is open now at www.achimholub.com
Discover the new Site of the London Classical Soloists
online 1st May 2020!
What's your relationship with and what's your view on Mozart's music? How can you describe your musical journey with Mozart's music and when did it start? You come from a family with great talents for the arts: has this influenced you in your artistic choices? Do you think that your Graz and Austrian origin has determined a particular type of approach to Mozart?
My first important live musical experiences were a concert with Eugen Jochum and
the Gewandhausorchester, as well as rehearsals in our living room of my mother's
jazz band when I was about 6 years old...
... I had started piano lessons at that time and was already interested in the practical aspects of music making.
Apart from that, there was always music in our home: my father was an architect and encouraged his employees to listen to music while they were working and when he was alone in the office during weekends, he listened to classical music as a creative inspiration. My parents had excellent artistic taste and we had a huge collection of high quality classical, jazz and flamenco music recordings.
Mozart was somehow always there, first in easy piano pieces, then in the piano scores of some of the piano concertos my father bought for my mother and which I then started to practice. And of course in many recordings, mainly sonatas and concertos with Friedrich Gulda who is until today one of the most inspiring pianists for me.
I know now, 30 years later, that Austrian music education and tradition – and our everyday culture, landscape and architecture which, I believe, have preserved much of the character of previous times - had a massive influence on how I see and feel music...
... One of the most important elements of our music instruction was that you were encouraged to experience music as a language, that each single note «speaks» and that you had to find out why.
Analysis of musical structures was, from an early age onwards, an important part of training, and I had the privilege to be taught by some extraordinary music theory teachers: Franz Cibulka, Andrzej Dobrowolski, Peter Revers and... Georg Friedrich Haas.
I do not have favourite composers, I prefer to speak about favourite works. The written music is for me much more important than the personality of a composer and does not necessarily reflect the character of its creator...
... Many of my favourite works are by Mozart and I feel in his music a connection to the origins of creativity that I rarely experience in other artists. Mozart described himself mainly as an opera composer and his stage works are for me definitely the pinnacle of his achievements...
... He is at his best when there is a musical conversation happening, and therefore I consider his concertos, mainly of course the piano concertos, as superior examples of inspiration.
Compared to Haydn and Beethoven, Mozart was not a natural symphonic composer...
... This has to do with the structure of his music which is always more vocal than architectural,...
... nevertheless the transformation Mozart showed from his serenade-like early symphonies till the creative miracle of the last three masterworks is BREATH-TAKING!
New OnLine Conducting Tuition
• Conducting technique and communication of interpretational concepts
• Efficient preparation of parts and rehearsals
• Insights on how to apply principles of the historically informed performance practice movement
• Score analysis and memorizing techniques
• Future-oriented career management & music business survival strategies
• Advice on how to organize concerts and recording sessions
Program, Details & Application Forms Available Here (Link)
... This is an era of change, for a different lifestyle, for investing time and energy into learning and growing inside ourselves. For all of my - past and future - students who would like to continue their journey towards new experiences in a different way, I am going to offer online tuition. There will also be the possibility for instrumentalists to send in video or audio recordings for independent evaluation of their performances.
As usual, the first session will be free.
I very much look forward to meeting you online soon!
New Conducting Masterclasses 2020
29 May 2020
Free Online Masterclass on Beethoven Interpretation
21 till 23 August 2020
Advanced Technique Workshop Beethoven | Valencia
7 till 10 September 2020
Complete Beethoven 1 | London Classical Soloists
10 till 13 September 2020
Complete Beethoven 2 | London Classical Soloists
All Programs & Application Forms Available Here (Link)
Beethoven 250th Anniversary 1770-2020
|You have conducted many works by Beethoven and in January 2020 you also organized a special conducting masterclass dedicated to Beethoven for his 250 Anniversary (1770-2020). How do you perceive and how do you see the musical universe of Beethoven? Is it distant, also technically, from Mozart or not? You have also conducted many symphonies by Haydn and organized conducting masterclasses on Haydn's symphonies: what's your relationship with Haydn's music? What do you like the most about Beethoven's and Haydn's music?|
My decision to become a conductor was actually initiated by listening to a recording
of Beethoven's 5th symphony.
