The Philadelphia Orchestra's Music Director on His Philly Loves

Yannick Nézet-Séguin is widely considered one of the greatest talents in classical music, and he's happy to share what makes Philadelphia unique.

Nézet-Séguin is widely considered one of the greatest talents in classical music. His unparalleled charisma, boundless enthusiasm and exceptional musicianship make him a raptuous conductor and performer who helps draw crowds young and old to orchestral stages around the world. Though he splits his time between Montreal, Rotterdam, Philly and beyond, he's happy to share what makes Philadelphia unique in his eyes.

What makes the Philadelphia Orchestra stand out against other orchestras that you perform with or have worked with in the past?

Orchestral sound is something mysterious and great orchestras retain their own very strong personalities. I’m happy to say The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the very few orchestras that has such a strong personality in its sound. This, plus the generosity, dedication, and commitment of these musicians is what sets The Philadelphia Orchestra apart from others.

Yannick conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra

Why do you think the performing arts scene thrives so well in Philadelphia?

First, I think this is due to the wealth of artists in this entire region, from instrumentalists and singers to actors and visual artists. And second, I feel that so many Philadelphians are able to engage directly with the arts. Philadelphia is blessed to have such a rich cultural life.

What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

It is hard for me to narrow all the wonderful things about Philadelphia into one singular thing that is my favorite. The city has the best in restaurants and cultural life!

What’s your favorite place to grab a drink or go for a nice dinner after a concert?

There are quite a few that I like, but I will say that I feel very welcome at Parc Bistro on Rittenhouse Square. The food and the atmosphere there are superb. And of course Girasole, which is just around the corner from the Kimmel Center.

You’re known for your charismatic style of conducting and your audience engagement—how has your style developed throughout your career as a conductor?

I actually never think about my gestures or my style. I know it has evolved, and will continue to do so. Experience, maturity, and familiarity with the musicians I am conducting are all contributing factors.

What are some of your favorite pieces of music to perform and listen to?

There are some works I really feel that I have a need to conduct, and I always want to program them. The Verdi Requiem is one, and also pretty much all the Mahler and Bruckner symphonies. My favorite recordings to listen to are Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic, Chopin Nocturnes with Claudio Arrau, J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites with Jean-Guihen Queyras, and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony with Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra. I’m also a big fan of Frank Ocean and Janelle Monáe.

If you had access to a private jet to go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I would have to say, I’d go to one of my favorite vacation spots: Bora Bora. It’s the closest thing to paradise.

Where will you be traveling next, perhaps for a performance or your next vacation?

I am delighted to be spending the entire month of January in Philadelphia with my wonderful orchestra. In February, I’m back in Europe with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin's Perfect Philly Day

Get A Run In: The Schuylkill River Trail. It’s a beautiful piece of nature in the heart of the city.

Lunch: Zama, near Rittenhouse Square, has really great sushi. 128 S. 19th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 215.568.1027

Never Stop Learning: I often try to spend some time in the Fleisher Orchestral Music Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia1901 Vine St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 215.686.5322

Rest and Relaxation: Sometimes I go for a massage at the Rittenhouse Spa and Club. I always leave there feeling refreshed. 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 215.790.2500

Coffee and a stroll: I might stop into Elixr Coffee Roasters, grab a coffee to go, walk around a bit and maybe do some shopping. 207 S. Sydenham St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 239.404.1730

Dinner: I adore Il Pittore on Sansom Street. I think they have the best pasta in America. 2025 Sansom St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 215.391.4900

Il Pittore (©Penn Gastronomy)