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I actually spoke to you around 1973 or 74 after you played a concert at College of Marin. We had to write concert reports, and in mine, I predicted that you could put the lute on the map. I wonder if you remember that concert?
I do remember that concert. It was in 1974. I was studying in Basel and
Michael Lorimer arranged two concerts for me in California, one at the College of Marin and the other at Sonoma. They were two of my first professional solo concerts on lute so I was very grateful for the opportunity to gain performing experience. Shortly after those concerts I switched to thumb under technique and spent the summer of 74 learning how to do that. By the Fall of that year I had completely switched over.
Could you give some biographical details: where you grew up, family, first musical memories that sort of thing? Is your family musical?
I grew up first in Washington DC, then in Columbus, Ohio. My mother was an opera singer who sang with the National Opera Company in Washington and other local musical organizations. Instead of leaving me at home with a baby sitter, my mother took me to opera rehearsals, so that from the time was a small baby through to my teens I had the opportunity to experience the process of putting operas together, and learned the standard opera literature inside out and backwards in the process. My father was an avid music lover as well, so that we always had records, or the radio playing classical music in our house all day long. My father wanted to become a professional musician, but his father would not allow it, so he sang in church choirs and went to every concert and opera performance he could. As
a family we went to thousands of concerts and talked about and performed music all the time. My brother, who is 4 years older than me, did a PhD in Musicology, but ended up getting a job in computer programming instead. But he still composes a lot and listens to music constantly. His interest is primarily 20th century music, so we ended up going for opposite ends of the repertoire!
What was your first musical instrument? At what age did you start? Did you go right into classical guitar or did you play any popular style before that? How long did you play guitar before you took up lute?
I started with the piano at age 6 and violin at 7. I wanted to become a violinst because I loved hearing Heifitz play the great concertoes of Brahms, Tschaikowsky, Beethoven, Prokofiev and my favorite, the Dvorak. But when we moved from Washington to Columbus in 1963, my new violin teacher was a old-school member of the Columbus Symphony who thought that 9 year-olds should only practice etudes, not music. She forced me to practice Wolfhart etudes every day while I begged to be allowed to play at least one piece of music. When she refused, I quit the violin, rebelled and taught myself to play the electric guitar. I taught myself how to play all of the best solos of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix and joined a rock band. Our band, which was called Froth, was quite good and was invited to play a lot of concerts all over Ohio. I particularly loved improvising blues, but my style was modelled on Clapton and BB King. In 1970, a friend of our family suggested I could improve my electric guitar technique by studying classical guitar. He gave me a record of Christopher Parkening playing Bach and I was amazed hearing four-part counterpoint played on the guitar. His suggestion made a lot of sense and I started taking lessons with a leading guitar teacher in Columbus. I became hooked on the classical guitar almost immediately, but my favorite pieces were transcriptions of Renaissance lute pieces. I remember thinking "These pieces are full of vitality and character, but I wonder what they sounded like in the 16th century?" I went out looking for a recording to hear the lute and bought Julian Bream's "Lute Music from the Royal Court of Europe." It was love at first note. I was transfixed by the sound of the instrument, the beauty and elegance of the music and the variety of the repertoire. I told my guitar teacher I wanted to learn to play the lute. He looked at me in disbelief, scratched his head and replied that he owned a lute he never played and would be willing to sell it to me along with his library of lute music. But he warned me that the lute was impossibly difficult to play and he had given up trying. I bought his lute and immediately discovered why he thought the instrument was so difficult to play. The action of the strings was about one inch above the frets. I took the instrument to a local guitar builder and asked him to reset the action to normal classical guitar height. When I brought the adjusted instrument home, it seemed quite easy to play and I immediately learned how to play the six Renaissance lute pieces of Chilesotti, which I played at my next lesson.
What attracted you to the lute? How did you get started playing it? What was your first lute and how did you acquire it? Did you start with Renaissance lute or Baroque?
My first lute was an 8-course Renaissance lute. It was built by a local cabinet maker in Columbus from plans in a book by Cooper on designs by Hermann Hauser. It was a very heavy, guitar-like instrument which had little to do with the Renaissance lute, but at least I was able to get started with it. My first real lute was built by William Daum in Cambridge Wisconsin in 1972.
