Lionel Bringuier: Born to Conduct


by Gabriel Paquin-Buki

A family matter

Lionel Bringuier was born on September 24, 1986, in Nice, to music-loving parents who were not themselves musicians. His father was an engineer and his mother, a teacher; nothing immediately suggested that the young Lionel would grow up to lead a spectacular career in music. But thanks to his older brothers and sisters, who were introduced to music before him, he was drawn to the art.

My brother has always been a great inspiration. Ever since I was little, I have listened to him play the piano.

Today, Lionel and Nicolas Bringuier (piano) still perform together in concert, as they did in 2020, playing Brahms’s Piano Concerto no. 1 with the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Nice.

A young prodigy

Lionel Bringuier achieved several important milestones to becoming a musician at an early age. At the age of 5, he began studying piano and cello; at 13, he entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris; at 15, he enrolled in eminent conductor Zsolt Nagy’s prestigious conducting class; and at 21, he became the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s youngest Assistant Conductor. Lionel Bringuier is accustomed to questions about how his young age was viewed by the musicians he conducted. He is adamant that it has never affected his working relationships. “Musicians are used to seeing everything and so what matters most to [them] is whether the conductor knows the score.”

Recognition

Notably after winning the International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors in 2005, the doors to the world’s greatest orchestras began to open to Lionel Bringuier. In 2007, he honed his technique and formed a friendship with conductor Gustavo Dudamel, whom he assisted in Los Angeles. After a stint in Castilla y León, he succeeded David Zinman as Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. As these appointments progressed, Bringuier’s international invitations also proliferated. After travelling the world, in 2019 Bringuier returned to his roots in Nice, as Artist Associate with the Opéra de Nice. He was delighted to be back with the first ensemble he conducted when he was only 15.

I like to work over the long term. Being well acquainted with an orchestra allows one to make music in a different way, to go further in the interpretation. There is a bond of trust that is created, that enables us to try things.

Pace your life as you pace your music

Lionel Bringuier’s life is all about rhythm. To maintain a certain balance, the maestro prefers longer-term engagements and lasting relationships to a continual series of visits for the purpose of delivering a single concert. Quality over quantity is his chosen approach for most of his engagements. And when he does board a flight, his running shoes and swimsuit are usually packed along with his musical scores. “One has to maintain a lifestyle and working pace that allows one to sit at a table, reflect, think, re-establish an environment of tranquility, ultimately, to always come back to oneself.”

Undeniably one of the greats

Bringuier conducted the OSM for the first time in 2018. The program consisted of works by Mussorgsky, Chopin—with Jan Lisiecki—Stravinsky and Henri Dutilleux, whom the maestro particularly enjoys performing. A brilliant, passionate, meticulous, and clear conductor, Lionel Bringuier is also widely appreciated by his peers. Since his earliest concerts at the podium, he has exuded confidence and respect, equally comfortable in both symphonic and operatic genres. There is no doubt that this young conductor, who now has more than 15 years of experience behind his coattails, still has much to offer on the international stage.

Lionel Bringuier will conduct the OSM musicians on October 20 and 21 in a concert of Hungarian-inspired works by Brahms, Liszt and Kodály.