My Teachers Part 12: Leif Segerstam
Short clip of Segerstam conducting Finlandia by Jean Sibelius
The finishing touches of my conducting education I received at the Sibelius
Academy with professor Leif Segerstam. I would say he was my last big influence
in conducting! He is a great artist with a mind flying sometimes so high it is
difficult to catch. Of the Finnish conductors around these days he has without
doubt the most perfect stick technique.
Unfortunately there was no video
clip available of Segerstam conducting, but There is a short clip of him
conducting at the top, and in the second video at 1:02 above you can see a
glimpse of him during Iitti Music Festival in 2007 and hear a bit of his music
Leif Segerstam received his conductor training in the US, in the Juilliard School, where he studied together with James Levine and Leonard Slatkin under French conductor Jean Morel. Thus his style is much more explosive and outgoing than used to be the norm in Finland. He puts much emphasis to the calligrafic beauty of the gesture and demands that also from the new generation of conducting students in his class.
Besides being the Emeritus Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Filharmonia and a sought-after guest conductor Segerstam is also one of the most prolific composers of today. His symphonies number at the moment around two hundred, and most of them are written in a "freely pulsating" style. There is certain historical significance into this style, because first time in the music history a composer has created a large body of orchestral works (and not just a couple of experiments) where the conductor is no longer necessary and the responsibility of the artistic fine-tuning lies with each individual player-artist in the orchestra.
We had also some guest teachers at the Sibelius Academy. I remember especially Mikko Franck, who has the same calligraphic quality in his beat as his former teacher Segerstam. We received teaching also from John Storgårds, Hannu Lintu and of course Atso Almila and Jorma Panula as well.