Composer / Conductor Leif
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
When you come face-to-face with the Finnish composer-conductor-pianist
Leif Segerstam, you are convinced he is Santa Claus. The
complexion, the round belly, the jolly laugh all are straight from the
storybook and every visual reproduction of Saint Nick. And in a
very special way, like Santa, Segerstam has a very global vision of
music — his music — and
how he expects performances to reflect these ideas.
He was in Chicago during the last month of 1997 to conduct a program
that included one work from his own imagination called February, which is performed
without conductor. For this, he was at the piano — not
as a soloist, but simply embedded in the orchestra. The music
started apparently on its own, then moved along quite naturally, and
everyone seemed pleased at the end.
His English was rich with allusions and unique word-play. Much of
this has been left in the text, so it might take a couple of times
through some phrases to really understand what he is driving at.
But it’s well worth the extra effort, especially when you
picture this exuberant and joyous bear of a man conjuring up images the
same way he paints expressive musical pictures in sound.
[Note: On Easter Sunday, 2010, I received a wonderful e-mail from
Segerstam. He said it was a “great
interview,” and made a small, but very important
correction to my transcript. The message also mentioned that he
now has completed 234 symphonies, and is writing an opera called Völvan with a libretto by
While setting up the recorder, we were talking about various musical
subjects, and I wanted to examine something he said . . . . .
You say that no two performances of a piece are ever alike. Is
that true only of the new music, or also of the old music?
All my free-pulsative [freely pulsating] music has this capacity, that
it can adjust itself
to the “now” point of the
real now, when the now is there!
BD: So music
Yes. Music is in time, but you shouldn’t stop and find out
because then you lose the time, because time doesn’t exist and that is
what we use to make a reportage of what happened. Then we stop
the time and we measure things in time. Of course you have
metronome markings, you have tempo markings, but music is a continuum
where things move. The now point can be broader than just a very
picky one. It can be something that already has a lot of
tentacles to the coming time, or is dragging with itself flashbacks of
the so-called past time! And the richness in the now point is
also a fact that we should consider. It’s important for the
listener because the listener should actually have the same kind of now
point as the performer. It’s kind of a docking thing. The
listener is a musical satellite docking to a mother ship, and then you
are online, kind of! [Laughs]
BD: So all
music relates to all other music that has come before?
yes, at least when it is born. Actually music is always reborn
when it is relived in the performing moment where you have to do the
tricky thing of making it sound so as it would be really what it should
sound when it sounds, which actually is not the sound, but the
motivation for why the composer tried to catch this in some kind of a
notation. If you try to catch it in such a notation which I use,
there is a flexibility of adjustment to situations and to feelings or
chemical substance of people that are not yet born, because maybe
people will understand my free-pulsativity better after twenty-two or
forty-four or eighty-eight years!
BD: You want
people to understand this better in the future?
LS: Well, in
moments when I get comments where I see that somebody actually didn’t
see the richness in it, then this is my hope, that time will show, like
the piece February that we
just played here in Chicago. The way it has got under the skin of
the great musicians of the Chicago Symphony, that’s very rewarding and
very inspiring. The way they handled it on the second concert was
different and more coherent and more understanding of the richness of
this. You have the option to choose the right moment to give
birth to musical material, which you don’t have to find out
yourself. It’s not an improvisation, but it is another sort of
interpretation than the usual music which is measured with measured
bars, and with conductors pointing that now, now, now, you shall, or it
is the right moment. In my notation it is so that those that have
the responsibility of giving birth to the sound have the option, in the
spur of the moment, to adjust the decision of shall I now or shall I
wait a little bit before I give birth to it. It’s not binary
computer reaction, but a ternary to do so or so, but different so’s, or
wait until ready to make the decision.
BD: It sounds like
you put an awful lot of trust in the musicians who are playing your
yes. I trust my material, too! [Both laugh] I usually
try to make a resemblance to how you build skyscrapers in Tokyo or in
Los Angeles, where there are earthquakes. There should be a
flexibility in the construction so that if the earthquakes come and
shuttles the thing, everything shivers, then all right. The
toilet can move a little bit to the left and the kitchen can move a
little bit to the right and the living room also will change a little
bit in place. Maybe the skyscraper is a big S, but it is still a
skyscraper and we have very beautiful rooms still intact!
[Laughs] This is the way that my score pages are; the things that
are on these pages can be put a little bit left or right in time and
still make sense harmonically. How I find these kind of Lego bits
I can’t explain, but I hear it that way.
you’re working with the score and putting things down, does it make any
difference as to where they are on the page?
