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Ernest Ansermet

Ernest Ansermet

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Ernest Alexandre Ansermet was a Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 conductor
Conducting
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

.

Biography


Ansermet was born in Vevey
Vevey
Vevey is a town in Switzerland in the canton Vaud, on the north shore of Lake Geneva, near Lausanne.It was the seat of the district of the same name until 2006, and is now part of the Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut District...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. Although he was a contemporary of Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. By the 1930s he had built a reputation as one of the leading conductors in Europe, and he was the leading conductor who remained...

 and Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.-Biography:Otto Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany...

, Ansermet represents in most ways a very different tradition and approach from those two musicians. Originally he was a mathematics professor, teaching at the University of Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

. He began conducting at the Casino in Montreux
Montreux
Montreux is a municipality in the district of Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.It is located on Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps and has a population, , of and nearly 90,000 in the agglomeration.- History :...

 in 1912, and from 1915 to 1923 was the conductor for Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

's Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

. Traveling in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 for this, he met both Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

 and Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, and consulted them on the performance of their works. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, he met Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, who was exiled in Switzerland, and from this meeting began the conductor's lifelong association with Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n music.

In 1918, Ansermet founded his own orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is a Swiss symphony orchestra, based in Geneva at the Victoria Hall...

 (OSR). He toured widely in Europe and America and became famous for accurate performances of difficult modern music, making first recordings of works such as Stravinsky's Capriccio with the composer as soloist. Also, Ansermet was one of the first in the field of classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 to take jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 seriously, and in 1919 he wrote an article praising Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer.He was one of the first important soloists in jazz , and was perhaps the first notable jazz saxophonist...

.

After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Ansermet and his orchestra rose to international prominence through a long-term contract with Decca Records
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

. From that time until his death, he recorded most of his repertoire, often two or three times. His interpretations were widely regarded as admirably clear and authoritative, though the orchestral playing did not always reach the highest international standards, and they differed notably from those of other famous 20th-century specialists, notably Pierre Monteux
Pierre Monteux
Pierre Monteux was an orchestra conductor. Born in Paris, France, Monteux later became an American citizen.-Life and career:Monteux was born in Paris in 1875. His family was descended from Sephardi Jews who came to France in the wake of the Spanish Inquisition. He studied violin from an early age,...

 and Stravinsky himself. Ansermet disapproved of Stravinsky's practice of revising his works, and always played the original versions. Although famous for performing much modern music by other composers such as Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger was a Swiss composer, who was born in France and lived a large part of his life in Paris. He was a member of Les six. His most frequently performed work is probably the orchestral work Pacific 231, which is interpreted as imitating the sound of a steam locomotive.-Biography:Born...

 and Frank Martin
Frank Martin (composer)
Frank Martin was a Swiss composer, who lived a large part of his life in the Netherlands.-Childhood and youth:...

, he avoided altogether the music of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and his associates, even criticizing Stravinsky when he began to use twelve-tone techniques in his compositions. In Ansermet's book, Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine (1961), he sought to prove, using Husserlian
Edmund Husserl
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the 20th century philosophical school of phenomenology. He broke with the positivist orientation of the science and philosophy of his day, yet he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic...

 phenomenology and partly his own mathematical studies, that Schoenberg's idiom was false and irrational.

In his last years, he and his ensemble surprised many by issuing discs devoted to Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

, Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 and Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

. These performances were not at all conventionally Germanic, and were much criticized at the time of their appearance, but during recent years their vivacity has come to be appreciated more.

In May 1954, Decca
Decca Records
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....

 recorded Ansermet and the orchestra in Europe's first commercial stereophonic recordings. They went on to record the first stereo performance of the complete The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

by Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

 on LP
LP album
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 (Artur Rodziński
Artur Rodzinski
Artur Rodziński was a Polish conductor of opera and symphonic music. He is especially noted for his tenures as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic in the 1930s and 1940s.-Biography:...

 had already recorded a stereo performance on magnetic tape
Magnetic tape
Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic recording, made of a thin magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic. It was developed in Germany, based on magnetic wire recording. Devices that record and play back audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders...

