Michel Plasson is one of the most important French conductors from the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He is well known for his interpretations of French opera, particularly those of Gounod and Massenet. He has also received praise for his work in the choral music of Duruflé and Fauré, and the orchestral works of Magnard, Ravel, and other French composers. He has not, however, limited himself to the French repertory, having conducted (and recorded) the Rachmaninov piano concertos with soloist Jean-Philippe Collard, the Brahms Schicksalslied, and works by Wagner and Verdi.
Plasson was born into a family of musicians. He showed unusual talent on piano as a child and took lessons from Lazare Lévy. He later enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, where he studied composition and percussion. In 1962, he received first prize in conducting at Besançon, then, at the suggestion of Charles Münch, traveled to the United States to study conducting for the next several years with Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Monteux, and Leopold Stokowski.
Plasson's first major appointment came in 1966 when he was engaged to become musical director at Metz, a post he held for two years. In 1968, he accepted the dual conducting assignments of director of the orchestra and of the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse. In 1974, Plasson initiated a refurbishing effort on the Halle aux Grains, increasing its seating capacity to 3,000; upon completion of the project in 1977, he moved his orchestral operations there. Fidelio was the first important opera he conducted in the new hall. In 1979, he debuted at Covent Garden to critical acclaim and by the early 1980s had developed a concert schedule laden with so many guest appearances that in 1983 he had to resign his post as director of the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, although he retained the orchestral directorship there. This move in no way signaled a reduced focus on opera by Plasson: in 1985, for example, he performed Puccini's Turandot to great acclaim and the following year, the Verdi Requiem, which he went on to record for EMI with his Toulouse ensemble and a quartet of soloists led by Julia Varady. In 1987, Plasson took on another conducting post, that of principal guest conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. Then in 1994, he accepted the position as music director of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, which he concurrently held with his music directorship in Toulouse. All through the 1990s, his recording activity remained intense, especially in his Massenet series of operas. In 1999, he left the Dresden Philharmonic, but retained his long-held French post. Up until his retirement. In 2003, Plasson made numerous guest conducting appearances with various European and American orchestras, in addition to conducting at the world's most prominent opera houses, including the Met, the Chicago Lyric Opera, Covent Garden, and many others. Plasson has made about 50 recordings for EMI and a fair number for other labels as well. With his retirement, Plasson finally relinquished his long held post as music director of the Orchestre Capitole de Toulouse, but remains its Honorary Conductor.
-- Biography by Robert Cummings
-- Note: Names which are links (both here and in the text) refer to Bruce Duffie's interviews elsewhere on this website.
|Serge Nigg (June 6, 1924, Paris
- November 12, 2008)
After initial studies with Ginette Martenot, Nigg entered the Paris Conservatory in 1941 and studied harmony with Olivier Messiaen and counterpoint with Simone Plé-Caussade. In 1945, he met René Leibowitz, who introduced him to the twelve-tone technique of composition. After completing a Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments and a Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (both 1943), and the symphonic poem Timour (1944), he became the first French composer to write a dodecaphonic work when his Variations for Piano and 10 Instruments appeared in 1946. This piece was premiered at the International Festival of Dodecaphonic Music, organized by Leibowitz in 1947.
In 1956, Nigg was appointed a member of the Music Committee for French state broadcasting. From 1967 to 1982, he was a member of the music management for the French Ministry of Culture, after which he taught classes in instrumentation and orchestration at the Paris Conservatory, and became President of the Société Nationale de Musique. He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1989 and served as its President in 1995.
This interview was recorded in the conductor's dressing room backstage
at Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 19, 1981. The transcription was
made and published in the Massenet Newsletter
in January, 1982. It was re-edited, photos were added, and it was 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.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.