World-renowned conductor Charles Édouard Dutoit, OC GOQ will be returning to conduct the Boston Symphony in two concerts this month in celebration of his 80th birthday (October 7). Last August at Tanglewood, the very frequent BSO guest led an unusual production of Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale at Ozawa Hall [here], and worked with TMC Fellows, and conducted the BSO and Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a Shed concert of Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 with Menahem Pressler [here].
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland and residing mainly in Montréal, Dutoit has a long history in Boston, having studied at Tanglewood with Charles Munch. A regular member of the conducting faculty at the summer Tanglewood Music Center, he regularly collaborates with the BSO and led their ten-day tour of Asia in 2014 tour after the last-minute cancellation of Lorin Maazel. He has recorded extensively for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Phillips, CBS, Erato: his more than 170 recordings, half of them with the Montréal Symphony (where he was Artistic Director from 1977-2002), have won more than forty international prizes. This February, Dutoit finally returned to the Montréal Symphony for the first time since his 2002 resignation from the directorship in 2002. He led the orchestra in two standing-room-only concerts, featuring pianist Martha Argerich, his former wife, in Montréal’s newly constructed hall—the very building for which he had fought so hard during his tenure with the orchestra. [Slipped Disc article here]
Dutoit returns to Boston after recently having led the 70th-Anniversary Gala of the Royal Philharmonic at London’s Royal Albert Hall in London on September 19th, and he will appear with the RPO several more times this season, currently serving as its Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. In a recent interview with Ben Hogwood, Dutoit mentioned some of his favorite performances and looked forward to more opportunities to perform contemporary works: “I have always been involved with living composers, and have given first performances of works by Tan Dun, Penderecki and James MacMillan recently—I love his music: [in London] I will be give some concerts of the violin concerto. In previous times I was also involved with Denisov, and with Schnittke, and even in Paris, I was working with young composers from the very beginning of my musical life.” At Tanglewood this summer, Dutoit mentioned to me that Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat remains one of his favorite pieces, sounding contemporary and relevant every time he conducts it, and that he is looking forward to that work’s centenary in 2019. That work was premiered in Dutoit’s home town (Lausanne), and he feels a special affinity to its many texts and translations (but prefers the original French libretto by Ramuz).
The other ensemble with which Dutoit is most closely associated today is The Philadelphia Orchestra. “With them we will do another performance of Les Troyens, and I will be celebrating 30 years since my debut with them. I think now they have a new music conductor for the future” —announced as Yannick Nézet-Séguin (leading Philadelphia until at least 2026, and just appointed the third music director of the Metropolitan Opera in 2020) — “he will create stability for them.”
This month’s upcoming almost-sold-out BSO concerts in Boston’s Symphony Hall will feature cellist Yo-Yo-Ma in a program of Walton, Holst, and Elgar (October 20-22 and 25) and Matthias Goerne and Ildikó Komlôsi singing Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle in the original Hungarian (October 27-29) [more here].
After his birthday celebrations, Dutoit will continue his season with engagements at many of the world’s leading concert halls. Winter highlights include Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 with the NKH Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo (where he is Music Director Emeritus), Feb. 22-24, 2017 leading the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich with Julia Fischer (pairing Bartók with Tchaikovsky this time), and two Britten War Requiems in March (with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and the Philadelphia Orchestra). Dutoit was Chief Conductor and Artistic Adviser for Philadelphia from 2008-2012, following Christoph Eschenbach: he held the orchestra together through the orchestra’s bankruptcy and revival, and is now their Conductor Laureate. [more on Philadelphia Orchestra here]
Other notable American performances this season from the Maestro include two weeks with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in April (including the Requiem of Fauré), two weeks in San Francisco in early May (leading Berlioz’s monumental Requiem and a collaborative concert with pianist Emmanuel Ax), and an appearance with the San Diego Symphony with Simone Porter.