LS: Well, not
very far left or right, no! But in my notation, if there are
silences or pauses between making music for the musicians, then it
says, “Wait eight to twelve seconds.” Or for the brass, for
something that is going to be significant and very loud and
overpowering, there could be, “Wait forty-four to sixty-six seconds, or
sixty-six to eighty-eight seconds.” It is not relevant that it is
exactly forty-four, or forty-five, or sixty-six, or sixty-five, but it
is a longer pause until you trigger that kind of sound. It’s like
having a battlefield, that you’ll take the artillery later. It is
the strategic planning of a sounding event, which is from one start to
another. My scores have in-built conducting mechanisms. February had six; the first was the
percussion slapstick together with the concertmaster, and then
everybody knew that now the piece started; let’s play the first portion
until letter A, where then the next trigger for everybody to recognize
was sforzando in the double bass. And the double bass had to wait
for everybody to finish, except those that didn’t have a pause at the
end of that portion of the music, and that was the pianists and some of
the percussion. The double bass knew that and waited, and had the
nerves to wait, and then he did his growls. Then everybody knew
another portion, the second portion had started. The third
portion was triggered by an arpeggio harp chord. The fourth was
again the slapsticks in percussion, and the fifth was the piano pillar
sounds of thick D octaves. The last triggering, or opening key to
one of these windows, was the piccolo with a little squeak there,
toodle-oo! Then everybody knew that we were there. The
portions were around three minutes, and exactly-notated portions of
music then have the quality that they would fit in even if they are a
little bit left or right in the time. But this handled by
sensitive ears of the musician which hear before he plays. He
hears the notation. He knows how he is going to sound when it
sounds. If we take how woodwind solos should react, then it is
not wise to start a woodwind solo if a trumpet has something very
overpowering! Wait until the trumpet has said his thing, or is
taking a breath. Then you start your thing. It’s like a
herd of animals trying to cope with a small waterhole, to get drinking
space. It’s very natural. Or it’s like the trading pits on
Wall Street where they have to get the attention to indicate yes I want
to buy this; you have all these kind of finger techniques make trades
and so on.
BD: But the
piece didn’t seem that frenetic, though.
LS: Well, the
fourth portion in February
was rather agitato and desperato! [Laughs] The third and
the last portions were nostalgic because in this February piece, it was this dualist
motive. In a very cold, severe climate of February, nature is
kind of using up its last stored energy of surviving which it gathers
when it is the light time in the summers that are not fantastic in the
Nordic climates, in the Nordic countries. The change is so
dramatic. The range of light is extreme and temperature actually
also. So this was something that I thought was a good thing to
try to catch in notation for this piece February, which actually was
commissioned for the Helsinki Philharmonic tour which is in
February. We go to the Canary Islands. That’s one of those
resorts where the Finns go to get summer in winter, like you do in
Florida. So I’ll be the man with the Florida tan! [Both laugh]
BD: It’s not
too jarring to play a piece called February
in a very warm climate?
LS: Yes, but
in February, the Finns are fleeing that thing, you see. Everybody
in the Canary Islands knows that the Finns come, so this is the right
place to show what the Finns are going away from — like
greetings from the north in the language of
music, which has no boundaries. When listening to my piece, I
think that somebody can see that maybe everything has music in itself
— even wooden landscapes or mountains that we feel have no
soul. And what is the language of their soul? Maybe it is
the only language to which you could translate with some kind of great
fantasy that which all these granite rocks deep in the souls of dark
forests are actually hearing or singing or screaming primally.
During this cold time, it is, in a way, a primal scream in their
subconscious, if they have such a thing. This is what I am
Do you feel that music is the universal language?
LS: I feel
that with music, any language can be translated. You can surf on
it, like on an internet, you see! [Both laugh]
very much into the electronics, and into twentieth century life.
LS: Well, I
am just trying to get you on the level, because I guess you are,
too. I am not so much. I use pencil when I scramble my
scores and I write them direct. I very seldom have to use the
you’re scribbling with the pencil, are you always controlling where
that pencil goes, or do you find sometimes that the pencil is leading
your hand across the page?
because this is what computers do. If you trigger them, they’ll
do more than just this one push of the button nowadays. My pencil
is writing only what I hear, and I give it the time to do the
mark. Even if I have written very, very many notes, my enemies
say that it’s too much! [Both laugh] But I then always say
that nature is very generous. To get one child, there are
millions of sperms! I have found that actually it’s
paradoxal. You have to learn to be slow enough in order to
produce so much notation as I am producing. You have to be able
to think in slow motion because your hand is not that quick that it
would write [makes a grand sweeping gesture] zoop! And the page
is full. A page like this takes two minutes or so to
perform. It is rather slow motion for the hand to notate all
these hundreds of notes that in a hundred-piece symphony orchestra
score will happen on one page.
