Leif Segerstam – Conductor

Leif Segerstam

“I have rarely heard the BBCSO perform Bruckner so well since the days of Günter Wand. Right from the very opening, at a simple gesture from Leif Segerstam, a closed fist suddenly opened, pianissimo string tremolo and horns came in precisely together. This is so rare, as the horns usually take a moment to sound and the opening can often be ragged. And then, after the statement of the theme in the bass, the oboe comments with a falling phrase, encouraged by Segerstam with open arms to expand its expressive potential towards the deepest of tragic laments, and it was apparent that this performance would endow its encounter with this music with widest spectrum of profound emotion.”

Bruckner’s 8th Symphony / BBC Symphony Orchestra, London – reviewer Ken Ward: Backtrack, 1st March 2015

Leif Segerstam is recognised internationally. Born in 1944, he is one of the most versatile and interesting musical talents from the Nordic countries, studying violin, piano, composition and conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki before taking a post-graduate course at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. He is Chief Conductor Emeritus of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in gratitude for his supremely successful 12-year period as Chief Conductor. He also holds honorary titles with Malmö Opera and Turku Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany following extremely notable periods as chief conductor with both orchestras, too. He has also held positions as Chief Conductor of the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera, later also re-appointed as Chief Conductor and Director of Finnish National Opera. Until recently he was also Principal Guest Conductor of the St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra.

Amongst many others he conducts at Wiener Staatsoper, the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Detroit Symphony, NHK Symphony Orchestra, in London with the Philharmonia, London Symphony and BBC Symphony orchestras, St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and he was one of the most important ambassadors for Sibelius’s 2015 anniversary year.

Leif Segerstam began his conducting career in the opera houses of Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin with guest appearances that have included the Metropolitan New York, La Scala, Covent Garden, Teatro Colon, Cologne, Geneva, Hamburg, Munich, the Salzburg Festival and a frequent conductor at the Savolinna Festival. In recent seasons he has often conducted at the Wiener Staatsoper in “Salome” (“Strauss’s exotic score, whilst laden with full blooded crescendos, also contains moments of purity and subtlety, which Leif Segerstam expressed without sacrificing the quest for dramatic intensity. Fortissimos were terrifying, and Jochanaan’s prophetic passages were moments of hypnotic beauty.” Andrew Gosling – Classical Source, 7th June 2010) and “Lohengrin”, also Britten’s “Peter Grimes” at Vlaamse Oper, “Der Rosenkavalier” for Bayerische Staatsoper and “La Bohème” in Helsinki. In Malmö he conducted Parsifal, Zauberflöte, La Wally, Manon, Der Rosenkavalier, Aida and Tannhäuser.

Leif Segerstam’s many recordings are recognised by critics and public alike as outstanding amongst modern interpretations. As well as works by contemporary composers his CDs include the complete symphonies of Mahler, Sibelius and Nielsen with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Scriabin and Schnittke with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Brahms with the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz plus Reger and Alan Pettersson with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. In Alan Pettersson’s anniversary year he conducted the composer’s 7th symphony with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and opened Turku’s year as European City of Culture in January 2011 with the Turku Philharmonic in a performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.

Leif Segerstam has shown exceptional creativity as a composer throughout his career and currently written 359 symphonies, 29 string quartets, 11 violin and 4 piano concerti alongside chamber and vocal music, notably developing a free-pulsative style in Rosenkranz form for his later symphonies which are performed without conductor.

Leif Segerstam was proud to be Professor of Conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki for many years and several of his pupils now follow successful careers. He was awarded the 1999 Nordic Council Music Prize for his work “as a tireless champion of Scandinavian music” and the Swedish Cultural Foundation’s Prize for Music in 2003. In 2004 he was given the annual Finnish State Prize for Music and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. Leif Segerstam is devoted to his five children and, currently, six grandchildren.



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Sibelius, Symphony No.6
Uuno Klami, Kalevala Suite