Michel Debost

Michel Debost


• Born 1934


Michel Debost is among the leading French flutists of his generation and regarded by many as the successor to Jean-Pierre Rampal, both as a performer and pedagogue. Indeed, but he not only succeeds Rampal symbolically, he did so in actuality when he replaced him as professor of flute at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1982. Debost's credentials are most impressive: he has won five major international competitions over just a seven-year span (1957-1964) and served as principal flutist for 30 years in the Orchestre de Paris (1960-1990). In addition, he has made numerous acclaimed recordings for a variety of major labels, including EMI, Virgin Classics, DG, Sony Classics, Skarbo, Orfeo, and others. Not surprisingly, his repertory is broad, taking in not only an assortment of French works by Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Ibert, Jolivet, Messiaen, but a vast array of standards by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Mozart, Beethoven, Enescu, Schoenberg, Bernstein, and a host of others. And he has performed many contemporary works, too, including the challenging Boulez Memoriale (... Explosante-Fixe... Originel).

Debost was born in Paris, France, on January 20, 1934. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris, first obtaining a degree in science in 1952, then one in flute performance in 1954. His most important teachers there were Marcel Moyse, Gaston Crunelle, and Jan Merry. Debost graduated with prizes in flute and chamber music performance.

Debost's competition victories began at Moscow in 1957, and he followed with first prizes at Prague (1960), Munich (1960), Geneva (1961), and Turin (1964). Even before he won at Turin, he was internationally known: Debost was serving as principal flute in two major orchestras: the Orchestre de Paris (from 1960), and the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (from 1962), and he had begun international tours, including yearly ones to the U.S., from 1962.

Debost left the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire in 1967, but remained active in his other orchestral post and as a soloist and chamber player. He began teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris from 1982, resigning in 1990. Debost's decision to leave both his teaching and orchestral posts in Paris had come as a result of his emigration to the U.S. in 1989 to accept a professorship at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he remains on the faculty. Debost's book A Simple Flute was published in 1996.