Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads Philadelphia Orchestra in recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 for Deutsche Grammophon. Conductor and orchestra joined by outstanding solo and choral partners to mark centenary of work’s US premiere

Philadelphia’s sense of history and present pride soared in March 2016 when The Philadelphia Orchestra and its Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, along with a team of top-rank international soloists and massed choirs, marked the centenary of the United States premiere of Mahler’s monumental Eighth Symphony with four performances of the work at Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Their interpretation was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon for international release on 17 January 2020 and will be available on CD and digitally.

“A century after its US premiere, it is still an event whenever an orchestra performs Mahler’s Eighth Symphony,” comments Nézet-Séguin, an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since May 2018. “We had the chance to reflect on what had happened in those hundred years and get back to the era, around the beginning of the twentieth century, when The Philadelphia Orchestra rose to the top by championing such iconic pieces. Mahler Eight is imposing, impressive – it’s an incredible work. Of course, what we want to hear is our great orchestra, as with any Mahler symphony, but it is important to have the right partners to match them. We were so fortunate to have the crème de la crème of vocal casting anywhere in the world.”

The Canadian conductor’s new Mahler recording marks a return to the core symphonic repertoire with The Philadelphia Orchestra. Maestro and orchestra were joined by eight fine soloists (Angela Meade, Erin Wall, Lisette Oropesa, Elizabeth Bishop, Mihoko Fujimura, Anthony Dean Griffey, Markus Werba and John Relyea), the American Boychoir, Westminster Symphonic Choir and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote his Eighth Symphony in the space of ten weeks during the summer of 1906. He based the work’s first movement on the ninth-century Latin hymn Veni creator spiritus, and set words from the closing scene of Goethe’s verse tragedy Faust as an extended second part. “I saw the whole piece immediately before my eyes, and only needed to write it down as though it were being dictated to me,” Mahler later reported to his biographer. At the time of its first performance in 1910 the new work was billed as the “Symphony of a Thousand”, a clever marketing line used to stoke audience interest in a score that explores themes of redemption through the power of love.

When Leopold Stokowski conducted the composition’s American premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra in March 1916 at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, he did so in company with over a thousand fellow performers. One hundred years later, almost to the day, Yannick Nézet-Séguin packed the stage of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s current home with over four hundred singers and instrumentalists, “who made as much sound as the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall could hold,” as critic David Patrick Stearns recalled in his review for The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Certainly,” he continued,” the experience was sublime, transcendent, all the ultra-superlative things one saves for a piece like this.”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s forthcoming schedule includes, among others, different concert programs with The Philharmonia Orchestra (23-26, 30-31 January, 1-2 February) as well as performances of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra at home in Rotterdam and on tour to Paris, Essen and Baden-Baden (16, 18, 21 & 22 February 2020), and of the composer’s Third Symphony with the Berliner Philharmoniker in their home town (27, 28 & 29 February) and in Baden-Baden (11 April).


Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Rolando Villazón add The Magic Flute to their Baden-Baden Mozart opera cycle

Deutsche Grammophon’s landmark cycle of Mozart’s mature operas reaches its sixth title with The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). Set for international release on 2 August 2019, the live recording continues the Yellow Label’s special collaboration with the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. It boasts a stellar cast, headed by the project’s initiator, Rolando Villazón, as Papageno, together with Klaus Florian Vogt as Tamino, Christiane Karg as Pamina, Regula Mühlemann as Papagena, Albina Shagimuratova as the Queen of the Night, and Franz-Josef Selig as Sarastro.

“So many people”, notes Yannick Nézet-Séguin, “when they think ‘Mozart opera’, think of The Magic Flute. Since the beginning, since its creation, this work has always reached different kinds of audiences. It’s just one greatest hit after another”. Each of his cast’s singers owns the rare blend of vocal shading, dramatic presence and psychological insight needed to bring Mozart’s magical characters to life.

The conductor himself was praised by for conducting an “excellent” concert production of The Magic Flute at Baden-Baden with his “characteristic precision, musicality, expressive power and energy”, and for treating every nuance and every tiny but meaningful and performance-enhancing detail with “attention, love and dedication”. The same review also hailed Rolando Villazon’s first foray into the baritone repertoire, noting that “his vocal and dramatic gifts lent themselves perfectly to the comic role of Pagageno”. 

Villazón conceived the idea for Deutsche Grammophon’s Mozart cycle in 2011 while performing Don Giovanni at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden with the COE and Maestro Nézet-Séguin. He developed the project in partnership with the conductor and DG, brought ROLEX on board as generous supporters, and has served as its joint artistic consultant from its inception. Four of the five recordings released so far have received Grammy nominations, with Le nozze di Figaro winning a prestigious Echo Klassik Award in 2017.

