-> Interview in Deutsch
Quality is in the detail.
HORST KLEE, AT THE AGE OF TEN YOU`VE STARTED TO PLAY THE GUITAR AND OBTAINED PIANO LESSONS TWO YEARS LATER. HOWEVER, YOUR ACTUAL FIELD OF INTEREST WAS RATHER THE CONCERT GUITAR THAN THE POP- ORIENTATED GUITAR.
WHICH GUITARISTS INFLUENCED YOU MOST IN THESE EARLY YEARS?
Above all, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Mick Taylor. I want to explain briefly, how it came to this development: When I started to learn the guitar in 1962, a guitar boom was not really noticed. Increasing popularity of the Beat and Rock Music caused this boom in the following years. Everywhere in Europe and Overseas bands sprang up like mushrooms. At this time there were hardly classical guitar lessons. My first teacher taught me the Carcassi method , and his skills were so average, that after three years of exhausting Carcassi- plucking I eventually gave up the lessons to dedicate myself to Pop Music with heart and soul.
To my 20th year of life this had been my domain. There was no day, on which I wasn’t at work with the electric guitar. Aged 16, I could play every solo of my idols to the tiniest nuance. In these years, I have learned incredibly much. Precision, playing together, strength,sound developing and expression aroused. Certainly, you can also acquire these elements in qualified lessons, but those didn’t exist in these days. And I claim, even today there are too less musicality and too much acrobatic playing. Therefore, I am very fortunate to have profited from this time.
YOU HAD OVER 500 CONCERTS WITH DIFFERENT GROUPS TILL YOUR 20TH. WHAT KIND OF CONCERTS WERE THESE AND WHICH WERE THE GROUPS THAT YOU PLAYED WITH?
Especially concerts with popular music. Rock and Pop Music in various formations, consisting at time of three musicians, sometimes of eight. Occasionally, I played in several groups at the same time. Seven years, there was nearly never a free weekend. I played on Gala arrangements for the so- called "High Society" with a show band, that defined itself playing better entertainment music, than, again with a Rockgroup in a smoke-filled discotheque. When I started to study Music, I felt this new territory in fact most interesting, but at the same time very well-behaved and conventional. By the way, I still possess my E-guitar of that time. It embodies my youthful Storm and Stress period and I still like to play Rockmusic.
IN 1973 YOU STARTED YOUR STUDIES IN MUSIC AT THE “WIESBADENER CONSERVATORIUM” .WHAT WAS DECISIVE OF THAT?
Actually, quite simple circumstances. It started that I persuaded my former companion and present wife to learn the guitar. I wanted to teach her “classical” and bought her, to this purpose, a cheap instrument and adhered to my long forgotten pieces of Carcassi. My girlfriend accomplished not a single lesson. I may add that she passed her studies in Music with main course recorder and as a teacher she reached extraordinary success in our School of Music.
Consequently, I rediscovered this kind of music with which I never could be friends with as a child. Thanks to my nostalgic feelings and a better musical understanding I discovered a certain attraction to Carcassi all of a sudden. The circumstance that was no technically and musically problem to play the small compositions, spurred me on. The second and third issue of Carcassi I almost devoured! Still in complete ignorance of possibilities of the instrument, a former friend gave me some classical lessons. Referring to former conditions he played the concert guitar excellently and I payed him great reverence, for he played parts of the first “Lautensuite” of Bach. He was also in possession of the extensive school work of Bruno Henze that later became the basis of my further study.
From time to time I realized that the guitar offered a lot more possibilities of expressions than the E-guitar. The Pop Music lost its importance more and more, the curiosity towards classical music increased constantly and there was no doubt left anymore- I had to study music.
Excellent Pop-Music still interests me. I enjoy a good blues just as well compositions of Gentle Giant, Toto and Dixi Dregs.
WHICH CRITERIONS INFLUENCED THE STUDY OF COMPOSITIONS?
During my three year at the "Wiesbadener Konservatorium" I played only twenty compositions. Every interpretation took incredibly much time and effort for I first had to acquire technical skills, because I still wanted to reach a high level right from the beginning. In the first semester I played “Melancholy Galliard” of John Dowland. I bought all interpretations available on record and compared them with each other. Then I applied my acquired skills to my interpretation. In this way, I learned all that subtleties what standard music lessons never would have offered. Over the years I adopted this kind of learning with the aim to play exemplary interpretations and to safe them on record. Of course exemplary interpretations can just possess validity for me and are subjected to experiences and changes of taste. But the base remains constant: the use and the correct relations of brains, soul, imagination and inspiration.
Even today I still work on a program a very long time, but do not longer orientate myself to other guitarist! Moreover I admire the level of interpretations by violinists and pianists and learn a lot of them. It took me nearly two years practising for the record GITARRENMUSIK VON MANUEL PONCE. Of course this leads inevitably to a very small program but I cannot consume compositions like drinking or eating for every single composition possesses my complete esteem. Extensive repertoires several musicians pride themselves on is out of the question for me. I detest it because it reveals a tendency to quantity and not to quality!
