Marcus Bosch

Marcus Bosch interview for Gramophone

Here is Gramophone magazine’s interview with Marcus Bosch discussing Bruckner's Symphonies No. 0 and 00. Bosch's perspective as an organist and his admiration for Mendelssohn provide a unique lens through which he interprets Bruckner's works.

“For me, Bruckner's symphonic world derives from choral music. For example, you have to know how long a choir can sustain the breath in order to understand his phrasing. I grew up as an organist and played a lot of church music from a young age; in many ways, I started out like Bruckner did. With this experience you come to understand where both the high point and the moment of release of a church service are. This is very similar to working on a Bruckner symphony.

In these two symphonies in particular, there are typical Bruckner hallmarks, for example, silent pauses and terraced dynamics. Both of these are signs of an experienced organist.

You need to know how the sounds before and after the pause in a church should mix, or not. Often you wait until there is nothing, which creates extreme tension, and then you have to judge how long this tension can be held at its maximum.We must always give the music a lot of freedom to breathe.

Both symphonies are very close to Mendelssohn, particularly his First Symphony. Mendelssohn has always been my personal god, and when you know these Bruckner scores well it is clear that his music comes directly from Mendelssohn. It was always my aim with my Bruckner recordings to illustrate that.

Symphony No 00 is also known as the Study Symphony, as Bruckner wrote it at the end of his studies with Otto Kitzler, in 1863. It is beautiful, but I wouldn't say it is real Buckner as we know him, being more Mendelssohnian. All players have to learn not to play this symphony as though it's by Bruckner! The opening bars start at pianissimo and then suddenly go to fortissimo, a typical example of Bruckner's terraced dynamic style. But what is important is that the fortissimo remains within the character of Bruckner's own sound world. I have never been part of the typical tradition of German heavyweight sound - that has never been my idea of Bruckner. I am convinced that we have to interpret the score with the original instruments in our mind. Each year since 1945, Bruckner has become heavier and heavier; but with the original string instruments you cannot play sostenuto in the same way that you can with today's instruments. Also woodwind instruments in Bruckner's time had much more character and were 'noisier', in a way. For a century and a half or so, we have been trying to make all orchestral instruments sound like a beautiful human voice so that their individual character and all-round colour are lost.

Bruckner composed Symphony No 0 in 1869, between Nos 1 and 2. There are many similarities between them all and also the Third Symphony, but Bruckner decided that this one 'gilt nicht' (does not count), so it was not premiered in his lifetime - in fact, not until 1924. However, audiences react to it in the same way that they would to a Tchaikovsky symphony! I think I've always had great public success with Symphony No 0 because listeners understand this piece so immediately and directly. That is one of the reasons why I think it should be part of the standard repertoire - and it is perhaps the perfect symphony for introducing a person to the world of Bruckner. It is short, but you have nearly all the Bruckner characteristics - sonority, pauses, colour and so on.

In many ways, I think you have more varied colours in this symphony than you get in many of his other symphonies.

The atmosphere at the beginning of Symphony No 0 is a little bit like that of the Schubert Unfinished Symphony, in the way it feels as if it's going neither forwards nor backwards. The first movement has often been criticised for having no theme, and it has been suggested that the theme it should have had is in the Third Symphony instead.

But I feel it in a completely different way. I like this symphony very much as it is! The second movement is beautiful and then you have this funnily aggressive Scherzo and Trio. I always say to orchestras that in the Scherzo and Trio it's as if the organ player goes to the tavern. You close the door of the church and open the door to the tavern. I always try to find this sound and freedom in the 'Trio - it can be very free!

The finale of Symphony No 0 is completely unique, with its Moderato beginning (with 12/8 time signature) which quickly progresses to the Allegro vivace. The second theme of the movement is just like Rossini! This movement is really challenging for most orchestras to find the right tempo between the main theme and the Rossini-like second theme; it has to fit for both, and it's very difficult to get right.”

Interview by Henry Kennedy