The worst orchestra in the world to manage?

The worst orchestra in the world to manage?


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2016

We hear by a leaked email that the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has parted company with its latest chief executive, Henk Swinnen.

He seemed to be doing a good job.

But so did his predecessor, Miguel Esteban, who was fired without good reason or notice. Miguel’s dismissal cost the dimwit board half a million bucks. Our advice to Henk (pictured): go to the same law firm.

Meantime, to everyone else: avoid the vacancy like a dose of Zika.

The leaked email? Ah, here goes:


henk swennen

Mesdames, Messieurs, cher Amis,

La FOSR et Monsieur Henk Swinnen se sont séparés.

Les parties communiqueront ultérieurement.

Avec mes meilleurs messages.

Florence Notter

Florence Notter



  • Christophe Astier says:

    Affligeant de nullité dans la forme… quant au fonds, on aimerait comprendre.

  • MWnyc says:

    At this particular point, could the OSR really be worse to manage than the Seoul Philharmonic? Or the Malaysian Philharmonic?

  • Urs says:

    The Orchestre de a Suisse Romande is an embarrassent to any professional in the business. I dealt with them in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and was absolutely shocked by their arrogance, pig-headedness, pretentiousness and, most importantly, by the very poor quality of their musicians. This is a third rate orchestra, behaving, and actually believing, that they are equal or better to the Berlin Philharmonic!

    Their management and board of directors’ track record is also a professional disgrace. Mr. Swinnen was forewarned by many that he was walking into a snake pit and that life in Geneva is situated somewhere between purgatory and hell. He apparently has had enough of these Swiss peasants, who have a hard time to accept that they are not what they think they are and their way of working and doing things is amateurish at best and incompetent at worst.

    • Hans Schulte says:

      A costly legacy from the orchestra’s obsessive founder, Ernest Ansermet, who used to fight with Stravinsky over his incessant revisions to his compositions and avoided any 12-tone pieces. Never trust a conductor who doesn’t conduct Schoenberg.

      • John Borstlap says:

        This a truly crazy comment, suggesting that the Untergang of the Orchestra of Romantic Switserland is the result of Ansermet’s refusal to chase away audiences with dodecacaphonies. In the sixties, Ansermet made various fantastic recordings which are still in the top category of interpretations, of which I only mention: Ravel’s ‘Sheherazade’ cyclus with Régine Crespin (so otherworldy beautiful that any other performance / recording is a painful experience), and of course Stravinsky’s ‘Petrushka’ – the original version of 1911. From that performance and recording, the composer did not receive royalties, but Ansermet rightly found that the original was superior to the revision of – I believe it was – 1947. Ansermet and Stravinsky were close friends, but the contact cooled considerably when A bluntly disagreed with S’s turn towards serialism.

        Ansermet was also a mathematician, and his book ‘Les fondements de la musique dans la conscience humaine (1961)’ explains, referring to phenomenology (Husserl) and mathematics, that Schoenberg’s new twelve-tone was based upon a wrong premise of what constitutes music. He was right of course, although considered a ‘conservative’ at the time. (You don’t have to be a conservative to notice such blatant truth.)

  • will says:

    Mr Swinnen really and truly should have stayed, less stressfully playing his oboe ( superbly) in Hilversum’s NRKO ( sadly now no longer in existence).
    I have many of their wonderful CDs of various Dutch composers who nobody outside of the Netherlands has even heard OF , let along actally heard: the unjustly neglected and wonderful symphonist WILMS, the true successor to Haydn and Schubert, and also and also some another forgotten masters such as FODOR and DE LANGE.
    One hopes and assumes that the players of that superb little orchestra NRKO eceived some decent ‘severance pay’…?