Thursday 10 January 2013

A blast from the past - Orchestre de la Suisse Romande visits UK

Gustave Eiffel posing at the summit of the Eiffel tower, 1889
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under their conductor and founder Ernest Ansermet is a name from my youth and student days, when their recordings were ubiquitous and highly influential. Now the orchestra is coming to the UK for the three date tour under their new chief conductor Neeme Järvi. The orchestra will be performing at Birmingham's Symphony Hall (21 Mary 2013), Manchester's Bridgewater Hall (22 May) and the Royal Festival Hall in London (24 May).

Neeme Järvi took over as chief conductor in September 2013 and the tour will be the first time he has conducted the orchestra in the UK. Ernest Ansermet founded the Orchestre de la Suisse Romane in 1918 and conducted it for 50 years, making a name in the French and Russian repertoire. The orchestra's prominence was helped by a long term contract with Decca after World War II and they recorded Europe's first stereo recordings with Decca in 1954.

Ansermet himself had strong connections with Diaghilev's Ballet Russes. He conducted them from 1915 to 1923 premiering Stravinsky's Pulcinella, and Renard and De Falla's Three Cornered Hat. Ansermet also conducted the premiere of Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne in 1946.

Subsequent to Ansermet, the list of chief conductors is Paul Kletzki, Wolfgang Sawalisch, Horst Stein, Armin Jordan, Fabio Luisi, Pinchas Steinberg and Marek Janowski.

For their UK programme in May, the orchestra will be performing Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, Grieg's Piano Concerto and Arvo Part's Silhouette, hommage a Gustave Eiffel, which was commissioned by the Orchestra de Paris in 2009 to celebrate the arrival of Paavo Järvi as their conductor. (Paavo Järvi is Neeme Järvi's son and a friend of the composer.)

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