Aleksandar Marković, music director and principal conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra
1) Your third season with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra is drawing to its end. How would you describe your experience here up till now?
The last three years of regular and intense work with Brno Philharmonic manifests itself in the way we sound together. We have grown into a wonderfully coherent whole, we know and feel each other. This enables us to communicate quickly, and results in unique sound and energy in performances.
2) Is there anything in Brno that you truly like a lot and that you miss in Vienna where you live?
I like intimacy of Brno, atmosphere of it's dimly lit streets, quiet parks. I have experienced many wonderful moments here over past three years, both professionally and privately.
3) Originally, you come from Serbia. How long did you live there? Do you miss your homeland?
I have spent 16 years of my life in Serbia. Ever since I've travelled a lot ,studying and living in USA and Austria. This constant change gave me a wide perspective, and I feel like a citizen of the world, nowhere rooted, nowhere tied. However, over the past 15 years I have developed particular fondness of Central Europe. I miss Belgrade every now and then, it's two- river panorama and exciting atmosphere, but when I'm there, it quickly makes me tired. In summer I often visit mountains where I used to go as a boy, that I always find refreshing.
4) Is there a special ritual that you perform before a concert?
No special rituales or lucky talismans, no secret formulas; I feel aligned with my life's purpose before going on stage, this enables me to focus on music and perform it with confidence and conviction. I like to have some time to relax my body and thoughts before starting a concert, sometimes even a few minutes are enough; period shortly before the performance should be free of worries and doubts. I enjoy an unbroken concentration during music making, only once did I experience a feeling of standing beside myself while conducting, weird feeling!
5) I know that in your free time you are able to take off the ‘conductor’s mask’ and the tailcoat and enjoy yourself while skiing or relaxing on a beach. How do you see the ‘role’ of a principal conductor who is, at the same time, able to spend time with his friends with a glass of wine? How can a balance between these two worlds be found?
I don't experience this as different roles, as I'm always myself, being not less of a beach boy when conducting an orchestra and remaining a serious musician when flip-flopping somewhere along the riviera, licking ice-cream. What changes is a temporary focus and of course a dress, but I detest a superficial frame and “pose” of a “serious” profession, which defines how “dignified” one should always behave. Good manners and a good taste in everything you do is a style of living, and I feel just as well in sexy white swimm trunks as I do in an elegant tailcoat. Dashing down a ski slope or pumping iron at the gym, I often smile silently at the thought that others around me most probably don't suspect that Scriabin is running through my mind.
6) If you could choose, who would you like to be and where would you like to live?
I wouldn't like to change place with anybody, in any epoch. Longing for past or future is a sign of weakness, romantic sentiment, and an insufficient presence, uneasiness about the present moment. This moment is the only real state of being, everything there ever is, the rest being a projection. Over the years I have been fine- tuning my own existence into what it is right now, it is precious in all it's aspects, which doesn't mean that I don't strive to learn and develop ever further. Ambition is a necessary motor of progress, but it should be accompanied by satisfaction for the sake of inner balance.
7) What is the first thing you think of after the concert is finished?
Each performance has a slightly different mode of execution, as we never feel completely the same. If you invest your entire being and charge your music- making with genuine emotion, bare of detached routine, you may experience a wide variety of mind frames afterwards, but you'll never feel indifferent. That's why each concert is an unrepeatable event, and I often stand in an empty hall after leaving wardrobe, listening to the silence of the space which has been filled with sound and electrifying energy of musicians and audience just minutes before, feeling a kind of post- orgasmic bliss and sometimes emptiness and capturing the moment.
8) Do conductors have any professional dreams? For example, any young ballerina dreams of being Odette in Swan Lake...
“Conductor's dreams” could be as many as there are conductors, but the most discernible patterns are egoistic/ empirical (Me telling You what to do), repertoire/ love of music- bound (I conduct because I love Mahler, Wagner etc), monetary/ business and fame- inspired (music is a secondary matter, but the business aspects are highly developed), instrument of self- expression/ realization (I can express myself the best through conducting), and so on. It is often a combination of different motivation- patterns. Sometimes love of music leads to power, wealth and world- fame, but business- oriented conducting cannot lead to a genuine passion for music. Any kind of non- musical motivation will have a disastrous effect on the quality of expression, and will oppose the real essence of art.
9) At the end of May, you will present Arthur Honegger’s famous piece Pacific 231 at the Wannieck Gallery. Could tell our readers and the audience something more about it?
The program under the title “Made of brass, iron and steel” was shaped up in my mind the first time I visited cold,iron and concrete interior of Wannieck Gallery. It was my intention to form a project which would suit and mirror this bare, industrial environment of a former factory, and a piece of music which instantly came to my thoughts was Prokofiev's Symphony No. 2, which carries the subtitle “Made of iron and steel”. This masterwork was written in 1924 after Prokofiev settled in Paris, and it offered him a possibility to take a new stylistic direction following certain trend of composition introduced by his friends and contemporaries Honegger and Milhaud. Honegger's “Pacific 231”, a portrait of a heavy- weight locomotive written in 1923, and Milhaud's “Machines agricoles”, a portrait of a set of, at those times, new and modern agricultural machines, written in 1919, initiated shaping- up of a “mechanical style”, music which portrays a cold world of machines. This style continued to exist and expand in Prokofiev's ballet “The Iron Step” of 1925, and, extending beyond Paris, in Mossolov's “Iron Foundry” of 1926.
What fascinates me about Prokofiev's 2. Symphony is it's construction, it's sonorous violence and deliberate aggression, it's explosiveness and complexity, contrasted by passages of cold beauty . Second movement , Theme and Variations, is one of the most exceptional works in literature, offering ingenious variation- technique, amazing orchestration, icy lyricism; it's heart, and indeed the heart of the whole work, is fourth Variation: it's gentle movement seeps like an acid through the texture of our consciousness, silently biting away the layers between dream and hallucination... I always felt that “Pacific 231” (and “Machines Agricola”) are completely non- judgmental, descriptive works which sonically capture their respective subjects, whereas Prokofiev's 2. introduces a human element, juxtaposed to the merciless, unstoppable pounding of heartless industrialism, even endangered by it, as the feeble ending of the piece seems to suggest, having survived the crushing of the final climax.