Eugène Bigot was born in Rennes and studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Xavier Leroux, André Gédalge and Paul Vidal. After graduating he began his professional career as chorusmaster at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, where he took part in the theatre’s inaugural season in 1913–1914 under the direction of Ingelbrecht. During World War I he fought in the French army, winning the Croix de Guerre. With the return of peace he became assistant conductor of the Concerts Pasdeloup in 1919, quickly followed by several seasons as the conductor of the Ballets Suédois (1920–1923). In 1923 he became conductor of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. He returned to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as director of music between 1925 and 1928, before being named as the first conductor of French Radio in 1928, a post that he held until 1934. After a single season at Monte Carlo, 1934–1935, he succeeded Albert Wolff as president and conductor of the Lamoureux Orchestra, remaining in charge of its concerts from 1935 until 1951. At the same time he was chief conductor at the Opéra-Comique in Paris between 1936 and 1947.
After World War II Bigot participated in the foundation of the Orchestre Radio-Symphonique, which later became the Orchestre Philharmonique de la Radio-Television Française (ORTF), acting as its principal conductor from 1947 until his death in Paris in 1965. In addition to these permanent posts, Bigot conducted performances of French opera at many of Europe’s leading opera houses. He was himself an accomplished composer, notably of ballet music (La Princesse d’Elide, Laurenza, Pyrrhique), as well as of chamber music, songs and orchestral suites.
Eugène Bigot’s irreproachable sense of style and innate musicianship enabled him to conduct all repertoires, and so made him an ideal conductor for the gramophone. Both before and after World War II he made many recordings on 78rpm discs. The most notable of these was the abridged recording of Charpentier’s Louise, which he recorded with two of the most distinguished French singers of the pre-war period, Ninon Vallin and Georges Thill. With the introduction after World War II of tape recording and the long-playing record, Bigot remained active in the recording studio, frequently as an accompanist in concerto and operatic recordings and at the head of the Lamoureux Orchestra. Among the numerous distinguished soloists with whom he recorded were the instrumentalists Lola Bobesco, Alexander Borowsky, Gaby Casadesus, Robert Casadesus, Andor Foldes, Pierre Fournier, Wanda Landowska, Henri Merckel, Marcel Moyse, Yves Nat, André Navarra, Ruggiero Ricci, and Jacques Thibaud as well as the singers Pierre Bernac, Paul Franz, José Luccioni, Germaine Martinelli, and Janine Micheau. His solo recordings were regrettably few, and focused upon French repertoire such as the music of Berlioz and Lalo. Bigot was also active as a teacher of conducting. His pupils were international in scope and included Karel Husa, Jean Bernard Pommier, Mikis Theodorakis, and Lim Kek Tjiang, the composer of the modern Butterfly Concerto.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).