Conductor / Harpsichordist  William  Christie

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


In this age of looking forward, when everything seems to have to be only the newest in order to compete, a few individuals have struck out on their own paths to find the old
— or at least the best of the old — and bring it back into current fashion.  One such Janus is William Christie, the American who left his native land to build a significant career in Europe, particularly in France.  He took his talents and vision, and formed his own group, Les Arts Florissants, to showcase what he found and how he feels it was presented three hundred years ago. 

He studied art history at Harvard and harpsichord with Ralph Kirkpatrick at Yale, and then left for France and worked on Baroque music with René Jabobs.  Many performances and recordings later, his reputation is secure and his outlook seems to remain unchanged.

In 1995 his tour schedule brought him to the Chicago area, and we arranged to get together for an interview. 
We met at his hotel, which, unfortunately, was not up to his usual standard for comfort and quiet.  So he was in the process of moving to another location, and we had just a brief time for our conversation. 

Very soft-spoken, Christie dealt with my questions in a matter-of-fact style, with nary an outburst and a complete sense of calm and restraint
— despite the extra burdens of that particular day . . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:   I take it you’re not enamored at the moment of the life of a wandering minstrel?

William Christie:  No, I like being a wandering minstrel
... when hotels aren’t uncomfortable and noisy!

BD:    Is this something that affects your performance
the accommodations, the travel, the heat, the weather going from place to place?

WC:    Of course.  Getting a good night’s sleep is an important part of making music.

BD:    How much of the music is made in preparation and rehearsal, and how much of the music is made at the time of performance?

WC:    Everything is recreated at the time of performance.  It’s memory, or it’s something that you add to memory, so you’ve worked muscles and brain neurons so that essentially every time you play you’re re-creating or redoing something.  I rehearse, yes, but obviously rehearsing is not the same thing as giving music publicly.

BD:    Do you purposely leave something for the night of performance, or do you try to get it absolutely right at the final rehearsal?

WC:    I have warm-ups every night because the changes of venue are very important, and how people behave as well.  Had they had a good night’s sleep the night before?  Is the hall a nice hall?  Is it flattering to the voice?  These are the things that you test before each performance in every new venue.

BD:    But I assume those are technical things for the performers rather than musical things for the content of the music?

WC:    They have to do with music as well.

BD:    Tell me the joys and sorrows of bringing Baroque music to audiences that are about to leave the 20th century.

WC:    There’s very little sorrow, actually.  We weren’t doing this kind of re-creation, this kind of repertory a hundred years ago, were we?  It’s a paradox
— at the end of the Second Millennium we’re discovering that new music is old music, in a sense.

BD:    Why was it lost for so long?

christieWC:    Perhaps because we had very interesting music of our age a hundred years ago, or even seventy-five years ago, which is less the case now.  Or perhaps we have a lot of 19th and early 20th century music
which is pretty much what the mainstream and main line music making is all aboutpretty much everywhere in the world, and this music has become a little bit stale.  You’ve heard it too much.  That’s not to say Debussy and Brahms and the likes aren’t interesting.  They’re fabulous, but they’ve been overexposed, perhaps, and the way they’ve been played is also, perhaps, causing a little bit of staleness to the ear.

BD:    Is this to say that if we had really interesting new music being written today there would be less need for the old music to come back?

WC:    If the divorce between the composer and his listener were less severe and complete, yes.

BD:    Maybe you should write a thank you note to Stockhausen and Carter and people like that.  [Laughs]  [See my Interview with Elliott Carter.]

WC:    [With a sly grin]  Hmmmmmm.

BD:    When you back to these scores and dust them off the shelves, are you using any kind of authentic or genuine performance material, or is there a lot of guesswork involved?

WC:    I don’t like the word
authentic.  I never use it.  Historically informed performance is a better phrase, I think, to describe what we’re doing.  We, as an ensemble, try to get as close as we can to a composer, that’s to say to his intentions.  It starts with as close a look as possible to what he’s written, which means seeking out the best source material — the best score, the best primary source.  After that, it has to do with making it sound on instruments that he would have known, not instruments that he should have likedsay, giving the Steinway to Bach and the modern violin to Handel.

BD:    Is it frustrating at all not having a composer-supervised recording of Lully or Philidor or anybody like that?

