Jun Märkl (2005-2011)
David Robertson left the Orchestre national de Lyon in 2004 for the St. Louis Orchestra in Missouri. Jun Märkl was appointed to succeed him from September 2005. A renowned conductor in Germany and Japan, his two home countries, he was relatively unknown in France. However, both the orchestra and the audience in Lyon were enthralled by his performance in November 2002, when he conducted the baritone Ben Heppner in a Wagner programme, followed by the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor orchestrated by Schönberg. Pending the arrival of the ONL’s new music director, the 2004/2005 season was one of transition. The Swiss conductor Heinz Holliger, the principal guest conductor, introduced the orchestra and the audience to the music of Charles Koechlin. Jun Märkl conducted his future orchestra in two concerts, including a landmark performance of Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher with Marthe Keller in the title role (the season’s opening concert on 1 October 2004).
The centenary season
In 2005, when he had only just entered his new job, Jun Märkl led the celebration of the orchestra’s centenary with great pomp and ceremony during a week of festivities in November 2005. A commemorative book was published to mark the occasion: Cent Ans d’orchestre, Orchestre national de Lyon 1905-2005 (Lyon, éditions Stéphane Bachès). A casket containing 100 years of memorabilia was also embedded in a wall of the Auditorium, beside the food service area, at the foot of the main staircase leading up to the concert hall.
Saluting Debussy and the German repertoire
Jun Märkl maintained a very broad-ranging repertoire. He brought in a regular offering of Bach (with Ton Koopman, who remained a regular guest of the ONL for several seasons), Mozart and Haydn, but also extended to Messiaen, one of the recent composers he admired the most, and the living composers. He worked with Thierry Escaich, for instance, for a preparatory season (2006/2007), followed by three full seasons (2007/2010). This residency culminated in the recording of a disc containing the three works that the Orchestre national de Lyon commissioned from the composer and organist: Les Nuits hallucinées (featuring Nora Gubisch as soloist), the Violin Concerto (with David Grimal) and La Barque solaire (with the composer at the organ). Édith Canat de Chizy took over for the 2010/2011 season with the first performance of Pierre d’éclair in March 2011 and a piece for organ, Pour une âme errante, the following month.
The German repertoire, and especially Wagner, was very well represented. However Jun Märkl was also keen to maintain the orchestra’s French character and, year by year, recorded Claude Debussy’s entire orchestral work under the Naxos label.
Highlights of this period include a Franz Liszt thread throughout 2005/2006. Diaghilev’s Ballets russes featured throughout the following season and were accompanied by an extensive exhibition. Beethoven’s complete piano concertos were performed over three concerts in April 2009 (with Radu Lupu at the piano and Lawrence Foster conducting). A concert version of Schumann’s Genoveva was conducted by Jun Märkl; the first of the Lord of the Rings films was screened and accompanied by the orchestra in a cinema concert in June 2010; Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ was conducted by Serge Baudo in December 2010.
The people of Lyon will also remember Jun Märkl descending the Saône river by kayak during the Promenades musicales (when concerts were performed throughout the city during the European Heritage Days)!