"King of the wintermusic" - Interview with Jörg Hillebrand ("Fono Forum" 4/2005)

Guitarists are rarely portrayed in our magazine. I have found in our archives only half a dozen, and the first three were such legendary guitarists like André Segovia [FF 1/1959], Julian Bream [FF 11/1974] and Pepe Romero [FF 11/1994].

These are the greatest guitarists.

How would you adjust yourselve in their tradition? To whom do you owe more, to whom rather less?

André Segovia has brought the guitar in the concert halls and has stimulated much new repertoire. But I admire more Julian Bream. He has shown the guitar the way in to the contemporary music. I especially gladly play the repertoire which he has stimulated: Henze, Britten, Tippett, Walton, Bennett.

Then you must be especially proud if our reviewer classifies your recording of Henzes "Royal Winter Music" as a reference recording and puts it therefore about those for whom it was dedicated, which was Bream.

Yes, I feel very much honoured with this. For me the "Royal Winter Music" is a milestone in the repertoire, I think it is the guitar work of the 20th century absolutely. Henzes musical wealth of ideas in the musical description of the Shakespeare's characters is fascinating. He has written quite big music with these sonatas. There are delightful beautiful lyric movements in it, however, also dramatic and very impressive ones in which he fully exhausts the possibilities and the color wealth of the guitar and brings that out very clear. In the area of the opera and the ballet there are many Shakespeare's settings, but there is no so long cycle for a solo instrument.

You are one of the few guitarists who plays the "Royal Winter Music" completely also in concert. What are the immense difficulties of this work? Only the length?

An extensive cycle is just what attracts me. Bream asked Henze for a work which should mean for the guitar what represents Beethovens "Fortepiano sonata" for the piano literature. The "Royal Winter Music" is certainly technically difficult but one can master it. One must love this music, then one finds an access to it.

Henze leads us to another guitarist who was portrayed in our magazine: Stefan Stiens [FF 5/2001]. He has combined the "Royal Winter Music" with lute works by John Dowland. You play also lute music, but in the contradiction to Stiens on the guitar. Why?

The lute is an own individual instrument. The right hand technic and way of soundproduction of the guitarists and lutenist is quite different. Lute strings are double-strings, and if one plays them with fingernails like a guitar, this does not sound good.

Although you do not play lute, it does not mean that you would not be interested in historical instruments: you play the classic repertoire on a historical guitar. What kind of an instrument is this exactly?

I play the reconstruction of a guitar of the Viennese instrument maker Johann Anton Stauffer from about 1840. The music of the 19th century can be played with this instrument in a completely different way. It wins in ease, and a darker, warmer sound appears because of the lower tuning.

What are the specific differences to a modern guitar?

The instrument is built much more lightly with thiner wood. It has a shorter measure and a smaller neck. The string tension is lower. Thereby one can articulate in a different way and bind even more in the left hand.

You have just recorded on this historical guitar works of Johann Kaspar Mertz. Please, introduce this composer to our readers!

Mertz was born in 1806 in Bratislawa and lived till 1856, most of this time in Vienna. While his contemporaries Sor, Carulli or Giuliani were still arrested clearly in the classic style, Mertz is a real romantic composer. For my recording I have selected mainly his lyric character pieces which are full of poetry, less his virtuoso Fantasias about popular opera themes.

Between the early romantic Mertz and those at the beginning mentioned composers of the classic modern age which have written for Julian Bream there is a part of guitar literature which is called among experts simply "Segovia repertoire". Don't you think that Segovia and the composers written for him have been sometimes too populistic and took to much of the folklore?

One must consider Segovia certainly critically, but one may also not curtail his achievements. The composers who have written for him and which I also play very much gladly - Ponce Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Torroba, Turina and many others, form an essential pillar of our repertoire. I would not call the Segovia repertoire as "folcloristic". This word always has some half-silk in itself. No one would have the idea to call Granados or Albéniz as "Folk-composers". One would speak here rather from a "national style". Perhaps this misunderstanding comes along that the guitar technic is influenced by the flamenco. But the classical Spanish guitar music actually does not have to do a lot with flamenco.

