Das Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Oder: Die Orchester-Familie – mehr als bloss eine Metapher

Konzerte in Luzern – das bedeutet immer auch einen Abstecher auf die Berge: Annette zu Castell und Timothy Summers mit ihrem Sohn Nicholas.

Konzerte in Luzern – das bedeutet immer auch einen Abstecher auf die Berge: Annette zu Castell und Timothy Summers mit ihrem Sohn Nicholas.

Seit dreizehn Jahren ist das Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) allsommerlich zu Gast bei LUCERNE FESTIVAL. So auch dieses Jahr wieder: Am 23. August interpretieren die Musikerinnern und Musiker, von denen viele auch im LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA spielen, gemeinsam mit der dirigierenden Sopranistin Barbara Hannigan Werke von Haydn bis Gershwin. Wir haben vorab mit dem Geiger Timothy Summers über «sein» Orchester gesprochen – und darüber, wie sich Musikerberuf und Familienleben verbinden lassen. Denn Timothy Summers ist mit der Geigerin Annette zu Castell verheiratet, ebenfalls Mitglied des MCO.

When did you start playing in the Mahler Chamber Orchestra? Did you meet your wife [the violinist Annette zu Castell] while both playing in the orchestra? Does your son Nicholas always come along on tour with you?
I began playing in 2005, it was winter, February, I think, in Paris. I was a visitor; Annette was in her routine. There must still be a substantial difference between us in how we can view the orchestra. For me it was always a professional undertaking, even if it was an unusually sociable one. For Annette, it began as youth orchestra, and developed further, and then further, and then still further… I suppose I stepped in at the second use of the word ‘further’. And we did meet then and there, in Paris, that first time I played. Nice place to meet. We’ve been to Paris with our son Nicholas a few times since then, and to a lot of other places, too. It was a great pleasure to take him along when he was small. Strangely, it didn’t feel so heavy. We saw parts of cities we wouldn’t have otherwise seen (the parts with playgrounds, the parts nearby, the parts with baby bathrooms), and that was actually very fine. Just as many surprises, or more.

Timothy Summers (photo: Geoffroy Schied)

Timothy Summers (photo: Geoffroy Schied)

How many days are you on the road with the orchestra throughout the year?
I’m not so sure how many days, exactly. Maybe it’s unwise to keep count… and often, now that Nicholas is beginning school, we trade roles – I stay home, Annette goes to play, or the reverse. For each of us it’s probably a quarter or third of the year on tour, but we almost always find a way for at least one of us to be with Nicholas, and his grandmother in Munich can come and provide warmth when we are both away (which is not so often). We also find ways to work in Berlin so that we can choose our tours medium-wisely. It is music life. It has an element of circus. Especially the part of the circus with the jugglers.

How do you organize and coordinate so many musicians who are coming and going from so many different countries and cities? Is there a kind of central venue for planning and rehearsals?
I think that the most important thing is that the orchestra comes together with exceptional focus. We are often in Dortmund at the “Orchesterzentrum,” often in Lucerne, often in Ferrara. But the home is in the content, energy, and social meaning of what we do when we do meet. The swift rehearsals demand sharp focus, demand sharp ears, and ask attentive cooperation. So, yes, there are familiar places, but none so familiar as the work environment we all bring with us. We are forced to find familiarity, and it keeps showing up in the types of long-term projects we put together, as well as in the people who come together to do them. The role of the MCO office in making this possible cannot be overstated. I’ve expressed an abstraction. They make it possible.

Does the fact of being on the road influence the way you make music? What is the most inspiring place or venue for you?
This is actually a very interesting question, a question with deep roots. The element of foreignness — the attractiveness of it, the attention it creates, the curiosity — is probably important for both us and the audience. What does it take to communicate forcibly and meaningfully, with people with whom you don’t have daily contact? Is foreignness alone a source of attraction? It even reaches within the orchestra: what do we have when we all come in the first place from different places? I think this “travelling” element gives us exceptional breadth of personal resources, and an unwillingness to rely on default understandings. We have to listen. I imagine that this need to listen is what makes others listen with us. It is a sort of group activity with the audience. Inspiring places? So many places… we’ve been in so many places. We visit them, we have a listen, we meet some people. You never know what will provide inspiration. We make our offering, and they make one back. Always the same, always a little different. It’s like we come as diplomats from an imaginary place.

Annette zu Castell (photo: Geoffroy Schied)

Annette zu Castell (photo: Geoffroy Schied)

What do you need to feel at home as a family wherever you are, even when you’re on the road?
Peanut butter comes to mind … Only home is home. To have each other around on tour is to be sufficiently at-home. Beyond that, we look for new sources of comfort, I think – things to do together.

What do you like about Lucerne? And what do like about LUCERNE FESTIVAL?
Lucerne has a style really all its own. It has a very special place for the orchestra because of the connection to its – what do you say – Godfather… in Claudio Abbado. But there is also another element, beyond that, something about being part of a larger music world; being part of this larger orchestra [the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA], and also our own orchestra; having chamber music concerts for individuals; the feeling of being on the stage of the world, in such an extraordinary hall, with such an extraordinary collection of colleagues; a sense of seeking what is finest to offer and ask; the kindness and help of Christiane Weber, the director of the artistic office and manager of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA; friends of the orchestra in the surrounding hills and in the hall; and the mountains.

One short final question: What makes the MCO unique?
Energy and listening in fine balance; a broad sense of what it means to be social and musical. It is a group that has developed a kind of animal intelligence.

Die Fragen stellte Katharina Schillen | Presse LUCERNE FESTIVAL

Wann gegründet?
1997 folgte eine Gruppe junger Musiker der Vision, ein freies, internationales Tour-Ensemble zu etablieren. Das Mahler Chamber Orchestra umfasst heute 45 Musiker aus 20 verschiedenen Ländern und ist rund 180 Tage im Jahr auf Reisen
Prägende Chefdirigenten?
Gründungsmentor Claudio Abbado; der langjährige Chef- und jetzige Ehrendirigent Daniel Harding; künstlerische Partner wie Leif Ove Andsnes, Mitsuko Uchida, Isabelle Faust, Daniele Gatti oder Teodor Currentzis
Erster Auftritt bei LUCERNE FESTIVAL?
Im September 1999 unter der Leitung von Kurt Masur
Warum darf ich das Konzert des MCO am 23. August nicht verpassen?
Weil schon der erste gemeinsame Auftritt von Barbara Hannigan und dem MCO vor zwei Jahren überwältigend war – nicht nur musikalisch, sondern auch als Performance! Und auch diesmal ist eine Performance zu Evergreens aus Gershwins Musical-Hit Girl Crazy geplant. Wer reinschnuppern will, der gehe tags zuvor, am 22. August um 18.20 Uhr, ins «40min»-Konzert.

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