Itinéraire d’un chef d’orchestre
By Erik Baeck

416 pp

This is one of the better conductor’s biographies I have read lately mainly due to the fact that Erik Baeck the author is a great researcher. This wonderful book not only contains a perfect discography but also a remarkable career chronology of the Flemish-born (Antwerp 1905) conductor.To the operalover and record collector Cluytens is of course mainly known for his complete opera recordings and as the accompanist of some French singers in their recital recordings including also in his compatriot’s legendary opera first recital. We’re speaking of course of Rita Gorr who still considers Cluytens amongst her fondest memories.
Cluytens signed a contract with the French branch of EMI  in 1946. He recorded an extensive series of complete French operas with the forces of the Opéra-Comique and the Opéra National de Paris. He also recorded a wide range of orchestral works by the French masters, two traversals of the orchestral works of Ravel, and a complete cycle of Beethoven's nine symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1957-1960. Many of his records, and some live performances, have since been re-issued on CD while film of him conducting Ravel and Tchaikovsky  have been presented on DVD. The book is illustrated with several rare photographs, includes reviews (good ànd bad) and doesn’t shy away from Cluytens’s private life, his problems after the war in France (remarkable though remains the fact that he conducts Gershwin's Rapsody in Blue in March 1943!!), his relations with other conductors, with Wieland Wagner and Anja Silja, etc. It’s all there, quite detailed yet nicely intertwined in the narrative.

From 1947 to 1953 Cluytens was music director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, and in 1949 was appointed as principal conductor of the Conservatory Concerts. He retained that position for the rest of his life. In 1955 he was invited to conduct Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival, the first French conductor to appear on the podium there. He debuted in the United States in 1956, and in Britain in 1958, when he substituted for Otto Klemperer. He formed a close relationship with the Vienna State Opera, which he first conducted in 1956, becoming a permanent guest conductor in 1959. In 1960 he became conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra in Belgium, also holding that post until his death. He also formed a close link with the Berlin Philharmonic, with which he made a notable recording of the Beethoven symphonies. However, he was primarily known for French repertoire, premiering works by Françaix, Jolivet, Messiaen, Milhaud, Tomasi, Büsser, and Bondeville. He was invited back to Bayreuth in 1965. Cluytens died in 1967. 
This is the definitive biography justifying a renewed interest in André Cluytens's life and art.