You have recorded Castelnuovo-Tedescos "Platero and I - Andalusian elegy " a work for guitar and speaker. How is it constructed?

Castelnuovo-Tedesco has selected from the the same named book of Juan Ramón Jiménez (who got the Nobel Prize for it) 28 chapters and has ideally set to music these magic prose poems in form of a melodrama. This work is really a jewel in the whole guitar repertoire. It is the story of a narrator and a small donkey on their raids through the Andalusian landscape. The story is touching very much, thoughtfully and sometimes to smile. It ends sadly, but also very hopeful. Words and music are tied together closely with each other. Although the text is not fixed rhythmically, one needs a speaker with substantiated musical knowledge. In some pieces there are also shorter singing passages.

You also play a lot of chamber music. Which ensembles do you have?

The chamber music is a big passion of mine. I give concerts together with the string quartet Vlach Quartet Prague. With Kristian Nyquist I play the historical guitar and Fortepiano as well as modern guitar and harpsichord. Besides, I also appear with the pianist Wolfgang Döberlein and I have a Duo with the flutist Stephanie Hamburger as well as in the Trio with her and the viola player Chritian Euler. There is much outstanding original repertoire for all these ensembles.

What do record next?

I would gladly record a CD with sonatas of Ponce. Then perhaps an Italian program with historic guitar and Fortepiano. Perhaps also something with my trio: flute, viola, guitar. And surely a CD with modern works of younger composers.


"Sovereign" - Interview with Holger Reuning ( "Akustik-Gitarre" 6/2004)

He certainly belongs to the rather modest persons, he does not crowd in the foreground and is free of arrogance, in other words, a very pleasant partner for an interview. However, he is extremely convincing in his calm manner and he makes nothing thoughtless in and with the music. Nevertheless his guitarplaying, does not sound academically or artificially but it sounds full with feeling and full of enjoyment of the music. The Fono Forum crowns him to the "German guitarist most interesting at the moment". He possesses an enormously big repertoire which also reveals itself in numerous CD recordings which are praised in classical music magazins as reference recordings. So it surprises nobody that he is a prize-winner of a big number of important music contests and a gladly seen guest on big festivals and music rows, also outside the guitar scene. He is no one for banality or for the showing off, he wants-more from the music as only one short moment, the music should still touch him and his listeners and this should remain also after the concert. This aim is put high and Maximilian Mangold gets not to remain behind it. 1.5 hours of the Platero program in the Bad Hersfelder book café passed like a flight and if it had been twice as long, we would not have noticed that. Now, some weeks later we had the possibility for this interview, a chance I have gladly been taken.

We have got to know ourselves after a concert in which you have performed the beautiful setting of the book "Platero and I" by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco in an impressive way together with the narrator Stefan Müller-Ruppert. Have how you come on this piece?

I have known the score of "Platero and I" already for a long time, as well the book of by Juan Ramón Jiménez. I lacked only the perfect narrator. When I met Stefan Müller-Ruppert in an opera performance, it became quickly clear to me that he is the right person for the Platero-programm. An "pure actor" is not enough for "Platero and I". The speaker must have a really substantiated musical understanding.

The "Platero" of you sounds so natural, but can one practice this piece like a work for guitar and singing?

It is very difficult for the narrator to form the speed of speaking so that he corresponds closely with Castelnuovo-Tedescos musical interpretation of the words. We have rehearsed every sentence and then have recorded it with and without text. Stefan has practiced a lot with my guitar part of the tape. He had to develop a quite own sign language for himself just to find the right speech tempo while reciting. In addition, he has also signed up all important musical points in his text. In addition to that we have often performed the cycle and this is of course the best exercise.

The duet guitar and speaker is only one of your ensembles, would you say that the chamber music is a chance is to make the guitar more accessible again to a wider public?

Yes I believe that. "Platero and I" is interesting to those who like the connection of music and literature and reaches an audience beyond the guitar lovers. Particularly if one forms ensembles with other instruments, one also reaches listeners outside the guitar scene. But this is actually not the reaseon why I have initiated the ensembles in which I play. The reason lies rather in the inspiration and challenge which goes out of it for me. To me chamber music incredibly makes a lot of enjoyment.

