The Lucerne Festival Orchestra is a European ad hoc seasonal orchestra based at the annual Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.


The Lucerne Festival had featured a resident orchestra as far back as 1938, with Arturo Toscanini conducting the first concert of that ensemble.[1] From 1943 until its disbandment in 1993, the festival orchestra consisted primarily of musicians from Switzerland. A few years later, a reconstituted festival orchestra arose, based around players from the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and the European Community Youth Orchestra (now the European Union Youth Orchestra).[2]

The most recent incarnation of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra occurred at the instigation of Claudio Abbado (1933–2014), after a 2000 conversation with Lucerne Festival artistic director Michael Haefliger. The core of the ensemble is the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The LFO features some soloists and orchestral principals from major orchestras in its ranks, including Kolja Blacher, Wolfram Christ [de], Mirijam Contzen, Diemut Poppen, Natalia Gutman, Jens-Peter Maintz, Jacques Zoon, Reinhold Friedrich, Stefan Dohr, Alessio Allegrini, Mark Templeton, Franz Bartolomey, Alois Posch, Emmanuel Pahud, Albrecht Mayer, Stefan Schweigert, members of the Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble, the Alban Berg Quartet and Hagen Quartet. The orchestra also includes members of ensembles with whom Abbado had a connection, such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.[3][4]

Abbado hand-picked each member of the orchestra,[5] and the musicians assemble at the beginning of each August in Lucerne for a total of three weeks together, with 10 days of rehearsals. Then, the orchestra performs the opening concerts of the festival.[6] One overriding philosophy that Abbado emphasized was for the musicians to listen to each other, as in chamber music, but in the context of a full orchestral ensemble.[7][8] In the string sections, the section leaders assign the seating, after discussion with Abbado. Rehearsals commence with individual instrument sections before the entire ensemble collects with Abbado.[9]

Abbado led the first performances of the newest Lucerne Festival Orchestra at the 2003 festival. Their first residency abroad in Rome was in the autumn of 2005. October 2006 brought their first overseas guest performance, which gave a concert in Tokyo at Suntory Hall. The orchestra made its first Proms debut in August 2007, with Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 3.[10][11][12] Abbado and the orchestra were scheduled to appear in the US for the first time, at Carnegie Hall in New York City, in October 2007.[1] However, in September 2007, Abbado announced that he had to withdraw from these scheduled New York concerts because of health concerns.[13][14] The orchestra performed these concerts with substitute conductors Pierre Boulez and David Robertson.[15][16][17][18] For the 2014 Lucerne Festival, Andris Nelsons conducted the festival orchestra's concert as the replacement for Claudio Abbado, who died in January 2014.[19]

In August 2015, the Lucerne Festival announced the appointment of Riccardo Chailly as its next music director, effective with the 2016 Lucerne Festival, with an initial contract of 5 years.[20][21] In February 2021, the orchestra announced an extension of Chailly's contract as music director through 2026.[22]

Selected discography




  1. ^ a b Robert Hilferty (1 September 2007). "Lucerne in the Sky with Diamonds". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  2. ^ Palmer, Peter, "First Performances: Lucerne Festival" (January 1996). Tempo (New Ser.), 195: p. 25-26.
  3. ^ Geoffrey Norris (14 August 2007). "Electrifying artistry: Lucerne Festival Orchestra". Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-08-31.[dead link]
  4. ^ Tom Service (23 August 2006). "Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Abbado". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  5. ^ Loomis, George "Commanding, time and again", New York Times (August 25, 2009)
  6. ^ Stephen Everson (15 October 2004). "Follow the leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  7. ^ Tom Service (14 August 2007). "Lucerne FO/ Abbado Konzertsaal". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  8. ^ Tom Service (22 August 2007). "The maestro". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  9. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (30 September 2007). "Not Just Another Pickup Band". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  10. ^ Andrew Clements (24 August 2007). "Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Abbado (review of Prom 51, 2007)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  11. ^ Richard Morrison (24 August 2007). "Proms: Lucerne FO/Abbado". The Times. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  12. ^ Richard Fairman (24 August 2007). "Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, London". Financial Times. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  13. ^ Matthew Westphal (6 September 2007). "Conductor Claudio Abbado Withdraws from Carnegie Hall Season Openers Next Month". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  14. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (7 September 2007). "Abbado, Ill, Cancels Appearances". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  15. ^ Matthew Westphal (14 September 2007). "Boulez Replaces Abbado for Lucerne Festival Orchestra's Third Carnegie Hall Concert". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  16. ^ Matthew Westphal (18 September 2007). "David Robertson Replaces Claudio Abbado for Carnegie Hall's Season Openers". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
  17. ^ Anthony Tommasini (5 October 2007). "Orchestra Adjusts to Guest Baton". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  18. ^ James R. Oestreich (8 October 2007). "Be Meticulous With Mahler, and Sentiment Will Follow". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  19. ^ "Lucerne Festival in Summer ends with a record capacity of 95%" (PDF) (Press release). Lucerne Festival. 14 September 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  20. ^ "Riccardo Chailly zum Chefdirigenten des Lucerne Festival Orchestra ernannt" (PDF) (Press release). Lucerne Festival. 13 August 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  21. ^ Michael Cooper (2015-08-13). "Riccardo Chailly to Take Over Lucerne Festival Orchestra". The New York Times (ArtsBeat blog). Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  22. ^ "Extension of Riccardo Chailly's Contract as Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra" (Press release). Lucerne Festival Orchestra. 11 February 2021. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  23. ^ Andrew Clements (2004-10-22). "Mahler: Symphony No 2; Debussy: La Mer: Gvazava/ Larsson/ Orfeon Donostiarra/ Lucerne Festival Orchestra/ Abbado". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
  24. ^ Andrew Clements (2014-07-24). "Bruckner: Symphony No 9 review – Claudio Abbado's great last testament". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-08-13.

External links