Markus Poschner’s 1st Big Concert Night Is Entitled “Departure”

The Bruckner Orchester’s new chief conductor, Markus Poschner, is not only making some significant changes at Linz’s Brucknerhaus concert venue; he’s also giving a creative makeover to the Big Concert Night at the Ars Electronica Festival. The first such event on which he’s made his mark is set for Sunday evening, September 10, 2017. He tells us more in this interview.

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The Big Concert Night at the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival will be Markus Poschner’s debut as chief conductor of Linz’s Bruckner Orchester. And this premiere is very much to be seen as a “Departure.” Poschner is kicking off a new era at the Brucknerhaus as well as Ars Electronica’s Big Concert Night. Festivalgoers will experience his first concert as the Bruckner Orchester’s chief conductor on Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 7:30 PM in the Gleishalle at POSTCITY Linz.

In this interview, Markus Poschner talks about the possibilities he sees for Linz and the Bruckner Orchester, how this year’s Big Concert Night is structured, and the changes he’s initiating.

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Credit: Florian Voggeneder

In autumn, you’ll be taking over the Bruckner Orchester from Dennis Russell Davies. What can you build upon and what’s going to change?

Markus Poschner: I’m assuming the helm of a world-class orchestra comprised of superb, highly motivated musicians. And here I owe a debt of gratitude to my predecessor for having done such an outstanding job. Without Dennis Russell Davies, the orchestra would not be what it is today. I’m delighted to be able to follow up on his achievements. Now, of course, the orchestra and I will be doing certain things differently than has been the case in the past. We will most assuredly be pursuing a new course, which has a lot to do with my biography, but that’s normal. I believe we’re in the midst of a reorientation process, and I’m really looking forward to the projects that lie ahead.

What possibilities do you see here in Linz?

Markus Poschner: What I see here in Linz is tremendous cultural diversity—fascinating people with great curiosity and extraordinary ideas in a wide array of disciplines. I find this wonderfully inspiring, and I’m looking forward to many new encounters. To this can be added the astonishing musical culture that pervades this entire region and I’m not referring only to Bruckner. I’m absolutely certain that this tradition can be creatively reconceptualized and reconfigured, and perhaps even a few new wrinkles inaugurated. If we can pull this off, I’ll be overjoyed!

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Credit: Florian Voggeneder

In any case, you’re imparting new creative impulses to the Bruckner Orchester. How are you shaking up the Big Concert Night at the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival?

Markus Poschner: The way I see it, it would be virtually inconceivable to shake things up acoustically any better than we’ve planned it. Joining the Bruckner Orchester will be a lineup of excellent guest stars—electric guitarist Nguyên Lê, bassist Harald Scharf, Hugo Siegmeth on reeds and percussionist Bastian Jütte are prizewinning Jazz musicians who are familiar with Bruckner’s oeuvre. This is something unprecedented, almost taboo you might even say, but we wanted to show that this makes great sense, especially in light of the strong connection with Bruckner himself, who was renowned as one of the most gifted improvisers. This was his metier. So, by availing ourselves of the stylistic means of improvisation, we can build bridges to his masterpieces very differently than would be the case in a conventional concert hall setting.

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Credit: Frank Thomas Koch

At the Ars Electronica Festival press conference, you joked that, with all the improvisation we’re in for, not even you can say for certain what awaits us. Why did you opt for this open form for the Big Concert Night?

Markus Poschner: Improvisation, above all in Jazz, means freedom. The ad-libbing can last for 20 minutes or only two, it’s not so simple to predetermine. A lot emerges on the spur of the moment; you can’t plan what you hear, which direction you’ll go in, what you’ll ultimately create. Needless to say, I can establish a framework—in fact, I have to—since, after all, we have the orchestra there, whose members are indeed playing a score, that of Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. How that impacts the Jazz combo and feeds back again—this reverberation, this back-and-forth interplay between the two ensembles—is what I leave up to improvisation. Now, you can be well-prepared for this to a certain extent since we’re now all familiar with these impulses, but we don’t want to prescribe too much because that might diminish that singular moment in time to less than it could become.

Why did you select the 8th Symphony as the core element of the Big Concert Night?

Markus Poschner: First and foremost, because the 8th Symphony is a magnum opus, one of the great works of the 19th century. Moreover, it was the first work performed at the very first Klangwolke! The 8th Symphony led off this entire sequence of events. I find that having recourse to this particular work is wonderfully symbolic. This is precisely why we’ve entitled this year’s Big Concert Night Aufbruch [Departure]. It’s a sort of groundbreaking.

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Credit: Florian Voggeneder

It will also be structured totally differently than in previous years…

Markus Poschner: Decisive for us here was the idea of not competing with a classical concert or a classic concert setting. This means that we don’t want a silent, stationary, reverent audience; instead, we want to give those present the option of moving about. Festivalgoers will be able to take up positions behind the orchestra and elsewhere within the space. That’s the nature of the Gleishalle venue. I think that hearing and seeing this symphony from a variety of perspectives will be a great experience. And one also discovers things about oneself thereby. The experience of standing right next to eight horns just as they begin to play adagio is certainly something you can’t do in a concert hall where you have to remain seated. Plus, POSTCITY’s architecture has been a huge inspiration for us because the space can do so much. It’s impossible to plumb its depths … almost a dreamlike situation. Maybe sometimes it’s even a nightmarish situation because the Gleishalle has this mightiness, this depth and darkness, and thus a danger looming within it. It’s an archaic situation.

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Credit: Florian Voggeneder

Does this also entail challenges in a musical sense?

Markus Poschner: Most assuredly. One has to master this space acoustically. But we have help and support in doing so since we’re amplified and we work electronically to some extent. We’re making an effort to experience these oscillations, this basic tone or the essential triad of this space, and to deal with this. We have a relatively short time to understand what works and what doesn’t. The appeal is being permitted to do all those things here that can’t be done in a conventional concert hall or that somehow seem forbidden. Here we can shift boundaries. Such a space accepts no such taboos by its very nature, that’s clear the moment you set foot inside it. At the same time, it resists efforts to get it under control. And, particularly for a conductor, this is a terribly unpleasant feeling—for instance, to be unable to control the acoustics. But conversely, this is also a fantastic opportunity to make things audible, to be able to experience sounds—and to experience them visually too—in ways that would otherwise be impossible. And the audience as well has to feel free to assume different points of view at any time. It’s even imperative that concertgoers move around. This is a wonderful chance for all of us.

Markus Poschner

Markus Poschner is a German conductor. He studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. From 2000 to 2006, he served as chief conductor of the Georgisches Kammerorchester Ingolstadt. There followed stints at the Komische Oper Berlin, Bremer Philharmoniker and Theater Bremen. He has been a regular guest at the Münchner Philharmoniker and Dresdner Philharmonie; his many other guest appearances include performances with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, Bamberger Symphoniker, Staatskapelle Halle, Bruckner Orchester Linz, and Berliner Konzerthausorchester. He is also an enthusiastic Jazz pianist. In autumn 2017, Poschner takes over as chief conductor of the Bruckner Orchester Linz.

The Big Concert Night is set for September 10, 2017 at 7:30 PM in the Gleishalle of POSTCITY Linz. Besides the classical concert, there will be performances and concerts of electronic and digital music, as well. Complete information is available on our website. You can download the catalogue text here

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