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Jacques Mercier got the first prize as a conductor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris and the first prize at the International Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon. He quickly started an international career and conducted prestigious orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre National de France, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He has performed at the Salzburg Festival, and also in Seoul, Montreal, Kyoto, Helsinki, Sao Paulo, Madrid, Berlin, Budapest, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome... Often described as the "Souveräner Dirigent", he is told to be "one of the best French and European conductors of his generation". From 1982 to 2002, he was the artistic director and permanent chief of the Orchestre National d'Ile de France. For seven years, he was also the chief conductor of the Turku Orchestra in Finland. From 2002 to 2018, with the Orchestre National de Lorraine (where he is the permanent artistic director), he performed at the Berlioz Festival in Brighton, El Jem in Tunisia, he was on tour in Spain, Germany, England, Belgium, and Korea.
He is committed to contemporary music, as one can see from his numerous creations, from Xenakis to Luis de Pablo, from Philippe Manoury to Wolfgang Rihm. He has accompanied many soloists such as Gundula Janowitz, Edda Moser, Ruggero Raimondi, Roberto Alagna, Mtislav Rostropovitch, Claudio Arrau...