BD: Would you
be happier if you could write and notate in real time?
LS: This is a
kind of improvisation, or stand-up, verbal virtuosity, which I like to
do. We are doing it now! We didn’t plan what our mouths are
producing here. We try to do it with an undertone of humor and
wittiness, but it is very serious, actually, because we’re talking
about serious things. Yes, it would be wonderful if we could
screen what we think or hear, to have a display of our brain
mechanisms. I’m sure that this will come...
supertitles in the opera across our forehead! [Both laugh]
LS: Yes, just
print out things that you have in there! I woke up many mornings
and had symphonies ready! But then to start to scribble it down,
that takes time.
both a composer and conductor. How do you divide your time, and
how do you divide your mind between those two activities?
LS: It’s a
positive schizophrenia, really, so it’s interesting to use this dualism
positively. It is actually very easy to understand that they do
load the batteries of each other. What a fantastic feeling for a
conductor to have a score page where there is no notation that he has
to obey or scrutinize to find out the enigma of why that other composer
notated this way! Why or how shall I be able to find the key to
the enigma? It should sound like it sounds when it sounds, which
was present before he did the capturing in notation.
BD: So you
feel closer to other composers because you are also a composer, even
though you’re conducting their music?
Yes! Yes, I think that I can actually have easier access to what
is between the lines or behind the notation because that of it.
We all carry around our own life score, a life partitura which gets
richer and richer depending on what happens around you, or what you
participate in, or your experiences. I am now talking about not
musical, but life experiences. How close you came to death
sometime; life and death, or love and hate, or blood, sweat, and
tears! All these attribute functions that are making memories in
our life score that we can take out. They burble up sometimes in
flashbacks when needed, because we have quite a bank up there of mental
power or natural powers to cope with different situations.
BD: It seems
that you are a better conductor because you’re also a composer.
Are you a better composer because you’re also a conductor?
LS: Maybe it
is a kind of game of entering a musical virtual reality which I notate
for symphonic orchestra. I believe that there is so much hidden
creativity in this collective of interpreting virtuosity. Take
the Chicago Symphony. How much pleasure it is that the orchestra
musicians have an insight into what they produce as
instrumentalists. This is creative in the broad “now”
point. As a conductor, it has fascinated me to come up with a
notation where the conducting mechanism is in-built, rather than have
somebody semaphoring and giving signs that now things should happen
there, or start there, and even using a body language in front of that
great collective of musicians. To take that away, then you will
get an access which is as intimate as when you experience chamber
music. I don’t mean that it is chamber music; it is a symphonic,
great happening, of course — a Cinemascope, a giant chamber music when
the symphonic orchestra is playing without conductor! But then it
also resembles something like a sports event. If you are in the
audience and you look down on a stadium, your attention is drawn to the
place where things happen. You don’t actually need somebody
pointing there because you are looking yourself. You are looking
on the gladiators in the stadium the same way the listeners
— especially in this hall in Chicago, which is a little bit
untheatric and people sit also behind the orchestra — can really get
this feeling that you are a musical satellite docking to a mother ship
directly. You can focus on the lips and fingertips of the
musicians the same way you can buy your vegetables direct from the
farmer! No retail agent, in between! [Both laugh]
BD: When you’re
conducting a standard work, or even a new work, do you get all of your
work done in rehearsal, or do you leave a little bit of spark of
improvisation for the performance?
depends on how many rehearsals I have, because usually you are never
ready no matter how many rehearsals you have. But I don’t
intentionally leave anything out. I am trying always, as quickly
as possible, to get as good a result as possible. But overnight,
or after the general rehearsal, if you go and sleep and are really
alert and in good iridescent mood, then things will happen in the
performance. You just have to live professionally, eat and drink
well and sleep before the performance. Then you are fresh and
things might come out, with good angels behind you, to something
unique. This is what we all hope to be capable of doing every
time. If I take a Sibelius symphony or a Mahler symphony or
Neilsen, every performance has some new “aha”
experiences. I think, “Oh, no! This is the way it should
have been,” or, “I had never thought this.” It falls into place
just differently, because that’s love and nature. I think that
nature is constantly seeking possibilities for mutation even if I am
not a Darwinist. It is interesting to be open for new ideas,
especially if you work with a soloist. Then you should try to be
a good accompanist in the way that you adjust to how he or she then is
thinking, and not be so much of a tyrant.