Did you start playing Renaissance lute thumb in or out? Could you tell a little of the history of that?
I started playing thumb out with standard classical guitar technique. I saw Julian Bream play several concerts in which he played lute in the first half and guitar in the second half. I emulated that by playing a number of concerts on both instruments. Tom Binkley, who became a friend of our family, gave me my first lute lesson in 1971 and explained the thumb/index alternation for runs, which some people now refer to as figuetas. When I arrived in Basel in 1973 I was amazed to hear some of the other students playing without nails and making an exquisite sound. I cut off my nails, but discovered that the quick of my nails are so high that I ended up scratching across the end of the nail rather than stiking the string with the flesh. Eugen Dombois, my teacher in Basel, suggested that I try the thumb under technique, which had recently been rediscovered by Sigmar Salzburg, an amateur lutenist in Hannover. He showed it to Michael Schaeffer, who gave a demonstration of it for us in Basel. I tried it a few months later and found it suited my physiology very well.
You have performed and recorded on many early fretted instruments. Do you think of yourself as having a main instrument? I heard that you played Baroque lute in the early days. Have you ever recorded any Baroque lute?
I consider the Renaissance lute to be my principal instrument. I have played it the most and feel the most "at home" on it. I owned a Baroque lute in 1972-3, which I enjoyed playing, but it was damaged in an accident and the lute builder never got around to repairing it. So I concentrated on Renaissance lute and related instruments. I have played a little Baroque lute over the years, including a recording of the Vivaldi d minor Lute and Viola d'amore concerto in 1984 on one. Last year I bought a new Baroque lute and gave several concerts on it this Spring. I plan on recording some Bach perhaps next year.
Who were your main teachers and what did you get from them?
My main lute teachers were Thomas Binkley, Eugen Dombois and Pat O'Brien.
From Tom I learned a great deal about phrasing, interpretation and style. He was not a great technician, but really taught me how to allow the musical intention to guide the technique rather than the other way around. From Dombois I learned how to listen critically to my playing. He was a stickler about controlling the sound and dynamic of every note and to make players aware of how every note relates to the next. Pat O'Brien taught me about technique and how to develop a technique based on the human physiology. Once you understand the physiology it is easy to see how to perfect the mechanics. Since the ability to play difficult passages is based on having the most efficient mechanics, Pat really taught me how to solve technical problems for myself.
It must have been a very exciting time in Basel when you were there. When did you go and how long did you stay there? What did you do after that?
Basel was indeed a very exciting place to be when I was there between 1973
and 1976. Others who were there at the same time include Hoppy Smith, Jordi Savall, Bruce Dickey, Christoph Coin, Paolo Pandolfo, Ben Bagby, Barbara Thornton, Robert Strizich, Kathy Liddell, Lyle Nordstrom, etc. I planned on staying one more year to finish the diploma, but the Eastman School of Music invited me to start a new early music program there and I could not turn down the opportunity. I have been at Eastman since 1976.
How long do you generally practice? How do you use your practice time? How do you make practice time? Do you have a routine, a way you usually start and then follow with another activity? How do you practice difficult passages?
My practice time varies from day to day depending on my travel schedule, teaching schedule, etc. I try and find two hours a day, but I often don't have that much time. When I am on tour, I sometimes practice 6 to 8 hours in my hotel room. I wish I could be more consistent in my practice time, but my life style does not really allow it. I try to be very efficient in my practicing, being a strong believer in reinforcing the proper mechanics rather than just mindless repitition. What I mean by that is that I believe every challenging passage requires finding the most efficient and reliable means of using the physiology to accomplish it. Once I have discovered the proper mechanics, I want to play the passage perfectly many times in a row to reinforce the proper movements. The traditional method of simply repeating something over and over again in the hopes that if you do it enough it will eventually get better, does not work because you are just repeating faulty mechanics in that way. Generally I start with warm up exercises, tremolos, duet trebles and broken consort parts to get the right hand loose and flowing, and various left hand patterns to stretch the fingers and relax the hand. I rarely play through entire pieces, but break things down into the difficult passages which I take apart note for note to find the true nature of the difficulty. Often I will practice only getting from one note to the next very, very slowly, then back up and add the previous note, then add one more note (working backwards) until I can play the whole passage slowly. I only allow myself to speed up after I can reliably play it perfectly multiple times at a slow speed. In the case of difficult left hand shifts from one chord to another I like to isolate the movement of each individual finger and practice each finger's "journey" separately. Then I put two fingers together, then two different fingers, then three, etc. In that way I can find inefficiencies in my movements and discover the shortest route from point a to point b with each finger.