“This is my most ambitious artistic project to date”, recalls Villazón. “I’ve never fallen in love with any composer like this before!” Since launching the enterprise eight years ago with Don Giovanni, he has performed in each release, embracing everything from Ferrando in Così fan tutte to the title-role in La clemenza di Tito.

The Magic Flute was first performed at the Theater auf der Wieden, outside the ancient city walls of Vienna, in September 1791, barely two months before Mozart’s premature death. The show ran for over 100 performances within its first season and soon became a hit throughout Europe and beyond. It mixes music and spoken dialogue, humour and pathos, mystery and mankind’s search for wisdom. The opera balances earthy comedy with an exploration of the nature of individual freedom, fraternity, enlightened leadership and unconditional love, all expressed in music of simplicity and beauty. “I very much like the perspective of doing The Magic Flute now,” Nézet-Séguin reflects, “because it throws light on all the operas we’ve already recorded.”



Conductor’s yellow label commitment embraces Rachmaninov symphony and piano concerto cycles with The Philadelphia Orchestra

L-R: Ute Fesquet (Vice President A & R Deutsche Grammophon), Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Clemens Trautmann (President Deutsche Grammophon)

Future grand projects with New York’s Metropolitan Opera also anticipated

Deutsche Grammophon is delighted to announce that Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, incoming Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera and Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, has signed an exclusive contract with the yellow label. The Montreal-born conductor, hailed by the Financial Times as the “greatest generator of energy on the international podium”, will record a broad range of symphonic and operatic repertoire as part of his work as Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera of New York and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, and as an Honorary Member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE). The contract signing was announced in Hamburg on 30 May 2018, during his nine-city tour of Europe and Israel with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Maestro Nézet-Séguin’s DG projects will include complete cycles of Rachmaninov’s symphonies and piano concertos, with soloist Daniil Trifonov and The Philadelphia Orchestra; the next opera in his acclaimed Mozart series, Die Zauberflöte, to be recorded with the COE and an outstanding cast this summer at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus; Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov’s first album of solo arias, with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal; Mahler’s Symphony No.8 and a continuation of the Stravinsky ballet cycle – plans include Petrushka and The Firebird – with The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor K466 with Seong-Jin Cho and the COE. He also intends to record with the Metropolitan Opera forces – an exciting prospect, given the rave reviews received by his first DG recording with the Met: the best-selling Carmen, starring Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna.

“I am genuinely thrilled by the prospect of making music with Deutsche Grammophon,” comments Yannick Nézet-Séguin. “We will build on the work that we have recorded together over the past seven years and develop exciting new projects as well. The yellow label has documented major landmarks of my time as Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, including Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Stokowski’s transcriptions of works by Bach and Stravinsky, and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, and of my ten years as Principal Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, including the world premiere recording of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Piano Concerto with Marc-André Hamelin. I look forward to exploring fresh territory with the team when I start work as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera in September, to realising the plans we have for recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, and to making further recordings with wonderful DG artists like Lisa Batiashvili, Elīna Garanča and Rolando Villazón. Not to mention the continued pleasure of live performances with such amazing musicians as Martha Argerich, Hélène Grimaud, Jan Lisiecki and Yuja Wang. I truly believe that artists today must reach out to audiences worldwide and communicate their passion for the life-enhancing experience that classical music and opera provides.”

Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s first album for Deutsche Grammophon, made in 2011, was the recording of Don Giovanni that marked the launch of his Mozart opera cycle – a series which also now includes the Grammy-nominated Le nozze di Figaro, and whose latest instalment, La clemenza di Tito, will be released this summer. Other highlights for the yellow label include complete cycles of the symphonies of Schumann and Mendelssohn with the COE; Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Trifonov and The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Duets with Rolando Villazón, Ildar Abdrazakov and the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal. His first DG recordings with the Rotterdam Philharmonic featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 “Pathétique” and collaborations with Lisa Batiashvili and Andreas Ottensamer. Released next week is The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra Collection, a 6CD collection of previously unissued live recordings hand-picked by Nézet-Séguin, whose arrival as Principal Conductor in 2008 marked the start of a new golden era in this orchestra’s history. The release is timed to coincide with the Jubilee concerts in Rotterdam on 9/10 June – the highpoint of this year’s centenary celebrations.

“Over the past decade Yannick Nézet-Séguin has risen to become one of the world’s leading conductors, a charismatic force of nature who brings great music to life in a way that few others are able to do,” notes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “As Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera, he holds two of the most important and influential posts in classical music. He has also achieved remarkable success as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain, placing it on the international orchestral map, as Principal Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, whose Honorary Conductor he becomes at the end of this season, and as a regular guest conductor with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which made him an Honorary Member two years ago. We look forward to working closely with Yannick, exploring the full range of his artistry, particularly his very special gift for working with singers in the Classical and Romantic vocal and choral repertoires, and to enriching the DG catalogue with the new recordings we make together.”