Ernest Ansermet

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Ernest Ansermet, 1933

Ernest Ansermet (born November 11, 1883 in Vevey , † February 20, 1969 in Geneva ) was a Swiss conductor .


Ansermet tried different instruments in his youth: clarinet, violin and wind instruments, which he used as fanfares. He later wrote marches for the Swiss Army, which he did not consider important. He graduated in mathematics in 1903 and was a mathematics teacher in Lausanne until 1906 , but also studied composition, a. a. with André Gedalge in Paris, later with Ernest Bloch in Geneva . He soon became more interested in conducting, the trade of which he learned from Felix Mottl in Munich and refined with Arthur Nikisch and Felix Weingartner in Berlin .

In 1912 he became concert director of the Kursaal in Montreux, Vaud . Through his friend Charles Ramuz he met Igor Stravinsky , who was then living near Montreux in Clarens. Here he experienced the creation of some compositions up close. A profound friendship with artists developed.

In 1915 he met Sergei Pavlovich Djagilew in Geneva , who made him the conductor of the " Ballets Russes ". At a gala for the Red Cross, Ansermet conducted Soleil de nuit by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakow for the first time in the choreography of Léonide Massine . In 1916 he accompanied the ballet on its tour of the USA. In 1917 he brought in collaboration with Pablo Picasso , Jean Cocteau and Léonide Massine ballet Parade of Erik Satie for the premiere. In the years that followed, Ansermet conducted numerous premieres of Stravinski's works, including L'Histoire du Soldat in 1918 , The Song of the Nightingale and Pulcinella in 1920 , Bajka in 1922 and Svadebka in 1923, as well as Capriccio for piano and orchestra (1929) and Mass (1948 ). In addition to the compositions by Stravinsky, he has also premiered many other composers, such as Eric Satie's Parade (1917), Le tricorne by Manuel de Falla (1919) and Sergei Prokofiev's Chout (1923).

He was able to do all of this because he directed three orchestras at the same time: that of the Ballets Russes, the Orchester Romand (OR), which he founded in 1918, and the Argentine National Orchestra (Orquesta Sinfónica Argentina) in Buenos Aires, which he had founded in 1922 in collaboration with the local Wagner Society. For ten years he spent the winter months in Geneva and the summers in Argentina.

Together with Walter Schulthess , Ansermet founded the Lucerne Festival in 1938 and, with the support of Swiss radio, founded the Orchester de la Suisse romande (OSR) in 1940 , which is closely linked to his name and which he directed until 1967. Here, too, he particularly supported the works of the Swiss composers Arthur Honegger and Frank Martin with premieres. The works he performed for the first time include Honegger's Horace victorieux (1921), Chant de joie (1923), Rugby (1928) and Pacific 231 (1923), which was dedicated to him, as well as Frank Martin's Symphony (1938), In terra pax ( 1945), The Tempest (1956), Le mystère de la Nativité (1959), Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1963) and Les Quatre Éléments , which in turn was dedicated to him. Other important premieres were Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia (1946) and Cantata misericordium (1963).

Ernest Ansermet, 1965

After the Second World War, Ansermet and his orchestra became internationally known through a long-term contract with Decca Records . The first commercial stereo recording in Europe was conducted in May 1954 by Ernest Ansermet. This was followed in the same year recordings of excerpts from the ballet music for Sleeping Beauty , The Nutcracker and Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , which were recorded by the Covent Garden Orchestra in London. The first stereo recordings also included the complete music of the ballet The Nutcracker , which was produced on stereo long-playing records by Decca and later by Telefunken . Ansermet realized early on how important recording activities are for the radio and on vinyl. The broadcast of the radio concerts, the so-called "Mercredis symphoniques", were sometimes rehearsals before recordings. Decca had set up a recording studio in the Victoria Hall in Geneva; all recordings with the OSR were made there. There were 314 works with Ansermet from Decca alone on the market. In the archives of the «Radio de la Suisse Romande» there are 672 tapes of concerts by Ernest Ansermet. Ansermet often went on tour with his orchestra in major European cities such as London and Paris , but also in the USA and the USSR .

Ernest Ansermet was involved in the creation of the Lucerne Festival . In 1938 he was looking for a field of activity for his musicians for the summer months, as he could not employ them all year round. Since he regarded Lucerne as the Montreux of German-speaking Switzerland and this city also has a Kursaal, Ansermet recognized a possible venue for his orchestra here and presented his plans to the mayor, Jakob Zimmerli. He found an open ear with him. Under the direction of Ernest Ansermet and Gilbert Gravina, members of the “Orchester de la Suisse Romande” and the Kursaal Orchestra (made up of musicians from the General Music Society of Lucerne (AML), now the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra ) played in four solo concerts in the acoustically excellent theater hall of the Casino-Kursaal. Ansermet conducted the opening concert with works by Joseph Haydn , Robert Schumann , Maurice Ravel , César Franck and Igor Stravinski. The gala concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini on August 25, 1938 in Tribschen-Park is given as the founding date of the festival, but it was actually a homage to Richard Wagner . Thanks to the fact that both the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals were boycotted by great musicians for political reasons, the festival in Lucerne with conductors such as Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter , Fritz Busch and others quickly established itself.


In his book The Basics of Music in Human Consciousness , published in French in 1961 (Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine) , Ansermet reveals an anti-Semitic stance in several places . For example, he writes:

«And this problem is basically the Jewish problem par excellence; for there cannot be an occidental community before the Jews of the occident, together with the Christians of all denominations and the 'atheists', can adopt a common view of the world and of mankind. However, we can only touch on this problem again in our conclusions. Even though the fundamentally Jewish way of being has not yet proven to be history-forming and has rather become creative on the margins of history [...] »

- Ernest Ansermet : The basics of music in human consciousness , Munich 1965, p. 413

On the other hand, Ansermet, who himself gave concerts in Germany during the war, invited the Jewish violinist and composer Carl Flesch , who was persecuted by the National Socialists, to Switzerland, where he taught at the Lucerne Conservatory until his death in November 1944.


  • Swan Lake , ballet music by Peter Tschaikowsky, op.20, stereo recording 1958/1959, Orchester de la Suisse Romande, Geneva
  • Sleeping Beauty , ballet music by Peter Tschaikowsky, op. 66, stereo recording 1959, Orchester de la Suisse Romande, Geneva
  • Nutcracker , ballet music by Peter Tschaikowsky, op.71, stereo recording 1959/1960, Orchester de la Suisse Romande, Geneva
  • Discografia Ernest Ansermet - sorted by composer

Book publications

  • Conversations about music , 1973 (the conversations were held with J.-Claude Piguet for Radio Geneva in the winter of 1961/62)
  • The basics of music in human consciousness , Munich 1961


Individual evidence

  1. ^ The History of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes 1909–1929. In: Russian Ballet History .
  2. Pablo Bardín: La Sinfónica Nacional cumple medio siglo. In: Historia sinfónica (Spanish).
  3. ^ Antonio Baldassarre: 1938, Lucern Festival. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  4. L'Orchestre de la Suisse romande. In: .
  5. Brenno Bolla: Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969). The conductor and his recordings. In: Analogue Audio Association Switzerland (AAA), Bulletin from spring 2006 (PDF; 413 kB).
  6. Toscanini conducts the «Concert de Gala». ( Memento of the original from May 7, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Website of the Lucerne Festival (for the gala concert on August 25, 1938 in Tribschen-Park).  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Heinz Josef Herbort: A great conductor and a great chunk of theory. In: Zeit Online . December 3, 1965 (Review)

Web links

Commons : Ernest Ansermet  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files