The Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL) has a core of 104 permanent musicians. Its current Music Director Laureate is American conductor Leonard Slatkin, who was Music Director from September 2011 to June 2017. Successor to the Société des Grands Concerts de Lyon, founded in 1905 by Georges Martin Witkowski, it is one of France’s oldest orchestras. The ONL became a permanent orchestra in 1969 at the instigation of the City of Lyon Council cabinet member for culture, Robert Proton de la Chapelle. Following Louis Frémaux (1969-1971), it has been under the successive musical direction of Serge Baudo (1971-1987), Emmanuel Krivine (1987-2000), David Robertson (2000-2004) and Jun Märkl (2005-2011).
Admired for its particularly French sound quality, which has led to its renown for performing Ravel, Debussy, and Berlioz, the ONL has a vast repertoire, from the 18th century to the modern day. It regularly commissions works from contemporary composers such as Kaija Saariaho, Thierry Escaich, and Guillaume Connesson. Its rich repertoire is reflected in an extensive discography from Ravel’s Boléro in 1984 (the first gold disc to be awarded to a symphony orchestra) to the full works of Debussy in seven volumes, conducted by Jun Märkl (Naxos), and a CD of Thierry Escaich’s works released in 2011 (Universal). Leonard Slatkin is continuing with this ambitious programme, in particular with the complete works of Ravel and Berlioz, currently on Naxos.
The ONL is a pioneer in ambitious live film concerts with acclaimed performances to accompany films such as The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix and The Artist as well as some classic silent movies. It also promotes education and public outreach: it boasts a youth orchestra, offers discount admission prices to encourage younger concert-goers, supports enterprising school projects, arranges talks and is involved in a host of other actions. In 2017/2018, the Auditorium-National Orchestra of Lyon is launching a musical and orchestral community educational project called “Démos” in the Métropole de Lyon.
Aside from its concerts in the Auditorium, the ONL also performs in the greatest concert halls across the world. In 1979, it was the first European symphony orchestra to perform in China, and in 2016 gave a series of concerts in Japan, including three programmes in Tokyo. In 2017, its American tour took it to New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall.
The ONL has the privilege of rehearsing and performing in its own dedicated venue, the 2,100-seat Lyon Auditorium. This imposing concrete and steel concert hall, officially opened in 1975, is the work of Claude Delfante and Henri Pottier and has been classified as a 20th century Heritage site. This exceptionally luxurious hall is host to many international contingents, as well as the greatest soloists in the music world. The numerous partnerships which the Auditorium-Orchestre National de Lyon has succeeded in fostering – including the Institut Lumière film institute, the Ambronay cultural encounter centre, and the Jazz à Vienne Festival – have opened the venue up to all musical genres and all audiences. Every year, around 250,000 concert-goers flock to the Auditorium.
Run by the City of Lyon, the Orchestre National de Lyon receives funding from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region.