The Swiss conductor, Ernest Ansermet, came from a musical family; he successively studied the clarinet, violin and brass instruments, which he used in fanfares; later he wrote military marches for the Swiss army which he did not consider important. Besides Music, he studied Mathematics in Lausanne and graduated with a Diploma in 1903; until 1906 he taught at the Lausanne Grammar School, then he decided to continue his studies at the Sorbonne and, at the same time, to attend courses at the Paris Conservatory. After his return to Lausanne, he taught Mathematics for one more year before devoting himself entirely to music.
Ernest Ansermet received the publicly advertised post of director of the Spa concerts in Montreux. Through his friend Charles Ramuz he got to know Igor Stravinsky, who was then living in Clarens. Thus, he experienced the creation of Le Sacré du Printemps, Petrouchka, L'Histoire du Soldat, Bajka and Svadebka at close hand. His encounter with Sergey P. Diaghilev in Geneva was decisive; in December 1915 he conducted the Orchestre des Ballets Russes for the first time at a gala for the Red Cross in a first performance of Soleil de nuit, a choreography by Leonid Massine to music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1916 he went on the first tour of America with the Ballets Russes. He premiered many works composed by I. Stravinsky: In 1918 he conducted the first performance of L'Histoire du Soldat, in 1920 The Song of the Nightingale and Pulcinella, in 1922 Bajka and in 1923 Svadebka also Capriccio for piano (1929) and his Mass (1948).
Besides the works of I. Stravinsky, Ernest Ansermet also conducted first performances of works of many other composers: Parade by Eric Satie (1917), Le tricorne by Manuel de Falla (1919), Chout by Sergey S. Prokofiev (1923). Living in Geneva from 1915, he conducted three orchestras at the same time, the Ballets Russes, the Orchestre Romand (O.R., founded by him in 1918) and the Argentine National Orchestra in Buenos Aires, which was also founded by him. For ten years, he spent the winter in Geneva and the summer in Argentina. All major orchestras issued him an invitation, but he rejected most with the aim of establishing a living musical tradition in Switzerland. In 1940, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande was founded (with support from Swiss Radio), which was closely linked with his name. He conducted the orchestra until 1967.
Ernest Ansermet was a particular advocate of the Swiss composers Arthur Honegger and Frank Martin. He conducted the first performances of the following works of A. Honegger: Horace victorieux (1921), Chant de joie (1923), Rugby (1928) and Pacific 231 (1923), which was dedicated to him, and of the following works of Frank Martin: Symphonie (1938), In terra pax (1945), Der Sturm (1956), Le mystère de la Nativité (1959), Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1963) and Les Quatre Éléments, which were dedicated to him. Also important were the first performances of Benjamin Brittens The Rape of Lucretia (1946) and Cantata misericordium (1963).
Publications: Le geste du chef d'orchestre (1943); The foundations of music in the human consciousness (Neuchatel 1962); Ernest Ansermet/J. Claude Piget: Discourses on music (Munich 1985).