Jim Gardner one-on-one with Philadelphia Orchestra's Yannick Nezet-Seguin

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Watch Jim Gardner's One-On-One with Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

We continue our One on One series, this time with one of the most extraordinary people I've met in a long time: Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Jim Gardner One-On-One



He began his third season with the orchestra Friday night, which also marks three years since the orchestra emerged from bankruptcy.

Whether Nezet-Seguin is leading the orchestra before world heads of state at the UN - like he did Thursday night - or on a triumphant tour of China and Japan - like last spring - the Philadelphia is reclaiming its spot as one of the world's greatest orchestras.

Yannick: "This kind of institution, as an orchestra, it's one of the rare institutions that is a very living one. It's alive. Because by the very definition, it's 100 plus souls there on stage week after week, day after day. So it's always about reinventing. But it's also taking into account a huge heritage."

Jim: "Let me list some of the names of your predecessors: (Leopold) Stokowski, (Eugene) Ormandy, (Riccardo) Muti, (Wolfgang) Sawallisch, (Christoph) Eschenbach, and (Charles) Dutoit. Is there something singular about you that makes you different from all these other men?"

Yannick: "The orchestra always smells immediately when a conductor is acting to be more this or that, more authoritative or more inspired or more down to Earth. It's a lifelong process of accepting who I am. Therefore, I think the more individual I am, the better I will be to serve this orchestra."

Jim: "Outside of the orchestra hall, chances are Ormandy didn't wear tight t-shirts or have a turtle tattoo, does that suggest that you are different or is the time different from the great masters of the past?"

Yannick: "Very early on in Montreal, I had different hairstyles, even different colors in my hair when I was younger. Some people thought I was making a point. I'm not making a point, I've just decided that the best I could do is to be myself and not try to fit or refrain from an impulse I would have just because I'm a conductor. This is maybe why these differences you just said are maybe more striking, but I don't do them to be provocative, I just do them to be a normal, youngish man of the 21st century."

Jim: "Can an orchestra be great without a great conductor?"

Yannick: (Laughs) "Well, of course. Maybe it's a surprising answers, but I think the aim of an orchestra is to actually be able to work in such a way that orchestra will be great without him or her. I wish that in many, many, many years or decades, when I step down from this orchestra and leave it, I would maybe think that I contributed to keep it as great or maybe make it a little bit greater."

Yannick: "I will never ever think of myself as the equals of these great predecessors, but I am doing my best to serve the composers and the musicians."

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Jim Gardner One-On-One



Jim: "Is the orchestra underappreciated here at home?"

Yannick: "My view of the situation is not that it's underappreciated. My view's more that it's taken for granted. That's very different. Everybody's proud of the orchestra, but many people still think 'yes, we have it. It's great, yet we don't visit it.'"

If you ask people from Paris do they go and visit the Louvre, they don't because 'of course, we're from Paris, we don't go but we're proud of the Louvre and it's something for tourists.'

It's not exactly the same for the orchestra here; I'm not saying it's for tourists. It's true that something so beautiful, it's normal, it's human, sometimes it's so beautiful but it's in our backyards we stop seeing it. It's our job to reconnect by just giving it a different twist and especially send a more welcoming message through the entire community to say 'yes, this is your orchestra.'

Watch the full interview
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