Measured by the esteem he commands within his chosen field, William Christie may be the superstar of the greatest magnitude to emerge from Buffalo into the international music world.
You don't recognize the name, you say?
Of course not. That's because Christie is neither a rock star nor a pop crooner nor even a concert pianist.
He is founder and director of Les Arts Florissants, an early music ensemble that is at the very pinnacle of that rarefied art. The group will be appearing in Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall for a single performance at 3 p.m. Sunday. The program will consist of two one-act baroque operas, Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" and Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Acteon," both of which have been recorded by the ensemble.
Early music ensembles have developed, over the last half of the 20th century, a relatively select but devoted following. Their purview is generally understood to be music from the baroque era (1600-1750) and earlier. Even though the movement has been around among musicologists for a long time, the general public began to pay heed to its charms at midcentury with the emergence of the New York Pro Musica under Noah Greenberg's direction.
Christie and Les Arts Florissants joined the procession in 1979 and rapidly sprinted to the head of the pack. In its first four years the ensemble's recordings won three Grand Prix du Disque awards.
The ensemble has been lionized in France, which tapped Christie for the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres and the Legion d'Honneur. He has also been recognized with the Prix Grand Siecle Laurent Perrier for his distinguished service to French music. European critics twice named Christie Musician of the Year.
That's a long way from the Buffalo suburbs, where Christie studied piano with Laura Kelsey and graduated in 1962 from Williamsville High School. He has degrees from Harvard and Yale and was on the faculty at Dartmouth.
Christie left for Paris in 1971 and established a career as solo harpsichordist and member of the touring Five Centuries Ensemble. Christie made his professional Buffalo debut with the group at a 1971 concert in Baird Hall on the University at Buffalo South Campus.
Tickets run from $35 to $75 (Canadian funds). The Roy Thomson Hall ticket office can be reached at (416) 872-4255.