, but this had been released on LP only in mono). Ansermet also conducted early stereo recordings of Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

's Nocturnes and the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune , commonly known by its English title Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, is a symphonic poem for orchestra by Claude Debussy, approximately 10 minutes in duration...

. Part of his recording of The Rite of Spring, augmented by a rehearsal recording unobtainable elsewhere, was used by Decca on the company's 1957 stereo demonstration LP, A Journey into Stereo Sound. The conductor's clear and methodical counting of beats is a distinct feature of this rehearsal sequence.

Ansermet was an ardent man who argued his opinions vehemently. He was notable in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 for his argumentative rehearsals with British orchestras, who were used to the more jovial style of Sir Thomas Beecham
Thomas Beecham
Sir Thomas Beecham, 2nd Baronet CH was an English conductor and impresario best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras...

 or the more restrained manner of Sir Adrian Boult
Adrian Boult
Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH was an English conductor. Brought up in a prosperous mercantile family he followed musical studies in England and at Leipzig, Germany, with early conducting work in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company. His first prominent post was...

. His last recording, of Stravinsky's The Firebird
The Firebird
The Firebird is a 1910 ballet created by the composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor....

,
was made in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 with the New Philharmonia Orchestra
Philharmonia
The Philharmonia Orchestra is one of the leading orchestras in Great Britain, based in London. Since 1995, it has been based in the Royal Festival Hall. In Britain it is also the resident orchestra at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and the Corn Exchange, Bedford, as well as The Anvil, Basingstoke...

, which included a recording of the rehearsal sessions made as a memorial to him. Another late recording for Decca, also issued as a memorial album, was with L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and was devoted to Albéric Magnard
Albéric Magnard
Lucien Denis Gabriel Albéric Magnard was a French composer, sometimes referred to as the "French Bruckner", though there are significant differences between the two composers...

's Symphony No. 3 and Édouard Lalo
Édouard Lalo
Édouard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo was a French composer.-Biography:Lalo was born in Lille , in northernmost France. He attended that city's music conservatory in his youth. Then, beginning at age 16, Lalo studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Berlioz's old enemy François Antoine Habeneck...

's Scherzo for Orchestra.
Ansermet composed some piano pieces and compositions for orchestra, among them a symphonic poem entitled Feuilles de Printemps (Leaves of Spring). He also orchestrated Debussy's Six épigraphes antiques in 1939.

He died on 20 February 1969 in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 at the age of 85.

In concert

  • Stravinsky
    Igor Stravinsky
    Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

    , Histoire du soldat
    Histoire du soldat
    Histoire du soldat , composed by Igor Stravinsky, is a 1918 theatrical work "to be read, played, and danced" . The libretto, which is based on a Russian folk tale, was written in French by the Swiss universalist writer C.F. Ramuz...

    , Lausanne
    Lausanne
    Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

    , 28 September 1918
  • Stravinsky, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
    Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
    The Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra was written by Igor Stravinsky in Nice between 1926 and 1929. The score was revised in 1949.Stravinsky designed the Capriccio to be a virtuosic vehicle which would allow him to earn a living from playing the piano part...

    , composer as soloist, 6 December 1929

On stage

  • Manuel de Falla
    Manuel de Falla
    Manuel de Falla y Matheu was a Spanish Andalusian composer of classical music. With Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Joaquín Turina he is one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century....

