The Orchestra della Svizzera italiana (OSI) works with the great names of orchestral conducting and with internationally acclaimed soloists, performing at major venues both in Switzerland and abroad. Funded principally by the Canton of Ticino, Radiotelevisione svizzera (RSI), the City of Lugano and the Associazione degli Amici dell’OSI, the OSI is one of thirteen professional orchestras currently active in Switzerland. It also enjoys the financial support of its International Partner, Helsinn. Consisting of forty-one permanent musicians, it performs the concert seasons of the RSI - Rete Due in Lugano, and regularly takes part in the Lugano Festival, the Settimane Musicali in Ascona and the Martha Argerich Project. Its strong ties with the region are maintained through an extensive series of concerts aimed at local communities, including summer concerts, family concerts, school concerts and joint projects with the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana.
Since 2010 the OSI has performed at the Parco della Musica in Rome under Lorin Maazel, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan with Salvatore Accardo, on tour throughout Switzerland with Vadim Repin, in the main theatres of Brazil under John Neschling and in South Korea with Vladimir Ashkenazy. It celebrated the Verdi bicentenary by giving carte blanche to one of the major exponents of the great operatic tradition, Nello Santi, with whom it gave three concerts. In 2012–15 it was also invited to play at the Théâtre Équilibre in Fribourg, the Tonhalle in Zürich, the Stadtcasino Musiksaal in Basel, the Zermatt Festival, the Schubertiade of Espace 2 in Monthey and the Kultur-Casino in Bern; in Italy at the Sala Verdi of the Conservatorio di Milano and Milan’s Auditorium, the Teatro Fraschini in Pavia, the Teatro Ponchielli in Cremona, the Teatro Municipale in Piacenza, and the Teatro Sociale in Como; and in Germany at the Franziskaner Konzerthaus in Villingen-Schwenningen.
The OSI has made numerous studio recordings both for radio and for important record labels such as Chandos, Hyperion, EMI and Deutsche Gramophon. Its recordings for Deutsche Gramophon include the much-prized four-CD boxed set issued in 2012 to mark the first ten years of the orchestra’s concerts for the Martha Argerich project. Its awards include the recent Diapason d’Or (January 2015) for its CD of the symphonies of Gounod on the CPO label.
Founded in Lugano in 1935 as the Orchestra della Radio della Svizzera italiana, it played a crucial role in the region’s musical development, helping to establish important festivals in Lugano, Locarno and Ascona from the 1940s. Over the years it was directed by great musical figures such as Ansermet, Stravinsky, Stokowski, Celibidache and Scherchen, and collaborated with composers such as Mascagni, Richard Strauss, Honegger, Milhaud, Martin and Hindemith, and more recently with Berio, Henze and Penderecki. Richard Strauss dedicated to it his Duet-Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, string orchestra and harp (1947).
Its first principal conductor Leopoldo Casella was succeeded in 1938 by Otmar Nussio from Graubünden, under whose directorship (to 1968) the orchestra gave a greatly increased number of concerts, opening the way to international engagements. From 1969 to 1991, with Marc Andreae as its principal conductor, the Orchestra della Radio Televisione della Svizzera italiana (as it was now called) consolidated its reputation, expanding its repertoire and fostering first performances of works by major living composers.
In 1991 the orchestra took on its current name and began to win international recognition, performing in the most prestigious venues in cities such as Vienna, Amsterdam, St Petersburg, Paris, Rom, Milan and Salzburg. In 1999 it began its close partnership with Alain Lombard, who first took over as principal conductor and then in 2005 was appointed honorary conductor. From 2008 to 2010 it was also fortunate to have Mikhail Pletnev as principal guest conductor. Since September 2013 the OSI has worked with the great conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, who will direct the orchestra for the next four seasons as principal guest conductor. From the 2015–16 season the OSI will be directed by German conductor Markus Poschner, who as its principal conductor guide the orchestra in its future ventures.
Markus Poschner, from September 2015 principal conductor
Vladimir Ashkenazy, from September 2013 direttore ospite principale
Alain Lombard, 1999 - 2005 principal conductor, from 2005 honorary conductor
Mikhail Pletnev, 2008 - 2010 principal guest conductor
Serge Baudo, 1997 - 2000 principal guest conductor
Nicholas Carthy, 1993 - 1996 principal conductor
Marc Andreae, 1969 - 1991 principal conductor
Otmar Nussio, 1938 - 1968 principal conductor
Leopoldo Casella, 1935 - 1938 principal conductor