Yan Pascal Tortelier

Chief Conductor, Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Emeritus, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Biography

Yan Pascal Tortelier enjoys a distinguished career as guest conductor of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. He began his musical career as a violinist and, at fourteen, won first prize for violin at the Paris Conservatoire, making his soloist debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra shortly afterward. Following general musical studies with Nadia Boulanger, Tortelier studied conducting with Franco Ferrara at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. This season, Yan Pascal Tortelier takes up the position of Chief Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra with whom he has built a very special relationship during his guest appearances with the orchestra in recent seasons. Former positions have included Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Ulster Orchestra (1989-1992) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (2005-2008). He was also Principal Conductor of the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra from 2009-2011. Following his outstanding work as Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic between 1992 and 2003, including annual appearances at the BBC Proms and a very successful tour of the US to celebrate the orchestra’s 60th anniversary season, he was given the title of Conductor Emeritus and continues to work and record with the orchestra regularly. Yan Pascal Tortelier also holds the position of Principal Guest Conductor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Yan Pascal Tortelier has collaborated with major orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala Milan, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Boston and Chicago symphony orchestras. Further afield he has collaborated with the Sydney and the Melbourne Symphony, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, and Malaysian philharmonic orchestras.

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Reviews

“The orchestra played admirably with great precision under Tortelier […] All kinds of details were carefully executed and the larger context was always clear. The final dance was so powerful that it will live in my memory for a long time. It can safely be said that Tortelier started his tenure with great style. (Opening concert as Chief Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra)”

JÓNAS SEN SKRIFAR

Visir.is

“Tortelier completed the concert with a magnificently conceived and performed account of the Symphony No. 5 [Sibelius]… The conductor achieved genuine grandeur in the outer movements but led the second movement with a nice light touch. Tortelier marshaled full orchestra sonorities rarely heard in Heinz Hall, with well-balanced full textures, including strong bass and middle voices, and with brass of immense dimension.”

Mark Kanny

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

More Reviews

“The orchestra played admirably with great precision under Tortelier […] All kinds of details were carefully executed and the larger context was always clear. The final dance was so powerful that it will live in my memory for a long time. It can safely be said that Tortelier started his tenure with great style. (Opening concert as Chief Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra)”

JÓNAS SEN SKRIFAR, Visir.is, September 2016 

“The third instalment of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO’s) Shakespeare 400 subscription concerts saw French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier returning to the podium directing two works by countryman Hector Berlioz in a vivid demonstration of how a conductor can transform an orchestra… The breadth of timbres and emotions depicted in Berlioz’s writing is breathtaking, requiring exquisite attention to detail and musical line, qualities Tortelier demonstrated beyond reproach”

Mervin Beng, The Straits Times, July 2016 

“Seoul Philharmonic wows with Cho and Tortelier … The final movement features a soaring melody that Tortelier brought to forceful climax, providing a powerful and fitting end to both the symphony and the evening”

KIM HYE-JUN, Korean JoongAng 

“Tortelier completed the concert with a magnificently conceived and performed account of the Symphony No. 5 [Sibelius]… The conductor achieved genuine grandeur in the outer movements but led the second movement with a nice light touch. Tortelier marshaled full orchestra sonorities rarely heard in Heinz Hall, with well-balanced full textures, including strong bass and middle voices, and with brass of immense dimension.”

Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, TribLIVE, October 2014

“Conducting without a baton, Tortelier and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra produced a soundscape that highlighted the rhythms and harmonies that make the work a favourite….He painted with music, using a delicate brush and a gentle, mostly pastel palette, with bursts of colour when called for. “

Mervin Beng, The Straits Times, May 2014

“From the opening, there was a palpable tension in the performance that didn’t let up for a second. Among the highlights was the way the conductor masterfully gauged the opening movement to make its explosive outbursts as striking as its hushed, unsettled close…Tortelier paced the music beautifully and brought out its nostalgic quality with considerable subtlety.”

Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, March 2014

“Mr. Tortelier’s conducting style is fascinating to watch. Working without a baton, he uses his very expressive hands to shape phrases. He seems to be all about economy of movement, holding the big gestures in reserve for when they’re really needed—the volcanic final moments of the “Symphonie,” for example. There’s subtle shading there that parallels his interpretive approach. “

Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX (Radio)

“Every visit by conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier seems to ignite the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Audiences get pretty worked up, too. […] Tortelier fashioned an invigorating visit to Mussorgsky’s sonic gallery. The performance, conducted from memory, had a remarkable spontaneity and sweep. “

Tim Smith, Clef Notes, February 2013

“Tortelier led Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 with authority and conviction. His reading, completely from memory, was fully romantic, with close attention to detail and a vivid response from the CSO. […] The first movement’s complex lines were all attended to, building to a stirring climax and leaving a last ring of harp and string pizzicato in its wake. Tortelier, who conducts without a baton, shaped the Andante second movement with similar care, handling its yearning, Tchaikovskian theme with outspoken emotion, from full cry to its ever-so-gentle restatement at the end. […] Tortelier — whose whole-body conducting included more than one leap on the podium during the evening – drew considerable warmth from his players in the finale, with its lush strings and sometimes giddy rhythms. “

www.concerto.net

“Yan Pascal Tortelier and his Brazilian orchestra go all out for Schmitt […] Tortelier relishes the rich Wagnerian colours and the fluidity of harmony and directs a radiant account of Psalm 47, with the chorus’s singing fully matching the music’s jubilation. [La tragédie de Salomé] has strong dramatic impetus.”

Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone Magazine, September 2011

“Tortelier’s Berlioz was easily the highlight of the evening. His attention to detail was clear to see as he shaped early passages with individual gestures for almost every note. An intriguing conductor to watch, he was scoreless and batonless all evening and maintained very literal, direct instructions for his players. This made for some wonderful moments in Berlioz’s unconventional writing, notably in the first-movement principal horn solo and third-movement dialogue between cor anglais and offstage oboe. The second-movement waltz lilted along by the thrust of a gentle second beat push in the strings, and the third handled pastoralism and menace very well. “

Rohan Shotton, www.bachtrack.com