Interview with Heike Matthiesen
Hello Heike, how are you? Our last interview was for the Visionary Guitars’ book, it seems you have been pretty busy in the last time….
Yes, the last months were absolutely crazy, many countries, many different solo programs and the Aranjuez which is always a special moment in life of a guitarist, I am deeply enjoying this life!
Now you have released a new cd, Guitar Ladies, I think you had a nice idea playing passages created by female compososers… how did start this idea?
Some years ago Wolfgang Weigel, the director of Gitarrenland Festival here in Germany asked me to play two concerts of Sylvie Bodorova and I fell in love with her music. Then I started to search more and more for interesting compositions by women composers and I found so much music nobody knows and plays. And a wonderful coincidence, the maybe worldwide biggest archives of works by women composers is here in Frankfurt, since one year I am present there as their guitar specialist and started to make annotations to the guitar catalogue. So soon I will have seen all 359 compositions for guitar in their shelfs.
How did you choose the pieces and the composers?
It was a special goal to search for music which is not just beautiful but also accesible, so that players of also “nonolympic” level could replay the pieces and help like this to spread all this beauty. In concerts of course I add some real virtuoso pieces, but with all these small pieces it is like a recording of many “encores”. And then it was like always a decision of instinct, trying to figure out which pieces match, which are connected by a mood or a key or a structure. And there were much much pieces who might have been in this CD. In this process I usually play the whole setlist for the CD, then the next day I change an order somewhere or exchange a piece, then there is a moment where it feels organical, then I leave it like this.
So this time it was very different to my Serenade CD where the order was given by the lyrics of the songs and arias used ( something that almost nobody checked… it is like the Dichterliebe telling a story!!).
And usually the biggest question is with which piece to start and to end. Adio mi amor was the newest piece and dedicated to me too ( oooops, what I forgot to write on the cover) and the music by Catherina Sidney Pratten the oldest, so this was a logical decision.
In the booklet you wrote that you have met Maria Luisa Anido in 1993.. can you tell us more?
I played the very first competition of my life in Benicasim, an overwhelming experience and there somebody told me: “Hey, have you seen that wonderful old lady sitting in the last row listening to you? That was Maria Luisa Anido”. Of course at that time nobody took selfies and I was very shy, so I did not have the courage to talk to her, but it always meant a lot to me that she had listened to me.
I was curious about Annette Kruisbrink.. in the booklet you said that her catalouge contains more than 300 works for guitar, you have choosen Tendresse and Sad Song, can you tell us about these pieces and the other ones in her catalogue?
Annette has written music on every level of difficulty, even including big cicles of one hour etc. So you can spend a lot of time exploring her catalogue! I contacted her and asked her for lyrical music and she sent me some scores. Tendresse I had already heard on youtube and liked it a lot immediately, the Sad Song was one of many, many beautiful pieces she has written for intermediate level, so this a strong recommendation for all guitar teachers out there to check out her music!
In concerts I love to play Carnatic Interlude, a huge piece based on an Indian raga with some real virtuoso moments, it will be on one of my next CDs then.
Her music is very guitaristical what I mean in a very positive sense, well fitting for guitar with a strong emphasis on sounds, influences of Spain and India etc, but also modern and sometimes challenging. I never met her in person or herad her life, hope this will change in the future, but there are many videos of her music played by herself on youtube.
I was curious about Tatiana Stachak too…
There is a partnership between Frankfurt and Krakau and my city sent me there a couple of times. Since then I had added Polish pieces to my repertory ( you remember the Bobrowicz on the last CD?) . Then I got invited to a festival in former East Germany where all the kids played music by this Polish composer I did not know. Then I met her at the Music Fair in Frankfurt. I just chose one little waltz which is a perfectly balanced little chanson and it is from a book for kids! Tatiana writes mostly “pedagogical” music for kids and intermediate players, but if you look at this kind of music with the eyes of a concert player you sometimes find the perfect encore ( Funfact: The first piece the local radio station here broadcasted from the CD was the Café Waltz!)
A lot of the pieces you played are premiere recordings … why these composers are not well known…?
It is still a gender thing. Until now I know just one CD of a male guitarist completely dedicated to female composers ( Ruiz del Puerto), but of course nobody should need to emphasis on the sexe of a composer. It is just good music or bad music. But we still have all the business where female music is less published by editors, less visible in concert programs etc… and guitar world really is a macho world. I don’t remember that as a student I ever played a piece by a woman composer. And I don’t remember that in all the competitions I took part a woman wrote the obligarory piece. Bodorova’s Elegie was written for a competition, but it is always the question how many players keep those pieces they worked for competition in their actual concert programs.
Edward. W.Said wrote that “The problem is that music today is as massively organized a masculine domain as it was in the past. Without significant exception, women play a crucial but subaltern role.” Is it still the same?
No, it is changing a lot. See how much attention all those wonderful female conductors now get, the MET just showed Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour au loin, all around the world there is more and more attention and support. And there are the superstars like Marta Argerich, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Anna Netrebko who are rolemodels of our times.
He also wrote “The question of patterns of gender and sexuality in music itself is a hugely complicated one.” … I have to admit that there was a time when I thinked that a female guitar player would have something different from a male guitar player, but I don’t think that gender could have such a strong impact about style in general.. what do you think?
What I realize in my own path, I have played some of the most difficult pieces on the planet like the Concierto para una fiesta, I have proven that I am able to go to gitarristical-technical himalaya, so now it is time to look what really interests me in music…Sounds, phrasing, voicing, balance, the silence between notes. Is that female? Maybe not, but it might be female to leave the race for the fastest, the most difficult (a danger especially when you are a young player in the age of competitions) . Haha, so maybe it is more a matter of age!!
You have choosen lyricism once again… are you really a romantic player or.. shall we listen to you playing some atonal pieces too?
I am an opera child, all music is singing. So with the clear analytical brain I have in real life you can call me romantic in my music!
It is always a biased decision about the choice of my pieces, I love to play what is interesting to me – and this are many atonal pieces too, but also I am living from playing and so it is a question of letting my hands work exactly that amount of time that I need to prepare and then give them a rest. So it is almost impossible that I play a difficult piece just for fun if I can’t sell it to presentors. And I want my hands to be in perfect shape still in 40 years to become the old “Grand dame of the guitar”and to play with looooots of wisdom. Right now I have the Sonata of Karolina Eiriksdottir on my musicstand, but who knows if I might ever play that piece in public? I am trying to find a place in my programs for it… and it is really atonal!
Your next projects?
Continuing my work on the Orfeo program with pieces about my music, giving some composition orders for it too, and I am now getting more and more involved with Scandinavian music, my family roots are really northern, so maybe something will be “audible” there soon too.
And I guess with my Guitar Ladies I opened a door for something where I have no idea what it will be for my life, I have seen now hundreds of scores of female composers, I am in contact with composers and researchers .
And of course lots of concerts to play in the next year, touring, some more home videos for youtube ready soon, but first after a crazy year some weeks of holiday, meaning playing for fun, trying new pieces etc, and enjoying life!