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A MAN OF THE WORLD – Jeremy Siepmann talks to the conductor Jun Märkl

October 11, 2010

Jun Märkl

Born in Munich to a German father (a distinguished Concertmaster) and a Japanese mother (a concert pianist), Jun Märkl was familiar with music before he was born. His musical horizons expanded almost from the moment of his birth. Nothing seemed more natural. ‘Music,’ he now reflects, ‘is such an essential way of expressing yourself that it’s really another language that you learn.’ That said, acquiring it was not always an undiluted pleasure. Nor, despite a precocious start, did performance hold many charms for him. At least not at first. ‘I studied both the violin and the piano from a very early age—the violin from when I was four, the piano from when I was five—and I started playing for people when I was seven, mostly for my parents’ guests and things like that. I can’t honestly say I liked it very much. I was certainly no wunderkind, not at all, but as the years went on I began playing for bigger and bigger audiences.’ The rewards, however, were poisoned by a common affliction. ‘As a pianist or violinist I always suffered very badly from nerves. And that really didn’t change until I went into conducting—which was very late, actually. I was always interested in musical theory, musical history, musicology—the academic side of music generally—so well before university I attended many courses. And though these brought me into contact with composers and conductors, it was actually my piano teacher who really gave me the push into conducting, remarking that my playing was very orchestral in style (I’d always liked trying to imitate voices, or clarinets, and other orchestral instruments, to get the maximum colour from the piano). He also stressed the degree to which I’d be working and making music with many more people than I ever could just being a pianist.’

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