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
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker; Respighi: Pines Of Rome / Ansermet, Solti
Release Date: 06/28/2010   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 425509   Number of Discs: 2
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Browse 26-50 of 99 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    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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  • 27.
    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:  Suzanne Danco,  Thomas Hemsley,  Peter Pears,  Heather Harper  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Radio Chorus,  Pro Arte Chorus
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  • 28.
    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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  • 29.
    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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  • 30.
    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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  • 31.
    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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  • 32.
    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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  • 33.
    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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  • 34.
    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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  • 35.
    Debussy: Prelude A L'apres-midi D'un Faune, La Mer, Jeux, Khamma
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 470255 Release Date: 10/23/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claude Debussy
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 36.
    Ultimate Russian Classics [5-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001313502 Release Date: 08/25/2009   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Alexander Borodin,  Modest Mussorgsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Ernest Ansermet,  Riccardo Muti,  Sir Neville Marriner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Montreal Symphony Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 37.
    Thibaud Plays French Music - Lalo, Chausson, Saint-saens
    Label: Opus Kura   Catalog: 2082 Release Date: 05/12/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edouard Lalo,  Ernest Chausson,  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Jacques Thibaud
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Eugčne Bigot,  Pierre Monteux
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  • 38.
    The Classic Sound - Ansermet Conducts Chabrier
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 452890 Release Date: 05/08/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Emmanuel Chabrier,  César Franck
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 39.
    Ansermet- Chabrier: Espańa, Etc;  Lalo: Rapsodie, Etc
    Label: London/Decca Jubilee   Catalog: 433720 Release Date: 01/07/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Emmanuel Chabrier,  Edouard Lalo
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 40.
    Composers In Person
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 17575 Release Date: 11/24/2008   Number of Discs: 22
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Ernö von Dohnányi,  Paul Hindemith,  Aram Khachaturian  ... 
    Performer:  Béla Bartók,  Vilma Medgyaszay,  Ferenc Szekeres,  Zoltán Székely  ... 
    Conductor:  Lawrence Collingwood,  Paul Hindemith,  Aram Khachaturian,  Arthur Honegger  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Percurama Percussion Ensemble
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  • 41.
    Ansermet- Roussel: Symphonies 3 & 4, Le Festin De L'aragnée
    Label: London/Decca Jubilee   Catalog: 433719 Release Date: 09/16/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Albert Roussel
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 42.
    Ravel: Bolero, La Valse, Daphnis et Chloe / Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 468564 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Chorus
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  • 43.
    Stravinsky: Chamber Works & Rarities / Ashkenazy, Dutoit
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 473810 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Alan Brind,  Dimitri Ashkenazy,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cristina Bianchi  ... 
    Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Charles Dutoit,  Riccardo Chailly,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  European Soloists Ensemble Orchestra,  Montreal Sinfonietta Orchestra,  Montreal Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 44.
    Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Highlights) / Ernest Ansermet, Suisse Romande Orchestra
    Label: Fim (1st Impression)   Catalog: 24 Release Date: 05/20/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Composers In Person - Stravinsky: Les Noces, Octet, Etc
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 54607 Release Date: 04/07/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Linda Seymour,  Parry Jones,  Roy Henderson,  Edwin Benbow  ... 
    Conductor:  Igor Stravinsky,  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Chorus,  Walther Straram Concerts Orchestra,  Alexis Vlassof Chorus
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  • 46.
    Honegger: Symphony No 2, Symphony No 4, Une Cantate De Noël
    Label: London/Decca Enterprise   Catalog: 430350 Release Date: 04/07/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arthur Honegger
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 47.
    Ultimate Classical Relaxation - The Essential Masterpieces
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001079002 Release Date: 03/11/2008   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Tomaso Albinoni  ... 
    Performer:  Alicia De Larrocha,  Neil Black,  Tess Miller,  Carmel Kaine  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Münchinger,  Sir Neville Marriner,  András Schiff,  Thurston Dart  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Chamber Orchestra of Europe  ... 
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  • 48.
    Schumann: Piano Concerto; Beethoven / Lipatti, Haskil
    Label: London/Decca Historic Series   Catalog: 425968 Release Date: 11/27/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Dinu Lipatti,  Clara Haskil
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Carlo Zecchi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 49.
    Ultimate Ballet - The Essential Masterpieces
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000972302 Release Date: 09/11/2007   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Léo Delibes,  Frédéric Chopin,  Charles Gounod,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Conductor:  David Zinman,  Antal Doráti,  Ernest Ansermet,  Charles Dutoit
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra,  Detroit Symphony Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
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  • 50.
    Glazunov: The Seasons, Concert Waltzes 1 & 2 / Ansermet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 430348 Release Date: 08/29/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Glazunov
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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