailing Emmanuel Krivine in an all-Russian programme, which included Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. This performance, as I recall, was received with unanimous critical acclaim. In March 2005 he returned to the TSO as guest conductor. Of those performances one reviewer wrote: “soloist and orchestra maintained a sensitive balance and the music came through as an integrated whole. Nézet-Séguin deserves the lion’s share of credit.” He has been back in Toronto every year since then as guest conductor; and in 2007, in the midst of conducting Gounod’s Faust for the Canadian Opera Company, was whisked from the Four Seasons Centre to Roy Thomson Hall, to lead the TSO, replacing Valery Gergiev.