Serge Baudo’s father was the oboist Étienne Baudo, who was professor of oboe at the Paris Conservatoire, and his uncle was the famous cellist Paul Tortelier. Baudo studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where he won first prize for harmony, chamber music, percussion and conducting; here his conducting teacher was Louis Fourestier. Between 1949 and 1957 Baudo played the timpani with the Lamoureux, Paris Conservatoire and Paris Opera Orchestras, under conductors such as Charles Munch, Bruno Walter and Hans Knappertsbusch. He made his conducting debut in 1950, appearing frequently in this role in Paris; and made some early recordings for the Club Français du Disque. His first permanent appointment was as music director of the Orchestra of Radio Nice-Côte d’Azur, a post that he held between 1959 and 1962. From 1959 he also conducted regularly at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Between 1962 and 1965 he was the resident conductor at the Paris Opera. Baudo’s international career commenced in 1962 when, at Herbert von Karajan’s invitation, he followed Karajan as the conductor of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at La Scala, Milan.
In 1967 the music director of the newly formed Orchestre de Paris, Charles Munch, invited Baudo to become the first conductor of the orchestra, where he stayed until 1970. Between 1969 and 1971 he served as director of music at the Lyons Opera. In the latter year he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and returned there for the next three seasons. Between 1970 and 1988 he was chief conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Rhone-Alpes, which from 1972 was renamed as the Lyons National Orchestra. Under Baudo’s direction it became one of the best orchestras in France and toured widely, notably to China and Korea in 1979. In 1979 he founded and led for ten years the annual Berlioz Festival in Lyons. In addition to his permanent appointments Baudo has conducted widely as a guest, throughout Europe and Russia, the Far East and Canada. He was appointed chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra in 2001, and also serves as the permanent guest conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Baudo has been a tireless champion of contemporary music and has led numerous first performances by composers such as Messiaen (Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, 1965, and La transfiguration, 1969), Dutilleux (Tout un monde lontain, 1971), Barraud, Constant, Milhaud, Ohana, and Nigg. His repertoire is largely focused upon French music, to which he brings an exemplary sense of style and subtlety. His recordings include exceptional interpretations of all of Honegger’s symphonies and Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and of the music of Debussy and Ravel with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Baudo has himself composed several film scores. One of the finest French conductors of his generation, he is a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur and a member of the Ordre National du Mérite and of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).