The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, which fired its last director in record time, has appointed a French-speaking Dutchman in an attempt to calm things down. The new man is Henk Swinnen, artistic director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and he starts work in February.
What’s unclear is why Henk is leaving an international orchestra that is on a high with a young conductor, Yannick Nézet-Seguin and strong media profile for a provincial one that is floundering in the toils of mediocrity. It can’t just be the size of the pay cheque and the Heidi chalet, can it?
Meantime, Miguel Esteban, who was ousted in July, has begun legal proceedings against the OSR for wrongful dismissal. Papers were filed in court on October 31. Geneva’s not going to be a happy place for musicians for quite some time.
UPDATE: Various readers in the locality have protested at my description of Geneva and its OSR as ‘provincial’ and accused me of disrespect. Let me clarify the term.
Birmingham, Liverpool, Rotterdam, Toulouse, Lyon and Gothenburg are provincial cities with orchestras of international calibre – a ranking measured by their high visibility in major festivals, on record and online, as well as their adventurous content and ambition.
Geneva has the OSR, which has vanished off the international spectrum. Geneva is one of the wealthiest tax havens on earth. It ought to be able to afford a premier ensemble. Its failure to sustain a world-class orchestra renders it, if anything, sub-provincial. I hope that makes things clear.