During the 1970s, when I was growing up, not least musically, I was very fortunate to be introduced to much of the repertoire from Ernest Ansermet’s recordings. Not that he was the draw – I hadn’t a clue who he was – it was more the inexpensive price (99p) attached to Decca’s “The World of the Great Classics” LP series (prefix SPA) that just happened to include numerous Ansermet titles in its reissue schedule. When listening, instinct suggested that I was on to a good thing.
Swiss-born Ansermet (1883-1969) formed L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in 1918, conducting it for fifty years – it’s current music director is Jonathan Nott – along the road making many highly-prized LPs (SXLs that continue to change hands with wallet-busting prices) and to this day do sterling service on CD, not least on the Eloquence label.
Ansermet is rightly revered for his conducting of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, and associated composers (Fauré and Honegger, say); but let’s remember him also as a distinguished advocate of Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schumann and Wagner, and other ‘core’ composers.
Haydn, too, as his superb set of the Austrian’s miraculous ‘Paris’ Symphonies (Nos.82-87) demonstrates, documented in April 1962 in the excellent acoustic of the SRO’s home, Geneva’s Victoria Hall (produced by Michael Bremner, engineered by Roy Wallace) and still sounding handsome on a pair of Decca CDs, 470 062-2, issued in 2001.
With his notably musical and dedicated Suisse Romande Orchestra, the perspicacious Ansermet judges Haydn’s great music to a nicety. I wouldn’t want to be without Roger Norrington and Kurt Sanderling (as just two examples) in these choice scores, and Ansermet is just as indispensible; indeed, in returning to his versions after some time, I had forgotten just how marvellous they are.
Illustrated is the cover of STS 15213-5 (3 LPs) for the US release of this set on London Recordings.