Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine

Chamber music, Symphony Music, Récital, Concertante music

Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine

The history of the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine is closely bound up with the history of music in Bordeaux. It was around 1850 that a group of professional musicians founded the Orchestre de la Société Sainte-Cécile there. In 1932, Gaston Poulet, on his appointment as director of the city’s Conservatoire, created its own concert association, the Association des Professeurs du Conservatoire. The coexistence of two symphony orchestras in Bordeaux gradually led to the creation in 1940 of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, under the direction of Gaston Poulet.

Alongside its symphonic duties, the orchestra also collaborated with the Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux. Over the ensuing period, it was conducted, on the concert stage or in the opera pit, by such noted figures as Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, André Cluytens, Hans Knappertsbusch, and Gabriel Pierné.

The end of the Second World War coincided with the departure of Gaston Poulet and the transformation of the orchestra. The programming of what now became the Orchestre Philharmonique de Bordeaux was placed in the hands of the director of the Conservatoire, Georges Carrère. In 1963, the latter was succeeded by Jacques Pernoo, and the orchestra renamed the Orchestre Symphonique de Bordeaux. In 1973, as a result of Marcel Landowski’s policy of decentralisation of music in France, the orchestra was entrusted with a new regional mission, and its activities were stepped up. With its new director Roberto Benzi and his ninety-five musicians, the Orchestre de Bordeaux Aquitaine continued to perform for the productions of the Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux while also appearing in the environs of Bordeaux, the rest of south-west France, and abroad
(Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, Germany).

In 1988, Alain Lombard was appointed artistic director, and the ensemble renamed Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. This heralded a striking expansion in its activities: it now exploited the full resources of the large symphony orchestra and also distinguished itself in chamber music. It began regularly making recordings, television broadcasts and international tours. The number of concertgoers increased considerably in Bordeaux and the rest of Aquitaine.

Thierry Fouquet was appointed director of the Opéra de Bordeaux in May 1996. Now fully integrated with this institution, the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, which numbers 120 musicians, takes part in its opera and ballet performances. At the same time, over the past few years, it has greatly increased its programmes aimed at young audiences, which are among the most exemplary in France in this domain. From 1 September 1998 until the summer of 2004, the conductor Hans Graf was music director of the orchestra. On 24 June 1999, Yutaka Sado was appointed chief guest conductor of the ONBA, holding this post until the end of the 2003/04 season. From September 2004 to September 2006, the orchestra was directed by the composer Christian Lauba. After this period, Kwamé Ryan was appointed artistic and music director of the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. He took up these functions officially in September 2007.

In addition to its symphonic and chamber performances in Bordeaux (a season of twenty symphonic programmes, plus summer concerts and festival appearances, chamber music played by its solo ensembles, and the Ciné-Concerts festival), the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine also fulfils its regional and national mission; in particular, it takes part in the leading French festivals (La Folle Journée de Nantes, La Roque-d’Anthéron, Euskadi, Orange, and the Radio France festivals). The ONBA appeared on tour in Japan under the direction of Kwamé Ryan in the framework of La Folle Journée in May 2008. Today, the orchestra’s repertoire extends from the Baroque (enthusiastically performed by an ensemble drawn from the orchestra) to the music of our own time, reflecting the passion and curiosity of its music directors: for instance, the ONBA under Hans Graf was the first French orchestra to perform Henri Dutilleux’s The Shadows of Time, in Bordeaux in October 1998. After Thaïs, warmly greeted by the press (Diapason d’Or, 10 de Répertoire), the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine recorded the complete orchestral works of Dutilleux for BMG’s Arte Nova label. Its most recent recordings are Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé under the direction of Laurent Petitgirard (Naxos, 2006), Petitgirard’s Les Douze Gardiens du temple and Poèmes pour Orchestres à cordes conducted by the composer (Naxos, 2006), Bizet’s Carmen Suites nos.1 and 2 and Symphony in C under Frédéric Lodéon (Cascavelle, 2007), and Grieg’s Piano Concerto conducted by Eivind Gullberg Jensen (Mirare, 2007). Finally, Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, recorded in July 2007 under the direction of Kwamé Ryan, was released by Mirare in February 2008.