It was a privileged moment to witness French conductor Philippe Entremont being honored with the order of Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur by Michel Desmet at the newly renotated Automobile Club, on place de la Concorde.
Entremont has conducted orchestras worldwide, including the Vienna Chamber orchestra, the New Orleans and Denver Symphonies, and he was one of ten pianists who performed in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies. He always played abroad more often than in France and this is why he was particularly honored to receive one of our countries foremost decorations for being its great musical ambassador.
He started as a child prodigy pianist and performed at 18 at Carnegie Hall. His dual career as a pianist and a conductor has led to more recordings than many musicians and he still teaches master classes regularly. One of his mentors was chef Eugene Ormandy with whom he recorded Rachmaninov concertos.
His emotion was visible that evening, when he was talking to his students who owe him so much. And the simplicity of the ceremony was a vivid contrast with the glamorous career he has led. He is a perfect transmitter of talent and never stops teaching.
At 82, he is leaving this week for Miami, for a concert on February 22, to celebrate the 30 th anniversary of the New World School of the arts. He is playing Beethoven’s concerto n°5, “Emperor”.
What was especially moving at the ceremony was to speak to Finnish pianist Laura Mikkola and 27 year old Japanese Gen Tomuro, his former piano student, who praised his love for teaching, his strict methods and his natural talent.”It all seems so easy with him”…
At Automobile club he played Brahms’s waltzes for four hands with Gen Tomuro, a former Walnut Hill student (who speaks French and English with no accent), who moved to Paris to study with him ten years ago and never left. Laura Mikkola performed in Cimez, near Nice, last summer in his summer academy. They both lead successful careers.
Entremont founded the Académie Ravel in Ciboure, in the Basque country when he still had a house in Chantaco nearby, and has always been fascinated by young musicians. In his speech, he called himself not a pianist, not a conductor but, a « musician » who owed so much to composers: ” with eleven notes, they create such a rich language… these geniuses have been my travelling companions for over 7 000 concerts.”
A delicious buffet dinner followed with much champagne and wine and the party finished on the roof of this gentlemen’s club, which has a stunning view over Paris.
I hope someone asks me again next summer for dinner…
(You can read Philippe Entremont’s memoirs edited by Philippine Cruse for Editions de Fallois, “Piano, ma non troppo” which are charming)
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