To what extent do you finger each piece? Do you write in fingering? Do you map out what each finger in each hand is doing?
I certainly think through the fingering of each piece, but I generally only write in unusual fingerings. I will map out what each finger is doing in working through difficult passages as I described above. I am a strong believer in natural, easy fingerings, which have a much better chance of being executed elegantly than complicated, difficult fingerings which might allow one note to be held a nanosecond longer than with an easier fingering, but which will almost never sound elegant or be reliable under pressure.
Someone suggested that the reason left hand fingerings so rarely appear in Renaissance lute tab was because they played it differently every time. Any theories on why there are so few left hand fingerings in Renaissance lute music? A fantasia by Milano, for example, requires some thinking about fingering to sustain the voice leading. I wonder if they memorized that or all working copies were lost. On the other hand, in Baroque guitar tabs such as de Murzia there are lots of left hand fingerings and no right hand fingering. I wonder why?
I don't buy the suggestion that they fingered passages differently every time. I think that each individual player made their own decisions about l.h. fingerings so they did not write it into printed copies, except for a few cases such as Thomas Robinson, Newsidler, etc. They often discussed the principals of fingering in prefaces (Besard, Waissel, Newsidler, etc.) and left decisions about individual passages up to each player. I suppose working copies are mostly lost, though one suspects that the best players improvised a lot of their music so it was memorized for the most part. I agree that it is strange Santiago is so meticulous about l.h. fingerings and not very much help on r.h. fingering. Just as it would have been more helpful to have included l.h. fingerings in Molinaro or Terzi, it would have been better if Santiago had included more r.h. fingerings. It seems they always left out what we would most like to know about!
How did you develop such speed? Did you devote a lot of time to exercises or was it perhaps a result of bringing the music to life? I get the sense that you have thought a great deal about how the hands work, their actual movements.
I was blessed with naturally good coordination and never had to think much about speed. There are certain kinds of passages where the coordination of r and l hands are tricky, such as articulated cadential trills with the little finger for which I have developed some exercises, but for the most part speed happened naturally for me. I believe, however, that there is a certain muscular fitness involved (especially as I get older) and that just as athletes have to exercise certain muscle groups to stay in shape, so must we as lutenists. So I play a lot of lute duet treble parts and consort lesson parts (The New Hunt is up, Chi Passa, Mounsieurs Almaine, My Lord of Oxenford's Mask, etc.) which helps me to stay in shape. The Renaissance method was to start with trebles and then work up to multivoiced pieces, but continuing with trebles all the time. Most players today think of trebles as a specialized musical repertoire rather than the valuable pedagogical tool they also fulfill. As far as thinking about how the hands work, I credit Pat O'Brien for explaining that to me. He really helped me to understand how to use the left hand with the least tension possible and the most economical movements possible. The other thing which is very important for coordinating the hands is to always make sure every passage has a musical shape. That means organizing runs in such a way that a group of notes crescendo to a high point, fall away from it and build back up again to the next high point. THe constant crescendo/decrescendo shaping helps to organize the notes in a meaningful way. And if the hands have a meaningful shape to create, they work much better than simply trying to coordinate the hands in a mechanical way, as if one were trying to shoot wooden ducks at the amusement park. It is the sense of direction that helps the physiology to be at the right place at the right time.
What do you listen for when you play? What do you think about when you perform?
