Firstly, I admit that music truly transforms me almost in the manner of a sensual sensation and I am passionate about trying to capture this emotional aspect of the art. I continue to be in awe of how musicians (of all music genres) manage to fascinate and entrance different audiences. My first “lightening moment” in music happened when I was around five years old: it was in a huge church and when the organ started to play the “postludium” with/in Tutti, the wave of sound that swept through the building almost blew me away. Probably, this is the very special, even unique sensation which I want to experience again and again. Although I wanted to learn to play the organ, the traditional music school first taught me to play the flute. This really was neither my aim nor what I was looking for.
It is the film “Schlafes Bruder” by Robert Schneider that continued to remind me of my first and special “lightening moment” – during the sequence when the organ music actually extinguished all the candles in the church!
From the very start of my love affair with music I was always attracted to the “special” or “different” categories and genres. In fact, I lean towards the power of music in the extreme when it delights and even frightens and this is indeed part of the composition of many works and certainly encompasses the playing style of certain musicians. A sound example for me is Horowitz who (even in his latter years) still fills me with ecstasy. Nowadays, it is difficult to be so moved both in traditional and concert musical repertoire: one has to specifically search out something special. Those who have never listened to the 3rd string quartet “In iij. Noct.” by Georg Friedrich Haas would be unlikely to understand my sentiments: this is a concentrated form of music at a very high level and performed in complete darkness – exposed and direct.
Something I have constantly in my mind and to which I give much thought is how to provide audiences with true moments of surprise on various emotional levels, including both pleasant and confusing ones. I believe that this is indeed the role and duty of the arts (yet not the only one) and it is not easy to achieve. I appreciate the rare concerts that include or present great moments that have premieres on the program. These great moments when “the first interpretation” affects your mind. We don’t feel the suffering when listening to Schönberg’s “Ein Überlebender aus Warschau”. What information do we get nowadays. Yes, I think there is something missing.
I ask myself how the audience would react if they were not informed in advance or did not know that the 2nd string quartet by Morton Feldman on the day’s programme consists of 3348 bars and lasts almost five hours. After these five hours of music, there is nothing to be added!
It is no wonder that I was particularly attracted by the so called “Neue Musik” of the 20th century which has significantly developed possibilities for the expanded expression of music. Yet “Neue Musik” has not, so far, been a part of my projects because, until now neither venues nor surrounding were ready. However, PURPUR EXTREME will be the first step in that direction.
Whilst some may consider that the city of Graz in Austria is the most spectacular of centres of music but most of my musical education was there and it was exciting: I studied conducting and piano and I found Graz to be a rich and inspiring city especially with regard to the “Neue Musik”. Some “first and world class” composers were teaching at the University of Music in Graz and, in my opinion, some of them who were my teachers were true geniuses – these were the people who, very quickly, were able to identify the indescribable deep longing inside me.
It is not important whether I came closer to this “indescribable” state through accurate analysis, numerical symbolism, key characteristics or musical aesthetics in general, what is important is that some of my teachers opened some of my “valves”.
One of these very interesting moments when a truly special kind of music occurred was in the early spring of 1994 when I was travelling home with four musicians from a concert. The driver suggested that we listen to a live broadcast of a Styriarte concert which featured a completely new and still unknown crossover-programme (so to speak) named “Officium” performed by the famous Hilliard Ensemble with Jan Garbarek. It turned out not to be very impressive for us musically either analytically or aesthetically because we already knew about this common project of the renowned Hilliard Ensemble. However, we had no idea about this jazz musician Jan Garbarek and we had low expectations of the programme and effectively dismissed the whole thing as music-esoteric crossover but how we were wrong! This was one hour of music which had a direct and powerful impact on us and allowed us to experience something completely new: this new concept, this new sound fascinated us deeply.
This was the first new format that really impressed me long term. Today though I don’t like to listen to “Officium” any more because I have saved that wonderful, special memory in a special place and I have no desire to question it or analyse the music. This moment is indelibly written in my memory to create something similar “touching”.
