This year marks fifty years since Charles Dutoit’s first performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; since his first performance at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in May 1966, in a period Dutoit recalls as ‘an amazing time in London’. Now the Orchestra and the Swiss maestro look forward to celebrating two other major milestones – the ensemble’s 70th anniversary and Dutoit’s 80th birthday – in the RPO’s 70th Anniversary Gala Concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 19 September.
Charles Dutoit’s first performance with the RPO, four years after he first travelled to London, began an inspiring musical collaboration that would keep on growing and thriving. Today, since 2009, Dutoit is proud to be the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the “nation’s favourite orchestra”: ‘The RPO is a very flexible orchestra; can do anything… film music or jazz, or very serious stuff like concerts we gave last night [Tuesday 31 May, Royal Festival Hall]. This is what makes an orchestra a great orchestra… the possibility of being flexible, and do[ing] everything – and I think it’s extremely important for the future of any orchestra, and, of course, the RPO.’
Members of the Orchestra often recall performances with Dutoit as some of the most memorable experiences in their orchestral careers and have the utmost admiration for his musical accomplishment and his vast experience of the pieces they perform – none more so, perhaps, than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Leader, Duncan Riddell, who reflects fondly on why he took up the position: ‘One of the really big attractions of coming to the RPO was the chance to be working regularly with Charles Dutoit… The sound that he can get from the Orchestra: it takes a while to get that, but he’s the kind of guy who will never give up until he gets what he wants.’
This driven attitude to live performances ensures that the Orchestra ‘is always at its best when playing for their principal conductor Charles Dutoit’ (The Guardian), which will no doubt be the case in their upcoming concerts together in the UK and on tour in Switzerland, Germany and the Baltics.
In a conversation with interviewer Jessica Duchen, Dutoit describes The Firebird as one of his favourite pieces. It is fitting, then, and perhaps even more significant to the milestone year that as well as performing the Suite in next month’s Gala Concert, Dutoit will conduct Stravinsky’s full colourful work in a series of concerts on tour in Montreux, Switzerland, at the end of August. The tour will feature not one, not two, but three of Stravinsky’s ballet scores (including Petrushka and The Rite of Spring).
Watch the full interview in A Conversation with Charles Dutoit, featuring footage of our Southbank Centre rehearsal in May: