Philadelphia Orchestra assistant conductor’s high-wire, last-minute podium substitution

Posted on: April 13, 2017

“Kensho Watanabe can barely fathom the turn of events that found him on stage leading the Philadelphia Orchestra last weekend—with three hours’ notice,” writes David Patrick Stearns in Tuesday’s (4/11) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Watanabe was notified at 5 p.m. Saturday that music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin had come down with a virus and could not conduct the 8 p.m. program at the Kimmel Center…. He knew the players personally, having played in the orchestra as a substitute violinist, and, later, having passed the audition that landed him the assistant conductor position in fall 2016…. As assistant, Watanabe had attended all of Nézet-Séguin’s rehearsals and had learned the pieces. By several accounts, his concert debut with the orchestra was better than good. In fact, the hall was reportedly electric. ‘He was really poised … to just drop in and be cool as a cucumber … that’s really special,’ said composer Mason Bates, who was on stage Saturday running the electronics for his piece Alternative Energy…. His Philadelphia Orchestra debut was meant to be a children’s concert on April 22, which is still happening.” Included is a Q&A in which Watanabe discusses Saturday’s concert, his training as a violinist, and his non-musical pursuits.

Posted April 13, 2017

Kensho Watanabe photo by Andrew Bogard