Founded in 1918 by Ernest Ansermet, who served as head conductor until 1967, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (= OSR), made up of 112 permanent members, gives subscription concerts in Geneva and Lausanne as well as symphonic programmes organized by the City of Geneva and an annual United Nations Day concert, and plays for opera performances at the Grand Théâtre of Geneva. Since September 2005, the OSR's Artistic and Music Director is the German conductor Marek Janowski.
Under its founding director as well as his successors (Paul Kletzki, 1968-1970, Wolfgang Sawallisch, 1970-1980, Horst Stein, 1980-1985, Armin Jordan, 1985-1997, Fabio Luisi, 1997-2002, Pinchas Steinberg, 2002-2005), the world-renowned OSR has made important contributions to music history through its revelation or support of leading contemporary composers and the premières of their works in Geneva, e.g. Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Heinz Holliger, Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, Darius Milhaud and Igor Stravinsky. Since the year 2000 alone, the OSR has given no fewer than twelve world premières in cooperation with Radio Suisse Romande (RSR) (French-speaking Swiss Radio). The orchestra has commissioned from the Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös, jointly with other internationally famous ensembles, a concertante work of which he will give the first Swiss and Hungarian performances during the 2005-2006 season. The OSR also supports Swiss contemporary music by its commissions to such composers as William Blank and Michael Jarrrell.
From early on in its history, the OSR became known to millions of people throughout the world by its broadcasts on French-Swiss Radio (and later Television). This was quickly followed by its legendary recording partnership with Decca. The OSR has also made prize-winning records for Philips, Harmonia Mundi, EMI and Denon, and CDs are planned with Æon and PentaTone.
The OSR's international tours have taken it to the most prestigious concert halls throughout Asia (Tokyo, Seoul), Europe (Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Vienna, Salzburg, Madrid, Barcelona, Brussels, Amsterdam, Budapest, Istanbul, London, Paris, etc.) and the USA (Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, etc.).
Among the OSR's frequent appearances at festivals, those since 2000 include the Radio France-Montpellier Festival, Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, Robeco Summer Concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Chorégies in Orange (La Traviata in 2003 and Nabucco in 2004, with a return engagement in 2007). During the 2005-2006 season, the orchestra has been invited to the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, RSR's Schubertiade in Neuchâtel, the Canary Islands Music Festival, the Robeco Summer Concerts and the opening of the Budapest Spring Festival.
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande enjoys the support of the Canton and City of Geneva, Radio-Télévision Suisse Romande, the OSR Friends in Geneva and Vaud, and numerous sponsors and benefactors.