Emmanuel Krivine (1987-2000)
Emmanuel Krivine succeeded Serge Baudo on 1 October 1987 and remained at the orchestra’s head until 21 July 2000. The collaboration was sealed by a tour in Turkey in July 1988, where the ONL played in the ruins of the Ephesus theatre, among other venues. Emmanuel Krivine, who was driven by an uncompromising demand for artistic excellence and a firm character, developed the Orchestre national de Lyon into a major international orchestra. He continued to promote the French repertoire. Debussy’s La Mer, the Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Ravel, Daphnis et Chloé by Ravel and the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz became staples that the ONL recorded and performed all over the world on its major international tours, including the tour of the United States in 1991, the three tours in Japan in 1994, 1996 and 1999, the tour of Germany and the two tours of Switzerland (the second of which made a slight detour into the Piedmont region, to Stresa).
Krivine also dug deeper into the German Romantic and post-Romantic repertoire (which had been rather neglected until then), with a special liking for Robert Schuman, Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss. He also rediscovered such little-known composers as the Austrian-born Alexander Zemlinsky and his Lyric Symphony.
A “special focus” policy
In 1991/1992, the ONL undertook to perform the complete symphonies of Gustav Mahler, completing the cycle in spring 1994. The two highlights of the series were undoubtedly the Symphony No. 6 conducted by Neeme Järvi in the Auditorium in February 1993 and the Symphony No. 8, led by Eliahu Inbal three months later in the Halle Tony-Garnier. This “special focus” policy was introduced by Patrice Armengau, the first to be responsible for managing not only the orchestra but also the building. It continued with two bolder “complete series”: one devoted to Edgar Varèse (January-June 1996), the other to Anton Webern (1997/1998 season).
Emmanuel Krivine also led an active recording policy in the major French repertoire, including Fauré’s Requiem, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Debussy’s La Mer, Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (“with organ”), Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Ravel, and Franck’s Symphony in D minor. However, he also left the beaten track sometimes: with programme fillers or by spotlighting a lesser-known composer, such as the Lyon-born Pierre-Octave Ferroud (1900-1936), whose complete symphonies fill two discs.
In 1991, the Orchestre national de Lyon was the first French orchestra to host composers-in-residence, taking after the model discovered by Emmanuel Krivine in the United States. In each case, a two-year collaboration combined work on existing pieces, the commissioning of new works and the recording of discs in a bid to build a genuine familiarity between the composer’s sound universe, the musicians in the orchestra and the audience. The first composer-in-residence was Michael Jarrell (1991-1993). He was succeeded by Pascal Dusapin (1993-1995), Jean-Louis Florentz (1995-1997) and Philippe Hersant (1997-1999).
Restoration of the Auditorium
Emmanuel Krivine obtained a complete refurbishment of the Auditorium’s main concert hall. The work began in 1992 and continued through to 1997 in order to maintain the building’s artistic activities. The concert hall lost its foam-packed armchairs, which absorbed sound, its acoustic balls on the ceiling, which had never worked, its “moustaches” (the rows of armchairs that descended down to the doors of the wings) and its orchestra pit. It gained its current wooden cladding (the walls of the concert hall, the armchairs and the curtain at the back of the stage) which, apart from its warm appearance, considerably improved the acoustics. A gala concert was held on 10 October 1997 to celebrate the end of the work.