A conductor of wide-ranging authority in a varied repertory, Anatole Fistoulari is nonetheless remembered most vividly for the several ballet recordings he made for Mercury Records. The son of a noted conductor, Fistoulari maintained that he had made his debut before an orchestra at the age of seven. Beyond dispute is his broad exposure to Russian musical culture, thoroughly absorbed before he concentrated his activities in Europe and, eventually England, where he became a British subject. Fistoulari learned most of his technique and repertory from his father, Gregor Fistoulari, a student of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Anton Rubinstein. The work allegedly conducted by the seven-year-old Anatole in Kiev was Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony, a score of enormous depth and complexity. In 1933, he leapt into the fire with an appointment to conduct for the Grand Opéra Russe in Paris, a company assembled around the famously temperamental Russian bass baritone Feodor Chaliapin. His ability to maintain a cool head there led to a 1938 engagement with Leonid Masim's Ballets Russes; with that company, Fistoulari toured the Continent and America, where his work was much admired. During WWII, Fistoulari became a popular figure in England. After conducting a 1942 production of Mussorgsky's unfinished Sorochintsï Fair, he was made principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1943. In 1954, he returned to ballet as guest conductor of the Royal Ballet and, in 1956, led the London Philharmonic in a tour of Russia that brought enthusiastic audiences to the halls of Moscow and Leningrad. Other guest engagements took Fistoulari to several other parts of the world, notably New Zealand and the Mideast, but he continued to base his activities in England. Active in the recording studio, Fistoulari built a substantial discography. In addition to his much-praised Mercury recordings of Delibes' Sylvia and Adam's Giselle, he recorded excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty; Alexandre Luigini's short, but effective Ballet Egyptien; and several works by Khachaturian. Fistoulari's direction of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies was praised, as were recorded collaborations with pianists Vladimir Ashkenazy, Earl Wild, and Shura Cherkassky, as well as violinists Nathan Milstein (Brahms) and Ruggiero Ricci (Khachaturian).
Share this page