Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra to perform in Chennai on March 22

Notes of history The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra’s music traverses centuries

Notes of history The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra’s music traverses centuries  

As the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra gears up to perform in Chennai on Friday, director Markus Korselt speaks on their love for Indian audiences

Barely months after the end of the Second World War when the bombed-out city of Stuttgart was mere rubble, 30-year-old conductor Karl Munchinger assembled an orchestra named after his hometown. Nearly 75 years later, as one of the world’s oldest chamber orchestras, it retains the fine sound and spirit it was founded upon, as evident from the many recordings and performances across continents and classical music festivals.

The 17-member Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra is touring India for the fifth time. With 10 concerts across New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune and Mumbai, including at education institutions, it will present a variety of classical and contemporary pieces.

Director Markus Korselt in a telephone interview from New Delhi, where the orchestra had its opening concert, says, “We have a long India tradition.”

When Munchinger founded the orchestra that he led for nearly 40 years as principal conductor, he brought into its fold gifted players to realise his vision of a completely new and exemplary way of interpreting works by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Viennese classicists. “We choose our musicians from around the world and the average age is 38, quite young for an orchestra our age. We have players who are Dutch, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Austrian and German, including one of Turkish origin,” says Korselt.

Keeping it live

The orchestra releases a CD almost every year with performances broadcast on European television, including music for the first horror film that was released in the 1920s. For nearly 11 years ending in 2009, the orchestra recorded the 107 symphonies of Joseph Haydn live. But its forte also lies in the live concerts that number nearly a 100 this year.

“It’s really busy,” laughs Korselt, “We have a strong focus on our international touring, up to three inter-continental tours every year. After India we travel to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.”

The outstanding reputation of the orchestra is underlined by the fact that it can play the repertoire of nearly four centuries of music with aplomb, on instruments of the period to produce sounds closest to the time the music scores were composed. “The orchestra now is more technically brilliant than that of the ‘50s and ‘60s when it was in its heyday. There is an attempt to infuse more warm string sounds into the technicality now. Starting with early Baroque music we use historical forms of playing to lend it authenticity. We also do contemporary music. For instance, on this tour Sandeep Bhagwati composed a piece, Vistar. We perform with jazz musicians. This season we have a collaboration with electronic bands from Austria. It’s important that we are able to play different kinds of music. Sandeep, a Montreal-based musician of Indian origin, was introduced to us by one of our violinists. We looked at a commissioned work that unites Indian music with a modern string orchestra. We have a tanpura included.”

However, it is the sound of the Masters that defines them. “Our core repertoire includes the music of Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Brahms,” says Korselt who has been at the helm since September 2017, although he was first associated with the orchestra nearly a decade ago as a substitute player and then the conductor.

In all these years, India continues to be a favourite place to come back to. “We are always amazed at how much India has changed and how much it continues to be exotic. We were out on a tuk tuk and everyone seems to be okay with the traffic, the cows and the odd elephant. It is not the easiest of places to organise tours to, but people are so welcoming; it’s the reason we love India. It’s like coming home.”

The concert is presented by Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai on March 22, 7 pm at The Music Academy. It will be directed by soloist and artistic leader Bogdan Božović and will feature the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms and the world premiere of Sandeep Bhagwati’s work Vistar. Entry is free and open to all above 10 years. For passes, visit, or Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 8:12:50 AM |

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