I listen to the flow, the gestures, the shapes and the affect I am trying to create. It is important to visualize (audiolize: Is there such a word?) what you would like to hear and not just accept what is coming out at any given moment. The more one concentrates on the shaping and gestures of phrases the more focused and relaxed the playing becomes. As soon as one starts thinking about playing accurately, or about not making mistakes the playing becomes careful and self-conscious. And as Nikolaus Harnoncourt once said, "There is nothing worse than listening to a musician thinking."
How do you prepare for a concert or series of concerts? How many performances do you give in a year.
My preparation depends very much on the repertoire I am performing. If it music I am just learning I spend a lot of time working on each phrase to find the best way of imbuing the musical gestures with just the right shape. I work on any technical issues that impede the gesture very, very, very slowly to find out what the root of the problem is. I often work on each voice separately to find out how I would ideally like to hear each voice played if there were no technical issues involved. Then I put the voices together very slowly, 2 at a time until I can make all 3 or 4 voices sound the way I want them to sound. THen I gradually work the tempo up always repeating passages at a tempo in which it is still comfortable. The idea is to practice perfection over and over again. Then I nudge the tempo up bit by bit until I can play it at my ideal performance speed. I often select the 10 or 15 most difficult passages in any program and devote a half hour or so to just those passages. If I am working on a whole new program I will often divide the program in half and practice each half on alternate days. But my top 10 list has to be practiced every day.
In an average year I give around 80 concerts, which includes solo, song recitals, continuo, conducting, etc.
Do you hear melodies as a kind of rhetoric or abstract conversation? I suppose the ancients had some interesting things to say about the nature of music and how it compared to other arts and sciences.
Renaissance and Baroque composers were definitely thinking rhetorically most of the time. The treatises on performance practice from the early 16th century on constantly refer to the relationship between music and rhetoric. An understanding of Renaissance and Baroque rhetoric in speaking and in poetry is very helpful in understanding how they used rhetoric. Four sources I highly recommend are: 1) Robert Toft, Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart, University of Toronto Press, 1993 2) Toft's article in the English Lute Society Journal on Rhetoric in the fantasias of Francesco da Milano and 3) Gregory Butler's article "The projection of affect in Baroque Dance Music" Early Music, May 1984. 4) Dietrich Bartel "Musica poetica: musical-rhetorical figures in German Baroque music" (University of Nebraska, 1997) These, and many other sources, make it very clear that the changes in affect can occur very locally, sometimes from one note to the next. This corresponds to the use of highly contrasted words in poetry and the need for performers to change the speed, dynamic, tone color, articulation, etc. of the performance to characterize each word. I wrote an article about this years ago I should dust off and publish some day. But even in the 16th century the sources were adamant that there should be constant contrasts in the playing from one moment to the next.
How on earth do you find the time to do so much research? You seem to have a deep knowledge of so much music. Do you read many articles when you travel? Is much gleaned from conversations with other musicians? How did you manage to acquire all this knowledge?
I have always been obsessed with wanting to know everything I can find out about every piece, every composer, every manuscript, every ornament, etc. Whenever I work on a new repertoire, for instance German Baroque opera of the late 17th century, I look at all of the major primary and secondary sources and try to study ALL of the surviving works of the period. Even though I can only perform one work at a time, I have to look at all of the surrounding repertoire to try and gain the most thorough understanding of that style possible. I am always reading books and articles, going to libraries while on tour looking at old sources, and meeting as many of the experts in the field as I can. For any repertoire there are musicologists who have much more knowledge and experience with the music than I do, so I try to avail myself of that information by corresponding with the best scholars in the field. I think the key to acquiring knowledge about a repertoire is to focus on one repertoire at a time. If you decided you wanted to learn everything you could about Dowland, for instance, you could begin by playing through all of his Pavans, including all of the different sources for each piece, the consort versions, keyboard versions, etc. Look at the Pavans which came before and after Dowland to try and gain an appreciation for what makes him unique. Don't limit yourself to lute music, because the consort Pavans of Holborne, Byrd, Tomkins, Lawes, etc. and the keyboard pavins of Byrd, Bull, Farnaby, etc. are part of the bigger picture. Do the same with Galliards, Almaines, fantasias, etc. Along the way, read all of the latest biographical research on Dowland, The New, New Grove article, Poulton book, etc. Another incredibly important part of this is the influence of vocal music, especially Italian madrigals by Marenzio, Croce, Lassus, and others. Gradually a picture emerges that would be impossible in the normal, helter-skelter, practice of playing a bit of Dowland, a bit of Francesco, a bit of Vallet, a bit of Dalza, etc. If you really want to inhabit a repertoire, you must focus on it without getting distracted by other things. Then do the same process with the next repertoire you are interested in. Eventually, you will get to the point of beign quite conversant in quite a few different repertoires.
