Meeting Walter van Hauwe in Olomouc


After bringing about fabulous masterclasses with such players as Peter Holtslag (2014), members of the Flanders Recorder Quartet (2015), Ashley Solomon (2016) and Alan Davis (2017), Jan Kvapil and Jitka Konečná from the Summer School of Early Music Civic Organization (Letní škola staré hudby, LSSH) went on to organize a masterclass with the man who was there when it all started - Walter van Hauwe. Taking place between 28th and 30th September 2018, the masterclass was situated in the thematic environment of the early-baroque building of the Evangelical Academy Music School (Konzervatoř Evangelické akademie) in Olomouc.

The course started on Friday 28th in a pleasant way - with a dinner, which was followed by Walter's lecture on his studies with Frans Brüggen, his playing in the Sour Cream trio with Brüggen and Kees Boeke and the adventure of discovering and reviving the early recorder repertoir as well as commisioning and performing contemporary pieces. Although we were stuffed with food and it was already late in the evening, I do not think anyone of us was in danger of nodding off, because the lecture was so absorbing and entertaining that we virtually hanged on his every word. As there was still some time left in the schedule when he finished, Walter went on to perform Berio's Gesti. I believe that a thirty-years-younger player after a good nights sleep could have not performed it with a greater energy than he did after travelling to Czech Republic, having a dinner and giving a lecture. It was simply amazing.

The next morning, the masterclass really started. The schedule was quite demanding with lessons from 9 a. m. to 10 p. m. During Saturday and Sunday, we went through four thematic blocks: Jacob van Eyck's pieces, differences between the baroque European styles, mediaeval dances, and modern recorder repertoir. One to four students from the class of either Jitka Konečná or Jan Kvapil played in each thematic block with the rest of the circa 50 participants listening and asking additional questions. We also did some technical group exercises.

The courses organized by the LSSH always contain a spectrum of participants including recorder students, primary music-school teachers and secondary music-school teachers in varying ratios. In this course, the students and secondary music-school teachers seemed to prevail over primary music-school teachers, which follows from the more playing-oriented and less teaching-oriented content of the course and the high difficulty of the pieces studied.

Many issues were addressed during the course. To mention but the most interesting ones: Walter showed us some tricks which can help one to play long passages without taking breath, mentioned why it is useful to practice without an instrument, showed us his own breathing method not described in his textbook, explained how modern techniques can improve one's ability to play not only modern but also early pieces, and elaborated on the role of dynamics in recorder playing. He also illustrated the development of recorder playing by telling many funny and gripping stories. To conclude, the course was very inspirative, helpful and enjoyable and the organizers deserve many thanks for creating such an opportunity for the Czech recorder players and teachers. Certainly, I am not the only one who looks forward to the next course, as there are many people in the Czech Republic who take part in the LSSH courses repeatedly.

Having a chance to meet Walter van Hauwe was very enriching in many ways: firstly, his knowledge of everything around recorders is immense, secondly, he can mediate this knowledge in a direct, objective, accessible and often humorous way, and lastly, he is a proof that with enthusiasm and hard work it is possible to enjoy music making throughout the entire human life, become a great musician and still remain humble and open to new things. Personally, I think that this openness, this need for exploration, is the most inspiring part of what he has showed us during the short, but busy, three days.

Text by K. Somerová