Recapturing past glory

By Korea Herald

Suisse Romande Orchestra to perform ‘Scheherazade,’ other essential works from its early days

  • Published : Jul 8, 2014 - 21:01
  • Updated : Jul 8, 2014 - 21:01
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is coming to Korea next week for a concert through which the nearly century-old ensemble hopes to revive its past glory.

The concert, to be held on July 15 at Seoul Arts Center, will be the Geneva-based orchestra’s first performance in Korea in 23 years. It also comes two months after the ensemble’s counterpart in German-speaking Switzerland, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, delivered a roof-raising performance in its first concert in Seoul on the same stage in April.

The two orchestras, representing the French-speaking and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, are the most celebrated orchestras in the European nation.

Ernest Ansermet founded OSR in 1918 in order to give the French-speaking region, the “Suisse Romande,” its own permanent orchestra, apparently mindful of Zurich Tonhalle, which was assembled in 1868.

Under the late founder’s nearly 50-year reign as conductor, it rose to prominence largely thanks to its performances of contemporary French and Russian music, which was considered difficult by musicians and audiences at that time. Ansermet befriended Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, often consulting with them on how to perform their music.

Through the label Decca Records, he and the OSR left an extensive recording legacy, which includes the world’s first recording of Stravinsky’s “Capriccio” with the composer as soloist.

After the departure of Ansermet, however, the OSF went downhill, dipping under the international radar. In the past decade, it has been making efforts to regain its past fame. Neeme Jarvi is its current artistic director.

Zurich Tonhalle, on the contrary, has developed gradually over the years and now holds a reputation that reaches well beyond Switzerland.

In the upcoming Seoul concert, the OSR will perform some of the key works of its glory days under the baton of Kazuki Yamada, its principal guest conductor. 
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (vincero)
Clara Jumi Kang (vincero)

The program consists of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger’s “Pacific 231,” a Tchaikovsky violin concerto with Clara Jumi Kang as soloist and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” Op. 35.

Rarely performed here, Honegger’s seven-minute symphony is a graphic musical portrait of a steam locomotive in motion. In the Ansermet years, the OSR performed and recorded this and other Honegger compositions numerous times.

“Scheherazade” is best known by Koreans as the background music used in Kim Yuna’s world-record-setting performance in the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver, Canada. The OSR has performed a substantial amount of Russian music, including this symphony and other compositions by Rimsky-Korsakov and Stravinsky.

The Suisse Romande Orchestra’s concert will start at 8 p.m. on July 15 at the Concert Hall of Seoul Arts Center.

Ticket prices range from 50,000 won to 240,000 won.

For details, call (02) 599-5743.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)