William Christie and the word “Baroque” are synonymous in the classical music world.
Born on Dec. 19, 1944 in Buffalo, New York, Christie started off his career as an art history major at Harvard University where he was briefly an assistant conductor of the Harvard Glee Club.
In 1966, he started studied music at Yale University. From there he taught at Dartmouth but when his post was not renewed in 1970, he headed over to France where he eventually received citizenship in 1995.
In 1979, he founded Les Arts Florissants which would become his major musical ensemble dedicated to baroque music.
The conductor has since become a prominent figure all around the world and has been honored extensively by the French government as an Officer in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He is also a member of French Académie des Beaux-Arts and the gardens he designed for his home have been designated a historical monument. He also received the Georges Pompidou Prize in 2005 and was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire between 1982 and 1995. He has also been affiliated with the Juilliard School.
He was also honored at the Opera News Awards in 2018.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific work in his repertory that standouts because the truth of the matter is that Christie is a rare type of conductor these days – he’s a true specialist in the baroque repertoire. He’s championed works from all around the baroque era including such composers as Rameau, Monteverdi, Couperin, Campra, Lully, and Handel, among others.
Watch and Listen
Here is an interview with the maestro.
Here is a recording of “Serse.”