Acclaimed conductor Jun Märkl makes his New Zealand Symphony Orchestra debut in October with a celebration of treasured classics and the world premiere of a new work by New Zealand composer Kenneth Young.
The Te Maapouriki Dusk tour to Gisborne, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier and Wellington features some of the most exciting works written by Mozart, Richard Strauss, Mendelssohn and Schumann.
NZSO Section Principal Horn Samuel Jacobs is the soloist for Strauss’ popular Horn Concerto No. 1, written when the composer was just 18 years old. It remains one of the most demanding solo works for the French horn, using the highest and lowest notes on the instrument in quick succession.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1 because it has always been my favourite horn concerto, right from when I performed it with London’s Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra over 15 years ago,” says Jacobs. “With its glorious, expansive opening, its beautifully lyrical slow movement right through to its rousing finale, it’s got something for everyone.”
The concert will premiere Young’s Te Maapouriki, commissioned as part of the NZSO’s Landfall Series to mark 250 years since the first encounters between Māori and Europeans when James Cook’s Endeavour made its first New Zealand landfall.
“I was very pleased to be invited by the NZSO to contribute to this extraordinary series of commissions and looking forward to hearing Maestro Märkl perform it with my old friends and colleagues of the NZSO,” says Young.
Te Maapouriki Dusk also features Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 Paris, written in the city where the composer was looking for work. The opening movement is considered one of the grandest and thrilling sounds Mozart ever conjured from an orchestra. It included his first use of clarinets, then a new instrument, in one of his symphonies.
Mendelssohn’s mesmerising Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is based on two poems by the great German writer Goethe. The composer captures both the stillness of the sea and its transformation as winds pick up to ensure a speedy voyage for sailing ships. Mendelssohn would later again evoke the sea with one of his best-known pieces, The Hebrides Overture.
Te Maapouriki Dusk’s riveting finale is Schumann’s revered Symphony No. 1 Spring. First conducted by his friend Mendelssohn, the symphony was also inspired by poetry – Adolf Böttger’s Spring Poem. The symphony opens with a glorious brass fanfare which broadens into a majestic orchestral theme capturing the birth and power of spring.
Mastro Märkl is a highly-respected interpreter of both symphonic and operatic repertoire. He’s conducted many leading orchestras, including France’s Orchestre National de Lyon, and works often with the state operas of Vienna, Berlin, Munich and Dresden.
He has recorded more than 50 albums and in 2012 France’s Ministry of Culture awarded him the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his recordings of works by Debussy.
Maestro Märkl began playing piano and violin at an early age, while growing up in a musical family. His Japanese mother was a classical pianist and his German father a violinist. His parents met while studying music in Munich. “I always had the sound of the best of the repertoire of the piano and the violin (around me). It was very natural that I wanted to play those instruments,” he says.
His became a conductor because he loved working with other musicians. “On the piano you’re working basically for yourself. I found out that [there is] such a joy working with other musicians to create something bigger than what we are, something greater, and present that music to an audience.”
Märkl’s talent as a conductor was quickly recognised and in 1987 he studied with the legendary Leonard Bernstein after winning a conducting scholarship from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.