history of the OSR
Founded in 1918 by Ernest Ansermet, who was its principal conductor until 1967, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR) is made up of 112 permanent musicians. It gives subscription concerts in Geneva and Lausanne, symphonic programmes for the City of Geneva, the annual United Nations Day concert and accompanies operatic performances at the Grand Théâtre of Geneva. Over the decades, the OSR has built up an international reputation thanks to its historic recordings and its interpretation of the 20th-century French and Russian repertories.
The British conductor Jonathan Nott has served as the OSR’s Music and Artistic Director since January 2017, following in the steps of the OSR’s founding head and successive music directors: Paul Kletzki (1967-1970), Wolfgang Sawallisch (1970-1980), Horst Stein (1980-1985), Armin Jordan (1985-1997), Fabio Luisi (1997-2002), Pinchas Steinberg (2002-2005), Marek Janowski (2005-2012), Neeme Järvi (2012-2015), and its principal guest conductor Kazuki Yamada (2012-2017). Under their guidance, the world-renowned OSR has actively contributed to the history of music through the discovery and support of contemporary composers. Works by Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, André-François Marescotti, Benjamin Britten, Witold Lutosławski, Heinz Holliger, William Blank, Peter Eötvös, James Macmillan, Pascal Dusapin and Michael Jarrell constitute just some of the OSR’s world premières. The OSR has continually pursued the promotion and performance of new symphonic music, especially by Swiss composers, as one of its important missions.
In close collaboration with Radio-Television Switzerland since its creation, the OSRs broadcasts over the airwaves date back to its early days, to the benefit of millions of listeners throughout the world. The OSR has recorded over 100 discs in partnership with Decca, giving rise to truly legendary recordings and enhancing its position on the international music scene. The orchestra has made prize-winning recordings for around a dozen international labels. Currently in partnership with PentaTone, the orchestra makes two to three recordings each season and recently recorded a selection of Mahler’s Lieder with Jonathan Nott.
The OSR’s international tours have taken it to the leading concert halls in Europe (Berlin, London, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Madrid) and Asia (Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Bombay), as well as key cities in the Americas (Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Montevideo). The 2020-21 season will see the OSR in Berlin, Cologne, Antwerp, and, for the first time, Copenhagen.
The OSR is highly sought after by the most prestigious festivals, and since 2000 has played at the Budapest Spring Festival, Lucerne Festival, Nuits Romantiques (Aix-les-Bains), Festival Radio France, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, Septembre Musical (Montreux), Amsterdam’s ZomerConcerten, the Grafenegg Festival and the BBC Proms.
One of the key missions of the OSR is to promote symphonic music amongst the young people who will become tomorrow’s audience and offer them a wide range of activities. These include notably a series of workshops forming an educational programme to prepare children for concerts, the interactive “Concerts pour petites oreilles” allowing younger children to try out instruments, the Family Concert series at the Victoria Hall, concerts for schools, and rehearsals open to schools in collaboration with the Department for Education.
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is supported by the City of Geneva, the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Canton of Vaud, Radio-Television Switzerland, the Geneva and Lausanne Friends of the Orchestra, and many other sponsors and patrons.