All of us at EMM are delighted to share the news that Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider is to become the next Music Director of the Orchestre national de Lyon.  More information can be found in the press release below.

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider will assume the position of Music Director of Orchestre national de Lyon in September 2020 for an initial contract of four years. He succeeds Leonard Slatkin, Music Director from 2011 – 2017 and who now holds the title of Honorary Conductor.

The 43 year old Danish musician has held positions as Principal Guest Conductor of both the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Mariinsky Theater Orchestra in St. Petersburg and regularly conducts many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony.

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider has conducted the Orchestre national de Lyon in two programs since his debut in December 2017, immediately confirming a strong chemistry with both the orchestra and audience, as well as his skills in conducting a wide repertoire and the desire to work in great detail with the musicians, both on a musical and human level.

In such an accomplished musician, the Orchestre national de Lyon has found a modern and charismatic Music Director whose artistic exigency and technical expertise go hand in hand with a commitment to the orchestra and the city of Lyon.

I couldn’t imagine better circumstances under which to begin this next chapter of my musical life. The Orchestre national de Lyon is based in a vibrant city that offers full and meaningful support to its cultural institutions of which the ONL is a particularly precious gem. It is already a marvellous ensemble with its own distinct sound and the musicians have a healthy pride in their heritage whilst possessing the hunger necessary to climb to and reach new heights. It is an honour, a privilege and above all a great pleasure to be joining them in this quest.

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Together with the musicians, I am convinced that Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider is at the ideal moment in his career to take the Orchestre national de Lyon to an unparalleled level. We are very excited to embark on our musical journey with him in his first position as a Music Director.

Aline Sam-Giao, Chief Executive, Orchestre national de Lyon

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider has convinced us of his ability to carry the Orchestra to the highest level, cultivating both artistic excellence as well as appealing to a wide audience. In combination with the orchestra’s talent, the charisma and musical qualities of this young conductor and violinist of world renown, will, in my opinion, contribute strongly to the reputation of the Orchestre national de Lyon.

Gérard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon

We have also been asked by several presenters and organisations why Nikolaj has added ‘Szeps’ to his name so please find below a note from him in that regard!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I have thought and mulled over how to write this for several months (“I’ve always liked Prince” was an early discounted opening sentence).

It is, all attempts at humour aside, a very personal thing taking place in a public arena.

Perhaps naïvely I thought I could quietly add Szeps to my name and people wouldn’t really notice. After all, I said to myself, Nikolaj Znaider and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider will surely be perceived as the same person when the name appears in a season brochure or in a musical context. It turned out I was half right.

While it is true that no-one as yet has come up to me and said “My goodness, I am so surprised it is you, I thought Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider was a completely different person!” I did greatly underestimate the human need to search for meaning.

In other words, there is no need to explain the “what” but I could do worse by you than to explain the “why”.

Indeed, since the season started I have encountered many people, friends and colleagues and most have had the same question:

“Why have you changed your name?”, they ask.

And it is true… this case, the logic certainly isn’t on the surface.

When people change their name, it is usually to something simpler and I am keenly aware that Szeps easily becomes Schweppes or, as in a particularly unfortunate incident on live television, Sheps-Peps.

So why on earth HAVE I gone and changed my name to what in most parts of the world would amount to a tongue-twister?

Well, the fact is that I was born Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider and my name has always been Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. If you don’t believe me ask any Dane 40-years and older, many have till this day consistently called me Szeps-Znaider. Old habits are hard to break, I guess.

It was in the late nineties that some well-meaning folks, whose opinion I valued, advised me I would be better off with a simpler name when presenting myself on stage.

Eager to not get in my own way I took that advice and this is, perhaps where the story could have ended.

On stage I used only Znaider as a second name, life went on and although making dinner reservations certainly became easier, a regularly occurring pang of guilt persisted.

You see, it isn’t that both my parents are called Szeps-Znaider, rather each have preserved their name choosing to pass on the head-ache of a double-barrelled name to the next generation.

To them, having been born just post-World War ll, the responsibility of carrying on an extremely rare name (or in the case of Znaider, variant of a name) was felt very keenly, especially in the light of the numerous family members lost in the Holocaust.

Indeed it was after watching a documentary about the Second World War earlier this year that I had the impulse to research some of the databases that exist of both survivors and of those who perished in the Holocaust. After having come across more than a dozen Szeps’ who had lost their lives, I was overcome by a strong sense that I simply couldn’t bear to be responsible for another Szeps disappearing from the world and so I made the decision from then on to carry both names on as well as off stage.

In other words, I wish to honour my father and my father’s side of the family wherever I appear, privately as well as publicly.

Now, some among you may at this point understandably ask: “But haven’t you merely passed on a difficult dilemma to the next unwitting and defenceless generation? After all, if everybody were to keep their names, within very few generations chaos would reign and everybody would have an intolerable amount of surnames, the consequences of which we cannot even begin to fathom?”.

To which, I say: “Absolutely”!

This is, to be sure, an act of procrastination that my children will one day have to sort out

but since they also stand to inherit my soon to be obsolete cd-collection, I thought one more head-ache won’t be too bad.

I hope they will forgive me the inconvenience and I hope you will too.


Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider

Congratulations Nikolaj!