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
Browse 26-25 of 25 Available Recordings
  • 26.
    The World Of Offenbach
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4805318 Release Date: 06/28/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
    Performer:  Jacques Charon,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Pedro di Proenza,  Placido Domingo  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 27.
    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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  • 28.
    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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  • 29.
    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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  • 30.
    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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  • 31.
    Magnard: Symphony No. 3; D'indy: Symphonie
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3128 Release Date: 10/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Albéric Magnard,  Vincent D'Indy
    Performer:  Robert Casadesus
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 32.
    Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Martinu: Symphony No. 4 / Ansermet, Suisse Romande
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3127 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Bohuslav Martinu,  Henri Dutilleux
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 33.
    Robert Schumann: Bicentenary Edition
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3146 Release Date: 09/14/2010   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff,  Pierre Fournier,  Aldo Ciccolini,  Rudolf Jansen  ... 
    Conductor:  Armin Jordan,  Ernest Ansermet,  Ferenc Fricsay
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  • 34.
    Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, Symphony No. 5 / Ansermet, Serkin
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3126 Release Date: 08/10/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Rudolf Serkin
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 35.
    Britten: Les Illuminations; War Requiem; Berg: Sieben Fruhe Lieder
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3125 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Alban Berg
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Peter Pears,  Suzanne Danco,  Thomas Hemsley
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Radio Chorus,  Pro Arte Chorus
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  • 36.
    Maurice Ravel
    Label: Membran International Gmbh   Catalog: 913443 Release Date: 07/06/2010   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Walter Gieseking,  Marguerite Long,  Robert Casadesus,  Marcel Moyse  ... 
    Conductor:  Maurice Ravel,  Désiré-Emile Inghelbrecht,  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Igor Markevitch  ... 
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  • 37.
    Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker; Respighi: Pines Of Rome / Ansermet, Solti
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425509 Release Date: 06/28/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Ottorino Respighi
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 38.
    Brahms: Rinaldo, Schicksalslied, Nanie / Abbado, Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425030 Release Date: 06/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  James King
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Ambrosian Chorus,  Lausanne Pro Arte Chorus  ... 
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  • 39.
    Famous French Overtures / Ansermet, L'orchestre De La Suisse Romande
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425083 Release Date: 06/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jacques Offenbach,  Ambroise Thomas,  François Boieldieu,  Louis Ferdinand Herold  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 40.
    Ernest Ansermet: The Early Days (1916-1955)
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3119 Release Date: 06/08/2010   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Nikolai N. Tcherepnin,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Ernest Christensen,  Leslie Heward,  Fanny Davies  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
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  • 41.
    Berlioz: Symphonie Fantasique; Overtures
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4800053 Release Date: 06/01/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Régine Crespin
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
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  • 42.
    Bloch, Oboussier, Geiser / Cavelti, Nelsova, Ansermet
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4800814 Release Date: 06/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ernest Bloch,  Robert Oboussier,  Walther Geiser
    Performer:  Zara Nelsova,  Elsa Cavelti
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 43.
    Roussel, Dukas, Chausson / Ansermet, Suisse Romande Orchestra
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4800041 Release Date: 06/01/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Albert Roussel,  Paul Dukas,  Ernest Chausson
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 44.
    Bizet: Carmen, L'arlesienne Suites / Munch, Ansermet
    Label: London/Decca Weekend Classics   Catalog: 421632 Release Date: 04/08/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Georges Bizet
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Sadko, May Night / Monteux, Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 421400 Release Date: 03/29/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Pierre Monteux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 46.
    Stravinsky: Firebird Ballet / Ansermet, New Philharmonia
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 414141 Release Date: 03/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 47.
    Albeniz: Iberia; Navarra; Villa-lobos: Piano Concerto No. 1
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4800456 Release Date: 03/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Heitor Villa-Lobos,  Isaac Albeniz
    Performer:  Ellen Ballon
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 48.
    Bizet: Suites, Symphony; Turina: Danzas Fantasticas / Ansermet
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4800457 Release Date: 03/16/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Joaquin Turina
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 49.
    Ernest Ansermet Conducts Lalo & Chabrier
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4800049 Release Date: 03/16/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  Emmanuel Chabrier
    Performer:  André Pépin,  Michel Cuvit,  Ruggiero Ricci
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
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  • 50.
    Falla: El Amor Brujo, El Sombrero De Tres Picos, Danza Espanola No 1 / Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4800077 Release Date: 03/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla
    Performer:  Marina de Gabarain,  Suzanne Danco
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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