WC:    No, I don’t think so at all because even back then, any Corelli sonata or any French sonate pour violon had fifteen or twenty different ways of being interpreted, which is one of the reasons why we have so many quarrels and treatises and commentaries about this person or that person, this singer or that instrumentalist at the time of the actual writings.  There was never just one way of doing it.  Composers have sort of guided performance.  We all know about that.  Sometimes composers can make the biggest mess when they try to interfere in the execution of their own music.  No one would want to hear Brahms played as Brahms played his piano music, would they?  I wouldn’t.

BD:    Do we know what Brahms really sounded like?

WC:    We have recordings, yes.

BD:    As far as I know, there’s only one Brahms-playing-Brahms cylinder
the little snippet that he made for Edison.

WC:    And one wouldn’t want to listen to that any more than I’d want to hear Richard Strauss, or other people.  It would be wonderful to be able to ring up a composer and have a little chat about this piece or that measure, to what he’d do with this particular instrument in this particular musical problem, but that’s pie in the sky.

BD:    Do you view composers, both then and now, as just guides rather than dictators?

WC:    It depends.  Some composers are fantastic performers, or had been.  Mozart could probably play the violin better than most of the people in his orchestras, and Bach certainly could play the organ better than most of his contemporaries.  But that’s not a constant.

BD:    Is that perhaps what makes those two giants, and the others lesser lights?

WC:    No, I don’t think so.  I don’t think a composer necessarily has to be a good performer to write sublime music.  Certainly with people that we don’t know anything about in terms of performing — someone like Monteverdi, for example — it’s not really an important question.  I’ve seen this with modern composers when I was actively working in modern music
a Berio or a Bussottithere’d be an awful lot of leeway in terms of the performing and the way they’d allow performers to play their music.  [See my Interview with Luciano Berio.]  I saw this in a very, very dramatic way with some pieces of Bussotti such as the Rara Requiem and Le Passion selon Sade, where essentially there are three or four different keyboard players, depending on the performance and the city.  Since these scores are immensely visual, and an awful lot is just improvisatory technique.  I saw that Sylvano was extremely indulgent, or at least extremely lenient in the kinds of interpretive differences between one night and another depending on who was playing.  That doesn’t mean that someone like Couperin would be the same, but I think that composers, when they’re confronted with interesting performers, first of all appreciate the fact that their works are being given, and sometimes actually are sort of happy just to see how performers can sort of adapt the music to their particular talentswhich is a very Baroque thing, indeed.

BD:    You adapt to your performing style and your performing needs.  Are you conscious of the audience that comes and is going to be reacting to your interpretations and your ideas?

WC:    Of course.  I never play down to my audience, ever, although I know performers who do, either in terms of choosing repertory that they think is going to please, perhaps, more an audience here than somewhere else, or especially when talking about lowbrow audiences.  In certain situations, they are actually playing down to the audience in terms of the way they interpret a piece.

BD:    This never enters into your mind?

WC:    I like to have the approbation of my audience.  I like to communicate, but communicating is more important than essentially soliciting a response.

BD:    Do you expect anything on the part of the audience that comes?

WC:    Of course I do!  Good audiences, first of all, enter into the same kind of physicality that the instrument does to the singer.  That’s to say in wonderful moments, great moments in concert halls and opera houses when audiences start to breathe with a musician.  That’s quite wonderful when you feel that collective respiration behind you and in front of you.  I like people to applaud, obviously.  I like people to react.  If something’s funny, they should laugh.  If something strikes them as being particularly wonderful, it’s nice to hear them applaud.  I’m not one that likes dead halls.  But the most important thing is to communicate what you think is important.  Then if luck has it the communication’s received.

BD:    Does your idea of what is important to communicate change over years?

WC:    No, I don’t think so.  I’m communicating excellence, technique sometimes — to talk about the basics — ensemble excellence.  I’m giving them a good product.  I’m giving them something which has caused a lot of thought on my part and on the part of my colleagues, and a lot of time spent individually and collectively on a piece of music such as to make it attractive and express it and communicate it.  That’s what I’m communicating.  I’m also communicating feeling, and I want to move people.  When you’re giving a French Taille de lyrique, you want people to feel sad in the sad moments and uplifted and interested in more exalted moments.  You want people to react.  Since I deal a lot in high dramatic forms, you want the reactions to be as varied as the things you’re dishing out.

BD:    From this array of repertoire that you have, either known or unknown, how do you decide which pieces you will spend the time on and demand the great performances of, and which pieces you will let go?

