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News from the Members

Geneva WS celebrates its 40th anniversary with a gala concert
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Wagner Circle of French-speaking Switzerland, an exceptional concert was held on October 29,2017 at St Pierre's Cathedral in Geneva.

The below is an English translation of an interview with Georges Schürch, President of the WS, published in French in Le Temps:

For the 40th anniversary of the Richard Wagner Circle, Georges Schürch has arranged  an exceptional concert at the cathedral, featuring two works new to Geneva, including one by Wagner.

Georges Schürch neither lacks ideas nor the talent to defend them. The former Director of
Secondary Education, with a background in psychology and playing the clarinet, is well known in Geneva. After more than four decades of a successful career in the educational field, he also held various positions in other fields, notably within the foundations of the OSR or OCG (tranlator's note - Geneva orchestras). Today, he presides over the orchestra at the Théâtre de Carouge. 

The President of the Cercle Romand Richard Wagner has become a key figure in the world of devotees of
of the German composer. The Geneva Festival he created for Wagner's bicentenary in 2013, with Jean-Marie Blanchard, is still well remembered, as is the notable Congress of International Wagner societies, which gathered together in Geneva in 2008 no fewer than 800 participants from all over the world.

Today, Georges Schürch is back in the spotlight. Why? This time, he is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Wagner Society over which he has presided since 2001, following on from Charlotte Nierlé. The founding member to whom the event is dedicated. the former President joined the great Richard Wagner in 2016. A great adventure is thus announced to take place beneath the vaults of St. Peter's Cathedral, since the concert will bring together no less than a hundred male choristers with an orchestra of 80 musicians. On the programme are two works never previously performed in Geneva, one of which is obviously by Richard Wagner.

Le Temps: Discovering a work by Wagner is not a small undertaking. Why and how did you choose the biblical episode "Das Liebesmahl der Apostel"?

Georges Schürch: Naturally I wanted to do something different, since the society's mission is to propose original works and make them known. The Grand Théâtre often has the opportunity to offer well-known operas. We are coming from an entirely different place. I thought about this score, which is difficult to programme because of its enormous male chorus. At the premiere on July 6,1843, Wagner had assembled 1200 singers, along with an orchestra of 100 musicians! More than thirty years later, he described this choral fresco as a kind of "Game of Folk Passion".

When did you discover the "Apostel"?

I had heard it in 1990 in Lausanne under the baton of André Charlet, conductor of several choirs, who had succeeded in bringing together more than a hundred choristers. So I thought that we should also perform it in Geneva. But this project failed to come about several times because of the difficulty of finding male choirs who were free all together at the right time. Then in 2013, in Freiburg-in-Breisgau, the Wagner centenary was celebrated with this choral piece thanks to the large number of male voices in the city. I proposed to take up the same singers along with their leader, since they know well the particularities of the Apostel piece.

What are they?

Over thirty minutes of music; for example, the first twenty are devoted to the choir with multiple voices, alone, a cappella. The orchestra only comes into play in the last ten minutes. This requires a high degree of precision control for a perfect fit. And it is very difficult to find 12 high-quality male soloists to perform the apostles.

How did you tie the orchestral wreath together?

We gathered together the 80 musicians required from the Geneva Chamber Orchestra (OCG) and the HEM Geneva-Neuchâtel Orchestra. They work very professionally hand in hand.

Why did you place Hans Rott's "3rd Symphony", practically unknown, alongside the Apostel?

Because it is very beautiful and is situated aesthetically at the crossroads of Bruckner, Mahler and Wagner. It will be entrusted to Arie van Beek, the head of the OCG, who makes the score surprising.

What do you mean?

The melodic treatment is very unexpected, even unpredictable, borrowing quotes or very expressive climates from the composers that Hans Rott likes, . Of the fifty minutes of the symphony, the last movement  occupies half of the work. It is one of the few remaining scores of the composer, who died in a psychiatric asylum at the age of 26, and who had burned most of his compositions.

How would you define Hans Rott's language?

Musicologists refer to him as the "missing link between Bruckner and Mahler". And Mahlerians believe he plagiarised their favourite composer. There was a controversy in the 1980s when the manuscript was rediscovered, which showed an excessively strong relationship with certain works such as
Das Klagende Lied, before the 3rd Symphony. But it should not be forgotten that Mahler and Rott shared the same room during their studies and that the two friends shared a great deal of mutual admiration.

Copyright Slyvie Bonier (Le Temps, Geneva)