“Each musician in the octet has to stand behind every note”
The Philharmonic Octet from the s Philharmonic ranks amongst the best symphony orchestras in the world. Last Sunday they gave a concert in the Baroque Parish Church of St. Peter and Paul in Andermatt. Here in this unique alpine setting, they played selected pieces by Mozart and Schubert. We spoke with solo horn player Stefan Dohr about the event.
Did you choose these pieces of music just for Andermatt? Does the selection especially reflect the mountain location?
We couldn’t adjust the programme to Andermatt in particular, but we did adjust to this occasion. It’s the first concert of our octet here. So in the programme, of course in conjunction with Schubert’s octet, we wanted to have a piece with somewhat of a solo character, like the clarinet quintetto, to introduce ourselves here. And although the personalities of both Schubert and Mozart are closely related to the city of Vienna, Schubert’s music in particular, with its romantic expression, is predestined to be played in a natural setting. And what place could be more romantic for this music than this idyllic natural setting with alpine massifs, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city? Actually, it’s the perfect ambience.
How did you prepare for the concert?
It’s always tricky to coordinate our busy schedules and find sufficient time to rehearse together in order to perfectly prepare for the concert. But this time we were lucky because right now we’re working with the orchestra on an entire Beethoven cycle, so we are often in the philharmonic in Berlin. So we had not only the time but also the peace to rehearse.
Are major works such as Mozart’s clarinet quintet and Schubert’s octet part of your standard repertoire?
Yes, and properly so. Schubert’s octet, Mozart’s clarinet and horn quintet and Beethoven’s septet are loved by audiences for a good reason. These are magnificent masterpieces, works by which every octet ensemble must be measured.
What’s your greatest challenge as a musician in the Philharmonic Octet?
The complexity – this is at once the greatest challenge and the greatest inspiration. Due to its composition, the octet has a virtually inexhaustible breadth of tone and expression, basically like a small orchestra, but without the support of the sound volume that can cover a weakness. There are no instrument sections; in an octet each player must stand behind every note.
You travel a lot and give many concerts. Do you actually experience the places you visit?
I try to at least. I jog regularly, and I like hiking and bicycling – both at home and when I’m travelling. This gives me as a visitor a good impression of the atmosphere of a new place. I’m the type of person who likes to go out and see things if time permits, rather than sit in the hotel and watch TV.
Can you say what you particularly noticed in Andermatt and its Church of St. Peter and Paul that makes this place different from others?
It’s a beautiful and magnificent church, although acoustically not entirely unproblematic. That was a challenge and was very interesting to deal with. The audience was very enthusiastic. What sets Andermatt apart from other venues for us? There is a – quasi “musical” – connection between Andermatt and Berlin in the form of Samih Sawiris. The philharmonic meets him again and again at the Lucerne Festival and also at the Berlin Philharmonic; he is a highly regarded guest and friend of the orchestra. It was in Berlin that we heard about his commitment in Andermatt. So for us as an octet we already had a connection to Andermatt, although we didn’t know the place yet.
Have you ever become acquainted with a place through your travels as a musician and then returned as a private person?
None that come to mind. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Andermatt this time, because the octet arrived at noon and left the same evening. I think it’s quite possible that soon I will leave my horn at home for once and spend a few days at The Chedi Andermatt with my family – to have plenty of time to enjoy these breath-taking surroundings.
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