From The Back Desk - Christoph Ess, Bamberger Symphoniker

Competition, forgetting the music and why a concert is nothing like a rock show - we chat to the Bamberg Symphony's horn player, Christoph Ess.

Christoph Ess

Name: Christoph Ess

Instrument: French horn

Ensemble: Bamberger Symphoniker, Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie

Why did you decide to become a musician?
I decided to make music my career relatively late – at the age of 17 I would say. I had always wanted to study chemistry before that, but I have no regrets about choosing music as my profession. Back then I didn’t know the wonderful benefits of this line of work.

What's the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
There are certainly some. But I will never forget the fully sold out awards concert of 'Jugend musiziert' in the main hall of the Gewandhaus Leipzig in 1997 when I was 13 years old. However, I will also always remember my first Ring Cycle, which I performed recently, or the 5th Symphony of Gustav Mahler with Jonathan Nott at the Proms.

What's the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
Fortunately, I have only experienced small mishaps. For instance, in the past I have forgotten the score for a moment when playing something from memory during a solo performance, which is a little embarrassing. But I have never drawn a complete blank.

If you could work with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would like to have met Richard Wagner very much. I have devoted myself to him this year and I have a few questions to ask…

In concert, have you ever thought, “I can’t actually play this bit very well, I'm going to mime and hope no-one notices”?
No. That hasn’t happened yet. I will hopefully remain professional enough to always be well prepared for a concert. This is the principal duty of a musician and his greatest responsibility.

Could you give us an example of the downside of the profession, something that the average concert-goer might not know about?
The readers don’t want to know that... But joking aside, it is an incredibly wonderful job with far more advantages than disadvantages.

Does the touring lifestyle bring out rock star behaviour in the orchestra?
No, you never feel like a rock star. Anyway, the orchestra is a community and always appears as a team. The atmosphere in a concert hall is indeed very different and should also be very different to the atmosphere at a rock concert. With regards to all that is involved in a concert performance, the performers are, of course, happy when the concert and rehearsal conditions are as they desire them to be. When this happens everyone wants to come back to the same organiser, at a specific venue or city.

Have you witnessed any serious diva strops in your time as a musician?
No comment and no names. But there are many more than you might think...

What’s the biggest challenge facing musicians like you these days?
Today it is certainly very, very difficult to become prevalent and to stand out against the good and very good musicians, to establish one’s reputation and to present oneself within the variety of all new media.

What’s the best thing about being a musician?
The fact that we have a job with which we can bring joy to other people!

Photo credit: Monika Lawrenz

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