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Interview with Conductor Ion Marin

Thursday, 25 September 2008 , ora 16.00
Charismatic, friendly and working on lots of music projects - this is how we found maestro Ion Marin in the capital of Bavaria, where he conducts the first concerts of the season with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme suggested by him opens with the Romanian Rhapsody op. 11 no. 1 in A major, by G. Enescu, the Concerto in F by George Gershwin - performed with the participation of the pianist Jean Yves Thibaudet, the symphonic poems Pini di Roma and Fontane di Roma by O. Respighi.

There is a strong connection between you, the Munich Philharmonic and George Enescu's works, a connection that has been built over time. I am thinking of the numerous concerts in which you have performed with this ensemble; exactly a year ago, you were invited to participate in the Enescu Festival along with the Munich Orchestra and you performed Symphony no.1. You will repeat this experience upon the opening of the 2008-2009 season of the Munich Philharmonic, performing Rhapsody no.1. Is it difficult to perform Enescu's works along with an orchestra such as the Munich Philharmonic?

I do have a long relation with the Munich Philharmonic and it is for the third time in a row that we have opened the season together; it will be the same next year and for many, many years to come, I hope. Certainly, the Munich Philharmonic does have a special relation with Enescu's works - even if this is not such an obvious fact - as one of its music directors was Sergiu Celibidache. Unfortunately, Celibidache did not perform with the Enescu Philharmonic, but the curiosity regarding the Romanian music scene was surely instilled by Celibidache. Discovering Symphony no.1 was an experience which the musicians have not forgotten. The joy they have now while performing the Rhapsody and the virtuosity they display are truly impressive.

In a previous interview, you said that the Philharmonic in Berlin is to a conductor what the Vatican was to Catholicism. If you were to extend the comparison, what would you compare the Munich Philharmonic to?

It would still be an extremely important centre. Apart from the Vatican that the Philharmonic in Berlin resembles, each of the other great orchestras - the Philharmonics in Vienna, Munich, London Symphony, and Chicago - is a peak to every artist that collaborates with them on a music level. Of course, the Philharmonic in Berlin is truly special. I have had a long relation with the Munich Philharmonic - I feel at home with them, our music language is already established; we understand each other extremely fast during rehearsals and their ability in looking into the smallest details really gives me great joy.

You have performed in concerts along with the Orchestra in Munich for several years. How did this collaboration, with an ensemble which the Romanian music world identifies with Sergiu Celibidache, feel at the beginning? Was it a challenge to you?

Sadly, history pages turn with certain rapidity in this part of the world. Naturally, the Romanian audience has deeper emotions for the Munich Philharmonic - the first orchestra that came to Bucharest to perform with Sergiu Celibidache. But as I was saying, pages here turn very fast, and just like everybody in Berlin remembers Karajan, the same thing happens in Munich with Celibidache; it is just that the rhythm and the dynamics of the evolution are a lot faster than we, as Romanians, can imagine while nostalgically considering the activity of the Munich Philharmonic with Celibidache.

Each orchestra that I conduct is a challenge, up to a certain point. I have opened the Dvorak Festival in Prague in August - a new, extremely important festival. The Dvorak Festival is to the people in Prague what the Enescu Festival is to us, and I performed a programme that included Symphony no.9 by Dvorak, in Prague, with the National Czech Philharmonic! This is definitely a challenge! The fact that they had invited a Romanian conductor to the opening concert was a great honour and an enormous challenge at the same time. What could one explain to the National Czech Philharmonic about Symphony no.9 by Dvorak?! The fact that there were standing ovations at the end, that is the audience applauded while standing up, was a huge compliment to me! A compliment that meant acceptance in a culture I know very well, but which is not my native culture.

An extremely busy beginning of a season for you, maestro Ion Marin. You will be performing in concerts with the orchestras of the National Russian Philharmonic, the Philharmonic in Beijing and "Giuseppe Verdi" in Milan, with artists such as Sumi Jo and Roberto Alagna. What are your goals for this season?

Just one: that I should make the best music for as many people as possible. It is the same goal I have had forever. I enjoy every moment and every place. Concerts in Japan and Philadelphia will follow. The joy of music, of meeting the audience in as many places as possible, is actually what drives me - it is my energy. Unfortunately, regardless of the success I have had with the Enescu Festival and with the Berlin Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in Sibiu, I do not have any plans - and believe me, it is not my fault in this case - for coming to Bucharest again.

I will keep waiting, just like I have waited for twenty-two years for an invitation to be made in a civilized and honest manner. Otherwise, you will have to hear from me from various parts of the world, and I hope that the least part of my music will reach the Romanian audience either through recordings broadcast on the radio or through albums.
Monica Isacescu
Translated by Silvia Bratu
MA student, MTTLC, Bucharest University