Ernest Ansermet


Swiss conductor and composer, born in 1883 in Vevey, died in 1969 in Geneva. Studied in Geneva, Paris, Munich, and Berlin; his conducting professors included Felix Mottl and Arthur Nikisch. He became the musical director of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes thanks to Igor Stravinsky, and collaborated with them in the years 1918-1923. In 1918 he created the Roman Switzerland Orchestra in Geneva, which he directed for half a century. He gained fame as a superb performer of contemporary works, especially those of Debussy and Stravinsky, and gave a number of the latter's world premieres, including Histoire du soldat, Pulcinella, Lisa, Les noces, Mass, and The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla.

Ernest Ansermet was also the first to perform one of Witold Lutosławski's compositions - Postlude I. The composer's original plan was to write an extended cycle of ‘concert pieces', and the title Postludes was meant to express (as suggested Tadeusz Kaczyński) a farewell to the symphony orchestra as a medium that according to the perception at the time was receding into the background. A somewhat different explanation is given by the composer: "I put the finishing touches on the first of the pieces in 1963 and I dedicated it to the International Red Cross in Geneva, so that [...] it could be used to close the program of the festive centenary. Tied in with this is the title Postlude, which I also gave to the two remaining pieces. This title is well-fitting, not least because they are my final compositions written in an altogether non-aleatoric convention".

The composition was the result of the first commission received by Witold Lutosławski from abroad; an invitation to write pieces for specific occasions was also extended to Benjamin Britten, Frank Martin, and Dmitri Shostakovich. Their world premieres (Shostakovich did not write a piece) was given on September 1, 1963, at the opening festivities of the Centenary Congress of the International Red Cross, in a performance of the Roman Switzerland Orchestra under Ernest Ansermet. Lutosławski did not attend the concert.

kt / trans. mk