At its very first performances back in 1806, the orchestra consisted of a handful of music lovers who brought their full enthusiasm to the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Concerts were well attended, and anyone living in Lucerne at the time would put on their best garments before heading to the Comödiensaal der Jesuiten, as the concert hall was called at the time. Whereas this was some 210 years ago, the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra has since grown and established itself continuously and is known as the oldest orchestra in Switzerland today.
While its early performances may well have sounded rather outlandish to the modern ear, anyone attending a concert in Lucerne today is bound to hear Haydn at his classical best – performed by an authentic, reduced orchestra with eight first violins, eight second violins, four violas, four cellos, and two double basses. Rather than being dominated by elderly gentlemen, the orchestra is now a young and diversified body that can often be heard delving into contemporary works, possibly with timpani and trumpets. At other times, it performs with young or established soloists, accompanying them with due sensitivity through brilliantly forceful or tenderly calm passages. And anyone wondering at the distinct sound, perhaps in Baroque style, resonating from the orchestra pit at the local theatre, Luzerner Theater, will be pleased to know that this, too, is the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester in another form.
What started out as the city’s music society with some two dozen amateur players has since grown into a remarkable ensemble of around seventy seasoned professionals, led by a young and ambitious conductor, all eager to tackle even the most challenging works of the repertoire. By now the orchestra has built a reputation far beyond the Lucerne region, be it through exquisite CD recordings, guest appearances or tours in Europe and abroad.