BD: Are you
an accompanist or are you a collaborator?
LS: I think I
am a good accompanist, but collaborator is a good word. I hope I
am that, yes.
BD: Is there
such a thing as a perfect performance?
LS: Well, for
that time being, yes. You should be satisfied, because this is
part of what nature allows. If something feels good, you should
let it feel good! I have felt good many times, and I also felt
not so good.
BD: But then
the next performance you can feel even better... or is it
Well... [Laughs] For some of these great works, if we
have a series of performances where I have been feeling very good, then
with the time perspective I listen to it on tape or see it on video if
it was a televised concert. Before I do it
again, I see how I did it last time, and then just react to it
objectively. I see that it could be better or it
could be richer, or oh, I missed that! The self-criticism is very
good to take. So this is what I usually do if I have saved a
cassette because when you listen to music, you are a listener; when you
perform, you are a performer. There’s no schizophrenia in that
one, like conducting and composing. But as a conductor, beside
being an ambassador for the composer, you are also a representative of
the listener. Your place is the most strategical one, and you
have even access to do something about the actual sounding of the
performance. But the conductor’s baton has no sound! So you
are a listener, in a way, even if you make the music. There it is
good if you can throw away your ears and be very far away in order to
understand, even though you are very close.
BD: You, the
conductor, must be a little part of the audience?
LS: Yes, yes!
BD: Now we’re
getting into the era of electronics. Should the audience
participate in the control and adjustment of the piece of music?
LS: Well, not
in the way the symphonic orchestra is performing now. But if we
had synthesizers and computers instead of living people there, then,
like in the House of Parliament, the listener could have some kind of
access with fingers or electrodes to the mind to control the
sound. Perhaps they would like it to have the attributes of
Carlos Keliber or Lorin Maazel; or if they don’t want
Karajan, they could have Solti. And somebody might even remember
Segerstam! [Both laugh] [See my Interview with Lorin
Maazel, and my Interviews
with Sir Georg Solti.] Then somebody could
analyze the bulk of our attribute function — how
we cope with different styles of music — and
then when you are sitting there, you could simply wish more of this or
that. But this will be a squirrel’s circle, or mousetrap if it
goes too far. I am kind of a Green Peace for live performance and
want to let it be like it is because the mysticism of communication in
resonance with music as it is happening. Not with the actual
sound, but simultaneously with the sounding there are great
communications going on between people in the audience, and the
BD: So then
as you’re conducting, you are reacting to what you feel behind you?
LS: No, but I
know that there are millions of nerves focused on what we are
doing. I can say that I feel them in the atmosphere, but I would
be lying if I say that I really read them and that I would actually
react to them. But it is stimulating in the applause or in the
bravos or in the screams; that’s good to get. And if you get the
boo, it’s really terrible! [Both laugh] In some German
opera houses, it’s fancy to boo even if the performance is great.
There’s always somebody that wants to shout a boo to hear and see how
will people react.
BD: It seems
rather inappropriate, though.
LS: If it was
good, don’t scream boo just to be individual. That’s terrorism!
kind of dancing around it, so let me ask the real easy question.
What is the purpose of music?
LS: [With a
matter-of-fact tone] Oh, I thought we answered that — communication.
Communication. Period. Just like that?
Communication of the composer to the musician or to the audience?
LS: No, no, I
think in nature, the big, the cosmic thing is talking through us.
In some way, actually, the composers are therapists. They listen
to nature, and nature is giving their session. We give nature the
time to release the tensions into what we capture from nature.
We’re just tools, really.
BD: So we
shouldn’t call them concerts, but rather we should call them therapy?
LS: I don’t
know! I don’t own the tones. They are the same tones that
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also borrowed for a while and did his
constructions. I don’t say that I own the tones, but they speak
through me in the constellations that I have caught into
notation. I then give them further flexibility in my notation for
the great performers to react positively and creatively in the broad “now”
point — like the Chicago Symphony has done in my
February — so
that I will live on this experience a long time and probably produce
very many new constellations just from the joy of how it worked!
