I wanted to go one step beyond

An interview with the man behind Symphoniacs, Andy Leomar

How and when did the idea for the “classic meets club sound” of Symphoniacs come to you?
It came about three years ago. I’m a classically trained pianist and tonmeister, and after my studies at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, I started producing pop music and remixing dance music. I thought to myself, it would be so great to bring these two strictly separated worlds of classical and dance music together. I looked for ways to make classical more attractive to a younger audience and how I could combine it with electronic music.

»I try to bring this rough feeling that radiates from Berlin into the music. «

What do club and classical music have in common?
Both are determined by emotion: quiet moments are followed by euphoric highlights. Only the sound constellations are different. Classical music has a tradition that has matured over centuries and influenced western culture and identity. Almost everything that is happening in music today is based on fragments that emerged from the classical period. Electronic music follows basically the same sound structures that were used by Bach. Without classical music, not only would the existence of pop and electro be unthinkable, but almost any other musical genre as well.

» Every piece presents a new experiment and no one knows in beforehand if the fusion will work or not.«

What was the artistic approach to Symphoniacs?
Classical music has been remixed before—occasionally someone adds a beat under the track and that’s pretty much it. I wanted to go one step beyond that so I recorded all the pieces with a brand new approach to remixing– a way that electronic loops could meet classical forms of expression. I love electro and dance acts like Daft Punk and Robin Schulz and I was interested in how electronic samples or fat synth sounds would sound over plucked strings. I didn’t just experiment with both music genres, but with various ways to produce new acoustic sounds and use unusual playing techniques, too.
Was keeping classical music alive a mission?
That was part of it. I primarily wanted to create something that no one had heard before. There are many classical musicians who work so hard to get to this insanely high skill level, but virtuosity is so seldom found in today’s pop and dance music. It’s an amazing thing to be able to inspire young classical soloists with something new. And through this mix of electronic sounds and beats we compliment the classical instrumentation and bring it into a new dimension.
Symphoniacs is a global network of young talents from international cities: New York, London, Moscow, Vienna, Copenhagen, Budapest, Berlin etc… What were the criteria to be chosen for Symphoniacs?
I wanted the best. So, naturally, the musicians are spread across the world. Symphoniacs should be viewed as a pool of the most talented and innovative musicians from around the world. The lineup changes from track to track, from concert to concert. This brings a new dynamic every time. I organised international auditions and invited the best musicians to Berlin.
Was the concept of Symphoniacs difficult to convey?
No. The young virtuosos found it exciting from the get-go. Some have their own solo carriers, others play in some of the world’s most renowned orchestras, so they totally enjoy being able to break away from it, being rebellious and trying something new. This generation of musicians isn’t boring or nerdy like people often think, and on stage a transformation happens: these classical soloists can suddenly become a cool UK band, but instead of packing guitars and drums, they’re bringing violins and cellos.
Where does the biggest challenge lie when you decide to turn Robin Schulz’s « Prayer in C » into a symphonic pop track?
The most difficult thing is being able to convey a new kind of emotion with classical instruments that’s still connected to and based in the original. What happens technically and electronically in a club track has to be translated into classical acoustic instruments. And all the while without disrupting the mechanical rhythm. Every piece presents a new experiment and no one knows in beforehand if the fusion will work or not.
What influence has your hometown Berlin had on Symphoniacs?
The mixture of old and new, classical and club, fits this city really well. Here both worlds can coexist without disrupting each other. There is not just one large electronic music-scene, there’s also a renowned classical culture. I try to bring this rough feeling that radiates from Berlin into the music. Berlin is open and is, even today, the jumping-off point from which anything is possible.
What will the live concerts be like?
They’ll be dynamic and energetic performances that will make the audience want to dance, with violinists, cellists, and pianists competing with each other on stage in musical “duels” like guitarists at rock concerts. The lineup will vary from country to country, sometimes from city to city, too. No gig will be like the next.
Where will the shows take place?
Symphoniacs can transport clubs into classic concert halls or bring classical music into clubs. I can completely imagine having shows at the Berliner Philharmonie as well as in clubs like Berghain. There are no limits!