WC:    I’m very happy.  I have a very, very charmed life in the sense that I do what I want, when I want, and with whom I want.  Except at the very early part of my career, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to do pieces that I don’t like.  The repertory, big or small, or medium-sized that I do — a Monteverdi madrigal or a French air de cour or a Beethoven Missa Solemnis, or an Italian 17th century opera — these are pieces that touch me and that speak to me.

BD:    This is what I’m getting at.  What about these pieces touch you?

WC:    It can be anything.  A piece touches you because you like the smell of it.  You like the way it’s been orchestrated.  You like the language it is being sung in.  You like the composer.  You might have a particular affinity with Couperin and perhaps less with Philidor or Grétry.  But this runs the gamut.  I’m obviously a very eclectic musician.  Essentially I’ve got about two centuries to work with that I think I can do well.  But that runs the gamut from 1600 Monteverdi Italian monody to Mozart and Beethoven which, in a sense, is much broader than starting out with Mendelssohn and finishing off with Stravinsky, what we call main line repertory.  So it’s a host of things that make me pick up pieces.  I have to understand pieces.  I have to feel as though somehow I’ll be able to do them well.  Technically I can’t do certain things either as a conductor or as an ensemble musician or as a harpsichordist, so leave them alone or I’ll grow into them if I have the time to solve the problems.

BD:    You mean they wrote things that were impossible to negotiate?

WC:    Well, I can’t play the Goldberg any longer.  If someone asks me tomorrow to program, for example the Brandenburgs, I’d say, “No, you have to give me a few more months.  And since I don’t have very much time, it’ll be perhaps a couple years.”

BD:    Is it special to bring to the audiences and to yourself works that have literally not been done in two hundred or three hundred years?

WC:    Yes.  I like championing the underdog.  I like the idea that composers who either have been forgotten or have been snubbed or have been thought to be uninteresting, prove themselves interesting thanks to good performances.  But that’s only one aspect.  I don’t go out of my way to do programs just of unknown masterworks.  Charpentier is a composer I’ve been very fond of for twenty-five years, and it’s true that twenty-four years ago he was less known than he was, but I think I would have liked Charpentier had he been better known.  There are cases of French and Italian people that I’ve championed, that I’ve brought forth because I think that they were unjustly neglected.

BD:    Do you have any desire to go further back in the history books, or have you set a kind of beginning date?

WC:    I’m not really a renaissance human being.  I’m interested right now in going back a couple of years, say to Claude Lejeune and Clément Janequin and people like that.  But that’s the twilight of French polyphony.  But any earlier?  No, not really.  What bothers me greatly about medievalists and some Renaissance people is that there’s so little to go on that it essentially becomes much too much of a subjective trip for me.

BD:    You want a better road map?

WC:    Yes.  They’re always discovering truth.  Every ten years there’s a new group that comes out and they’ve gotten it right.  But the nice thing about Baroque is that it’s closer to home, and there’s so much more written about the epoch.  It’s a modern era.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’re working a lot with voices, so these are human beings who have grown up on all kinds of vitamins and exercises and everything.  Yet the orchestra has these so-called original instruments or authentic instruments that were first built back then.  Is there any problem with a balance there?

WC:    No, no, I don’t think so.

BD:    We know there’s a balance when a singer has to compete against the Wagnerian orchestra, but what about getting it back to the small orchestra on gut strings, etcetera?

christieWC:    Intelligent singers are not difficult to find, and intelligent singers with techniques that allow them to change priorities, from one style and from one age to another, aren’t that difficult, either.  They’re not a dime a dozen but are by no means scarce.  You can find the intelligent singer, and I’ve been very blessed.  I’ve found many intelligent singers who also have wonderful voices and wonderful techniques.

BD:    The one other joker is the venues.  Can you choose the venues that will accommodate your music?

WC:    Yes and no.  When you’re on a tour like this you really can’t choose your venues.  You don’t arrive in a town and say, “No, this hall doesn’t please me.  Give me something else.”

BD:    But when you’re setting up the tour you would say, “I don’t want this 5000-seat hall.”

WC:    We put down a number of restrictions.  Halls shouldn’t exceed 2000, and a 2000-seat hall has to be a very good acoustic.  The ideal hall for this size group, which is about twenty-odd, is the 1000- to 1500-seat hall.  Anything smaller and you’re really not being very kind to the organizers who have to make money out of these things.  Any bigger and you’re just heading for trouble.  Although, I must say we’ve had biggish halls with wonderful acoustics on this tour, and we’ve had small chamber music halls with absolutely lousy acoustics.  So you’re not always assured that the 600- or 700-seat ideal wooden auditorium is going to be really that ideal.