You still have four other ensembles where do the main points lie there?

With the Vlach quartet Prague we give concerts to to one with a Spanish and for other with an Italian program and in each case guitar quintet, string quartet and guitar solo are alternating. With Stephanie Hamburger, flute, I play works from all epochs. With her and the viola player Christian Euler we form the "TRIO KONTRASTE". Apart from 19th century music we have also a lot of Contemporary Music in the repertoire. My duet with the harpsichord and fortepiano player Kristian Nyquist is quite current.

Is that your contribution to the baroque music?

We play a program in which the contemporary and ancient music alternate. The sonatas of Tommaso Giordani and Francesco Geminiani who were written, actually, for the "English Guitar" sound very beautifully in this ensemble. We want to compile in future even more contemporary music and we play not only modern music in the real sense of the word, but, e.g., also the sonata of Ponce and the works of Juan Manuel Cortes. Besides, we also have a program for hammer wing and historic guitar with music of the 19th century.

Besides your ensemble activity you also appear as a soloist, and have ventured as one few on Hans Werner Henzes "Royal winter Music" You have recorded a highly praised reverence CD with the Henze-Sonatas. What is the special in this work?

Both "Royal winter Music sonatas" are based on the sentences and characters from Shakespeare's dramas. Nevertheless that is no program music. The Shakespeare's figures are for Henze only an inspiration source. Henze has succeeded here an incredibly emotional, dramatic and in big parts also lyric music. It is a unique cycle and a work which is high estimated everywhere because it is great music.

Who belongs for you to the big composers who have composed for guitar?

The golden age of the guitar is the 20th century. Almost every big composer of our time has written for guitar. These are works which would be also recognized in the general classical music scene if they were played much more. Apart from Henze I think a lot of English composers who have written for Bream: Britten, Tippet, Berkley, Maxwell Davies among others, in addition to them Takemitsu, Carter, Ginastera, Jolivet, Petrassi, Leyendecker, Takacs, Hetú, Berio and many others, but also numerous younger composers like Glanert, Heusinger, Müller-Wieland just to name a few. It is a big chance to play these works. These are works of composers whose operas, symphonies, string quartets are often performed. With such composers who have importance not only in the guitar scene there is a good future for the guitar.

How is it with Moreno-Torroba to which you have dedicated a beautiful CD?

Many composers from the the so-called Segoviarepertoire wrote wonderful music. Especially Torroba is for me, this may be a little bit high-taken, someone like "Mozart of the Spanish national style", because he possesses exceptionally good and numerous melodic ideas. His music is of full poetry and the impressionistic harmonious language is enormously effective on the guitar. Particularly the "Puertas de Madrid" and the "Pièces caractéristiques" which are also on my CD are pearls in the Spanish guitar music. I love the Spanish repertoire actually very much. Therefore, my newest CD is dedicated again to Spanish music and Federico Mompou. Apart from the "Suite compostelana" I have recorded some fantastic arrangements from Jörg Falk of Mompous "Canciones y danzas" which are based on Catalan songs.

Which projects have you planned next and should there be a new CD?

In autumn, 2004 there will appear a CD with works of Caspar Joseph Mertz, recorded on a historical guitar. Further more I plan together with K. Nyquist a CD with works for historical guitar and Fortepiano. With the romantic guitar I would gladly like to do chamber music in the duet with historical Flauto-Traverso. Besides, a Ponce CD and another CD project with works of the classic modern age would be interesting. At the moment I prepare besides concerts a recording for a radio broadcasting for the SWR. It will include solo works of Jolivét, Glanert and Smith Brindle.

Is there for the classic Avantgard like Jolivét or Henze an audience or is this rather music for a small, very special listener's circle?

There is an audience absolutely. I believe that the circle of these music lovers who are generally interested in the 20th century and his outstanding composers is perhaps even bigger than the lovers of typical guitar music. However, this refers more to my CD concepts. My concert programs are different. It depends whether I play for ontemporary music lovers or for non-specialized audience.

Do you have an idea which way the "classic" music will take in the first half of the new century?

