Daniel Harding joins worst-run symphony orchestra

Daniel Harding joins worst-run symphony orchestra


norman lebrecht

November 30, 2020

The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has appointed Daniel Harding as its resident conductor.

The Geneva ensemble has a British music director Jonathan Nott. Why it needs a resident conductor, also British, is unexplained.

But so much about the OSR over the last decade – the comings and goings of managers and conductors, the decline in quality and profile – is a mystery to outside observers that we can only wonder at this latest twist. Search Slipped Disc for the entertaining twists of the OSR.

Harding is committed to two series each season for the next two years. He is also working as a pilot for Air France.

Harding has issued this comment on his agent’s website:

‘It was an unexpected pleasure to get to know the OSR during these last months. I am grateful to my friend Maria João Pires for having asked me to come and work with her and them. That was the beginning of a special friendship with the musicians of the OSR, which we will celebrate and develop over the next two years. When Steve Roger and his team proposed to me some irresistible musical and thematic ideas I was hooked immediately. I look forward to spending more time with this orchestra and enjoying their unique and gorgeous musical personality.’


  • pianoguy says:

    Brits have long worked ‘behind enemy lines’ with foreign orchestras, so why not? That said, Nott and Harding are not talents to really set the world alight, like Herr Rattler, they are best in small doses.

  • sam says:

    For fans of Harding, his peripatetic career must be frustrating and odd, but for those of us who aren’t, well, I think his talents and those of this orchestra are perfectly well matched.

    • Stereo says:

      The OSR has always been much overrated. I had a friend who worked on recordings with Ansermet. Given the standard of the “takes” it was amazing they came up with any passable recordings.

  • MacroV says:

    It’s always kind of curious how two weeks of concerts for two years gets one a title. And “resident” conductor seems an odd title for someone who clearly will not be resident much. But if he likes the orchestra and they like him, more power to them.

  • William Tell says:

    The OSR may certainly be one of the worst managed large city orchestras in the world, but in my experience, most Swiss orchestras are very poorly managed with too much “insider dealing” and lacking a truly international perspective and far too often run by dull unimaginative Swiss dilettantes who keep everything within their narrow inner circle of friends and contacts. The Swiss prove that simply having money does not mean achieving excellence, excitement and quality.

    • James Weiss says:

      I guess the Swiss are too busy hiding the money of Russian oligarchs and South American drug lords to efficiently run an orchestra. Perhaps if the OSR adopted a “gold swastika” as their logo the Swiss bankers might take notice.

    • fflambeau says:

      I disagree completely. Look at Zurich if you think the Swiss cannot be good concert musicians or do not appreciate classical music. David Zinman was there for almost 20 years and achieved wonders. And Geneva is wealthy AND very international. I think Harding is smart and Geneva could be a diamond in the rough.

  • Remo Mazzetti Jr says:

    I’ve never been impressed with Harding, but his live Mahler 9th with the Swedish Philharmonic is one of the greatest I’ve ever heard. And a live Mahler /Cooke 10th Symphony with the New York Philharmonic from 2011, was much better than his dull studio recording with the Vienna Philharmonic.

    • Magnus Berglöf says:

      Hello Remo! I think you mean the Swedish radio symphony orchestra of which Daniel Harding has been principal conductor since 2007.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I thought the Harmonia Mundi recording of M9 with D. Harding/Swedish Radio S.O. was really very good. It can be heard at Spotify. I actually like that Harding/V.P.O. Mahler 10 (Cooke). It’s not my favorite, but it’s well worth keeping. Dausgaard/Seattle and Ormandy/Philly are my favorites for Cooke III and Cooke I, respectively. As an f.y.i., I liked you first version (Slatkin/St. Louis) a bit more than your revised one (Lopez-Cobos/Cincinnati). The differences in performances may have plenty to do with that impression. I saw Slatkin perform the first version with the S.F. Symphony. It was great. All that seems a long time ago now.

  • Boris says:

    Their quality is still VERY high test and musicians are exceptional.

  • John Kelly says:

    Daniel Harding to orchestra ““Flight attendants, doors to arrival, crosscheck and all-call.”

  • John Richmond says:

    Obviously, Ansermet never should have died. Although critics used to carp about the orchestra, even when he was alive.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    “Stall. Pull up. Stall. Pull up”.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Harding has ‘Lorin Maazel’ written all over him. Brilliant talent exposed to the limelight too early, has trouble getting along with orchestras, given infinite opportunities but constantly shooting them all in the foot, and often seems to hate being a conductor altogether.

  • The OSR is a wonderful ensemble. So enjoy the Ansermet recordings and the orchestra played a superb Prom in 2018.

  • Sharon says:

    Maybe they chose Harding to save on transport costs. In addition to conducting the orchestra in the auditorium he can also do double duty by conducting the plane when they are touring. (lol)

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    I don’t think OSR under, let’s say, Wolfgang Sawallisch’s baton was such a bad orchestra…