BD:    Do you keep a small diary and notate, “This hall was really good; let’s come back.  This hall was terrible; let’s never come back”?

WC:    Of course!  We do that with hotels as well...

BD:    [Laughs]  Do you do that with music as well — something that you work on for a while which you find just doesn’t come off the way you either expected it or wanted it?

WC:    I’ve spent time on pieces that have given nothing in return, yes.  I’ve spent time, an awful lot of time, on pieces that were so difficult technically and yet seemed to give us nothing in terms of real satisfaction.

BD:    As a performer or as a presenter?

WC:    As both.  Mostly I’d have to say these were in the realm of modern music — pieces that were just essentially difficult, written just to be difficult for difficulty’s sake.  There’s a lot of composers like that.  That is one of the reasons why I left the field.

BD:    But instead of going back fifty or a hundred years, you went back two or three hundred years.

WC:    Yes, because I was a harpsichordist.

BD:    Would it be impossible today to have a composer come to you, and with your guidance write in the style of the composers that you approve of?

WC:    I wouldn’t let that happen because I don’t like counterfeiters.  I don’t buy fake furniture and I don’t buy fake paintings.  Why should I buy a Louis XV-style chair when I can enjoy the original?

BD:    What about someone who has original ideas but in this style?

WC:    That’s not really what I’m interested in, frankly.  That’s so against essentially Western aesthetics.  If you’re talking about Chinese culture, where someone can paint a lovely scroll in imitation of a painting that was done fifty years ago, which was an imitation of something that was done four hundred years ago, that’s fine.  But that doesn’t really exist here.  Doing pastiche work in Western culture is something which has never really been accepted.

BD:    Not necessarily imitation, but someone who is truly creating new things in that old style.

WC:    Someone writing as Purcell wrote?  No, I don’t think so.  I’ve done it; we’ve done it essentially just to fill up holes.

BD:    What about someone who writes in the current style but using the old instruments?

WC:    That’s something else, after all.  If instruments have a particular timbre which can’t be duplicated by modern instruments, why not?  That’s something very different.

BD:    We’re kind of dancing all around this so let me hit the question straight on.  What is the purpose of music?

WC:    What is the purpose of art?  Music is like something which is so inherent to human beings from the very beginning of creation.  Why music?  Because we can’t express ourselves any way else, essentially.  Sound, either produced by something that’s not physiological or by the human being himself, is the light of humanity.  Organizing sounds, either individually or collectively, is also.  So it’s something which is essential to us, as is eating and breathing.

BD:    Is there a special balance for you between the artistic achievement and an entertainment value?

WC:    Yes, to be perfectly honest.  I think that it depends on how you define
entertainment.  Entertainment, if it’s defined in a contemporary, American sort of fashion, I’d be a little bit sort of huffy and snobbish and say, “You know what?  Art comes first, and if people are entertained by it, so much the better.”  But I do like to entertain my audience, especially with music that was created, written, for that in mind.  Doing a French ballet, like Les Fêtes d’Hébé or Les Indes Galantes, you’re dealing with something which is, if we respect all the ingredients of the form — that’s to say visual and choreographic and musical — of course it’s pure entertainment, absolutely pure entertainment!  If you’re talking about a rather cerebral, intellectual evening of Roberday fugues or Frescobaldi ricercare, I’d say that’s entertainment on a different level.  These are both the two poles of Baroque entertainment, if you will.  I obviously gravitate towards the one that’s a little bit more sort of evident and more gratifying — gratifying back when and gratifying now for a modern audience.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Aside from being a fine performer, you’re also a professor in Paris?

WC:    No longer.  I’ve quit.  Actually, I’m still a professor at Guildhall and at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, but I’m no longer a professor at the Conservatoire.

BD:    Have you been pleased with what you have seen and heard coming from your students?

christieWC:    Students are like good wine — there are good years and bad years in terms of natural catastrophes or what have you.  [Both laugh]  You get cyclones some years and you don’t get them, you have a run of wonderful weather and enough rainfall to make things grow wonderfully, and other times you don’t.  I had lean years and I had very good years in terms of the kind of student crop that I produced.  Since it was a three-year cycle, I could console myself in the sense that one of those years or two of those years I’d have better students than the third year.  But looking over the last fifteen years of teaching, I’d say with the ups and downs I was a very fortunate man because I was in contact with some very, very good students, most of whom have, or still are, or have been subsequently, members of the Arts Florissants.

