Hitting the right note: The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
From its beginnings at the end of World War I, to its efforts adapting to audiences in a new century, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has seen mixed fortunes. Ten years after a comprehensive programme of reforms, Swiss News looks at what has been a dynamic decade for the nonagenarian Swiss-French orchestra.
In 2000, fingers were very publicly pointed at the Geneva-based Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR), which was founded in 1918 by conductor Ernest Ansermet. During its heyday, the symphony orchestra had enjoyed something of a world reputation and was acknowledged for premiering works by major composers, such as Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Darius Milhaud and Igor Stravinsky.
An overture for change
The fingers were pointed at declining standards, poor management and overspending. This criticism led to a raft of changes within the venerable institution. These included new management--with highly successful businessman, Metin Arditi, appointed chairman--as well as changes to programming, ticket pricing, communication and more.
About the only thing not to get an immediate facelift was the late 19th-century concert hall the OSR calls home: Victoria Hall--financed by British consul Daniel Fitzgerald Packenham Barton in homage to then-reigning Queen Victoria--and which, in 2000, was the source of some complaints (including from many musicians) regarding the quality of its acoustics.
Nevertheless, with strong backing from the musicians, the new team declared its goal of pulling the orchestra's socks up and making it one of Europe's best orchestras within five years. Almost wistfully, one local paper declared that the OSR had entered the "age of marketing".
Ten years later
"There is no question that the quality of our orchestra has made a huge leap forward [since 20001 and that the OSR now holds an important place among Europe's major orchestras. We've performed in concert halls we never played before--like the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Salle Pleyel in Paris, La Scala in Milan--and played in Vienna, Berlin and London, along with Eastern European cities like Bucharest, Warsaw, Budapest, Ljubljana and Zagreb," says general administrator Steve Roger (who, despite the "Steve", is French). "We've also performed at the United Nations in New York, and toured South America. In fact, in Buenos Aires, we received the Critics' Award for the 2009/2010 concert season."
What is also striking about the past decade is the...
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