• Born 1941
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Lawrence Foster is one of the few American conductors to have active careers in both his native country and in Europe. He has worked with leading orchestras from around the world and has released dozens of recordings.
Foster was born on October 23, 1941 in Los Angeles. He studied conducting with Fritz Zweig, making his debut at the age of 18 with an orchestra of young colleagues in Los Angeles. That same year he was named conductor of the San Francisco Ballet, a position he held until 1965. He continued his conducting studies with Karl Böhm and Bruno Walter and participated in the Bayreuth Festival conducting masterclasses in the early 1960s. In 1965, he became Zubin Mehta's assistant conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While studying at Tanglewood, he was awarded the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize in 1966. Foster's first European post came in 1969 when he was named chief guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Since that time, he has held many conducting positions including posts as music director of the Aspen Music Festival and school, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra/National Orchestra of Catalunya, Gulbenkian Orchestra, and as principal conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. In 2013, he was named music director of Orchestre et Opéra National de Montpellier.
Foster has worked extensively in the opera pit. In 1974, he began conducting at the Scottish Opera and two years later, made his debut at Covent Garden, leading the revised version of William Walton's Troilus and Cressida featuring Janet Baker. He has also conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and both the Opera-Comique and Bastille in Paris. He is a regular guest conductor at both the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Los Angeles Music Center Opera. Foster regularly guest conducts such orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony, among many others.
Foster's career reveals a commitment to contemporary music. He has presented premieres of Harrison Birtwistle's Tragoedia (1965) and The Triumph of Time (1972); Alexander Goehr's Piano Concerto (1972, with Daniel Barenboim as soloist); Gordon Crosse's Symphony No. 2 (1975); and Paul McCartney's oratorio Standing Stone at the Royal Albert Hall (1997). Foster has recorded some unusual repertoire, such as Enescu's Oedipe (2001, with José van Dam and Barbara Hendricks, which was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque), and the first recording of the revised version of Walton's Troilus and Cressida. In 2019, Foster led the Copenhagen Philharmonic on a recording of Schubert's early symphonies and stage music for the PentaTone Classics label.