Ville de Genève


Mise à jour: 20.03.2018

Famous People along the Tranchées Cultural Trail

Franz Liszt, Ernest Ansermet, Rodolphe Töpffer and Charles Galland all left a lasting mark on the history of the Tranchées district.

Charles Galland


A remarkable broker and asset manager, Charles Galland (1816-1901) was also a patron of the arts passionate about music. A careful but generous philanthropist “he was taken for someone who gave sparingly when in fact he gave a great deal. There was in him a little of what is known as the gruff benefactor.” (Journal de Genève, 03.13.1901). The donation of his entire fortune to the City of Geneva - 8.5 million – enabled the latter to finance the construction of the Museum of Art and History. The City paid tribute to him by naming the former Rue de l’Observatoire after him. Charles Galland himself lived just a stone’s throw away at 8 Rue Toepffer.

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt (1811-1886), the Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist, lived for just one year (1835-1836) in the corner building that dominates the square that bears his name; just enough time to leave a lasting impression on Geneva’s citizens. The Countess Marie d’Agoult had abandoned her husband and children in Paris to follow the handsome composer, who found time to be unfaithful to her, meeting his mistresses in a secluded pavilion near the Pont de Sierne. George Sand joined the couple and made a point of being seen with Major Pictet, the son of the illustrious Charles Pictet de Rochemont, whom she later ridiculed in the “Tenth Letter of a Traveller”. In Geneva, Marie d’Agoult gave birth to a daughter, Blandine, recognised by Liszt; the two lovers benefitting from James Fazy’s good offices and false declarations to legalise their complicated civil status… Franz Liszt gave lessons at the Conservatory of Music in Place Neuve, as well as to private students, notably Aurélie Calame, the wife of the painter Alexandre Calame, whose works are exhibited at the Museum of Art and History and whose name is engraved on the institution’s facade.

Ernest Ansermet

Ernest Ansermet

Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969), musicologist and conductor, moved to 11 Rue Bellot in 1942, after his second marriage to Juliette Salvisberg. Claude Frochaux writes in “ La Mémoire de mes souvenirs” that “There was a magnificent library, an even more fabulous record collection, African masks everywhere and, on the walls, extraordinary contemporary paintings: Picassos, Braques, Miròs and I don’t know what else.”, all originals, generally given to him by his friends. Initially a mathematics professor, Ernest Ansermet studied music on the side. From 1911, he directed various orchestras in the Lake Geneva region, and then Diaghilev appointed him as conductor of the Ballets Russes from 1915 to 1923, an honour that brought him international renown. In 1918, he founded the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (Orchestra of Western Switzerland) which he directed until 1967. A musical philosopher and committed artist, Ernest Ansermet was the first to conduct some of the most remarkable works of the 20th century and profoundly shaped the cultural landscape of Western Switzerland.

Rodolphe Tœpffer


Rodolphe Toepffer (1799-1846) came from a family of artists: his father was the painter Adam Toepffer, and his son Charles sculpted his bust. Rodolphe also wanted to be an artist, a painter, but was prevented from doing so by an eye disease he contracted at the age of 17. He became a teacher and a personality at the boarding school where he worked, at 14 Promenade Saint-Antoine. He employed innovative methods, taking his pupils on long trips which he then related in a lively manner in albums illustrated with drawings. Encouraged notably by Goethe, who was astounded by the humour in these stories and the novelty of the process, Rodolphe Toepffer produced more and more masterpieces, all full of sparkling wit. He is considered the inventor of the graphic novel.

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