It’s an exclusive honour, open to French and German citizens who have enhanced understanding between the two nations.
Can you think of any conductors who have done that?
On the French side, easy. Pierre Boulez learned his craft at Darmstadt and lived in German exile in the early 1960s. His German is fluent, nicely accented. He gets the De Gaulle share of the 10-grand cheque.
But which German would you choose? The vote went to Kurt Masur, who’s as different from Boulez as schnapps from champagne and whose contribution to bilateral relations lies chiefly in his six-year spell as chief conductor of the Orchestre National de France, 2002-2008. Mind, he did rejuvenate that orchestra and restore it as an international force. Here’s more.