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A very warm welcome to a new year and to my new website.   I look forward to keeping you up to date with my activities, and in due course exchanging ideas on music and life.

2011 was quite a year – the end of a very happy six years for me as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon and many guesting highlights along the way. I am still living with my family in Lyon, and we are enjoying this city and the French “savoir vivre” very much. If only everyone would not always be on strike…

My first visit to China, conducting Mahler 10 at the really impressive National Centre for the Performing Arts in Bejing, was an extraordinary experience and one of many highlights. The NCPA Orchestra is very young – set up only 18 months ago, they are still working on finding and defining their own tradition and sound. The potential is immense.

I was also delighted to return to the NHK Orchestra, with which I have a regular relationship, for the first time since last year’s terrible events in Japan. This orchestra is really one of my favourites: top quality combined with great dedication to the music. I met many friends, of whom several had suffered greatly under the earthquake and tsunami. I was impressed by how these people are managing under such severe circumstances, by how hard they are working to reconstruct the country. I guess no other people would work as hard and in as disciplined a way as they do. At least I could contribute in a small way with my concerts: many people in Japan are longing for music to find some relief and bring light back into their lives.

2012 began with a televised New Year’s concert in Leipzig and a welcome return to the Helsinki Philharmonic. It was first time I conducted them in their stunning new hall. It was quite an experience: Beethoven’s 8thsymphony and Mendelssohn’s lovely Lobgesang (a work which I have also enjoyed conducting in Leipzig where they know this music inside-out, of course). It was sung by the Turku Philharmonic choir with the incredible Finnish star Soile Isokoski, whom I know from many opera performances in Vienna, and accompanied by a great, warm sound from the Helsinki Philharmonic.

At the studio in Leipzig we are recording rarely played overtures by d’Albert and Wagner for Naxos. The works of D’Albert is a real discovery for me: very beautiful music indeed. Among many mouth-watering programmes with my Leipzig orchestra this spring, I am particularly looking forward to conducting my own selection of the orchestral parts of Wagner’s Ring – all of which fit neatly into 45 minutes and make a wonderful sweep of music, a joy for the orchestra to play and for me to conduct.

This spring is the centenary of Debussy’s birth, and to celebrate Naxos are releasing the boxed set of the complete orchestral works, which I recorded with the Orchestre national de Lyon over the past six years as Music Director there. It’s a real “first” as no one has ever had undertaken this 9-CD challenge. I am very happy with the result and I hope you enjoy them.

Much of my time this spring will be spent in North America, where I feel very at home; last season my engagements there included my debut with the Cleveland Orchestra and a return to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and in November I had a great week with the St Louis Symphony, which I always enjoy conducting.  This spring I also return to Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Utah and Vancouver, and am delighted to be making my debut with the Cincinnati Symphony in January in a programme dear to my heart: Wagner’s Flying Dutchman Overture, Brahms’ 4th Symphony, and Liszt’s first Piano Concerto with the effervescent Lang Lang. I heard Cincinnatti is a great orchestra with a long music tradition which had been strongly influenced by German artists. I am really looking very much forward to meeting the musicians and the city.

More in my next newsletter…

With very best regards

Jun Märkl