Fourestier initially studied cello and harmony at the Montpellier Conservatory before entering the Paris Conservatoire, where he was a pupil of, amongst others, Guilmant, d’Indy and Dukas. Here he won the first prize for harmony in 1911, for counterpoint in the following year and in 1925 he secured the Prix de Rome for a work entitled La Mort d’Adonis. He made his debut as a conductor in the French provinces, appearing at Marseilles and Bordeaux, before being appointed as conductor at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, where he was active from 1927 to 1932. In addition, Fourestier was one of the conductors of the Paris Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1928, appearing together with Ernest Ansermet, Pierre Monteux and Alfred Cortot. After leaving the Opéra-Comique Fourestier led the musical seasons at Angers, Vichy and Cannes, but returned to Paris and to the operatic world as a conductor at the Paris Opera, working there from 1938 to 1945. During the 1946–1947 and 1947–1948 seasons, Fourestier appeared as a conductor of the French repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, leading performances of Carmen, Louise, Manon and Faust in succession to Sir Thomas Beecham; two historians of the Metropolitan, Irving Kolodin and Paul Jackson, while acknowledging that he was a seasoned conductor of the music of his native country, have suggested that his readings tended to the routine. In 1945 Fourestier took over responsibility for the conducting class at the Paris Conservatoire from Charles Munch and Roger Désormière, completely overhauling the system of study in this field and teaching many of France’s post-war conductors. He retired from the Conservatoire in 1962 but continued to teach at the International Summer Academy in Nice.
Fourestier’s recordings reveal a clear and strong grasp of the French style, unsullied by personal idiosyncrasies. On 78rpm discs he recorded a complete account of Saint-Saëns’s opera Samson et Dalila for the Pathé branch of EMI and Roussel’s ballet score Le Festin de l’araignée, both of which are notable in this respect. Like other conductors of the day such as André Cluytens he was well-placed to take advantage of the renewal of recording activity in Paris with the emergence of the LP record, and for Pathé again he led fine accounts of Saint-Saëns’s four tone poems, La Jeunesse d’Hercule, Phaëton, Le Rouet d’Omphale and Danse macabre and of the Suite Algérienne. His direction of the accompaniment to Jean-Marie Darré’s account of the five piano concertos by the same composer is equally distinguished. Also notable is his conducting of several short pieces by Chabrier, the Habañera, Ode à la musique, Bourrée Fantasque, Marche Joyeuse, and the overture to his opera Gwendoline. He conducted several discs for the Club Français du Disque in the mid-1950s, which included distinguished accounts of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, and of Debussy’s La Mer and Nocturnes.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).