One of the most grown-up review sites around

Apollo's Fire

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Brahms Symphony 4 Dvorak Symphony 9
Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano"
IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra

Sinfonie Concertanti


A most rewarding CD
Renate Eggebrecht violin

World Premiere
Weinberg’s Concertino (cello)!

Irish-Appalachian Celebration

an inspirational performance

An indispensable acquisition

The finest we have had in years

bewitching sound

Simply amazing

A splendid addition

One of the most enjoyable

quite superb!

utterly essential

A wonderful introduction

An outstanding CD


One of the finest versions

ARTICLE Plain text for smartphones & printers

Louis Frémaux (13 August 1921 – 20 March 2017)
An obituary by Rob Barnett

As ever, the bare bones of any person's life tell us but a small part of the individual's story and heritage. Louis Frémaux is no different in that respect. That said we need to lay them out:
- Born in Aire-sur-la-Lys, Pas-de-Calais, France in 1921 and he studied at the Valenciennes Conservatoire.
- War service in the Resistance and then as a Foreign Legion Captain in the French armed forces in Vietnam (1945-46)
- Resumed his war-interrupted studies, this time at the Paris Conservatoire with Louis Fourestier where he took first prize in conducting in 1952.

Chief conductor engagements followed:
- Orchestre National de Monte Carlo (Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo) (1956-1965). Prince Rainier had interceded with the French authorities when Frémaux was called back to the Foreign Legion for duties in Algeria in 1956 and seemingly pulled strings to have him take over the OPMC.
- Orchestre Philharmonique Rhône-Alpes, Lyons (1968-1971)
- City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1969-1978)
- Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1979-1982)

While the received wisdom about the pre-Frémaux CBSO is that things were dire, the mid-1960s Lyrita recording by the CBSO and Hugo Rignold points in another direction. That said Frémaux helped rebuild the CBSO's battered standing in concert, on tour and through a renaissance in recordings with EMI Classics. He was also instrumental with baritone Gordon Clinton (he who made one of Beecham's Sea Drift recordings) in the founding of the CBSO Chorus. His years with the CBSO included much that was broadcast but never recorded. His approach can be sampled now on a radio tape of Searle's Labyrinth now issued by Lyrita.

I did not know Frémaux's years in Birmingham except through a couple of concerts in Bristol and the recordings he made with EMI. He made a memorable Walton disc of the Te Deum and Gloria and two Coronation marches which Edward Greenfield described as "shatteringly apt displays of pomp and circumstance". These clinched things for me. The EMI recording team and the crackling impact and energy Frémaux brought to the table were and remain remarkably enjoyable. I do not know of a better recording. Also in the same hall of fame was his stunningly recorded ballet music from Massenet's opera Le Cid (an EMI Studio 2 stereo spectacular) and a Saint-Saëns' Third Symphony that continues to give more pleasure for longer than many ‘definitive’ versions. In each case the sound quality reached out, involved and engaged with the listener. These LPs also included John McCabe's Notturni ed Alba and Second Symphony. Add to this major works by Berlioz, Bizet, Fauré, Ibert and Poulenc. As John Quinn has rightly said there's a poignant irony that Warner Classics (successor to EMI) are issuing in April 2017 a 12-disc box set of his CBSO recordings. We should not forget that before the EMI/CBSO connection he had recorded extensively in France for Erato, Vega and Pathé. Perhaps we will see a celebratory set from Erato (there is a modest-sized one already) and reissues courtesy of the Forgotten Records label.

John L Holmes' book Conductors on Record gives an unattributed quotation referring to Frémaux as a "… charming, popular, capable, often brilliant, hard-working and understanding conductor, not set on self-glorification nor one particularly interested in his own advancement."

As far as I know there is no biography or autobiography whether in English or French.

I have the fondest memories of several concerts that he gave with the CBSO at Bristol's Colston Hall in the early 1970s including a magically diaphanous and revelatory Ma Mère l'Oye. I left the hall walking on air. Physics and BMI being what they are it must indeed have been a superb performance.

Rob Barnett



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger