Ernest Ansermet

Biography

Born: November 11, 1883; Vevey, Switzerland   Died: February 20, 1969; Geneva, Switzerland  
For 50 years he directed an orchestra that was second-rate in tone and technique, yet Ernest Ansermet drew performances from it that cut right to the heart of the music. A musician of catholic taste, Ansermet was a reliable, insightful interpreter of composers from Mozart to Martin. His recordings in the 1950s and 1960s with the Suisse Romande Orchestra, which he founded, retain strong interest for collectors who value nuance over tonal sheen. Read more These recordings are of especial interest as they provide a link to composers active in Paris in the early twentieth century, with whom Ansermet was closely associated.

As a child, he studied math with his father, a teacher, and music with his mother. Ansermet's early training seemed to add up to a career in mathematics; he specialized in that subject at Lausanne University, graduating in 1903. Ansermet served as a professor of mathematics from 1905-1909. But during this time his interest in music only increased; he kept an eye trained on the technique of local conductors, and took courses in music with Alexandre Denéréaz, Otto Barblan, and Ernest Bloch. Ansermet sought further advice on conducting from Felix Mottl in Munich and Artur Nikisch in Berlin, then concentrated mainly on teaching himself the art of the baton.

His first professional efforts were leading the summer Kursaal concerts in Montreux (1912-1914), and conducting symphonic concerts in Geneva (1915-1918). In 1918 he organized the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, from the start performing a substantial amount of contemporary French and Russian music. Ansermet befriended many of the great progressive composers of the time, especially Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky. Through Stravinsky, Ansermet met Serge Diaghilev and was appointed principal conductor of the latter's Ballets Russes, touring with the company to Paris, London, Italy, Spain, South America, and the United States. During a 1916 tour Ansermet made his first recordings with the Ballets Russes orchestra -- the beginning of a half century of making intriguing records with less-than-stellar ensembles. Through his association with the Ballets Russes, Ansermet was able to premiere many of the period's most important dance scores, including Falla's Three-Cornered Hat, Prokofiev's The Buffoon, Satie's Parade, and Stravinsky's Pulcinella. As an extra-curricular wartime diversion, on September 28, 1918, Ansermet premiered Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat in Geneva.

He developed the reputation of -- in the words of Nicholas Slonimsky -- "a scholarly and progressive musician capable of fine interpretations of both classical and modern works." Although the Suisse Romande Orchestra, with which he recorded for Decca in the 1950s and 1960s, could be criticized for its wiry strings and sour woodwinds, the group delivered to Ansermet highly accurate performances notable for their clear textures and delicate timbral balances.

Ansermet was, not surprisingly, a gifted conductor of Classical-era music, but he had little opportunity to record it. He is best remembered for his sui generis recordings of the music of his French contemporaries Debussy, Ravel, and Roussel, and his Swiss compatriots Honegger and Martin. But Ansermet was also a strong champion of such other contemporary composers as Bartók and Britten, premiering the latter's opera The Rape of Lucretia. He retired from conducting in 1967, to the end performing and committing to disc such rarities as Magnard's Symphony No. 4.

