Quick! Name this member of The Philadelphia Orchestra family:
“He makes the gap between the audience and the stage vanish.” (Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore)
“He possesses an overwhelming urge to communicate his love for music to all he encounters.” (Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin)
“He has brought such artistry, excitement, and excellence to our numerous collaborations on stages in Philadelphia and across the United States.” (Concertmaster David Kim)
They could only be talking about Stéphane Denève, who has just extended his contract as principal guest conductor for three more years, through the 2019-20 season.
“It has been one of the great privileges and pleasures of my artistic life to get to know this remarkable group of musicians more deeply over the years,” says Denève, who made his debut with the Orchestra in 2007. “Three years ago I was honored to be appointed principal guest conductor, and I’m thrilled that we’ll be continuing our association for the next three seasons to come.”
Known for his musical skills, his charmingly accented remarks from the podium, and his enthusiasm for new music (including his beloved John Williams), Denève has quickly become a favorite with Orchestra fans, whether at home in Verizon Hall, or in Saratoga, Vail, or Florida (where he’s leading the Orchestra on tour this week).
“It is a joy to make music together for our wonderful audiences. It is also very meaningful to be part of an inspiring artistic leadership team headed by Yannick, and to be able to work with so many gifted and committed colleagues within the institution.”
When he wraps up his first contract at the end of this summer, Denève will have conducted over 90 performances with the Orchestra, more than any other guest conductor during that time period. This includes more than 100 works, from Classical to contemporary, including presentations with dance, theater, and cirque performers, and of course film (he led an emotionally charged performance of John Williams’s timeless score for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial during a live screening). Still to come this April in Verizon Hall: Denève leads a program of Scandinavian music from Grieg to Sibelius, and a festival devoted to Rachmaninoff, the composer most closely associated with The Philadelphia Orchestra.
When he’s not enchanting our audiences, Denève is chief conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic and director of the Centre for Future Orchestral Repertoire in Brussels, as well as maintaining a busy conducting schedule in leading concert halls all over the world.
Still, it’s safe to say Stéphane Denève has an extremely close connection to Philadelphia.
“It has become like a second home for my family, too, and together with my wife, Åsa, and our daughter, Alma, we look forward to enjoying this vibrant city and continuing to being a part of its community in the coming years.”
To which we can only add one of Denève’s favorite words: “Bravo!”
Photo by Jessica Griffin