This is a difficult question and my answer can be only a very individual opinion. The whole economic situation and the bad range of promotion of the classic music will improve itself medium-term hardly again. A pity is - and guitarists are particularly concerned by it - that, certainly furthermore a lot of money is invested in big Events which takes komunale cultural promotion out of chamber music series in smaller cities. What haunts me is that the fashion trend is to the "Crossover" and "Classic Light" which one can just also observe in the contemporary guitar music. To me it appears as a degeneration of the claim and this is not the way I do want to go. I am sure that there will be furthermore a need in demanding classic music. The contemporary music after 1945 has certainly taken some development which one cannot understand completely. The conscious breaking with the tradition and the construction of the work had priority before the textual statement and the individual expression. However, this is for a long time past and there are many young composers who write exciting music, but do not follow every simple fashion.


Interview with Jörg Falk ("Concertino" 2/2004)

Max, tell me first something about your career. In which colleges and with which professors have you studied and why just there?

I have studied first in Würzburg with Prof. Jürgen Ruck. He was an excellent teacher. His em commitment to contemporary music has certainly strongly promoted also my own preference for this kind of music. After I had concluded and graduated in Würzburg, I went for an academic year to Montreal to Alvaro Pierri. He is a fascinating personality, first of all very spontaneously. I admire his enormous stage presence and his plenty of colours. Finally, after a term with Oscar Ghiglia in Basel I studied with Prof. Thomas Müller-Pering in Weimar. His excellent reputation as a teacher and guitarist is far known. Important impulses gave me, first of all, his technic and his excellent sound. Then in Weimar I graduated with the concert diploma.

Are there other important stations during your education (contests, master classes, etc)?

I was on a lot of master classes with M. Barrueco, F. Bungarten, S. Isbin and some others, but also with two lutenists, with P. o'Dette and A. Bailes. However, I also had sometimes lessons with other instrumentalists which were musically from big influence on me. A real booster was an university-internal contest in Würzburg with which I got the second price. Short time on it I was taken granted a scholarship of the German scholarship foundation. This scholarship made also possible for me my studies in Canada with Pierri. At that time just this success was to me an important confirmation. The second price followed in Mettmann and in 1992 the German music contest with which I was taken in the "Young Musicians of the Year - Program".

How did you start your musician's career how did the beginning of your concert activity develop?

By the German music contest which I just mentioned I could play in a season almost 40 solo concerts. By these concerts many contacts arose. This was, actually, the foundation-stone for my concert activity. It was also an important experience, because I could acquire more stage routine to me by the multiplicity of the concerts. A price of this kind helps much more than only a cash prize. Still another price has opened other doors to me. This was the state conveyor price of young artists of the Bavarian Department of Education and Science. From the price money I have produced my first CD and have applied with it at record companies.

Max, your first CD "Central Guitar" (Aurea Vox in 1995) is from the structure and the programing a "classic" Rezital CD. Which considerations led you to this program choice?

With my first CD it was important to me to present me very versatile. This is very helpful to get concerts; however, record companies are not interested in a mixed program without a real concept. At the CD market there ar just other rueles than those for selling CDs after the concert. But it was clear from the beginning that future CD programs would follow a quite clear concept what is completely normal with other instrumentists.

With Publishing of your next admission "English guitar music" you are represented with the record company "Musicaphon" in Kassel. How did the cooperation come about and how did this develop, first of all, with regard to the program choice?

I have applied with my just mentioned first CD simply there. Then we have discussed possible other programs and then have decided first on the English program. Luckily, my choices with the repertoire are very similiar with those of Musicaphon and rare pieces and first recordings are always important for a record company. In case of the English CD such a rare piece was the sonata of Richard Rodney Bennett, a very very expressive and great piece. I find it interesting to enter into new territory and this also likes my record company Musicaphon. Just in the 20th century there is still incredibly a lot to discover. I wanted to show the latter also with my newest recording with works of Strasfogel, Genzmer, Farkas, Ghedini and Leyendecker. However, I would never play a piece, only to have a first recording. I also find it very interesting to dedicate a CD only to a single composer. With this one can also present less known works of the composer who stand to injustice in apart because they perhaps do not reveale itself to us so quickly.

If I consider your very impressive Discography you present, exclusively music of composers who have not played the guitar. Your choice seems to exclude the composing guitarists?

This is first of all an individual matter of taste and also concerns my concert programs. Stile and quality of a composition must address to me compellingly. Besides, I must be able to express something of my own and something convincing. Today with composing guitarists I have now and then the feeling that they think too very much of the possibilities of the instrument and, besides, the motivic idea and its developement gets to much in the background. Besides, many works from this area are often strongly influenced from the Crossover genre, a style which I individually do not appreciate. I regard Crossover also as not helpful for our instrument. The guitar is very much tied together with the popmusic in the general observation. I do not believe that it is helpful to follow the Crossover trend. With this the classic guitar in the music life will not find any more acknowledgment. The classical guitar succeeds better with composers who are also recognized out from guitar circles.

A problem with compositions of "non-guitarists" is often that they overestimate or underestimate the possibilities of the guitar; a co-operation with a player of the instrument, or a revision of the score are mostly essential. Have you trusted in connection with your recording of the "Royal Winter Music" from Hans Werner Henze exclusively the published version or have you had the opportunity to see the manuscripts?

Luckily, I possess a copy of the manuscripts. One can see how well Bream and Henze have cooperated. The comparison of manuscript and available score has enabled for me to correct many misprints and to find other solutions than Bream for some places. Unfortunately, in the manuscript of the 2nd sonata the places which were corrected were stuck. Because I have only a copy, it was therefore not possible to me to see the complete original version.

How have you found access to this music, is there a "sensually" guitaristic aspect, that has convinced you of the high compositional quality, or is it the literary world of William Shakespeare and his multilayered figures?

Probably everything together. One can approach the royal winter Music, certainly only slowly, but already with practicing very first in the slow tempo these sounds have fascinated me incredibly. In this respect there was from the beginning also a sensual relation to this music. In addition, an immense compositional wealth of nuances comes out in the representation of the Shakespeare's characters. With this the "Royal Winters Music" is undoubtedly a milestone in the guitar repertoire. I think the wonderful thing with Henze is, that he never loses the relation to the tradition apart from all modernity. His music remains understandable and also admits tonal sounds. I regard movements like "Romeo and Juliet" or "Bottom's Drea" delightful lyrically. "Ariel" is so plastically and impressively. "Gloucester" and "Lady Macbeth" are enormously dramatic. I regard the knowledge of the literary inspiration source as essential for the interpretation. Moreover, the challenge to play the whole cycle at one evening was also an incentive from the beginning; as well the performance with recitation from the dramas. I make very good experiences with the audience also in concerts with mixing programs if I integrate one of the Henze sonatas.

In contrast to Henze the music of Federico Moreno Torrobas seems to be obliged in a lot of aspects to the 19th century, mixed with folklorish colors and stocks. You have dedicated own CD to Torroba what fascinates You in this music?

Even if one of my main points lies in performing the modern music, I play just gladly the so-called Segovia repertoire. And as a guitarist one must simply love Spanish guitar music. At least it is to me so. Particularly Torroba sprays almost of melodic wealth of ideas, and with his impressionistic Harmonik he produces on the guitar great sound effects. With this CD I also wanted to show that there are still other very worthwhile and first of all longer work cycles of him apart from the wellknown and particularly single Torroba pieces. Just the "Puertas de Madrid" have done it to me. These are very demanding and are set artistically.

A particularly impressive project is for me the whole recording of "Platero and I" from Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco for speaker and guitar, what is for you the special in this "whole work of art"?

The working on the Platero-programm and the numerous performances which I have already had with "Platero" are for me accurately a life enrichment. This work is, really a jewel. The language is incredibly artistic and visual and captivates me as a reader. Castelnuovo-Tedesco has ideally set these magic texts to music and one is as a guitarist definitely equally to the speaker. Most pieces of the cycle are so concisely and demanding that one could play them also as solos. Also the artistic cooperation with the speakers Stefan Müller-Ruppert and Berth Wesselmann was and is an great experience. The enthusiastic reaction of the audience in the theater of Baden-Baden where I have played "Platero and I" the last season so frequently was a beautiful success. If one looks at the score of Platero one can see that some passages of the spoken texts are composed properly with pitches and rhythm, is a pure speaker able to do that? Castelnuovo-Tedesco has composed very closeto the words. One really needs speaker with substantiated musical knowledge to bring text and music so on top of each other that all nuances of the composed interpretation come duly to validity. Therefore, the speaker must hear the phrasing and periodical structure in the music well and must have it in memory. But it is not that the speaker is directed only after the guitar voice. Both partners must react strongly on each other. Wonderful suspense factors can appear in communication with the audience from that. Some places must actually be sung , in this respect a trained voice is important.

How is it with other chamber music in your musician's life? Are there fixed ensembles with which you work regularly and give concerts?

There are some ensembles with which I cooperate. There is my quintet with the string quartet Vlach Quartet Prague and my Duo with the harpsichordist Kristian Nyquist. With him I will do in 2004 also a program with Fortepiano and historical guitar. An unusual, but exciting ensemble is my Duo with the pianist Wolfgang Döberlein who can play so beautifully soft that this ensemble works really well. Besides, I play in a Duo with Stephanie Hamburger, Flute and in a Trio with her and the viola player Christian Euler.

How important is it to play with other partners for you?

This is very important for me. The chamber music is a big passion of mine. I was already very active in playing chamber music at student days and have played in many and partly very unusual ensembles. Besides, there is much good repertoire in the chamber music.

Your next CD devotes itself to the music of Federico Mompou. I am glad that I could give a small contribution to it while I have transcribed some piano works of Mompou. For me the discovery of this music was something quite special. How Did you come to the music of Mompou and what fascinates you by this "quiet" Spanish composer?

I have played long time and with enthusiasm the "Suite compostelana". After that there appeared the wish to be able to play even more Mompou. I am very gratefully to you for your outstanding arrangements of the "Canciones y danzas" which I play also often in concerts. First of all, the elegiac, quiet and lyric stile in Mompous music fascinates me. This music has nothing superficial. It magic lies in its simplicity and poetry, and the reminiscences to Catalan folk songs fit very well to the guitar. I also find the harmonious language of Mompou particularly interesting.

If one refrains of Dowland and Bach, you play here for the first time transcriptions how is your fundamental opinion for transcriptions for guitar?

I rarely play transcriptions because there is so much original repertoire which I like to play. The Mompou transcriptions represent an exception. If one refrains from the renaissance music and baroque music, there is, actually, more than enough high-quality and valuable original repertoire. The contrary is deplored to injustice. Therefore, I think that the guitarists do not need so many transcriptions. If one arranges must appear a new independent and convincing musical statement to the listener. As soon as one starts missing the original, it has no value. Mompou has even transcribed "Cancion y danza No 10" for guitar as in the Segovia deduction was discovered.

You play in your concerts music of Johann Kaspar Mertz on the copy of a historic instrument, does a "classic" period follow now after so much 20th century?

No, but a reinforce dedication to the 19th century. It makes fun to play this music on a historical guitar. Actually, the music is revealed in a differnent and new way because she is completely different with such an instrument. The music gets essentially more ease. In concerts I gladly play a part of the program on the historic guitar. This is also a beautiful alternation for the public.

What are your plans for the future, new CD projects, concerts what do you plan for the next time?

Like always I want to play so many concerts as possible and be very versatile. Therefore, in addition to solo concerts I will do furthermore a lot of chamber music, learn for it new repertoire and create new formations again. For example, I would work gladly more intensely with singers. Also a trio mandolin, harp and guitar already thinks of me for a long time. I will launche a pure Mertz CD at next. Besides, I would gladly like to learn after so much "classic modern age" works by younger composers and record them.

How Do you judge the current situation of the guitar in the concert life?

To me the probably bad situation is deplored a little bit too much whether according to law or to injustice can be decided later on. Instead of that one should rather try to play the best and most demanding repertoire and interpret it imaginatively and faithfully in every detail. There are many forgotten works to rediscover, new compositions can be stimulated. Besides, the chamber music with other instruments offers numerous possibilities.

Max, thanks a lot for this talk.