The percussion pyrotechnician Martin Grubinger ignites superlative fireworks with Daníel Bjarnason's percussion concerto – and ends his great career as a soloist.
«When you cross that threshold and only hear your own heart beating, when you are no longer consciously aware of anything around you, when you overcome exhaustion»: this is how Martin Grubinger describes the moment when he gives his all on stage in the film portrait by Victor Grandits. It is «like walking between worlds». The choice of words of an extreme musician?
Martin Grubinger demands a lot from himself and from all those who perform his programmes with him. He pushes the technical and musical limits – not only in concert, but also during rehearsals. The concert-free time is made up of practising, practising, practising, up to ten hours a day, plus sport.
There is no other way to manage marathon programmes like «The Big Six» with his Percussive Planet Ensemble. They performed no fewer than six percussion masterpieces in the 2016/17 season, when Martin Grubinger was artist in residence with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Seven hours of music at a stretch: a «pretty whacky project», Martin Grubinger also admits.
But it is precisely these musical feats with which the percussionist puts the solo qualities of his instrument in the spotlight. Neglected for centuries, Martin Grubinger now inspires numerous composers such as Friedrich Cerha, Péter Eötvös (Creative Chair 2016/17) or the Icelander Daníel Bjarnason to give concerts for percussion and fills the great halls with contemporary programmes.
Martin Grubinger's persuasive power is not only effective on the instrument. He also takes a clear stance off stage, whether as a passionate columnist for the «Kronen Zeitung», as a presenter of the TV programme «Klick- Klack» on Bayerischer Rundfunk or as an active contributor to his environment. «As an artist, you cannot join forces with despots and oppressors and take advantage of these systems,» he expressed to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 2019. After all, the diverse, multicultural is also the «original DNA» of his instrument. The stylistic richness of Latin American dances, African percussion, Japanese taiko drumming or rock to classical orchestral literature seems limitless, the spectrum of instruments always has something new in store for the multi-percussionist.
The percussion pyrotechnician Martin Grubinger ignites superlative fireworks with Daníel Bjarnason's percussion concerto - and ends his great career as a soloist.
To the limit – and what next?
The drums are everything for the Austrian. With his father, Martin Grubinger senior, he always had a professional drummer in the house, so the junior practically grew up with four mallets in his hands. But the intensity of his playing, which is impossible to resist in the audience, comes with an «expiry date», so to speak. He already hinted several times: «The end is at 40».
While other virtuosos continue to perform well beyond retirement age, Martin Grubinger is now tackling his last season, then the curtain will fall for good. It goes without saying that the open-minded musician will continue to inspire with his professorship at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and numerous projects.
Translated with DeepL