The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is delighted to announce that with effect from October 2019 Maestro Charles Dutoit, currently the RPO’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, will assume the position of Honorary Conductor for Life. This will be the first occasion in the RPO’s seventy-year history that the position has been bestowed and it is being given in recognition of Maestro Dutoit’s outstanding contribution to the artistic life of the Orchestra over more than five decades.
Charles Dutoit made his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in November 1966 at the Royal Festival Hall, an occasion which proved to be the catalyst for one of the world’s great musical partnerships, both on the concert platform and in the recording studio. Over this period, Maestro Dutoit has introduced a succession of international soloists to the Orchestra, including Martha Argerich who first worked with the RPO in 1970, recording Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 for the Deutsche Grammophon label. Prior to his appointment as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the RPO in 2009, Charles Dutoit held titled positions with other international orchestras, most notably his twenty-five-year tenure as Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1977–2002), Music Director of Orchestre National de France (1991–2001), Music Director of the NHK Symphony in Tokyo (1996–2003) where he is today their Music Director Emeritus, and a thirty-two-year standing relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom he now holds the position of Conductor Laureate.
Over the last eight years the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has flourished under Maestro Dutoit’s inspiring artistic leadership, which has resulted in many memorable performances including Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust (Royal Festival Hall, April 2013), Les Troyens (Grand Théâtre de Genève, October 2015) and Stravinsky’s three complete ballet scores (Septembre Musical, Montreux, August 2016). The Orchestra’s collaborations with Charles Dutoit have been lauded by audiences and critics alike, with The Telegraph stating "Charles Dutoit was a wizard, conjuring up all the darksome effects of Bartók's Duke Bluebeard’s Castle" (BBC Proms, August 2016).
Maestro Dutoit’s advocacy for music education, particularly supporting and encouraging the next generation of young conductors and soloists, has driven the expansion of the Orchestra’s community and education programme RPO Resound, which now engages in excess of 9,800 young people with orchestral music each year.
Charles Dutoit has played an important role in developing the RPO’s international profile, performing with the Orchestra in twenty-six countries and including an annual residency at Septembre Musical, Montreux, a biennial concert tour of the USA and a regular programme of touring in the Far East, where Maestro Dutoit and the RPO undertook a three-year residency at Shanghai’s Music in the Summer Air Festival (August 2010–2012).
Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Adam Wright says: "The musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are thrilled to honour Charles Dutoit with the position of Honorary Conductor for Life. During his tenure as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Dutoit’s passion, energy, knowledge and uncompromising standards have demanded the highest level of performance from each and every member of the Orchestra and we are delighted to be continuing this unique musical partnership. The RPO will always be indebted to Maestro Dutoit for his commitment and dedication and we look forward to building on his legacy."
Over the next two years Maestro Dutoit and the Orchestra will continue to enjoy working together whilst a worthy successor is sought. Immediate highlights with Maestro Dutoit include a BBC Proms performance with Joshua Bell (August 2017) and concerts at Santander International Festival (August 2017), Septembre Musical Montreux (August 2017), Lucerne Festival (September 2017), George Enescu Festival (September 2017) and a major tour to the USA in January 2018 with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Gautier Capuçon.
Charles Dutoit, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra says: "I still remember vividly my first concert at Royal Festival Hall with the RPO back in 1966, at the invitation of Rudolf Kempe. I felt an immediate connection to the orchestra and soon thereafter, embarked on a series of concerts in the UK. These opportunities helped me develop a large experience in my early career and I today want to thank the RPO for having given me this possibility. I am proud this collaboration has lasted half a century. The RPO is like a large family to me and I have a lot of respect for the musicians of the orchestra, both humanly and artistically as I consider them to be amongst the best in the world. Even though I have decided to step back from my position of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, I am extremely pleased to receive the title of Honorary Conductor for Life. I do look forward to pursuing our relationship and will always cherish working with them."
James Williams, Managing Director, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra says: "The Orchestra is incredibly fortunate to work with Charles Dutoit and as we plan for our future, we are delighted that this musical partnership will continue beyond 2019 retaining Charles as a key figure within the RPO’s artistic leadership team. Charles has created a strong artistic foundation upon which we shall continue to build as we undertake a search for his successor."