Bernard Labadie, conductor: quite a story

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John F
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Bernard Labadie, conductor: quite a story

Post by John F » Thu May 04, 2017 6:51 am

Labadie has conducted several concerts at Mostly Mozart, but I haven't particularly followed him as he's a HIP conductor, so I wasn't aware that all this was happening.

How a Brush With Death Changed the Next Conductor of St. Luke’s
By MICHAEL COOPER
MAY 3, 2017

Three years ago, the Québécois conductor Bernard Labadie spent a month in a medically induced coma as he battled lymphoma. Since then, he has worked to regain his health and resume a career in which he is sought out for Baroque and Classical repertoire.

His next chapter will unfold in New York: The Orchestra of St. Luke’s announced on Wednesday that Mr. Labadie would become its next principal conductor in the 2018-19 season, succeeding Pablo Heras-Casado, who will become conductor laureate. In a phone interview from Quebec, where he founded the chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy, Mr. Labadie, 54, spoke about music, his ordeal and his plans for St. Luke’s. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

It’s welcome news to have you back leading an orchestra again. Can you tell me a little bit about your health crisis?

Clearly I was supposed to go at 51. So I feel like I’ve been given a huge credit card with an unlimited line, and I’m just living on it right now. And this new challenge with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s — I almost literally think that this is just what the doctor ordered.

You were in a medically induced coma for a month?

It was for a full month, yes, and I lost about 50 percent of my muscle weight. So when I woke up, I had to relearn how to sit by the bed. Three months after the stem cell transplant, I stood up in the arms of my physiotherapist for five seconds for the first time.

How did you first start re-engaging with music?

Except for when I was in a medically induced coma, music was always, always at the heart of my existence. I never stopped thinking about music. When I came back to it, it felt very natural — but more urgent than ever, I would say.

Have you resumed conducting standing up, or using the baton?

Still no baton, and still sitting down. It might never change — for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with cancer. I just enjoy it now. While I was sick, I had plenty of time to reflect, and also to watch a lot of videos of me conducting. And quite frankly, I was not always happy with what I was seeing. It forced me to rethink my job and the role of the conductor. Being seated, I have the feeling that I’m more in the music, with the musicians. I’m not towering over them. I’m really first among peers.
What is your vision for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s?

They expressed a lot of interest in what I had built here in Québec City with my own orchestra, because their vision for the new principal conductor was to have someone who could dig deeper in the universe of performance practice with the ensemble. I will be working on late 17th-, 18th-, early-19th-century repertoire. One of my goals is to bring my own professional choir, La Chapelle de Québec, to collaborate with the group.

The orchestra has been doing a lot of commissioning in recent years. Does this mean there will be less focus on new works?

I don’t think so. They were very clear that they intend to remain associated with that part of their existence — it’s just that I won’t be the one in charge of that part. But the orchestra is absolutely not turning its back on its roots and its deep involvement in the musical life of New York City in terms of new music, in terms of education, in terms of outreach.

You’re going to make your debut with them July 2 conducting Mozart at Caramoor. Are you nervous? Is it like having your first date after the marriage is arranged?

No! No! It’s our first public date. We’ve cuddled a lot in private.
John Francis

barney
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Re: Bernard Labadie, conductor: quite a story

Post by barney » Fri May 05, 2017 10:48 pm

I didn't know that. It must have taken courage and determination.
But I have heard him a few times as a conductor, and I am afraid I do not esteem his exaggeratedly breathless tempi.

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