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Fired within weeks, former boss sues orchestra for $1.9 million

Miguel Esteban was in and out of the top job at Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande faster than you can say ‘George Entwistle’.

Unlike the BBC chief, who walked away with a year’s salary worth around half a million dollars, Esteban is suing for the full value of his five-year contract, plus expenses and damages, a matter of 1.8 million Swiss francs.

The orchestral board is contesting the claim, arguing that its former blue-eyed boy was dismissed over ‘dysfunctions’ and ‘behavioral problems’.

We reported the filing of the lawsuit last week. The local press has details this morning. If the matter comes to open court, the greater dysfunction is likely to be the conduct of the board and members of the OSR. Full details will doubtless be sheltered by Swiss secrecy laws, but we’ll do our level best, as ever, to break them.


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  1. Dalton Geneve says:

    The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande now has its back to the wall and it will be difficult for them to hide behind the usual cloak of Swiss secrecy. As has been written before, the OSR is lead by an out of touch board of rich provincial people, with its Chairman, Metin Arditi, more interested in being a best selling author and cultivating his own inflated ego than actually understanding what the orchestra needs. As has also been written before, the OSR is mediocre and will remain mediocre as long as it is lead and overseen by a board more interested in preserving the status quo and helping “insiders” than actually making the right decision needed for an orchestra of today. Miguel Esteban may or may have not worked out, but unless he was dismissed for ‘criminal’ reasons, which was not the case, then his dismissal after a few months can only be blamed on an incompetent board of directors who made the selection in the first place. Metin Arditi and the rest of the morons running this provincial and mediocre operation should submit their resignations immediately. I doubt that they will, as this is Switzerland and as long as you don’t rock the boat’ too much, you will always be protected. Do something original, take a stand, take responsibility for your actions and you are out of the appalling Swiss system. My sympathy is with the poor new manager, Mr. Swinnen, who will undoubtedly quickly regret his decision to join such an amateurish and provincial organisation.

    • Honest observer says:

      The Swiss secrecy laws cover up too many injustice deeds which spread into the classical music world in the country. Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is one such example. Metin Arditi is protected by the Free Mason and so do many of his colleagues in the Board of the OSR. The Board interest is to only protect the status quo which unfortunately with the weak and poor administration only bring the orchestra into its current disastrous state. Metin Arditi and the Board should be held responsible to give clear explanation why they hired Miguel Esteban in the first place. If Miguel is so incompetent like what they said, then why hired him in the first place with a five year contract? The selection process of Miguel Esteban must have been contaminated by X factors, insider friendships etc. I hope this didn’t happen with the way Henk Swinnen was appointed. Very sad indeed…………

  2. Mr Geneve,
    I don’t have any problem with you criticizing a mediocre administration. It is its fault if such a stupid matter arose last July. However, I have a BIG BIG BIG problem when you expressed a negative value judgment on the orchestra itself. I would like to know how many concerts you’ve ever heard, whether you took the time to listen beautiful recordings but maybe it’s not prestigious enough, and if you think it is justified to criticize the work that is done by the wonderful musiciens of this orchester. As far as I know, they are not responsible for being ruled by a mediocre administration. I don’t know whether you come from England, or America, where there are wonderful orchestras too. But expressing judgments about the OSR (“provincial” “amateurish” organisation) as you did is disrespectful towards the musicians themselves. Maybe you think that conductors such as Ansermet, Sawallish, Stein, Jordan, Luisi, Janowski, Yamada and many more who conducted or are doing so are mediocre as well (as was written by Mr Lebrecht in his book). Other orchestras than London Symphony Orchestra or Chicago Symphony Orchestra are allowed to exist. And before criticizing other countries, one should also clean up one’s own back yard. Switzerland is definitely not perfect, but America or England are far from being the cleanest countries as well.

    • Alexandre, why create such a polemic here mentioning name like Fabio Luisi if indeed the truth was the orchestra sacked him when he was the Chief Conductor? Luisi is a big shot today but in 1997 he was just a highly talented up and coming conductor. He took the helm of the OSR wanting to put his mark on your orchestra. Instead the arrogance of your orchestra sacked him out mercilessly…..the same story went with Pinchas Steinberg. Janowski is a dead wood boring German school Kapellmeister and Neeme Jarvi is a [redacted]. Do you expect Neeme Jarvi is going to keep the standard which for the least Janowski tried to rise?

  3. Marcel in Basel says:

    I too am sorry to have to say that the OSR is not a great orchestra. I have heard about 30, maybe 40 concerts with them since 2002 and I was not impressed. Having lived abroad, in London, Berlin and Lisbon for fourteen years before returning to Switzerland, I realised, upon returning, just how old fashioned and boring the OSR concerts were. Everything lacks buzz and charisma, from the way the concerts are announced, to the atmosphere on stage, to the actual performances. The OSR is dusty, conservative and not a comfortable experience for neither myself, my wife or my teenage son. I also doubt that unless the board and their leader changes, that things will move for the OSR. They really need a revolution and that, as we all know, is a very un-Swiss concept!

  4. MunichMusicFan says:

    I have been following this story and it is really sad. As a professional musician I have only heard the OSR in Geneva three times and for me, it was just an average orchestra, nothing special. I also agree that the atmosphere in the hall was so heavy, unfriendly and conservative and the people in the audience all looked and seemed so bored and not interested in the music at all, with at least four people on my row sleeping (and snoring) throughout the whole concert! It all seems, looks and feels so out of date and so provincial, yet at the same time, it pretends to be so extremely sure and overly confident. I just don’t like that orchestra and the concert experiences I have had there.
    What is funny though, is that I regularly look for musician jobs on musical and it’s hard to believe, but the OSR still has the opening for the General Manager job listed, with the entire job description, more than one week after they officially announced their new manager! Have a look, but I’m sure that they will take it down as soon as they see this.
    Perhaps the new guy has already resigned, so they just keep the opening for the job up. Sad story.

  5. The quite poor syntax of some of the harshest posts here gives the strong impression some frustrated Genevese are trying to pass themselves off as knowledgeable professionals – from Britain and the US, yes, of course. They apparently have scores to settle with the OSR or Mr. Arditi. Who might they be? They certainly sound like friends of Mr. Esteban’s – any need to mention that a few days after the man was fired, someone (again, who?) hacked into the orchestra’s website [redacted].

    Your comments reek of mediocrity and condescension, not the musicians you’ve been insulting for nearly two weeks. That equally applies to Herr Professor Lebrecht whom we should thank for offering us his, o, so valuable insight.

    All the best,
    David R.

    • Thank you, Mr Reichenbach. Your perspective is much appreciated, with the exception of certain unfounded comments that were removed for legal reasons – for your own protection, as much as ours. NL

    • Honest observer says:

      Mr. Reichenbach, perhaps in your mind you are thinking that Miguel Esteban asked his Cuban friends to defend him???

  6. musiclover says:

    hello, please tell me what you think, is this what an average/mediocre orchestra sounds like ? thank yiou

    • Swiss and Sad says:

      This live YouTube recording of Janowski conducting the OSR in Schubert’s Fifth Symphony is actually quite stiff and lacks the Viennese elegance and charm that Schubert should have. The musicians don’t sound inspired or at the edge of their seats. It’s just OK, but nothing special. I agree, the OSR is simply a boring orchestra. Tonhalle in Zürich is much much better and exciting musical things actually happen there.

  7. Saul Davis says:

    If you think things are bad, try being a classical harpist.

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