I was 12 and knew instantly: this is what I would like to do for the rest of my life, performing great music!
Beethoven is for me strongly connected to the French Revolution: the beginning of a new area, of a new view of humankind of itself, of a new consciousness, the awakening of human liberation.
He was the first financially fully independent composer, only living from the sale of his compositions or contributions of his benefactors...
... Additionally, he was an extremely educated person, philosophically and spiritually, from Plato to Kant and the Bhagavad Gita...
... And becoming deaf!
His work has an enormous effect on the listener, it awakens in you the same powers which pushed him to the limits of human creativity.
Imagine the world without his works and then you realize what a huge impact he had on – not only European – culture!
The problem with Beethoven interpretation is that his compositions are still rooted in Mozart's and Haydn's world – just practically, because he is using the instruments of the 18th Century – but goes, already in his early works, way beyond the capabilities of his time.
You can produce satisfying results on period instruments with works by Haydn and Mozart, with Beethoven you will soon reach the limits...
... I find especially performances of Beethoven's piano works on fortepianos extremely unsatisfactory, they cannot project the power, colour and texture of his music.
The best way for me is to experiment with Beethoven's music on historical instruments and then apply the findings on a performance with a modern orchestra. Beethoven's music needs, in modern concert halls, a projection which only modern instruments are able to deliver. Exemplary for this approach was one of Claudio Abbado's last concerts which I experienced live with the Orchestra Mozart...
... The repertoire was Beethoven's Leonora Overture No. 2, Mozart's Oboe Concerto and Beethoven's 4th Symphony, on modern instruments, each single note breathing the composer's inspiration. Therefore, for me performing Beethoven is always a challenge.
At one side, the music can easily speak for itself, as it probably did at the first performances 200 years ago.
... Just to give you an example, during my conducting masterclasses in London we have certainly rehearsed and performed the first movement of the 5th Symphony no less than 100 times, and even the least inspired and skilled rendition was always a strong musical and emotional experience!
At the other side, there is so much depth in his music that you are never finished exploring it.
Even my most favourite performances of Beethoven's music, live and recorded – by Rubinstein, Kempff, Curzon, Gulda, Pollini, Zimerman, Brendel, A. Schiff, Pires or Toscanini, Leibowitz, Bernstein, Abbado, Gielen, Blomstedt, Norrington, Gardiner give only a glimpse of what would be possible...
Hence, do you focus on spontaneous, emotionally free flowing, inspired, authentic music making or on interpretational and textural sophistication?
The perfect Beethoven interpretation has never been achieved and that as well is part of the magic of his music.
Haydn originates from a different world. Haydn spent most of his early years as an employee and was very Catholic...
... His Paris and London symphonies are miracles of musical wisdom, surprising effects and structural creativity, nevertheless, his greatest compositions for me are his late Masses and the Creation...
... In these works he does not give in to compromises and his musical language is astonishingly modern.
Achim Holub conducts Mozart, Symphony Linz, mvt 1
Achim Holub conducts Mozart, Symphony Linz, mvt 4
|Through the years and already beginning your career as a young conductor, you have worked with both Gardiner and Solti (at the Salzburg Festival!). How has the active collaboration on various projects with these two orchestra conductors been a source of inspiration for your life as a man and as an artist?|
My relationship with John Eliot Gardiner goes back to 1991...
... and started with... Mozart!
He was giving a conducting masterclass at Europäisches Musikfest Stuttgart and auditioned 60 conductors in Stuttgart and Berlin, the English Baroque Soloists playing at every session. I was then offered a place as an active participant for what turned out to be one of the most luxurious conducting courses in history: it was not only the English Baroque Soloists playing 2 sessions every day for 5 days, including 3 concerts, but also the complete cast of John Eliot's Deutsche Grammophon Entführung-recording was working with us (I conducted Luba Orgonášová in Martern aller Arten at one of the concerts). Additionally to Robert Levin and Malcolm Bilson giving us lectures on Mozart interpretation! It was the best possible start into the world of highly professional music making and it opened for me and the other participants – a very young Ilan Volkov and Bernard Labadie were also among them – doors to a completely new experience.
