Ernest Ansermet, Vol. X;  Michel Schwalbe  (St Laurent Studio YSL T-694)
Item# C1642
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Ernest Ansermet, Vol. X;  Michel Schwalbe  (St Laurent Studio YSL T-694)
C1642. ERNEST ANSERMET Cond. NHK S.O.: Symphony #3 in F - Live Performance, 30 May, 1964, Bunka Kaikan Hall, Tokyo; ERNEST ANSERMET Cond. Suisse Romande Orch., w.Michel Schwalbé: Violin Concerto in D - Live Performance, 9 Dec., 1964 (both Brahms). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-694. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


"For 50 years Ansermet 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. 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.

[In his youth] he kept an eye trained on the technique of local conductors, and took courses in music with Alexandre Denerez, 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. 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 28 September, 1918, Ansermet premiered Stravinsky's L'HISTOIRE DU SOLDAT in Geneva.

Ansermet was also a strong champion of such other contemporary composers as Bartok and Britten, premiering the latter's opera THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. He retired from conducting in 1967. His publications include LE GESTE DU CHEF D'ORCHESTRE (1943) and LES FONDEMENTS DE LA MUSIQUE DANS LA CONSCIENCE HUMAINE (1961) [B1009 & B1086], in which he used mathematics to discredit 12-tone and other advanced compositional techniques."

- James Reel,

“Michel Schwalbé, leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1957 to 1985, throughout the heyday of the Herbert von Karajan era. An ebullient character with a sumptuous technique combining the qualities of both the Russian and the Franco-Belgian schools, he chose a life away from the plaudits he would have received on the international platform and the timing of the outbreak of the Second World War probably changed the course of his career. He appeared happy with a role where he was an integral part of one of the world's finest ensembles, and often appeared as soloist with his orchestra, as well as conducting in the maestro's absence.

Born in Radom, south of the Polish capital of Warsaw, the young boy was soon recognised as an outstanding talent by Maurycy Frenkel, pupil and assistant of the great violin teacher Leopold Auer, and teacher of another fine Polish violinist, Henryk Szeryng. At the age of 15, Schwalbé travelled with his mother to Paris, where he had lessons from Georges Enescu, an extraordinary teacher whom he always revered not just for his musicianship, but also for his faultless memory. Schwalbé's musical education also included studies in chamber music and conducting with Pierre Monteux, and with the now little-known violin master Jules Boucherit. In 1938 the final-year student carried away the highest marks of his year at the Paris Conservatoire, and the Sarasate prize.

When war came the following year, he fled France for Switzerland, and found himself leading unknown orchestras as a means of survival. But he put his time to good use, learning the art of violin making with Adolf Stahl. Schwalbé achieved enough mastery to be able to win the Scheveningen competition in the Netherlands in 1948 by playing one of his own fiddles. In the mid-1940s he was appointed leader of the Suisse Romande Orchestra, and also led the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, now coming into contact with the leading conductors of the time, including Wilhelm Furtwängler and Ernest Ansermet.

However, it was during the Lucerne Festival that he first encountered the young, unknown Karajan. Nonetheless, he did not accept the offer immediately. The Polish-Jewish instrumentalist had lost his mother and sister in the Holocaust, while Karajan, a Nazi party member, had conducted in wartime Berlin. The agreement of the appointment was seen as one of the many steps in Germany's postwar reconciliation.

Once installed in Berlin, Schwalbé established a secure niche in the top violinists' hierarchy, teaching at the Mozarteum's summer school in Salzburg, appearing as a jury member in various international competitions, and receiving many honours for his playing.

In 1984 he accepted an invitation to teach at the Yehudi Menuhin school in Surrey, and returned to Britain a year later to give masterclasses in London and at the Britten-Pears school in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. He said that he liked the quiet humour and kindliness of the British and once professed a wish that he had been English by birth.”

- Anne Inglis, THE GUARDIAN, 29 Oct., 2012