BD:    Considering just the good years, what advice do you have for younger performers coming along these days, who want to perform Baroque music?

WC:    What I say, essentially, is that this a period which is just as rich as the period that we call mainstream music.  We have as many good composers and as many good compositions as anything the modernists can claim, which is one of the reasons why we have this immense audience appeal now.  This is a gold mine for the person who’s gotten a bit tired of listening to a number of composers over and over again, and tired of listening to others routinely playing them.  The young specialist-musician in Baroque music can count on a wonderful repertoire.  He can also count on a public that is more and more avid and interested in this music.  Perhaps less in the States, but then culture in the States is going nowhere, as we know.  But certainly in Europe, where most of the Baroque musicians are
including Americans as wellhave to find themselves at one point in their lives.  This is big business, big business.

BD:    Does it please you to know that your recordings, which are made in France, are listened to by at least some public here in the States and all over the world.

WC:    Of course, but we’re talking about young musicians, and that’s the difference.  A good listening public that can’t afford to maintain a Baroque ensemble, or even one Baroque musician, or provide a decent living for him — this kind of public is just all over the States, all over the world.  People buy our records in St. Paul, Minnesota, or they buy them in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or they’ll buy them in upstate New York, in Troy, and in places that might not be able to keep a Baroque ensemble going.  But then again, neither can New York!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Does it please you to know that perhaps, at least in one or two places, your recordings have helped to engender enough interest that they could keep an ensemble at least for a while?

WC:    If that’s the case, of course!  Anything positive that comes out of music, I adore.  If someone writes me and says, “You changed my life, having listened to your recording,” of course I’m pleased as punch.

BD:    Coming back to the young musician for a moment, is it helpful to you and your ensemble to have someone who has been schooled in new music as well?

WC:    Not necessarily, but back thirty years ago it freed up the imagination and also unclogged ears.  Also it represented something which was very important for us
liberty and freedom to explore new sounds, and to get out of this awful straightjacket of there being only one way to play an instrument and one way to sing, to open up one’s mouth and make sounds.  There’s not, necessary.

BD:    Let me turn the question around.  Is it perhaps helpful for the new music to have performers who are schooled in the old music?

WC:    I’m not sure about that.  I’ve shared programs with the Boulez group, but they stick pretty much to themselves nowadays, really.  There was a time when there were a lot of us who were doing both, but that seems to not be the case any longer.  I have a few friends who continue with one foot in both camps, but really it’s quite rare.

BD:    Even if you don’t straddle some kind of barrier, what if you have some training but then move into the other camp?

WC:    It depends.  Some people want to do this; some people don’t.  But I don’t think one really is superior to the other for example.

BD:    Let me ask a bit about recordings.  Do you perform the same for the microphone as you do for the live audience?

WC:    That’s a good question.  No, obviously.  However, the overall idea when I go into a recording studio is we’re not going to be nitpicky.  I’m going to require my soloists from my choir and my orchestra to have the same kind of fervor
if they can get it up, if they can muster it upthe same kind of commitment that they have when they’re in front of an audience.  Now that’s sometimes very difficult to get.  You’ve got to really whip them up.  But I hate neutral documents in terms of recording.  People talk about this.  I like recordings to smell of a particular moment, a particular time where there were a number of very particular people gotten together to do a particular kind of music.  That’s very important, with all the idiosyncrasies and all the eccentricities which that might engender.  In that sense I like recordings to be as close as possible to the kind of thing you get in public performances.  Now obviously this is very difficult, and when you’re on your fourth or fifth or sixth or twelfth take of a particular phrase or piece, you can lose this.  That sometimes happens, but there’s always that moment where you say, “All right, now we’re going to throw all of this up in the air.  Now for the last take forget all this and just go for it.  You’re back in the concert hall.”  Many times this is the one that works.

BD:    You know that anything that goes wrong is already on the tape someplace, and so you just make music.

