The city of Geneva is among the most boring on earth, stuffed with international box-tickers, sporting bribers and private bankers. The last time it had a cultural profile was half a century ago when the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande was conducted by Stravinsky’s friend Ernest Ansermet and recorded regularly and profitably by Decca. Ansermet was not a very nice man and more than a little antisemitic, but he ran a crack orchestra with relatively modern programmes and the world sat up and took notice. He retired in 1967 and the town has gone quiet since.
None of the succeeding conductors has done much to make waves, though Armin Jordan (1985-1997) and Fabio Luisi (1997-2002) kept the band up to scratch and Neeme Järvi, who arrives next year, will be his usual typhoon self.
What’s really changing, though, is the management. The new guy, ostensibly a banker, is one of the founders and fixers of the Verbier Festival, a real livewire. Miguel Esteban his name is, and he looks like the young Michael Douglas.
He won’t leave the orchestra undisturbed in its slumbers. This could be the start of an Ansermet awakening.