Do you have any favorite composers?
All of them. My favorite lute composers are obvious, Dowland, Francesco, Molinaro, Albert de Rippe, Bachelar, etc. My favorite non-lute composers are Monteverdi, Luigi Rossi and Purcell.
Who do you think is an under recognized composer?
In the lute world, Molinaro, Terzi, Bachelar, Melchior Newsidler, Castaldi, etc. In non-lute music, Luigi Rossi, Domenico Mazzochi, Marco Marazzoli, Cipriano de Rore, Steffani, Sartorio, Reinhard Keiser, and many, many others.
What do you make of so many books purporting to be instruction books and yet featuring very difficult music. Generally, lute and vihuela music is very highly crafted and much of it is very difficult technically. Was it the fact that the ancients were part of a living tradition that we are not part of or that a lot of the lesser and easier music was lost that accounts for the high standard and technical demands?
The standards were very, very high in the Renaissance. And most of the exercises and easy teaching pieces were probably taught by rote, or were hastily scribbled out on pieces of paper that were thrown out shortly thereafter. The problem with modern instruction books is that they attempt to cover everything from tablature, tuning, playing position and basic right and left-hand technique all the way to ornamentation and advanced works of Dowland and Francesco. What is needed is a series of methodical books which slowly and thoroughly cover tone production with the thumb, alternation of thumb and index, slow single-line pieces to develop a relaxed arm, consistent tone production and the basic string crossings, then slowly move on to two-note chords with thumb and index, thumb and middle, middle and index, etc. There should then be a lot of easy two part pieces, many with running passages in the upper voice. The end of the first book might get as far as four-part chords, but nothing more complicated. Just as with any well-planned violin or piano method series, there should be subsequent volumes in which the pieces become gradually more difficult, introducing bar chords, the 7th course, left hand shifts, etc., etc. Just as there are no Liszt Transcendental Etudes or Prokofiev Piano Sonatas in any method book for beginning pianists there should not be Dowland Fantasias or Galliards in lute method books. The only way to raise standards is to raise our pedagogical methods, and that begins with a systematic approach which encourages students to play pieces they will be able to play well. Working on pieces which are too difficult enourages muscular tension which then becomes very difficult to eliminate.
Much lute music would seem to be played more easily on smaller instruments than today's typical G lute, yet contemporary paintings don't show a preponderance of such small instruments. People living then certainly weren't bigger than us. Did they stretch more or perhaps weren't so attached to sustaining notes or am I missing something?
This is a very interesting question which has many different aspects. I think early players developed more stretch than we do today, by doing exercises to keep the skin in between the fingers as elastic as possible, they also used various oils to keep the skin flexible, they developed stretching techniques which involved releasing the thumb from the back of the fingerboard, and also used the left hand thumb to play some bass notes. The string spacing of most Renaissance lutes is very tight at the nut, making the lateral stretches easier than on today's wider spacing. The problem this creates, however, is that it is more difficult to keep from brushing up against other strings with left hand fingers since the courses are closer together. This would suggest three things to me: 1) That they had smaller, thinner fingers which required less clearance, 2) that they came straight down with the l.h. fingers using only the tips of the fingers and 3) They were less fussy about little noises and buzzes than we are today. I suspect that they also did not sustain bass notes to nearly the degree we do today.
How close do you think modern instrument makers have come to duplicating the originals? What do you think about string technology of today?
I believe the modern instruments are getting better all the time. The originals I've played on still have a more colorful, complex sound than most modern lutes, but we are getting closer. The string technology is still the biggest problem as far as I'm concerned. Gut still sounds the best, especially for the trebles, but they are impossible to use in today's centrally heated, air conditioned modern buildings. Modern audiences expect instruments to be in tune and will only tolerate a little bit of extra tuning time in concerts. They will not put up with long stretches of tuning between every piece, which gut almost always requires. And I have never heard gut bass strings (6th-10th courses) which make a convincing sound. The shorter sustain is useful, but the poor pitch definition is a big problem. Nylgut is a great development as it sounds and feels closer to gut. Hopefully it can be improved to create a bit more of the brightness and resonance of gut.
I heard you use NylGut for touring and gut for recording? Is that correct? Doesn't it take quite a bit of time to change the strings and let them stabilize?
That is correct. NylGut takes a long time to play in, but once it does it sounds good and stays in tune. At first it sounds very dull, so you have to give it a day or so before it starts to vibrate freely. Gut is totally out of the question for concerts because today's high intensity spot lights and central heating systems at concert venues make tuning a nightmare. And modern audiences are simply unwilling to sit through huge amounts of tuning between pieces. Gut still sounds the best, but it is not worth the trouble it causes in concerts.
What is the biggest mystery in lute scholarship or practice for you?
First, how did the transition from plectrum to fingers evolve? Was there a period in which plectrum players were exploring ways of playing polyphonically with the plectrum. Secondly, how did Francesco da Milano play with fingerpicks? And why only two? Were they on his thumb and index, middle and index? or was the original account inaccurate? Were early Renaissance players playing with a plectrum and fingers, plectrum for the runs with the middle and ring fingers used in chords? Thirdly, how did 17th-century players who held their right-hand little fingers next to, or on the other side of the bridge produce a nice sound. Most lutes, modern and historic, sound small, thin, nasal and unresonant plucked right at the bridge. Was their aesthetic for sound essentially different from ours? Were their lutes strung differently? I have a lot of unanswered questions but these are the first three I would like to solve.
Have you read through a great proportion of the tab that still exists? What music would you like to see that you haven't seen yet.
I've read through a lot of the surviving repertoire, but probably no more than about half. The lute repertoire is so vast that it will take decades for people to sort through everything.
What are the instruments you currently own and play?
I own about 20 instruments, but the ones I play the most often are my 6 and
8-course lutes by Paul Thomson, 10-course by Ray Nurse, a theorbo by Hendrik Hasenfuss, an archlute by Andy Rutherford, Baroque guitar by Ivo Magherini and Baroque lute by Andy Rutherford.
Could you tell us what you do at the Eastman School of Music?
I have directed an early music ensemble (voices and instruments) and taught
a Baroque Performance Practice course here since 1976. This coming September, I will welcome the first students into a new lute program. I will have up to six lute performance majors pursuing a Masters or Doctorate in Historical Plucked Instruments. Students can specialize in Renaissance or Baroque lute, as they wish, but they will each be required to play a continuo instrument (theorbo, archlute or Baroque guitar) as well. The first two students we have accepted are excellent, one from Spain, one from Mexico, but I look forward to adding several more in the future.
How's that lute technique book with Pat Obrien coming along?
Very slowly. We have both been so busy the past ten years, we just have not had time to finish it. I hope we can get back to work on it next fall and get it finished in a year or so. But I am an eternal optimist!
Who are your current collaborators?
I work most often with Ellen Hargis and with Tragicomedia (Stephen Stubbs, Erin Headley & Alex Weimann).
How did the collaboration with Steven Stubbs come about? How do you co-direct? I mean, do you split up tasks between you or both work together with the same group at the same time?
Steve and I have worked together since 1989. We were both booked to play Luigi Rossi's Orfeo with William Christie and decided we would like to direct works like that ourselves. I was appointed Artistic Director of the Boston Early Music Festival in 1993 and invited STeve to collaborate with me in 1995. Our ideas are so complementary that we found doing big projects together worked very well. We divide up the preparation work (making the musical edition, translating the libretto, making a rehearsal schedule, contacting players and singers, etc.) and work together on casting, scoring, interpretive decisions, etc. We often run parallel rehearsals, one of us staying with the stage director during the blocking rehearsals, the other going off with other singers for individual coachings. Or one of us works with the chorus, the other with the orchestra. These big projects are really too big to be done by one person and get the results we want. Especially if the work is unknown, which we have tended to specialize in the past 10 years, that is operas which have not been performed in the past 300 years or more.
