The conductor Louis Frémaux has died at the age of 95. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Louis Fourestier. Appointments include Monte-Carlo, Birmingham and Sydney. It is perhaps as chief conductor of the CBSO during the 1970s that marks out Frémaux's career, a period of regeneration for the orchestra when numerous highly regarded recordings were made for EMI including music by Jacques Ibert and William Walton..
Louis Frémaux was born on 13 August 1921 in Aire-sur-la-Lys, France, and he died on 20 March 2017.
Christopher Morley writes...
Louis Frémaux, the conductor who made the world aware of the CBSO, has died at the age of 95.
After a distinguished military career in the World War II French Resistance, and in the French Foreign Legion, as a result of which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur, Frémaux's musical activities took him to Monaco at the invitation of Prince Rainier, but from there he eventually moved to Birmingham, after sensational debut concerts with the CBSO in the late 1960s.
Under his principal conductorship in the 1970s the CBSO moved up several notches from being a respectable provincial orchestra, gigging on the side for local choral societies, to a major recording force for EMI. LPs of major French repertoire, including the Berlioz Requiem with the CBSO Chorus, newly-formed by Frémaux and Gordon Clinton, and British repertoire too (Frémaux was instinctively attuned to Walton), formed part of an extensive discography which spread the orchestra's reputation worldwide.
Internal political issues led to Fremaux's abrupt departure in 1978, and wounds were opened which have still not healed with some people. But those wounds also hurt Frémaux, and when I interviewed him in the late 1990s just before his triumphant debut in Symphony Hall (a hall which would never have existed without the successes he achieved with the CBSO even prior to Simon Rattle's arrival) conducting the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, he was decidedly guarded until he realised I was on his side.
Frémaux was an elegant, spirited conductor. The indelible memory he leaves with me is of a thrusting key-change in Mars from Holst's Planets Suite in 1969, his second-ever concert with the CBSO; the orchestra responded as though they'd never played the piece before.