The joys of making music

The joys of making music

The TU Darmstadt orchestra has a long tradition. Image: Katrin Binner
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The TU Darmstadt orchestra has a long tradition. Image: Katrin Binner

Igor Stravinsky and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the TU Darmstadt orchestra loves classical as well as modern composers. Spirited conductors have left their mark on the ensemble since it was formed in 1947. Dr.-Ing. Karl Marguerre, Professor for Mechanics, founded the orchestra in 1947 in order to “give interested students the opportunity to make music and to entertain listeners at evening performances.

These two objectives contradict one another to a certain extent. Our orchestra welcomes anyone who regularly attends rehearsals, which of course means that the ensemble cannot be expected to produce masterly performances. But experience has shown that the sheer joy of making music lights a spark in the audience, so that none of our recitals has ever been a failure.…”

Marguerre conducted the orchestra and choir, founded in 1951, until his death in 1979.

A new wind under new leadership

In 1981, new principal conductor Martin Knell assumed the baton and struck a new note. He complemented well-known classical pieces by compelling contemporary pieces, inspiring enthusiasm for the variety of musical culture amongst musicians and audiences alike. His small, barely 30-strong ensemble grew into a handsome orchestra of regularly more than sixty, in some semesters more than 100 members – students, teachers, university staff and alumni.

Under Martin Knell, the orchestra also discovered Darmstadt's “Schlosshof” as an open air concert venue. Concert tours have taken the orchestra to Russia, Romania, Hungary, Cyprus, Italy and Latvia to collaborate with local choirs or orchestras, perform joint programmes both in Darmstadt and the host country, and forge many personal friendships along the way.

In February 2010, Martin Knell held his spectacular farewell concert. Could his successor wish for a more beautiful prelude?

“I was particularly impressed by the Mozart Requiem, which we performed on the very night of the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death on December 5th, 1991, in the Darmstadt Stiftskirche. At the point where Mozart's original autograph ends – for the piece is actually a fragment – we interrupted the concert for half a minute. That was one of the most memorable moments in my career with the orchestra and the choir in Darmstadt. We then played the rest of the piece the way Mozart's student Süßmayr completed it. What an experience.” (Martin Knell)