Luba Orgonášová sings Martern aller Arten,
John Eliot Gardiner conducts Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K384
I had from the beginning a very strong connection with John Eliot, he told me for instance that one is immediately able to see all my emotions in my face – something no one has told me before and which is an important talent for communicating musical information to fellow musicians. 18 months later he asked me to become his assistant with the NDR-Sinfonieorchester in Hamburg, preparing Messian's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum for the opening concert of the Schleswig-Holstein-Musik-Festival. That went well and our cooperation continued at many concerts and recordings for Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft.
I owe John Eliot an enormous amount of experience and knowledge, not only how to rehearse with orchestras and singers – he is one of the greatest rehearsers in our present day classical music world - but also how to achieve outstanding results in recordings and deal with music business professionals.
My relationship with Georg Solti was completely different and, unfortunately, shorter. In 1992, I sent him a letter and CV in German, addressed Sehr geehrter Herr Solti - no Maestro, no Sir – asking him if there would be a possibility for me to be his assistant. A couple of weeks later I received a nice reply from his secretary telling me that Sir Georg was very impressed by my CV, but is unfortunately not able to offer a position of assistant. Nevertheless, he would like to meet me personally, inviting me to all of his rehearsals and concerts at the 1993 Salzburg Festival...
... It then turned out to be one of the personally most satisfying encounters with a famous colleague which I ever experienced, a relationship which intensified even more when I told Solti that my maternal grandfather had gone to school with him.
This kindness towards young colleagues was something which I came across very often with successful musicians from the elder generation, outstanding among many others the legendary Martha Mödl who invited me and a singer whom I was accompanying – after a session in which SHE was teaching for free – to one of the best Cafés in Munich for Kaffee und Apfelstrudel. Not to mention Ferdinand Leitner who invited me in the 90s every year to the Café Opera in Zürich, to ask how my career was going, or Claudio Abbado who gave a colleague and me a 30 minutes lesson on Beethoven 3rd piano concerto and the 7th symphony after a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, ignoring everyone else...
Martha Mödl in Gluck, Che farò senza Euridice
I am happy that I met a generation of musicians who had no inhibitions to give: emotions, advice, time, drinks and food – to go back to your question - have been an enormous source of inspiration for my life. I am very sad that these values seem to have disappeared and it reminds me how important it is to remember that we all start with nothing and that other people always need our help and advice.
Achim Holub conducts Mozart's Requiem K626:
Introitus & Dies Irae
Achim Holub conducts Mozart's Requiem K626:
Confutatis & Lacrimosa
Achim Holub conducts Mozart's Requiem K626:
Agnus Dei & Communio
|You are well known for your various Series of Conducting Masterclasses you have organized through the years in collaboration with the London Classical Soloists, Masterclasses which have always had a great focus on Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. How do you see all these years dedicated to such a delicate and particular branch of teaching? What's your very first tip to those young conductors who are your students? What's your view on the Historically Informed Performance, especially for the music of the 18th & early 19th century? As a conductor who has been always working between Austria and London, you have a strong point of similarity with Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven: how do you see this? What are your projects for the future?|
When you start your education to become a conductor you need several important foundations:
1) You do not need to be a super virtuoso, but you should be able to perform on your instrument – preferably piano, because it gives you the most comprehensive tools – on a high interpretational standard;
2) You will need a thorough theoretical education, in composition techniques and structural analysis because you will have to know exactly why a composer composed a work in a certain way;
3) And, most importantly, you will need a conducting technique of the highest standard with which you will be able to organize a performance and communicate your ideas as clearly and unambiguously as possible.
