MUSIC: Everyone loves a contract extension

Lucien Bouchard, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal chairman, announced last night that Kent Nagano has a three-year extension on his contract as music director of Canada’s best orchestra. There had been some question about all this ever since Nagano’s contract at the Bavarian State Opera wasn’t renewed.

Here’s a profile of Nagano I wrote three years ago. Since then, the bloom’s off the rose in a few ways. He can be an awesomely chilly presence at the podium, and I hear some grumbling from OSM musicians to the effect that his micromanaging is a big turnoff. I have no idea how widespread that sentiment is, but it had this odd effect: when the OSM played in Ottawa earlier this year, and Nagano was replaced at the last minute by Pinchas Zukerman, who can be laissez-faire in the extreme, by all accounts the Montreal musicians were delighted with the unaccustomed chance to relax a bit and enjoy what they were playing.

But so what. Nagano can be a rousing, sympathetic conductor too. (Evidence here.) He’s way more adventurous in his programming than crosstown rival Yannick Nézet-Séguin (evidence here), although the stick-in-the-mud OSM season that’s about to begin is a bad illustration of that strength. And he’s gangbusters for fundraising and ticket sales, so the business case for keeping him on is solid.

Bottom line: when the OSM gets into its brand-new concert hall a year from now, Nagano will conduct. Which is as it should be. He’s why the place is getting built.

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