So nature will speak next summer. I never answer the question “when
do I compose?” I don’t take time, because
if you take time or make deadlines, you won’t get anything done.
I try to zero in on the times that I get myself free from conducting,
when I don’t have contracts to conduct, and this I try to do in the
summers because the summers are fantastic. I have just to
wait. Is something coming or is something not coming? If
it’s coming, I note it. If not, then I just take sauna and swim
and live. Life is a great score to interpret, too!
written quite a number of scores, so obviously the muse hits you quite
in the summers. You can’t compose when you conduct, that’s for
sure. If I have a day between two performances, I couldn’t do
anything there. It’s then better to learn new scores, or listen
to something if you want to do music. But I think between two
performances you shouldn’t take any music; you should do something else
to get the richness of your life, to get something that will motivate
tomorrow’s day on the podium again!
conduct both concerts and opera. Is there a big difference
between conducting a concert and conducting an opera?
LS: It is
good to do both because they give motivation and energy to each
other. To make it through a symphony concert, you have to have
the dramatic nerve that you get from doing opera. It has to be
natural with you. Then that gives sparkle to the whole of a
symphonic event, even if there’s no libretto for it. The
continuity, the thread might benefit from that dramatic sense that you
have when you are doing operatic things. Then again, in opera
business, many times you have to swallow compromise, because there is
not enough rehearsal or because it is so complex. There, the
discipline that you get from working a symphonic program can benefit
your working with the very complex machinery which is an opera.
BD: Have you
written an opera yourself?
LS: No, I
LS: Yes, it
is really, but it is because I haven’t got the right libretto. A
libretto should already be so fixed that I have the words and the
strategy and all the setting. I need another mind that has
figured out, “I just need music for these words.” If somebody
gives me this package, I think I could do a rather quick composing
process to get that to be an opera. But I haven’t got such
ready-made packages yet.
BD: I hope
that one comes your way.
I am thinking of doing it myself, like Wagner. I have a crazy
idea because I visited Easter Island and there are these statues.
But there are so many other statues in the world, too, so maybe a
mixture of statues...
BD: I can’t
imagine an Aku Aku statue
next to Michelangelo’s David.
LS: No, but
maybe the Eiffel Tower or the
Statue of Liberty, if they
dance! [Laughs] Or the mannequin piece together with the
mermaid from Copenhagen! Think about what all these statues have
seen when people have watched them, or how they felt. We also
don’t know what actually the Aku Akus
have seen, and why some of them are with their backs towards the
sea. I have written a symphony, Visions
From Rapa Nui. My twentieth symphony, December, is where I fantasized
that I have read what is inside the mind of this. There’s one
place where there are seven of them, and the bird that opens the head
is an E-flat clarinet. Out comes the music which was there,
triggered one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. And there’s
male chorus which is singing on the language of Rapa Nui, Rapa Nuiska,
which I invented! I have heard Visions
Number One and Seven
in a Christmas concert with the Swedish Radio Choir, which is one of
the world’s best choirs, and the Swedish Radio Symphony
Orchestra. So I have heard part of my Twentieth Symphony. That was
two years ago, and it was called December
because I was there in December. I intend to go to the Christmas
Islands in Easter time! [Both laugh] Vice versa!
mentioned a word of couple of times that I want to pounce on and ask
you about it — greatness. What is it that
makes a piece of music great?
LS: If it
stirs up rich feeling, you can’t verbalize it but you feel that it is
there. Your hairs get stiff and electricity is in the atmosphere
at that time when these vibrations clash. It’s a complex harmonic
happening, and probably it is possible to analyze mathematically.
But when it happens in my free-pulsative scores, then it is easier to
feel it like a wonder.
BD: So that’s what
music is — a wonder?
Yes. The human being is in front of nature and is forced to
think that it is a wonder and that we are part of such a greatness; our
mind can get so far without going there, just by imagining it.
BD: Is there
a spirituality to your music?
LS: It would
be nice if you feel so. If my music could get people on trips
that took them to things that they couldn’t have imagined they could
touch, and if my music could get such a string pulled, then there’s a
motivation for my music, isn’t there? I want to be generous, as
generous as nature is! Nature gives me this. I listen to
the materials of music, and I feel the trembles when I hit something
that I feel went into those kinds of places.
BD: And you
share this with the people?
LS: Yes, and
when it’s done again, you get the thrill of knowing that I don’t lose
this, that I have found something! You’re like a scientist, or
given birth to most of your compositions. Have others conducted
works don’t need a conductor.
