One of the world's foremost conductors, Charles Dutoit is especially noted for his performances of French, Russian, and twentieth century music. Dutoit began his studies at the Lausanne Conservatory (violin, piano, and orchestral conducting), and later continued in Geneva. In 1958 he received his diploma in conducting and went to Alceo Galliera at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. In 1959 he took additional training in orchestral conducting in Tanglewood. From 1957 to 1959 Dutoit worked as a violist in Europe and South America before returning to Switzerland to conduct. In 1959 he was appointed as a guest conductor of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. From 1964 to 1966 he worked as a conductor for Radio Zurich, and from 1965-1967 he conducted ballet at the Vienna Opera. He succeeded Paul Kletzki as the head of the Bern Symphony Orchestra (1968-1978). In addition to his work in Bern, he directed the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico from 1973 to 1975, and the Symphony Orchestra of Göteborg from 1975 to 1978. In 1977 Dutoit obtained the major appointment of his career: music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He quickly elevated the Montreal to international acclaim. He notably improved the orchestra's scheduling of Classical-era works, particularly the symphonies of Haydn. He is also noted for the championing of new Canadian music. Dutoit has been the artistic director and principal conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra's concert series at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY, and has also directed the orchestra's summer series at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. In 1990, Dutoit became music director of the Orchestre National de France. Since September 1996, he has been the principal conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and as of September 1998, also their music director. In April 2002, Dutoit resigned his position with Montreal Symphony.
While in Montreal, Dutoit established an impressive legacy of recordings that won over 40 national and international awards including the Grand Prix du Président de la République (France), the High Fidelity International Record Critics' Award, the Amsterdam Edison Award, the Japan Record Academy Award, the German Music Critics' Award, as well as numerous Juno awards. Dutoit and the Montreal received their first Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Opera Recording of Berlioz's Les Troyens and more recently, a second Grammy for their 1999 recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and No. 3, and Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 with pianist Martha Argerich (Dutoit's former wife). The Montreal and Dutoit also recently won a Juno Award for their recording of Respighi's La Boutique Fantasque and Impressioni brasiliane.
Between 1981 and 2001, Dutoit and the Montreal undertook significant tours of Europe, the Far East, South America and the United States. Dutoit has conducted all the major orchestras of the world including those in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin and Munich Philharmonics, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Since his operatic debut at Covent Garden in 1983, he has conducted the Metropolitan Opera and at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Dutoit has received numerous awards and distinctions including honorary doctorates from McGill University, the Université de Montréal, and the Université Laval. In 1982 Dutoit was named Musician of the Year by the Canadian Music Council, and in 1988 he received the Canadian Music Council Medal in recognition of his contribution to music in Canada. Also in 1988, the French government made Dutoit an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1996, he was promoted to Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.