    , The Three-Cornered Hat, Ballets Russes
    Ballets Russes
    The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

    , Paris
    Paris
    Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

    , 1919, a ballet for which Léonide Massine created the choreography
    Choreography
    Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself, which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words "χορεία" ...

     and Pablo Picasso
    Pablo Picasso
    Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

     designed the sets and costumes. (Ansermet later recorded this in stereo.)
  • Stravinsky, Pulcinella
    Pulcinella (ballet)
    Pulcinella is a ballet by Igor Stravinsky based on an 18th-century play — Pulcinella is a character originating from Commedia dell'arte. The ballet premiered at the Paris Opera on 15 May 1920 under the baton of Ernest Ansermet. The dancer Léonide Massine created both the libretto and choreography,...

    , Ballets Russes, Paris
    Paris
    Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

    , 15 May 1920
  • Prokofiev
    Sergei Prokofiev
    Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

    , Chout
    Chout
    Chout, Op. 21 , is the usual English-language title of a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev, written in two versions between 1915 and 1921. It is sometimes known as "The Tale of the Buffoon", or simply "The Buffoon"...

    , Ballets Russes, Paris, 1921
  • Stravinsky, Renard
    Renard (Stravinsky)
    Renard, Histoire burlesque chantée et jouée is a one-act chamber opera-ballet by Igor Stravinsky, written in 1916. The Russian text by the composer was based on Russian folk tales from the collection by Alexander Afanasyev.The full Russian name of the piece is: Ба́йка про лису́, петуха́, кота́, да...

    , Ballets Russes, Paris, 18 May 1922
  • Stravinsky, Les noces
    Les Noces
    Les noces by Igor Stravinsky, is a dance cantata, or ballet with vocalists.-History:The ballet was premiered on June 13, 1923 at the Théâtre de la Gaîté, by the Ballets Russes with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska...

    , Ballets Russes, Paris, 13 June 1923
  • Benjamin Britten
    Benjamin Britten
    Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

    , The Rape of Lucretia, Glyndebourne
    Glyndebourne
    Glyndebourne is a country house, thought to be about six hundred years old, located near Lewes in East Sussex, England. It is also the site of an opera house which, with the exception of its closing during the Second World War, for a few immediate post-war years, and in 1993 during the...

    , 12 July 1946

On record

  • Stravinsky, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
    Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
    The Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra was written by Igor Stravinsky in Nice between 1926 and 1929. The score was revised in 1949.Stravinsky designed the Capriccio to be a virtuosic vehicle which would allow him to earn a living from playing the piano part...

    , composer as soloist, May 1930

Writings

  • Ansermet, Ernest. 1961. Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine. 2 v. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière. New edition, edited by J.-Claude Piguet, Rose-Marie Faller-Fauconnet, et al. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière, 1987. ISBN 2-8252-0211-8
  • Ansermet, Ernest. 1973. "L'apport de Paul Hindemith à la musique du XXe siècle." In Hommage à Paul Hindemith: 1895-1963 : l'homme et l'œuvre. Yverdon: Éditions de la Revue musicale de suisse romande.
  • Ansermet, Ernest. 1983. Ecrits sur la musique. Edited by Jean-Claude Piguet. New rev. ed. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière. ISBN 2-8252-0207-X

Correspondence


  • Piguet, Jean-Claude (ed.) 1976. . Edited by Jean-Claude Piguet, with notes by Jacques Burdet. Neuchâtel: La Baconnière.
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 2006. . Geneva: Georg.
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1999. . Geneva: Georg. ISBN 2-8257-0662-0
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1998. . Preface by Philippe Dinkel, postface by Jean-Jacques Langendorf. Geneva: Georg Editeur.
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1990–91. . Geneva, Switzerland: Georg.
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1989a. . Preface by Maurice Zermatten. Geneva: Georg; Paris: Eshel. ISBN 2-8257-0183-1
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1989b. Lettres de compositeurs suisses à Ernest Ansermet, 1906-1963 Avant-propos by Conrad Beck; postface by Julien-François Zbinden. Geneva: Georg. ISBN 2825701696
  • Tappolet, Claude (ed.). 1983. . Preface by René Dovaz. Geneva: Georg. ISBN 2-8257-0092-4

External links