BD: But the
ones that do have conductors?
LS: Not very
many. That is the truth. Esa-Pekka Salonen did one, and he
did it very different from what I had done, but it was very
stimulating. It was the Orchestral
Diary Sheet, Number 25. From my earlier works, in the
seventies, the Patria was
conducted by many other persons.
BD: I just
wondered if this gives you a sense of satisfaction, knowing that others
have taken up your work and have shaped it themselves.
Yes. I am very happy, but it has not happened very much
because people are afraid of my notation. That’s why we talked
about it. It will take time and I don’t mind. I go on doing
this and I’m happy if I hear it once. If it is bad, then I know
it’s bad, but if it’s good, it gives me strength of going on.
What I heard of February was
really rewarding, the way Chicago Symphony played it. And now
when we are making this interview, I still have one concert left, and I
am looking forward to Saturday night’s concert.
BD: I assume
that you look forward to everything.
belongs to the profession!
Good. One last question — is music fun?
LS: There are
different kinds of music, but some of the music is fun. We are
also asked by the notation to have fun with music — if
it is a humoresque; in many scores it says “mit humor.” Also in
some places in Gustav Mahler. Joy is another thing and very much
of music is actually enjoyment. Music is a stimulus, so it can
substitute for drugs, really. Yeah, that’s a good thing.
BD: Do you
like wandering all over the world with your music and others’ music?
Yes. I learn when I am around globally. But I am
getting older, so I am also going to run out of time to listen to
nature. If I wander, then I cannot write and I have wandered so
much that maybe it is better that I make a journey inside myself rather
than outside, and listen to the possibilities of the humanity of which
also I am a part.
BD: I’ll be
very interested to see where that inward journey takes you.
LS: I have
been there for every score, and so it deepens.
BD: Thank you
so much for coming to Chicago and bringing not only the other music,
but your music, too.
you! Thank you, it was a pleasure, really.
Leif Segerstam is now Chief Conductor Emeritus of
the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in gratitude for his supremely
successful period as the orchestra’s Chief Conductor for 12 years
between 1995 and 2007. In addition he holds honorary titles with the
Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Staatsphilharmonie
Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. He has also held the position of Chief
Conductor of the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna and of the
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as having been Music Director
and Chief Conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera.
Leif Segerstam, born in 1944, is one of the most
versatile and interesting musical talents from the Nordic countries.
From 1953-1963 he studied violin, piano, composition and conducting at
the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and then continued with a postgraduate
course at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
He began his conducting career with positions in the opera houses of
Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin with guest appearances which have
included the Metropolitan New York, La Scala, Covent Garden, Teatro
Colon, the Salzburg Festival and the Opera Houses of Cologne, Geneva,
Hamburg and Munich. He is a frequent conductor at the Savolinna
The numerous recordings made by Leif Segerstam are recognised by
critics and public alike as outstanding amongst modern interpretations.
They include the complete symphonies of Mahler, Sibelius and Nielsen in
addition to several works by contemporary composers with the Danish
National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Scriabin and Schnittke with the
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Brahms with the
Staatsphilharmoinie Rheinland-Pfalz plus Reger and Alan Pettersson with
the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.
Leif Segerstam has shown exceptional creativity as a composer
throughout his musical career and has over 200 symphonies, 29 string
quartets, 11 violin and 4 piano concerti as well as chamber and vocal
In 1997 he made his débuts in North America with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony and Chicago Symphony orchestras. The
2000/2001 season saw his third visit to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
and his first appearance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led to an
immediate re-invitation and a European Tour with them at the beginning
of the 2001/2002 season.
Since Autumn 1997 Leif Segerstam has been Acting Professor of
Conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He was the winner of
the 1999 Nordic Council Music Prize for his work “as a tireless
champion of Scandinavian music.” In 2004 Leif Segerstam was awarded the
annual State Prize for Music in Finland and in 2005 the highly esteemed
© 1997 Bruce Duffie
This interview was recorded in an office of the newly-renovated
Orchestra Hall in Chicago on December 5,
1997. Portions were used (along with recordings) on WNIB in
1999, and on WNUR in 2009. The
transcription was made and posted on this
website in 2009.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago
from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of
2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and
journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM,
as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.
You are invited to visit his website
for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of
other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also
to call your attention to the photos and information about his
grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a
century ago. You may also send him E-Mail
with comments, questions and suggestions.