Yan-Pascal Tortelier is among the finest conductors emerging in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
He comes from an eminent musical family: His father was cellist Paul Tortelier (1914-1990). Yan-Pascal studied violin and piano and began studying harmony and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger. Of his violin studies at the Paris Conservatoire he says he "thinks he reached a high standard" but "couldn't quite make it." In fact, he won First Prize in violin at the Conservatory at age 14 and at the same age made his debut as a soloist with the London Philharmonic in Brahms' Double Concerto (1962).
He took conducting studies with Franco Ferrara in the Accademia Chigiana in Siena in 1973. He began guest conducting and in 1974 was appointed associate conductor of the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, remaining in that position through the season ending in 1983. He also conducted opera performances in Toulouse. He was principal conductor and artistic director of the Ulster Orchestra (Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1989-1992). In 1990 he was named principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, effective at the start of the 1992 season, remaining in that position until 2002. As such, he frequently appeared leading live concerts on the BBC from that orchestra's home at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, as well as at annual performances at the Henry Woods "Proms" Concerts. In 1995, he took it on a very successful tour of the U.S. to celebrate the orchestra's 60th anniversary season.
Tortelier also guest conducts widely, appearing at some of the world's leading orchestras. His first appearance in the U.S. was in 1985, with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In the early part of 2000 his scheduled guest appearances included concerts with Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony. From 2005 to 2008, Tortelier was the principal guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and served as principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil.
He records exclusively for Chandos Records, which has released performances with the BBC Philharmonic and the Ulster Orchestra, included complete orchestral works of Debussy and Ravel. The later series included Tortelier's own orchestration of Ravel's Trio. With the BBC Philharmonic Tortelier has worked on complete cycles of music by Roussel and Dutilleux, and has also recorded works by Lutoslawski, Fauré, and Dukas, including two discs that won the prestigious Diapason d'Or award.