Ansermet, Ernest (Alexandre)

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Ansermet, Ernest (Alexandre)

Ansermet, Ernest (Alexandre), celebrated Swiss conductor; b. Vevey, Nov. 11, 1883; d. Geneva, Feb. 20, 1969. He studied mathematics at the Univ. of Lausanne and at the Paris Sorbonne, and received music training from Gédalge in Paris and from Denéréaz, Barbián, and Ernest Bloch in Geneva. In 1910 he made his conducting debut in Montreux, where he subsequently conducted sym. concerts. In 1915 he settled in Geneva as a conductor. From 1915 to 1923 he also conducted Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which he took on tours on Europe and North and South America. During this period, Ansermet attracted favorable notice as the conductor of the premieres of several works by Stravinsky, Ravel, Falla, and Prokofiev. In 1918 he founded l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, which he led as chief conductor for nearly 50 years. He added luster to his reputation through appearances as a guest conductor with the world’s leading orchs. In 1946 he made his debut at the Glyndebourne Festival conducting the premiere of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia; subsequently appeared with various major U.S. orchs., and made his belated Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. conducting Pelléas et Mélisande on Nov. 30, 1952. Ansermet acquired a distinguished reputation as an interpreter of Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Bartók. While he conducted the works of various other 20th-century composers, his sympathies did not extend to Schoenberg or his disciples; indeed, Ansermet disdained the 12-tone system and other avant-garde techniques. Among his writings were Le Geste du chef d’orchestre (1943), Les Fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine (2 vols., 1961), Entretiens sur la musique (with J.-C. Piguet; 1963), and Les compositeurs et leurs oeuvres (éd. by J.-C. Piguet; 1989).


F. Hundry, E. A.: Pionnier de la Musique (1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire