Breaking: Swiss may lose their conductor

Breaking: Swiss may lose their conductor


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2016

After the chief executive’s apparent dismissal earlier this week, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has admitted – in a press statement of quite breath-taking incompetence – that it does not know whether Jonathan Nott will be arriving as music director in September, or at all.

Here’s the statement:

Communiqué de presse

La Fondation de l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande et M. Henk Swinnen, directeur général, se sont séparés d’un commun accord ; M. Swinnen recevra son salaire jusqu’au 30 avril 2016.

Le contrat entre la Fondation de l’OSR et Maestro Jonathan Nott n’est pas encore signé. Madame Florence Notter, Présidente de la Fondation de l’OSR et Me Sylvie Buhagiar, Vice-présidente, se sont rendues à Londres pour régler la situation.

Genève, le jeudi 4 février 2016

Salient points:

– the chief exec is being paid off with a derisory three months’ salary. He may sue for more.

– the contract with Nott has not been signed, possibly because he was getting bad vibes from the chief exec, or because the board was having second thoughts.

jonathan nott

– the two board ladies who effectively run the show have flown to London to try and sort things out with Nott’s agents at AskonasHolt.

What a laughing-stock they have made of a once-respected orchestra.


  • Emil Archambault says:

    If they parted ways by mutual agreement, why would he sue the orchestra? He was not dismissed, they both agreed to end his contract.

  • Eddie Mars says:

    So is he coming, or Nott?

  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    You’d be surprised at the number of artists who forget to sign contracts. I once went backstage after a performance to ask a major conductor if there was news on a contract for my soprano, for a set of performances that she was doing with him in Spain. ‘Oh, it’ll be fine’, he said. ‘I haven’t even signed my contract for the performances we’re doing now’….

  • William Tell says:

    The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande would have more success if they would turn their incompetent operation into a reality television series. I know this orchestra well, from my own time spent in Geneva. One should however separate the “incompetence” that is due to the Orchestra’s own weaknesses and deficiencies and the incompetence and provincialism that is just the ordinary Swiss way of doing things. I think that in the case of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande it suffers from both. Pedantry, pettiness, rudeness, provincialism, arrogance, conservatism, narrow-mindedness, lack of intellectual curiosity, no tolerance for alternative unfamiliar solutions and no creative imagination are all hallmarks of the Swiss character. The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has, in addition, added to the mix, mediocrity, very poor to non-existent management skills, very poor to non-existent board management skills, average to mediocre musicianship, pretentiousness and a profound lack of awareness of how ridiculous they repeatedly look to the outside world.

    Maestro Nott would save himself a very painful and unpleasant professional and personal experience if he would count his blessings that he hasn’t yet signed any contract with these people. As a dear friend of mine repeatedly says, “Switzerland is best left to the Swiss, as they certainly deserve it.”

  • Saxon Broken says:

    In the past, this orchestra would have been considered the best orchestra in Switzerland. When would this no longer be considered true?

    • Todd says:

      They probably were once. But then they had a string of Music Directors who didn’t give them the time and dedication. Playing for the opera also doesn’t help! Under Nott they have a chance to regain that reputation.