I had the incredible fortune and luck to learn from one the best conducting teachers of the late 20th century, Milan Horvat. He was not only a demanding and sometimes severe pedagogue, he was also – even more importantly – an incredibly proficient conductor who was able to show you the practical results of his teachings. Many of my fellow students, most prominently Fabio Luisi, made successful careers and we owe it to the sound professional education – not only by Horvat but also by our Opera professor Wolfgang Bozic who later became Generalmusikdirektor in Hanover – which we received in the late 1980s at the Graz Music University. Horvat expected from you to know the works inside out and was not complementary towards colleagues who did not conduct from memory. And till today, being able to conduct a work from memory is for me the unquestionable basis of conducting and interpreting on the maximum possible level.
The act of memorizing and understanding the composition process – because you will have to understand how a composer put together a work to be able to know it by heart – is essential for developing a close relationship to the music you are going to perform.
At some of my conducting courses in Austria, I made an interesting experiment, telling the participants that they will have to sing from memory the works they are going to conduct at the final concert. With this exercise, you will incarnate the music into your body and be able to communicate your ideas with complete ease and ingenuity. Everyone succeeded and the result and the playing of the orchestra was spectacular. During the last 13 years, I have met many highly gifted young colleagues and I am still in touch with many of them.
The winner of the competition of my first conducting course at Stift Admont, a monastery in the Styrian Alps, in 2007 was Daniel Cohen who is now making an impressive international career. Many other highly gifted students followed, most prominently the London January 2014 competition winner Mathieu Herzog, the long-time violist of the Quatuor Ébène and now very successful with his own chamber orchestra in Paris, and Matheu Kieswetter in South Africa who is doing an incredible work there with youth and professional orchestras.
Matheu Kieswetter conducts the London Classical Soloists
at Achim Holub's Conducting Masterclasses in:
Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, 1st mvt.
I have also taught many talented female conductors, among them Karin Hendrickson and a strong group from Israel with Roit Feldenkreis, Yael Front and Yael Kedar.
Regarding Historically Informed Performance Practice I would like to quote Nikolaus Harnoncourt who said: «I want to know everything which you can know and then forget it».
I was not aware of the similarities between my career and those of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Many Austrian musicians used to live and are living in London, such as Alfred Brendel, Walter Klien, Heinrich Schiff and Walter Weller and we share many musical values with our British colleagues, most importantly the chamber-music-like approach to everything we are performing.
My projects for the future are exploring our planet as comprehensively as possible and, since I speak English and Spanish very well, not only working in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, but also tightening my relationships with North- and Latin-America, the UK and Spain...
... And maybe performing one day a Mozart piano concerto with one of my orchestras!
Many thanks for the opportunity to share my ideas!
Achim Holub conducts Mozart, K361
|Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.|
For Mozart: Die Zauberflöte. (see documents infra)
For Haydn: Die Schöpfung. (see documents infra)
Mozart & Die Zauberflöte (1791)
Some lesser known parts of Mozart's letters from October 1791: Mozart happy for the great success of his opera Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute calls himself 'von Mozart' instead of simply 'Mozart', eats well, smokes a pipe of tobacco and works on his Clarinet Concerto.
Haydn & Die Schöpfung
(public premiere 19 March 1799; ca.180/400 musicians in orchestra&choir)
The huge success of the Oratorio in the accounts of a few eyewitnesses.
|Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you'd like to see re-evaluated?|
Thomas Linley, the younger (1756–1778).
And this year 2020 is the 250th Anniversary of the famous meeting of a young Thomas Linley with a young Mozart in Florence in 1770 at Nardini's!
A rare painting, representing Nardini with Linley and Mozart in 1770 in Florence
From the memories of the opera singer M. Kelly, associate of the husband of a sister of Thomas Linley the Younger and,
in 1786, first Don Curzio and Don Basilio in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.
By an amazing coincidence, Burney was travelling across Italy exactly in the same
year 1770 and there personally met both the Mozarts and Thomas Linley. Burney had a great
impression from them and wrote the famous sentence: «The Tommasino [i.e. Thomas Linley], as he is called,
and the little Mozart, are talked of all over Italy, as the most promising geniuses
of this age».
Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you'd like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
I'd say again Linley, a work written in 1776:
Lyric Ode on the Fairies, Aerial Beings and Witches of Shakespeare
Thomas Linley the Younger,
from the Lyric Ode on Shakespeare
the No.16 (Chorus) What Howling Whirlwinds,
considered by many one of the first seeds of Romanticism in music.
It is certainly a bizarre fact that Mozart and Thomas Linley were both born in 1756,
were both very young music geniuses, that they were both in Italy in 1770 and that
both suffered a lot in 1778, with Mozart losing his mother in Paris during a very
difficult stay and Linley dying in a boat accident.
If we think also that the composers J.M. Kraus (1756-1792), P. Wranitzky (1756-1808), T. Linley the Younger (1756-1778), W.A. Mozart (1756-1791) and the singer Franziska Danzi Lebrun (1756-1791) were all born in the same year 1756 and that in the same year Leopold published his famous Violin Manual, well... one should think that 1756 was really a very special year for Great Music...
Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
|Peter Gülke: Der Triumph der neuen Tonkunst, Mozarts späte Sinfonien und ihr Umfeld (1998)|
|Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.|
Regarding Mozart: Life and Loves of Mozart (German original title: Mozart),
definitely kitsch, but much closer to reality than Amadeus, with one of Austria's
greatest actors, the Viennese Oskar Werner (1922-1984).
Life and Loves of Mozart, Full Movie 1h39 In English (1955)
Curiously, in 1949 Oskar Werner had been also Beethoven's own nephew Karl Beethoven in another Austrian film on Beethoven: Eroica.
Eroica, Full Movie 1h33 In German (1949)
And regarding Beethoven: John Eliot Gardiner's South Bank Show of 1996 with priceless footage of a French Revolutionary amateur choir:
Part 1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvzr9T9nij4
Part 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=750l1oPgvlA
Part 3: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOwzp2dUaR0
Part 4: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbNrZYs9zY0
Part 5: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iERZZvw-uzk
Part 6: www.youtube.com/watch?v=73RoC15DpDA
Part 7: www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-liuvewa3E
Part 8: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n74sIU2JnI
Part 9: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXOPfeeDGDw
In Part 5: the French Revolution Hymne a l'Agricolture &... Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony No. 6
It may be interesting to remember that the Austrian director Kolm-Veltée (who directed
Eroica 1949) signed also a film version of Mozart's Don Giovanni with the Wiener Symphoniker
Don Juan (1955) and a biopic on Schubert (1953).
Do you think there's a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
Schloss Eggenberg in Graz, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 365 exterior windows,
52 windows at the Piano Nobile,
24 State Rooms (still practically in their
authentic and original 18th century organization) and a Planetary Garden:
This magnificent palace itself (de facto untouched since 1780s) is a great lesson of 18th century aesthetics for any musician: paintings and decorations, the Planetary, the classical mythology, the Japanese Cineserie.
the State Rooms: schloss-eggenberg/state-rooms
the Ceiling Decorations: schloss-eggenberg/ceiling-decorations
the Interios: schloss-eggenberg/interiors
the Osaka Folding Screen: schloss-eggenberg/osaka-folding-screen
the Palace Church: schloss-eggenberg/palace-church
Schloss Esterházy in Eisenstadt where Haydn composed and performed many of his early masterworks:
Schloss Esterházy Official Video: the Baryton, favourite instrument played by Prince Esterházy himself and for which Haydn wrote hundreds of splendid compositions.
As another homage to Graz, one may add the Graz Opera Theatre of 1776, which was among the first theatres to produce early performances of Mozart's Operas (i.e. Le nozze di Figaro, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Don Giovanni) in the 1780s/1790s, and a rare interesting document from the Historischen Verein für Steiermark on Mozart and Graz, also about the famous benefit concerts organized by Constanze Mozart in 1790s:
|Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!|