Frank Teunissen

Bruckner Casco

New works inspired by Bruckner

18 March 2024
by Paul Janssen

Having all Bruckner symphonies performed in three days, it was the great wish of Bruckner-adept Frank Teunissen. Just not in a normal way. Ten composers and four conservatory students are taking on Bruckner’s symphonic oeuvre and will transform the works into something entirely new and different. ‘Think of it as a gift to the bicentennial composer.’

4 September 2024 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Anton Bruckner. Frank Teunissen had been thinking for a long time about turning this occasion into something special. Finally, the Muziekgebouw jumped in with him. On 13, 14 and 15 September, Bruckner takes centre stage through seven concerts and eleven works by ten composers and four conservatory students. Each composer will base their work on one of Bruckner’s nine symphonies plus his Symphony No. 0 and his Study Symphony. ‘My love of music, which has increasingly shifted from late Romantic to contemporary repertoire, is what inspired me to create this festival’, Teunissen explains. ‘My deep admiration for Bruckner, a great composer, remains undimmed. But can the grandeur of his symphonies be effectively captured by a smaller ensemble? It all started with that question. That plan eventually evolved into new works by contemporary composers offering their own take on Bruckner’s symphonies. Think of it as a gift to the bicentennial composer.’

Fully-fledged works
The initial idea was that the composers would stay close to the score and create an arrangement for the different ensembles. ‘That evolved into: leave it to the composers. I really had to instruct myself to move away from the basic idea and let the composers do their thing.’ In the end, Teunissen was met with nothing but enthusiasm from composers such as Seung-Won Oh, Richard Ayres, Reza Namavar and Maxim Shalygin. ‘The brief was straightforward: compose a piece no longer than the corresponding Bruckner symphony, for an ensemble of seven to twenty musicians, and connect the music in some way to the symphony. They had to be fully-fledged works and not contemporary warm-ups for a symphonic programme.’

Frank Teunissen
Frank Teunissen

Frank Teunissen talks like a true musicologist and programmer, but his background is completely different. With a sociology degree in hand, he took a surprising turn and landed in the corporate world. He established a subsidiary for Philips in Spain, spearheaded the launch of Dyson vacuum cleaners in the Netherlands, and was a general manager for many years. In recent years, he was the managing director of Sonos Benelux. ‘Now I only want to do music-related things’, he says resolutely. ‘I have loved classical music all my life. A suitcase full of records from my father proved to be a lifeline during my teenage years. That passion for music has never died. Although it always remained in the background. When I was seventeen, I wanted to do something in music, but I had to be able to play an instrument. So that path didn’t open up for me. But the yearning to do something in music has always been there.

The empty symphony
His love for Bruckner brought his dream to life. It all started with his efforts to get the original versions of Bruckner’s symphonies performed. ‘The same symphony can sound so different in its original version. The first version of the Fourth Symphony is a good example of this – it’s much more exciting than the later version. There are also original versions of the Third and the Eighth. The idea didn’t quite take off, but eventually I ended up at the Muziekgebouw.’

There, Teunissen’s dream became a reality in 2019 with the Bruckner Ongehoord mini festival. The Residentie Orkest, the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO) and the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra (HGO) performed the original versions of the three aforementioned symphonies. ‘At that time, I had no other concrete plans in music; I still had my regular job.’

He had caught the music bug, though, and immediately started taking steps towards his next dream. ‘Bruckner Casco started as a project title. The basic idea was the empty symphony, the space that a contemporary composer could fill in as they saw fit. That way the structure could remain intact, I thought. In the end, though, the majority of the composers take their very own path. While Frieda Gustavs keeps to the structure of Bruckner’s Second Symphony, Shalygin, for instance, begins with the coda of the Eighth Symphony. Christiaan Richer has taken all four movements of the Fifth Symphony and reshaped them into a single, monumental finale. Bruckner’s presence is unmistakable there though, even if only through the inspiration.’

Own style
A foundation has since been set up and there will definitely be a sequel, Teunissen says. ‘Bruckner’s bicentennial is a great steppingstone, but I can also see myself organising a festival like, say, Sibelius Casco in a few years.’ In other words: Teunissen has caught the bug. ‘If you had asked me three years ago if I knew the composers involved in Bruckner Casco, I would have answered in the negative’, he confesses with a laugh. ‘I have spent a lot of time talking to people in the field and have listened to a lot of composers. Christiaan Richter was the first one I told about the plan. He right away mentioned some other names. One thing led to another. ‘Ultimately, I chose the composers because I think they bring something new to the panorama of composing in the Netherlands. That’s also why I wanted people from a variety of musical styles. And why I approached Konrad Koselleck’s big band, for example. They each bring their own unique style and audience. This way, we hope to introduce more and more people to the diversity of contemporary music. And to Bruckner, of course.’

Konrad Koselleck Big Band (foto Said Rasouli)

After all, it’s all about this composer. ‘Bruckner’s music appeals to me because it is the happiest and most honest music I know, cast in a form of timelessness. You immediately hear it’s Bruckner. There is something magical about it. Also, I keep discovering new things in his music. Bruckner was a true non-conformist who continued to make his own music regardless of the obstacles he faced, following his own language.’ In addition to Bruckner, contemporary music life and contemporary music are important driving forces for Teunissen. ‘That’s why I’m also glad that this time it’s about new music, albeit inspired by Bruckner. New music can do much more than drive people out of the hall. It can touch the soul, bring beauty, entertain, and make you think. By connecting it to more familiar music like Bruckner’s, we can make it more accessible to a wider audience.’


Asko|Schönberg (photo Ada Nieuwendijk)

Inspired by Bruckner 1 + 7


Fri 13 Sep 2024 20:15 - 21:35
Konrad Koselleck Big Band (photo Said Rasouli)

Inspired by Bruckner 6

Konrad Koselleck Big Band

Fri 13 Sep 2024 22:30 - 23:45
New European Ensemble (photo Rob Overmeer)

Inspired by Bruckner 0 + 4

Ensemble Klang + New European Ensemble

Sat 14 Sep 2024 16:30 - 18:15
New European Ensemble (photo Joris-Jan Bos)

Inspired by Bruckner 3 + 8

New European Ensemble + Ludwig Orchestra

Sat 14 Sep 2024 20:15 - 22:00
Score Collective (photo Jaap Kroon)

Inspired by Bruckner 00

Score Collective

Sun 15 Sep 2024 10:30 - 11:15

Inspired by Bruckner 2 + 5

Lonelinoise, Pitou, Jasmine Karimova + Camerata RCO

Sun 15 Sep 2024 15:00 - 17:15
Camerata RCO (photo Hans van der Woerd)

Bruckner 9

Camerata RCO

Sun 15 Sep 2024 20:15 - 21:30