- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2015

Maestro Charles Dutoit has studied under the batons of the masters.

The Swiss conductor, who matriculated at the Lausanne Conservatory, has been recognized for his interpretations of some of the 20th century’s greatest works, many of whose composers provided him tutelage, such as Igor Stravinsky.

“I met Stravinsky in New York in 1959, when he was preparing a concert,” Mr. Dutoit told The Washington Times. “Stravinsky and I had long conversations in French, which he liked very much.”

Mr. Dutoit will be the special guest conductor Saturday, when the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande returns to the Kennedy Center. He has programmed a concert featuring several of his influences, including Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

Mr. Dutoit said the Kennedy Center program aims to honor the legacy of Ernest Ansermet, who founded the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in 1918.

“He conducted the orchestra for more than 40 years,” the maestro said. “He was a very important person in the music of the 20th century.

“I wanted to have a tour that was very representative of the strength and importance of Ansermet in the first part of the 20th century,” Mr. Dutoit said. “So because Stravinsky and Ravel and Debussy were his close friends, we are actually playing three pieces, one [by] each of these composers.”

The program includes Debussy’s “Iberia,” Stravinsky’s “Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightingale)” and Ravel’s “La Valse.”

Ansermet’s influence and footprint loomed large while Mr. Dutoit was a student at Lausanne in the 1950s. Although he never studied directly under Ansermet, he was privileged nonetheless to learn from the Swiss master.

“When I was a student, he was a very strong person literally, musically, but also intellectually,” Mr. Dutoit said. “The conservatory where I was was about 200 yards from [where Ansermet] had his rehearsals, so I could go all the time and actually had long conversations with him. He was never my teacher [but] the contact was extremely important. Even today I still feel the presence of all these fantastic conversations.”

Mr. Dutoit said “The Song of the Nightingale” was a favorite of Ansermet‘s, which is why it is on the Kennedy Center program.

Mr. Dutoit has made dozens of recordings, most notably in Montreal with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He set to record all the works of Ravel and Debussy, as well as a great deal of the oeuvres of Stravinsky, Hector Berlioz, Franz Joseph Haydn, Richard Strauss and Edward Elgar.

“We did [about] 100 records, which is a lot,” Mr. Dutoit said.

Based in Europe, Mr. Dutoit has spent a great deal of time working in the United States, including as artistic director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Never one to rest on his considerable laurels, he also has served as principal conductor and artistic director of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and as music director for the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland, both since 2009.

He is especially thrilled to be returning this weekend to the Kennedy Center, where he has led the National Symphony on multiple occasions.

“I love Washington,” Mr. Dutoit said. “It’s a great place, a beautiful city, and I love the museums.”

If You Go

WHAT: Washington Performing Arts presents: Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Charles Dutoit, music director

WHEN: Saturday, 3 p.m.

WHERE: Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

TICKETS: Kennedy-Center.org, or call 202/467-4600



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