“The piccolo flute can be an amiable instrument with a sparkling technique. When you make friends with it, it will sing to you with an angel’s voice.”
Today I bring you a interview to a specialist in piccolo, an instrument that still had not his first interview in this blog, and today we are going to premiere setting the bar high.
Gudrun Hinze is since 1993 the solo piccolist from the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig (Germany), and also piccolist since 1999 in the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. Besides giving lessons and having recordings with piccolo repertoire, Gudrun is the piccolist from the Leipzig Flute Ensemble “Quintessenz”.
I have had the pleasure to hear her in live, with the Gewandhausorchester and with the Quintessenz Flute Quintet (with Christian Sprenger), and I can say that she is without a doubt an excellent piccolist. It is incredible how thrill listening to her playing piccolo!
I hope you like the interview! 🙂
- How did you begin in music?
I started my musical education at the age of 5. I always wanted to play the flute, but my fingers were too small, so I had to play the recorder until I grew up and was able to handle the flute. So, I switched to flute-playing at the age of 10.
When I was 11 years old, I joined to a program for young students who wanted to prepare to the conservatory. I had lessons in musical theory, learned the piano and took part in chamber music and youth orchestra from this young age on. This program was completely for free. I have four sisters, and my parents did not have very much money to spend. They could not have payed for all theses subjects, but my teachers recognized my talent and recommended me for this program.
From my first self-owned money, I bought a piccolo flute at the age of 18. I started my education at the conservatory of music even before I left school. Fortunately, I had no difficulties in learning, so I was able to make my Abitur in Bonn while I was already studying flute in Düsseldorf.
As you can see, I worked really straightforward to become an orchestra musician!
- What’s the most curious thing that has happened to you in your career as musician?
I will always remember in my life the year 2010. I wanted to record a CD with piccolo works, and I asked some of my colleagues in the Gewandhaus Orchestra if they would like to join this project, but I did not have enough money to pay the whole orchestra. It ended up in more than 40 musicians joining the production without any salary, just for friendship, and my employer gave me the big hall of the Gewandhaus for free for the recording! It was a magic moment in my life, and I will never forget the friendship and the generosity of so many people. Here’s what we did:
- How did you join to the Gewandhausorchester? How were your firsts years in Leipzig?
I made an audition and a year of trial in the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1992/3. After that, the flute section and Kurt Masur decided to offer me the position as principal piccolo player.
I went to Leipzig 1991, having grown up in the western part of Germany before. The peaceful re-unification just had happened…it was like a journey 50 years back in time. The former GDR was just about to be integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany. We did not get as much salary as the people in the western part, there were only completely worn-out apartments, streets, buildings, no telephone, no internet, heating with coal ovens…but it was all worth it! Now Leipzig is a blossoming place and a jewel in the line of German cities with rich culture and a high standard of living.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra is ranked to be the 4th best in the world, and I must admit, it feels even as the best orchestra in the world!
- The piccolo is an instrument that not all the flutists like to play. What do you think that makes piccolo a special and enjoyable instrument to play?
As for any instrument or subject in the world, you have to distinguish between its abilities, and your own skills in handling them. Most flute players judge the piccolo from the first moment they try to play it – and mostly they try to play it exactly like a flute. But the piccolo is made from a different material, it is much smaller and more fragile, and it works more like an old transverse flute because of its conical body. It needs a lot of time and understanding to handle it correctly.
If you treat an instrument with respect, commitment and love, it will give you a rich and loving answer. The piccolo flute can be an amiable instrument with a sparkling technique. When you make friends with it, it will sing to you with an angel’s voice.
- You make with your flute quintet “Quintessenz” a great work for the people and musicians. How does this quintet appear? How do you combine the work in the orchestra with the quintet?
In the last 21 years, Quintessenz has developed to an important part of my professional life. I play the piccolo part in the quintet, I write the arrangements, make the publishing of the sheet music, work as admin. of our homepage and Facebook page and do a lot of organisation work.
We try to perform round about 6 concerts per annum, and additional CD or video productions. It is quite tricky to integrate all these activities into the orchestra schedules of our three home orchestras, but it’s of course worth it!
Chamber music is always a good thing to control your skills, to practise balance, sound quality, communication and your creative potential. The orchestra work inspires our quintet and also the other way round!
After such a long period of playing together, we feel very proud and honoured that so many young people in the world follow our tracks now! There are much more flute ensembles and flute choirs in the world now than before!
- How do you see the current musical outlook?
I see two different perspectives: on the one hand, globalisation and drifting into a society of consumption and mass media – on the other hand, a crucial need of precious, demanding and traditional culture. Classical music is a part of the European identity, so I am optimistic, that it will last for a long time. Actually, there are statistics in Germany that the audience for classical concerts and opera has increased in the last years!
I also made the experience with students and my younger colleagues, that in the younger generation there is a lack of knowledge of old history, of religious traditions, of language skills beyond small talk, of folk songs and church songs, of fairy tales…Just everything that could make you understand what composers some hundred years ago could have had in mind when they wrote their music.
Just for example, I once asked an Asian student, what the words of our flute aria of St Matthew’s passion “aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben” meant – she answered that Jesus was really lovesick!?!
Or secondly, we made a concert tour to China with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and our Chief conductor Riccardo Chailly some years ago. As all orchestras, we had to play a Chinese traditional song at the end of the concert, in honour of our host. But we played it too quickly and in a marching-band style with our Italian chief, so several people of our Chinese audience asked me after the concert, what piece we played in the end! They could not recognize their own song, because we played it in the wrong “pronunciation”!
I would like to encourage every musician to make studies about life in the past, culture, politics, skills, habits, human life in general. It will make your performance more authentic! I am deeply convinced that music is NOT an international language, but a very specific idiom of every nation. Which makes it richer and much more interesting!
- And finally, some advice for our readers.
Ideas will will keep you alive!