WC:    Exactly, yes.  We have this enormous luxury in the Arts Florissants which very, very few people have, and it’s something I don’t talk about often enough.  We have time to record properly.  With so many conductors and so many orchestras
really well-known ones doing really well-known repertory, English orchestras recording complete works of this or thatthey turn on the recording machines doing the read-throughs.  They’re sight reading these things.  Time is the expensive and great luxurious element in recording.  They don’t have time to really spend on these projects... and there are a lot of borrowed people as well.

BD:    So you have the luxury of time?

WC:    I have the luxury.  I record twelve minutes of useable material per three-hour session.  That’s not a lot, and I don’t want to get any more, which means that yes, these things cost money, but I think the effort and the time is very, very important.

BD:    So you’re pleased with the recordings, then, as they come out?

WC:    I’m never pleased.  I’m pleased with very little when we make them, which is one of the reasons I don’t listen to recordings after the fact.  But most of the things I’ve done by the final editing I say are fine; we couldn’t do any better.

BD:    So you sort of abandon them?

WC:    Yes.

BD:    One last question.  Is performing Baroque music fun?

WC:    Of course it is.  It’s immensely.  I wouldn’t do it otherwise.  I’m much too much of a hedonist.

BD:    Thank you for all that you’ve given us, and thank you for the chat.  I appreciate it.

WC:    Great, great.

William Christie, harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist and teacher, is the inspiration behind one of the most exciting musical adventures of the last twenty-five years. His pioneering work has led to a renewed appreciation of Baroque music in France, notably of 17th- and 18th-century French repertoire, which he has introduced to a very wide audience.

Born in Buffalo, New York, on December 19, 1944, William Christie studied at Harvard and Yale Universities, and has lived in France since 1971. The major turning point in his career came in 1979 when he founded Les Arts Florissants. As Director of this vocal and instrumental ensemble, Christie soon made his mark as a musician and man of the theatre, in both the concert hall and the opera house, with new interpretations of largely neglected or forgotten repertoire. Major public recognition came in 1987 with the production of Atys by Lully at the Opéra Comique in Paris, which then went on to tour internationally with much success.

William Christie's enthusiasm for the French Baroque has never diminished. From Charpentier to Rameau, through Couperin, Mondonville, Campra or Montéclair, he is an acknowledged master of tragédie-lyrique as well as opéra-ballet, and is equally at home with French motets as with music of the court. His affection for French music does not prevent him from exploring other European repertoire, however, and he has given many acclaimed performances of works by Italian composers such as Monteverdi, Rossi and Scarlatti. He undertakes Purcell and Handel with as much pleasure as Mozart and Haydn.

He has made over 70 recordings, and since 2002 has recorded exclusively for Virgin Classics, with recordings of motets by Campra and Couperin, violin sonatas by Handel, a live recording of Serse with Anne-Sofie von Otter, the release on DVD of Monteverdi's Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria as performed in Aix-en-Provence, Charpentier's Te Deum and Judicium Salomonis, followed, more recently by the release Purcell's Divine Hymns and Haydn's Creation.

Much in demand as a guest conductor, William Christie receives regular invitations from prestigious opera festivals such as Glyndebourne, where he has conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in productions of Theodora and Rodelinda by Handel (the latter was revived at the Théâtre du Châtelet in January 2002). Other guest appearances include Zurich Opera, where he has conducted Iphigénie en Tauride by Gluck, Les Indes galantes by Rameau, and Radamisto and Orlando by Handel, and the Opéra national de Lyon where, following Così fan tutte in 2005, he will conduct The Marriage of Figaro in June 2007. Since 2002, he has appeared regularly as a guest conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic.

William Christie is equally committed to the training and professional development of young artists, and he has nurtured several generations of singers and instrumentalists over the last twenty-five years. Indeed, many of the music directors of today's Baroque ensembles began their careers with Les Arts Florissants. Between 1982 and 1995, Christie was a Professor at the Paris Conservatoire, with responsibility for the early music class. He is often invited to give master classes, or to lead academies such as those at Aix-en-Provence and Ambronay.

Wishing to develop further his work as a teacher, he created an academy for young singers in Caen, called Le Jardin des Voix, whose first two sessions, in 2002 and 2005, generated a huge amount of interest in France and elsewhere in Europe as well as in the United States.

William Christie acquired French nationality in 1995. He is an Officier dans l'Ordre de la Légion d'Honneur as well as Officier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

© 1995 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded at his hotel in Evanston, IL, on November 20, 1995.  Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1996 and 1999.  The transcription was made and posted on this website in 2013.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.