A Conversation with Markus Conrad

30 August 2017

For MCO patron Markus Conrad, longtime CEO of German company Tchibo, this year’s visit to the Lucerne Festival took on a special meaning. 

In mid-August, three generations of the Conrad family gathered in Lucerne to celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary of Markus Conrad’s parents, who married on Lucerne’s very own Mount Rigi sixty years ago. 

Before attending the fourth and final Lucerne Festival Orchestra concert of the year – an evening of music by Igor Stravinsky, conducted by Music Director Riccardo Chailly and featuring mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch – Markus Conrad took a few minutes to share his thoughts on music, its influence on his work, what makes the MCO stand out.

Why is your family (and extended family) joining you in Lucerne this year? 

We are celebrating my parents’ diamond wedding anniversary this year. Since they married on Mount Rigi sixty years ago, the Lucerne Festival is the perfect occasion for us to bring our family together – there is no better place to celebrate than where it all began. 

What is your connection to the Lucerne Festival and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra? 

I’ve listened to many performances of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra over the years. Since I am a trumpet player, I have always looked to Reinhold Friedrich [principal trumpet of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra] as a point of reference.

You are attending an LFO concert dedicated to the works of Igor Stravinsky. Does this programme hold a particular significance for you and your family? 

Back in 1910, Stravinsky lived in the area where my parents live now. But more importantly, we decided on this concert for logistical reasons: it was a date that worked for all of us.  
The Lucerne Festival Orchestra performing its Stravinsky programme under Riccardo Chailly 

What role does music play in your daily life? Do you still play trumpet?

I studied trumpet before embarking on a very different career path. But music was, and still is, very important to me. Yes, I still play, and I am an active member of the Management Symphony Orchestra.

How has your background in music helped you further your (non-musical) career? 

Yes, definitely. There are three things that I would like to mention:
1. Major things can only be accomplished collectively.
2. Humility: in the business world, success is relatively transient; distinguished artists make a much more long-lasting impression.    
3. Work and talent are crucial for success. One does not work without the other. 

How did you come to know the MCO? 

I learned about the MCO through the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which I had already listened to quite a few times. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the orchestra better through Jörg Thierfelder [Board Member of the MCO Foundation] and through the MCO’s concerts in Hamburg.
Markus Conrad, MCO Artistic Partner Mitsuko Uchida and Jörg Thierfelder at a reception following the MCO's debut in Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie in February

Which aspects of the MCO do you find most important, and what makes the MCO unique? 

The European concept of the orchestra. I strongly believe that music creates understanding better than any other forms of communication. 

What are the reasons why the world should support the MCO? 

I am always blown away by the musicians’ enthusiasm. The MCO is a successful start-up, one that I truly believe in. As an independent orchestra with a strong and uncompromising spirit, the MCO deserves our support. 
Three generations of the Conrad family gathering for a photo in KKL Luzern before attending a Lucerne Festival Orchestra concert 

Photos: Geoffroy Schied / Lucerne Festival-Peter Fischli