The opera in Vancouver (August 2003) was truly a treat. Getting it all to come together must have been a Herculean task. The duet concert was icing on the cake.
Thanks! We had a great time, though it was a huge amount of work. The duet program was kind of thrown together at the last moment because we were so consumed by the opera most of the month.
You looked like you were having the time of your life in the concert with Steven. Do you ever get anxious before a performance?
I am usually quite relaxed in concerts because I am doing what I love doing and I love sharing that passion with other people. I occasionally get nervous if I am doing difficult new repertoire for the first time. I recently took up the Baroque lute for the first time and played a program of Bach and Weiss which was pretty nerve-wracking. By the third concert I started feeling more comfortable and could relax and just play. But if one concentrates on the music, rather than on the public, there is no reason to be anxious.
To borrow a question from James Lipton, other than music, what occupation would you like to try?
I would love to be involved in the wine industry in some way. Wine is my other great passion (along with music) and I have a lot of friends who own wineries and make world-class wines. I always love visiting them and working in the vineyards, in the cellar and in the tasting room. I could imagine myself owning a small vineyard. That would be fun. I think Toyohiko has the same idea, so it must be related to lute playing in some way!!
Why do you think classical guitarists and pianists usually memorize their material but most lutenists don't?
For some reason, early music performers have always played from music from way back in the 60s, while the mainstream classical music establishment has always had a tradition of playing from memory. I played from memory until
about 1976, when I started playing several different instruments in different tunings. The tunings made it difficult to play each instrument from memory so I started playing with music. It is so easy to think "G
major chord" and you put your fingers down for a G major chord shape for the Renaissance lute, but you have a Baroque lute in your hands, or a cittern, or a Baroque guitar, or a theorbo, etc. Guitarists and pianists don't have to worry about their notes being in different places all the time. They only play in one tuning so it is much easier to memorize things reliably.
What was your impression of Japan and the lute in Japan? Do you like Japanese food?
I think the lute is doing very well in Japan. You have excellent Japanese lutenists and lute builders so the future of the lute in Japan looks great. I also think the work of the Japanese lute society in bringing players together from all over the country is very important.
I love Japanese food and Daiginjo! ON my first trip to Japan I tried every kind of food I could find including Fugu, Natto, many different kinds of tofu, and of course lots of great sushi. And Daiginjo! Did I mention that before? I was amazed at the subtlety and variety in the sakes I tried. I avoided western restaurants and went for Japanese breakfast every day! What a fabulous food culture!!
Is your son showing an interest in music?
My son and daughter both love music. My son has a great ear for all styles of classical music and loves to improvise on the piano. My daughter is more interested in singing. I think she has real potential, but she really wants to write fiction.
What's next for you?
Lots of concerts all over Europe this summer, a recording of Johann Georg Conradi's beautiful opera "Ariadne" and then an all-Daniel Bachelar CD to be recorded in October. Then a Bach CD in the spring of 05, followed by the Boston Early Music Festival and our world premier production of Mattheson's
1710 opera "Boris Goudenow". That production will be taken on tour to Tanglewood, California and Kansas City before going to Holland, Germany, Finland and Russia.
Any predictions for the future?
I predict the standard of lute playing will continue to rise over the next 10 years and that excellent performances of the most difficult Renaissance and Baroque lute music will become common. The big question as I see it, is whether there will still be an audience for classical music in ten years. Two big things have to change to ensure the continuation of an enthusiastic public: 1) concerts have to be more exciting, more fun and less stodgy and formal and 2) the CD market has to be revitalized by stopping illegal file swapping and producing more economical CDs to reach out to a broader market. If CD retail shops continue to go bankrupt and CD companies either stop producing classical music, or drastically cut back (like Sony, Deutsche Grammofon, Phillips, EMI, etc.) artists will not be able to make a
living playing classical music. But I am confident these problems will be solved and that ten years from now we will be listening to a brilliant crop of outstanding young artists.
Thank you so much.
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