All these impressions “forced” me going to get to the bottom during my student years. I was some kind of a “driven” man and I had to implement my inner world. And, to refer to Joseph Haydn’s citation “Und so musste ich original werden (… I had to become original!”) and so I started to organise concerts and I needed an orchestra to realise my ideas: it was Arco Musicale, a string orchestra which provided me with the possibility to implement my concepts. During my student years I had already had a lot of success and had set some highlights with Arco Musicale. We invited Arvo Pärt to Graz and it was a real premiere. Furthermore, even the renowned music festival Styriarte was inspired by us and presented a Pärt-solo (Pärt-Personale) in 1999.
In order to get to know and to analyse the phenomena at the edge of common repertoire, I devoted myself to music aesthetics. I was consumed by the fact that some composers who had such huge influences on music history and who are famous performers themselves, actually played genres or compositions which, these days, are seldom played or remain unknown. As an example, Joseph Haydn is very well known for his string quartets but definitely not for his operas and not all of his symphonies are even part of the common repertoire. I analysed both genres, first in my doctorate’s thesis “...und so musste ich original werden”, and later in the project 100&7 (performance of all 107 symphonies of Joseph Haydn at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria) and last, but not least, in my recent project PURE OPERA. But this was at the end of the 1700’s and I am not yet referring to music of the 20th century.
First, I had to concentrate and focus on the formats of PURE CHOCOLATE and PURPUR EXTREME.
After finishing my studies I met my first big challenge, although I had already made a very personal decision (during my student years) albeit completely unwittingly: What did I want to be? A “pure” musician, or should I dare to create my own world in a very consequential way? And the question was the answer and I knew it from the beginning that I would not merely have a direct or limited influence on the audience in a “normal music business”. The influence of musicians is limited to the very moment when you heard the sound of music and whilst this is itself fantastic it was not enough for me. So, I searched for the formats, which would allow me and my musicians to try out completely different things.
The moment now has arrived for me to thank all my friends, patrons and pioneers who had confidence in me and who gave me confidence. I was able to have many precious experiences as a young conductor from the beginning of my student years: I debuted at Styriarte, I was invited to Lockenhaus, I conducted Kremerata Baltica and I played together with Gidon Kremer – and more. All this looked very promising but it was not enough for me since being just a conductor simply did not give me real satisfaction.
My urge took me in a special direction because I wanted something completely new and I wanted to create something that had never been previously known. With the help of a fantastic, open-minded local politician and some other faithful, pioneering supporters I succeeded in 2003. That year the TRIGONALE – Festival of Ancient Music was founded and it became very successful. However, the bureaucratic pressures were deeply stressful and whilst I succeeded on an artistic level, I failed on the economic one. Also, during this period I felt that still something was missing: I somehow lost the feeling for the audience; it was a kind of feeling. I felt I had lost that very feeling, in which I had rejoiced during that car journey in 1994 – that moment was gone and I felt, I had lost it. I was determined though, driven to convey that special feeling to the audience and so I knew that I had to persevere, and that I had to go on!
I realised that if I would like to again “seduce” and captivate an audience again, I would indeed need to create something absolutely extraordinary and I searched both for that special place and for open-minded musicians, like the young and spirited ones from years before. Yet again a friend helped me: In 2007 he showed me the famous spa town of Opatija in Croatia, a place that was possible one of the most famous bathing resorts on the Adriatic coast. This led to the establishment of FESTIVAL KVARNER and this festival has been the platform for my experiments in music since then. In a short period of time I created OAO – Orchestra Academy Ossiach, a trainee programme for highly talented, young musicians and directed by members of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras – this has the potential to be a pool of spirited or even a touch “crazy” musicians. Unfortunately, the academy was impeded by bureaucratic constraints (as often happens with many educational institutions). It had to be closed due to lack of financial subsidies and resources. However, something positive has resulted from OAO as PURPUR thrives with all its brilliant formats and projects which have a touch of genius.
This programme PURPUR is my project with real potential and it is a base and source of inspiration to finally captivate the audience!
Of course, it does not always succeed. If so, we would all get bored of it! So, with the idea of feeling the audience’s reaction when they listened to Monteverdi’s “Orfeo”, to Mozart’s “Dissonanzenquartett” and to Schubert’s “Winterreise”, Wagner’s “Tristan”, Webern’s “Sechs Stücke für Orchester” oder Strawinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” for the first time, this is what drives me from my heart and for the first time. Music should be challenging and yet I aim to avoid the predictable.
So, now the circle for me, that young boy, has been closed – the boy who had never heard such a “Tutti” by turning all the organ stops of a huge organ in church.