Classical?

"If I tell you that for me, classical music is just a boring thing for old people, what would you show to prove me wrong?" I thought that this short provocative sentence would be sufficient to reveal an orchestra diametrically opposed to the dusty clichés I had in mind. Fortunately for me, it takes a little more than a magic formula to understand this universe.

Classical music is an experience which is, above all, physical. A matter of patience. A bit like the first time you taste a whisky. It doesn’t immediately pique your interest. You have to indulge in comparison, allow yourself to be surprised and gradually find your ground. This implies being able to listen to your feelings. As conductor Jonathan Nott explained to me "one of the problems is that some people think that there is always something to understand".

When I met the musicians, I was surprised by the ease with which they had engaged in careers of such a quasi-priestly nature. Indeed, it is customary for a musician to spend the whole of their professional life with the same orchestra. This may seem anachronistic, at a time where we don’t know where we’ll be living in five to ten years, to find a young Scot acknowledging that he will spend the next forty years of his life playing the tuba in Geneva.

Nonetheless, this pace of life does not exclude modernity. In this story, I wanted to sketch a universe of contrasts where centuries-old instruments can be found alongside the latest technologies. Where musicians rehearse in Doc Martens, and where people care about the number of followers on their Facebook page. I wanted to throw a starker light, more often found in the world of rock, onto the hidden side of the orchestra. The ring flash and its circular halo are not forgiving! It reveals everything, in the interest of transparency, and perhaps even borders on harassment.

From its inception, the OSR wanted different eras to coexist: there is not only Mozart and Beethoven in life! I had the chance to see this search for bridges between generations in action within this orchestra. When seniors retire, they give way to new young talent from all over the world. In a few years, the surprising building of the Cité de la Musique will complete this ‘moult’ by offering an orchestra in constant renewal a setting that’s genuinely open to the city, and a building able to introduce this subtle universe to new generations of music lovers.

Report commissioned by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande as part of its first century celebrations.