Ansermet's compositions include a symphonic poem, Feuilles de printemps; he also orchestrated Debussy's Six épigraphes antiques, among other pieces. His publications include Le Geste du chef d'orchestre (1943) and Les Fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine (1961), in which he used mathematics to discredit 12-tone and other advanced compositional techniques. Read less
Debussy: Pelléas Et Mélisande / Danco, Mollet, Ansermet
Release Date: 09/22/2011   Label: London/Decca Historic Series  
Catalog: 425965   Number of Discs: 2
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Browse 1-25 of 101 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Decca Sound: 55 Great Vocal Recitals
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002495002 Release Date: 05/20/2016   Number of Discs: 55
    Composer:  Gustave Charpentier,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Jules Massenet,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Suzanne Danco,  Pierre Mollet,  Guido Agosti,  Gervase de Peyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Erede,  Ernest Ansermet,  Karl Böhm,  Rudolf Moralt  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $134.49
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  • 2.
    Shakespeare in Music & Words
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002488902 Release Date: 05/13/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Gerald Finzi,  Charles Gounod,  Nino Rota  ... 
    Performer:  Amy Dickson,  Renée Fleming,  André Rieu,  Jennifer Vyvyan  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Nicholas Collon,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Ernest Ansermet  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Aurora Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 3.
    The Decca Sound [Repackaged Edition]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002434502 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 4.
    Stravinsky Complete Edition [30-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002398272 Release Date: 10/23/2015   Number of Discs: 30
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Felicity Palmer,  Ian Caley,  Phyllis Bryn-Julson,  John Tomlinson  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Riccardo Chailly,  Claudio Abbado,  Gennadi Rozhdestvensky  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $191.98
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  • 5.
    Decca Sound  – Mono Years 1944 -1956
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002280602 Release Date: 04/07/2015   Number of Discs: 53
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Maurice Ravel,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus,  Clifford Curzon,  Alfredo Campoli,  Henry Datyner  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Roger Desormičre,  Karl Münchinger  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra,  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris  ... 
    CD: $213.99
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  • 6.
    Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Le Coq d'Or Suite / Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002126802 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude, Siegried's Funeral March, Ec / Ansermet, Suisse Romande Orchestra
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002083202 Release Date: 08/12/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Beethoven: Symphony No 9, Overtures, Grosse Fuge / Ansermet, Suisse Romande
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002069602 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Norma Procter,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Anton Dermota
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Choeur Du Brassus,  Choeur Des Jeunes De L’église National De Vandoise
    CD: $22.49
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  • 9.
    Beethoven: Symphonies No 1-4, Coriolan Overture / Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002005002 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 10.
    The Art of Arthur Grumiaux
    Label: Andromeda   Catalog: 9116 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Schubert,  Felix Mendelssohn,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Arthur Grumiaux,  Riccardo Castagnone,  Hans Altmann,  Hermann von Beckerath
    Conductor:  Frieder Weissmann,  Lorin Maazel,  Hans Müller-Kray,  Bernhard Paumgartner  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 11.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 12.
    Ernest Ansermet - French Music
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4807898 Release Date: 11/12/2013   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Gugolz,  Marie-Luise de Montmollin,  Nancy Waugh,  Suzanne Danco  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Union Chorale de la Tour-de-Peilz,  Geneva Motet Choir  ... 
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  • 13.
    Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; Bartok: Violin Concerto No 2 / Stern
    Label: Audite   Catalog: 95624 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Béla Bartók
    Performer:  Isaac Stern
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Debussy: Images; Prelude A L'apres-midi D'un Faune; La Boite A Joujoux
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350093 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Lucien Lavaillote
    Conductor:  Manuel Rosenthal,  Ernest Ansermet
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
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  • 15.
    Manuel De Falla: El Amor Brujo
    Label: Praga   Catalog: 350090 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla
    Performer:  Alicia De Larrocha,  Gonzalo Soriano,  Victoria de los Angeles
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Robert Veyron-Lacroix
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Spanish National Radio Orchestra
    SuperAudio CD: $24.99
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  • 16.
    Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps - 100th Anniversary Collectors Edition [20-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001780902 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Andrei Gavrilov,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Güher Pekinel,  Süher Pekinel  ... 
    Conductor:  Antal Doráti,  Riccardo Chailly,  Pierre Boulez,  Valery Gergiev  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra,  Kirov Theater Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 17.
    Ravel Complete Edition [14-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001728702 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  François-Joël Thiollier,  Jean-Yves Thibaudet,  Pierre-Laurent Aimard,  Ivo Pogorelich  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle,  Charles Dutoit,  Ernest Ansermet,  John Eliot Gardiner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London,  Nash Ensemble,  Melos String Quartet Stuttgart  ... 
    CD: $85.99
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  • 18.
    Claire De Lune - Debussy Favorites
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001675502 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  James Earl Barnes,  Timothy Hutchins,  Vera Badings,  Zoltán Kocsis  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Bernard Haitink,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Montreal Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 19.
    The Debussy Edition [18-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001676372 Release Date: 05/01/2012   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Franklin Cohen,  Jean-Rodolphe Kars,  Vera Badings,  Krystian Zimerman  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  Bernard Haitink,  Eduard Van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Cleveland Orchestra Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 20.
    The Decca Sound - Highlights
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001620002 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Béla Bartók,  Benjamin Britten,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Montserrat Caballé,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Renata Tebaldi  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Franco Capuana,  István Kertész,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  John Alldis Choir,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir  ... 
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  • 21.
    Debussy: Pelléas Et Mélisande / Danco, Mollet, Ansermet
    Label: London/Decca Historic Series   Catalog: 425965 Release Date: 09/22/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Derrik Olsen,  Pierre Mollet,  Flora Wend,  Heinz Rehfuss  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Debussy: Orchestral Works / Ansermet, Suisse Romande Orchestra
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802043 Release Date: 02/22/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 23.
    A Tribute To Spain / Ansermet, Rubinstein, Suisse Romande
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3134 Release Date: 01/11/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 24.
    Ernest Ansermet Conducts Berlioz & Liszt & Wagner
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3143 Release Date: 12/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Franz Liszt,  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Faure: Requiem; Strauss: 4 Last Songs  /  Ernest Ansermet, Teresa Stich-randall, Gerard Souzay
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3135 Release Date: 11/09/2010  
    Composer:  Gabriel Fauré,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Gérard Souzay,  Teresa Stich-Randall
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Union Chorale de la Tour-de-Peilz
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