#GreatMTLer: Maestro Kent Nagano a pillar of Montreal’s cultural symphony
Over the years, Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) maestro Kent Nagano has grown to embody the spirit of the city’s rich culture.
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“We wanted to create a symphony that was really vibrant and directly attached and directly relevant to the community,” he told Global News.
With his laid-back attitude and long hair, the California-born 66-year-old was a breath of fresh air when he arrived as a guest conductor in 2004.
“That was, for me, a moment when I felt this was a very special orchestra,” he recalled.
“They play different, they sound different than other ensembles and it was, for me, the introduction to begin a three-year study of Quebec history, Quebec culture.”
Nagano was named music director in 2006 and launched what has become known as a renaissance of the orchestra.
“We needed to show that, when an audience member comes to hear an OSM concert that they see themselves, they hear themselves, they recognize a certain identity,” he said.
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He has worked hard to connect with the community in the hopes of demystifying classical music, making the art accessible to everyone.
“The community and the orchestra have really joined in a very dynamic way that makes this area special and it’s what, to me, helps Montreal stand out as one of the bright lights in the world today,” Nagano said.
Under his direction, the OSM has won critical acclaim across the globe, including three Grammy Awards and an Echo Klassik Award.
“The entire social and political structures of the area simply decided to work together on a common goal — to build a new concert hall,” he told Global News.
The Maison Symphonique de Montréal opened its doors in September 2011; almost seven years later, it’s been recognized as one of the great concert halls in the world, consistently selling out.
“The way you fill a concert hall is not through advertising. We didn’t really have any money for advertising at that time,” he explained.
“The way you fill a concert hall is through quality.”
Last June, Nagano announced that he would be stepping down as music director at the end of the 2020 season.
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“We, as musicians, we’re trained to be very, very sensitive for … when is the time to inhale and exhale and allow something else to take place,” he said.
As he steps aside, Nagano insists he will never completely cut ties with the orchestra — or the city he’s grown to love.
“This has been one of the most important periods of my life as an artist,” he said.
“I, certainly, will maintain and probably will only intensify my love of the orchestra and with Quebec culture and particularly with the city of Montreal.”
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