The difficulties of an interpretation are so complex that no experienced critic will ever understand it because this demands a longstanding analyse with the work. A nearly perfect interpretation is only possible when someone is confronted with it for a long time. Every single tone has a certain local value and to find this out requires time. Equally the passion and the love towards music must be controlled by brain. There is this sentence “feeling without brain is sentimentality”- this points out the essence of my attitude. The mystical, supernatural in the art is what I reject. I don’t know what to do with it. Music effects by itself.
Let me give some comments on the topic “practise”. I have constantly defined practise a great effort. After one hour with the instrument a certain spiritual exhaustion aroused for I work methodically with the concentration required. I stick to the motto: quality is more important than quantity. I can’t believe someone to work concentrated with his instrument six hours or more. At the highest three hours can be effective, the rest is foolish playing around. During my work with the instrument an inner silence arises and other thoughts don`t occur me. That effects, despite the intellectual work a mental relaxation. But also the contrary is possible when practising technically sequenzes again and again to play it with a higher speed. This can result in "practising fever" that with his obsession reminds of an intoxication.
IN 1977 YOU TOOK CLASSES AT THE "MUSIKHOCHSCHULE IN FRANKFURT". THIS TIME YOU MENTIONED THE “AUTODIDACT STUDIES OF IMPORTANT GUITARISTS”. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THIS?
As I already mentioned, at the beginning of my studies I already had the conviction that if you want to surpass a schoolmasterly play an orientation of a high level is required. On the one hand this understanding was caused by a lack of musical information of my lessons there, on the other hand by the curiosity to understand certain possibilities of interpretation as well as the techniques of playing which fascinated me. This kind of acquisition I learned as a rockguitarist and it was self-evident to profit from the masters in the classical guitar, thereafter. Every artist can develop his measures through listening to other artists’ interpretations.
There is no use to learn in peace and quite, you have to know what others do in order to remain competitive, and you need to listen to things also that do not correspond to your own conception. This maybe can strengthen your own opinien and your own way.Consequently you educate yourself to self critic which is absolutely essential for every artist. My former teacher Altenburg taught me an excellent base technique and this enabled me to pursue my autodidactic studies. The huge expressiveness of Julian Bream, for instance inspired me. Now there are two possibilities: I only can enjoy it as a listener and leave it at that, or I investigate which technical procedures results in such expressiveness.
I have learned a lot from the American guitarist Christopher Parkening. He is one of the most sensitive and intelligent guitarist at all. It astonishes me that he is quite most unknown in Europe.Listening Bream and Parkening I learn for instance the specific use of sounds and their application. Every guitarist should analyse the "Sonata A-Dur" of Anton Diabelli in the Bream interpretation concerning the use of different tone production.. The process of acquisition should, in this case not only refer to acoustical perception, moreover you have to understand why Bream uses the timbres and what effect they have. I constantly tried to analyse interesting sounds which requires a lot of effort, especially at Parkening. He dominates an absolute extraordinary playing in a cantabile way whose sensitiveness and intimacy is unique. It took some time until I understood that motorized processes of the touching fingers could not realize the sound. Moreover I had, in order to imitate this effect apply a certain type of strings that showed a milky, unpolished surface. You can control the strings better with the fingernails because of their rough surface, certain sound effects when playing gently and very calm can be accomplished. This sound effect is evident, for instance at Parkenings playing the three cantatas on his Bach record. The melody sounds comfortable smooth, it is stimulated with vibrato and appears extraordinary cantabile and you hear very it very clearly. This is only one example for subtle controlling of a very complicated technique towards which I feel more admiration than the rape of a “Picture of a Exhibition” transcription.
The elements of art are founded in the detail. The development of a clear and clean tone production is only the base. Many famous guitarists, even some famous ones, remain at this point and are content about it. They play with a constant boring sound which reminds me of playing a piano in a very poorly way. But the guitar is like a organ with many register and after that there is much more to explore.
WHICH ROLE DID ROBERT BROJER PLAY IN YOUR ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT?
He played a very decisive role, as he had a great personality as a musician. He worked out the musical details with his students. I think he was one of the few guitar pedagogues who had a thorough knowledge about the articulation during the different epochs. He could do without long-winded interpretations of the contents und gave his Instructions very closely to the text -shortly and precisely. His lessons gave me the impetus to a methodical necessity of Interpretation, such as phrasing and part writing. After every lesson with him I conscientiously wrote down all his remarks and tried to acquire knowledge of common nature out of them. Furthermore, I was fascinated by his naturally human and even paternal warmth, which also expressed itself in a certain kind of authority. He was a brilliant musician who was able to handle the various matters. Only a few years later I got aware of the fact why he had this knowledge: Originally, he had been a musician of an instrument which had gone through a historical development and therefore had a pedagogic tradition. He had gained his knowledge from... the violin.