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An undated handout photo of Kent Nagano, conductor of the Montreal Symphony, at the Bayerische Staatsoper. (BENJAMIN EALOVEGA/NYT)
An undated handout photo of Kent Nagano, conductor of the Montreal Symphony, at the Bayerische Staatsoper. (BENJAMIN EALOVEGA/NYT)

Conductor Kent Nagano to leave Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 2020 Add to ...

Kent Nagano has announced he will leave the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal at the end of his contract in 2020, leaving both of Montreal’s main orchestras along with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra looking for new musical directors to take up the baton.

Mr. Nagano, who will be the second-longest-serving maestro at the OSM when his term ends, made the announcement Thursday afternoon without giving a precise reason for his departure, saying only it seemed a natural transition point. Mr. Nagano renewed his contract on his other main job with the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra 20 months ago.

Mr. Nagano came to the Montreal orchestra when it was emerging from shambles. The OSM had gone through four years of labour strife, money troubles and uncertainty after the sudden departure of legendary director Charles Dutoit in 2002 after nearly 25 years in the post.

Mr. Nagano leaves the orchestra in much better position with a new concert hall, a solid balance sheet and years of critical acclaim. He shared credit for the comeback with the orchestra’s board and administration as well as the community, and promised to keep working through the end of his contract in 2020.

“Over the past years we have accomplished nothing short of a miracle in shaping such a vital, financially stable, boldly innovative orchestra that continues to illuminate the relevance of the symphony orchestra for the 21st century,” Mr. Nagano said in a statement.

Lucien Bouchard, the former Quebec premier who is chair of the OSM’s board of directors, said the orchestra plans to continue a relationship with Mr. Nagano after his term ends, citing his importance to the community and the fact “he will leave an indelible mark on the institution” with his leadership, creativity and discipline.”

With his mellow attitude and long locks, the California-born conductor became a Montreal celebrity with reach beyond the concert hall. He literally brought music to the people with shows in parks and in far-flung suburbs of the city, including one Thursday night. The OSM scored an ode to the sport called Hockey Legends that included spoken-word performances by players such as Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev.

He also brought the OSM more traditional praise. A New York stop on the OSM’s U.S. tour last year gained a rave review in The New York Times and recent recordings have also been a critical success.

The orchestra said it will quickly establish a process to find Mr. Nagano’s successor, but the OSM will have some competition as it head-hunts new leadership.

Last spring, 42-year-old star conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was named the first new music director in 40 years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and he immediately announced he would only maintain a minimal presence at his old post at the Orchestre métropolitain de Montréal until his contract expires in 2021. His replacement has not been named.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Oundjian will complete his final season as musical director in a year. He has been the face of the TSO since 2004 and leaves as the orchestra gets through administrative turmoil after the departure of CEO Jeff Melanson in March, 2016, and of several board members last December.

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