Ion Marin: On the hidden happiness of symphonic music

Ion Marin | © Stas Levshin
Ion Marin , internationally sought-after conductor, founder of the Cantus Mundi National Program and holder of the Claudio Abbado Endowed Professorship at the University Mozarteum, will conduct the University Mozarteum Symphony Orchestra for the first time at the Haus für Mozart on October 18. A conversation about truth, happiness and the power of music.
MusicOn October 18, you will conduct the symphony orchestra at the Haus für Mozart for the first time - as a belated inaugural concert of your professorship. With what expectations are you looking forward to the concert? This concert is special for me for several reasons: I took up my professorship at the Mozarteum University two years ago, but it was almost like a secret mission because of Corona, since classical teaching, meeting or working together with the students was not possible. It was a difficult time for the students, who could not get such practical experience at all. But especially the work in a student symphony orchestra is of great importance for them, as a new dimension and experience in the interaction with other budding musicians, and as an important preparation for their later professional life. And I myself learn in the process as a supplementary and deepening process for the training of the conducting students and therefore gladly fulfill this task with enthusiasm and great respect. The program includes Tchaikovsky and Beethoven: what fascinates you about these works and these two composers? The program was already put together when I took up my professorship, and we wanted to stick with this idea of the program for the new appointment as well. The Triple Concerto is like a call to make music together in dialogue. Here, the solo perspective is distributed among three instruments - a piano trio competing with the orchestra in concert (a truly unique innovative idea at the time, which Beethoven seems to have been the first to implement). On the other hand, the F minor Symphony op. 36 by P.I. Tchaikovsky is a remarkably topical work in the sense of a European idea, in that Tchaikovsky composed it in various European cities (St. Petersburg, Kiev, Moscow, Rome, etc.). A symphony in a truly European spirit, created under the impression of travel and different cultures. In any case, the musicians like the program very much and they are sure to take the audience with them on their journey. After your studies at the Mozarteum University, you are returning as a university professor - what are the main focuses of your teaching activities? It is no coincidence that my endowed professorship is named after Claudio Abbado: I learned from him how important it is as a conductor to work together with young musicians and to share common experiences and this feeling for music. This is especially true in the current challenging times; working on classical music gives self-confidence and trust and, above all, conveys how important classical music is, especially in the current times of crisis. The orchestra's connection to the audience creates a kind of community - and behind every note in a concert hall is a human being, something that should not be forgotten. And especially the great symphonic music of the 19th century has a lot to give there, and the shared experience on stage is a fantastic kind of enrichment and openness to become happier. I would like to convey this hidden happiness in symphonic music to the young musicians*, to make a common journey and to find musical truth. In addition to your musical education, you have also studied the history of religion and philosophy, so a philosophical question: does music represent for you the most beautiful, profoundly human expression? As professionals, we do not say that music is only "beautiful", but it is above all true. In truth, there is beauty, humanity, compassion, and joy in life. Music teaching does mean work in the classroom first, but it also bears a resemblance to, say, an ancient academy in Athens, and in a sense follows the Socratic dialogue: One talks with others until a (hopefully) fully valid truth then emerges from the dialogue. Playing or conducting music is always an interpretation of the score, and we have deep respect for composers, scores and their analyses. But there is no universal score of interpretation, we have no instructions for that. We are the ones who always bring the composition to life. One might conduct from an autograph original version of a score - but what is the human original version of interpretation? The themes in the scores might be the same, but the interpretations can be completely different, evoking whole opposite emotions. That is why the philosophy of music is not a static theory either - it is an invitation to dive deeper into fundamental questions of being human with full awareness. In 2012, you founded the Cantus Mundi and Symphonia Mundi projects for disadvantaged children and young people in your native Romania - how has the project developed to date? This is the only thing that still connects me to my birth country. I am grateful that I can be a musician and share my experiences in Austria. And I wanted to give back this privilege especially to the children in Romania: Children from different social classes and disadvantaged groups who are excluded from the very beginning: Children with impairments like Down syndrome, or blind children. Cantus Mundi and Symphonia Mundi aims to enable these children to make music together. It doesn't matter what social class the children come from - music unites and that gives hope for a society of tomorrow, also on a European level. After all, what can we musicians do concretely for the disadvantaged? We can build these little bridges, and then the children help each other and pass on what they have learned in the project. With the help of the Hilti Foundation in Liechtenstein, we have managed to provide support to around 75,000 children through this program to date. What plans do you have for the Mozarteum University Symphony Orchestra in the future? The orchestra changes every year, it is a constant formation process. The focus is on preparing the students for their future professional life, of course, especially in the field of great symphonic music. In the orchestra, the students must learn above all to put individualism to one side and to fit into making music together. There will be many opportunities for this, for example in academies with the music universities of Graz and Vienna and elsewhere. I hope that the Mozarteum University Symphony Orchestra will soon develop into an ambassador for the university. This would then be an opportunity to create a "community of symphonic music". Now we are playing the first concert in the House for Mozart, but only "the sky is the limit", as they say. (First published in Uni-Nachrichten / Salzburger Nachrichten on October 1, 2022)
"I want to teach young musicians* about the hidden happiness in symphonic music."

— Ion Marin


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