Interview with Yvonne Zehner (February 2018)
When did you start playing guitar and why? With that guitar do you play and have you played with?
Actually I started rather late: I must have been around 12 years old. But I had started playing the piano very early at the age of 5. The piano was my mother’s idea; the guitar was my own wish to learn.
My first concert guitar was from Gioacchino Giussani and I still play two of his guitars. Both are very beautiful, one has a cedar and the other with a spruce top. For years I played a Bernd Holzgruber, but since 10 years I came back to Giussani. His guitars give me the freedom I need for playing, they have a great sustain, beautiful singing timbre and a full rich sound.
What did you study and what is your musical background? What were and are your main musical influences?
As I said above, the piano was my first instrument and my first influence on classical music. In piano lessons I learned about harmony, counterpoint and of course the wonderful music of Bach, Mozart and Schubert. I was very lucky: my parents provided me with the possibility to learn about music at a very early age and there were not only individual lessons – I went as a child to the opera, ballet, concerts and theatre, in fact: I still do whenever there is time. Music itself is the best teacher.
Watching your discography it seems that you have decided to dedicate yourself to contemporary music, why?
Contemporary music is the music of our time. I think it is natural to listen to it, to be curious about the influences and technics composers nowadays use. I don`t think that I do particularly much contemporary music compared to the music I also play, but probably I do a lot more than most of my colleagues. We need the discussion about contemporary music, we need to give a feedback to play and discuss the living composers. I`m firmly convinced: Classical music with a concert live can only survive, if we keep it’s newest influences in mind, step into this rich tradition and make it our own with contributing our time to this marvellous history. If we only concentrate on the interpretation of dead composers we will loose the connection and the spirit of our time, which is necessary for bringing life to their music.
In your web site you wrote “Chamber Music is a special passion ”, you played with Gunnar Berg Ensemble Salzburg and with the Enemble Mobile. It’s not usual for a classical guitar player playing chamber music, how did you start this?
Chamber Music is the most democratic musical form. And yes, I’m a democrat! For me music is all about communication: communication with the public, communication between interpret and composer (dead or alive), communication with the other musicians on stage. Music is about trying to understand the other, is about reflecting on life and the world, about getting in contact with the world, it is the discussion of human beings. It is probably the most abstract and at the same time emotional art we have. I don’t need to really understand a piece of music for loving it, but when I start to understand it, I get a feeling of profundity I can nowhere else find. Chamber Music is a great opportunity to share this profundity with others.
What does mean improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talking about improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc.?
Of course there is also improvisation in Classical Music. It is true: in music of the classical time is not so much room for improvisation as in earlier or later times, but in the classical concertos there are always cadences that could be improvised. It’s just that most musicians lack the courage to do so. Or think of some of the bridges in Johann Kaspar Mertz’ music, they have to be interpreted freely!. In early music we have plenty of opportunities to improvise, we just need to do it and many composers of contemporary music give us space to improvise and develop the pieces every time we play it newly. It is the classical education that sometimes keeps us from improvising during the concerts, but this is exactly what I was talking about earlier. If we look at the music of our time, we cannot ignore the so called world music, jazz or rock influences and then we automatically start to look at our own repertoire in a more free way which makes us to change our musical practice. Of course there is music that cannot be improvised that has to be studied and can only be brought to life if interpreted with serenity. This is why we need a profound musical education , so that we
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
An “Error” is always a possibility to learn.
And what do you think is the “function” of a moment of crisis?
Every moment of crisis leads to a new beginning.
What are your essential five discs, always to have with you the classic five records for the desert island ..?
I’d take a disc by Arthur Rubinstein, for the joy of phrasing, a disc of Glenn Glould, playing Goldberg Variations, for the joy of mind, the “Canto Sospeso” by Luigi Nono, for not forgetting about human nature, “Friday night in San Francisco” for the joy of guitar and a disc by the Hilliard Ensemble singing Dufay for the purity in music.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
1st march 2018 we’ll do the premiers of two new pieces by Daniel Akiva and Helmut Jasbar for Guitar Trio and String Quartet at my Festival “Passauer Saiten”. Marios Joannou Elia wrote a piece “Run” for solo guitar, which I premiered last June, there will be a music film with that piece next year. Agustín Castilla-Avila is writing a piece for trombone, cembalo and electric guitar which will be premiered in January in Vienna and then I’m working on a program with the fantastic soprano Theresia Bothe which will include her songs, Lorca songs and our own arrangements of Sephardic songs. I’ll travel to Taiwan in May again, working there with As a soloist I’m again working on Bachs Suite 1006a – a lifetime work…