Yannick Nézet-Séguin named 'Artist of the Year'

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in a January 2014 concert at the Kimmel Center. (David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

Another triumph for Yannick Nézet-Séguin: The news leaked out Wednesday that the Philadelphia Orchestra music director is Musical America's Artist of the Year. The honor puts him on the cover of Musical America Worldwide: The International Directory of the Performing Arts, a phone-book-size $125 annual publication considered the bible of the classical music industry, a complete Who's Who and How to Find Them.

"I am deeply and sincerely honored to accept this prestigious honor," said Nézet-Séguin in a statement released by the Philadelphia Orchestra. "In truth, this goes to all of the musicians I conduct, in Philadelphia, Rotterdam, and Montreal, and throughout the world. These are the people creating the magic that connects audiences to the music, spreading messages of hope and joy."

The award will be officially conferred Dec. 8 at Carnegie Hall. But perhaps the more lasting impact will be his photo on the cover, taken after he conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Sept. 27 outdoor Mass for Pope Francis, with City Hall in the background. It will be seen all year among the industry's movers and shakers.

The award, usually given at a point of career consolidation, puts the 40-year-old conductor in the company of classical music brand names starting with Leonard Bernstein (the first recipient in 1960) and continuing with the likes of Itzhak Perlman, James Levine, and Placido Domingo.

Other recipients have been less obvious candidates: In 2012, the husband-and-wife chamber music duo of cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han were named "Musicians of the Year." The fact that Nézet-Séguin is "Artist of the Year" reflects a relatively recent change in the award's title.

This week, Nézet-Séguin seems to be hitting some sort of peak recognition. "No American orchestra sounds more alive," wrote David Allen in the New York Times, regarding the conductor's Philadelphia Orchestra concert Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. On Saturday, Nézet-Séguin leads a Metropolitan Opera HD simulcast of Otello that will be beamed live to 2,000 movie theaters in 70 countries around the world.

In a statement, Philadelphia Orchestra president and CEO Allison Vulgamore said: "Yannick is a musician of extraordinary breadth and depth in all facets of music-making. From the Baroque to the contemporary, from chamber music to grand opera, his versatility and curiosity extends authentically, through his work onstage and off. He performs in front of millions yet projects an intimacy that connects him on the most genuine level with musicians and audiences alike."