Interview with Amarcord’s Wolfram Lattke
The five of you met as choirboys at JS Bach’s church. What is the story behind the creation of the ensemble amarcord?
Well, of course it makes a deep impact on you if you are singing something like 2 hours every day from the age of 9 until 18 – and mostly Bach and sacred music. We as soon-to-be men in the choir always had the tradition of singing other songs, lighter repertoire, with a beer after the concerts when being on tour… And finally a quite likeable, reasonably talented and extremely interested bunch of people decided in 1992 to keep going and try to do it in a more and more professional way… without beer… and gave birth to the then soon-to-be named “amarcord”-formation. The quality and everything that goes along grew organically with success over the years and with the decision in 2000 to risk it and make it the only job we hired a management and started a professional career that nowadays takes us on the road for about 5-6 months every year.
The name “amarcord” comes from a very fine italian movie by Federico Fellini about his childhood in Rimini that won the “Oscar” in 1975. “Amarcord” means “I remember” and stands perfectly for what we see in the group, remembering our past as boy choristers, remembering great casts and times in music history, and remembering, as well as trying to remind of, the presumably first and most natural instrument in the world – the human voice.
Does each member of amarcord have different preferences and interests when it comes to music? If so, how does this contribute to the repertoire you perform and practice?
Indeed there are different interests and preferences in the group music-wise. But I’d say we are all very open and curious for all kinds of music. And by saying that I have to add that we have also a quite similar sense for what the group can or should do and this shapes our performances and rehearsals. Concerning the selection of the repertoire I would say that we all share the point of view that different styles and repertoires benefit from each other and like an actor that plays Shakespeare or Beckett on stage and “Star Trek” in movies we want to be able to do all different kinds of repertoire, find the right style and achieve a convincing interpretation for it. We like challenges and don’t want to limit ourselves.
The ensemble has become internationally acclaimed. Has there been a personal highpoint for you?
Of course it’s amazing to have an audience of a big concerthall cheering for you which lifts you up immediately for some time but what I would consider a (permanent) highlight is something that this job really gives me, gives us, and of what we are deeply grateful for: the opportunity to travel the world, connect to and plunge into all the different cultures, surroundings, people, reaching minds and hearts through the universal language of music and with all that being able to put together the “big picture” much better than we could without.
Can you choose a highlight of this program?
The “Tales of Love and Murder”-program contains two of my personal highlights: “La guerre” by Clement Janequin and “Liebeserklärung eines Schneidergesellen” by Heinrich August Marschner. In “La guerre” you hear the battle between France and the Italians for the duchy Milan at Marignano quite true-to-life from the set-up of the legion to the victory of France, a splendid piece of art and renaissance a-cappella-“painting”. “Liebeserklärung eines Schneidergesellen” is a more silly, although well-composed, song. It is a declaration of love but contains lots of weird rhymes that must have been made after a good amount of wine – sung by a tailor’s apprentice (and guess who…!).
The program “The Singing Club” adds another one of my favorites to the Australia tour: the amazing cycle “Dans la montagne” by the lesser known Frenchman Jean Cras, a contemporary of Maurice Ravel and besides being a composer having been a career naval officer. The cycle describes a day in the mountains with small precious images and quite delightful impressionistic moves and harmonies.
What is the first record you ever bought?
I have to say that we were kind of privileged as we were living in a boarding school and we were exchanging and copying (on amazing and highly coveted Japanese cassette recorders with high speed dubbing!) records and tapes a lot… I remember that “Queen” was a big deal in the “Kasten” (“box”, that’s how we called the boarding house) at the time I started listening to Rock & Pop, but I was also a big fan of Michael Jackson and as far as I recall “Dangerous” was the first record that I bought myself in ’91 or ’92.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Of course I’m listening to some “Midnight Oil” in preparation of the Australia Tour right now. Still one of the greatest bands I’ve ever heard, I love the melodies, the harmonics – and the topics they were singing about. “Keane”, “Sting” and “U2” are regulars to my ears as well, I’m not that much into the contemporary Pop as many times I have to doubt its real purpose which I suspect is not “to have something to say”. But that’s just my humble opinion. On the classical side I love to listen to the Vivaldi recordings of “Il Giardino Armonico” these days and well, work-wise I am listening to the Bach-motets we just recorded and that are going to be released later this year.
You are a role model and inspiration to many artists and students. Who inspires you?
Very early in our career we met amazingly nice, even though incredibly successful, people that were a great inspiration and a huge influence on how we developed – musically and humanly. Singers from English Groups, actors and dancers from Leipzig Theaters, fine musicians and Instrumentalists that we got in contact with through the membership in St. Thomas’s boys choir and so on. Many helpful influences and reflecting encounters. And it’s still like that, we are curious in any kind of art or reflections on the world and this inspires us – it can be a concert or a chat with Bobby McFerrin, it can be painting in a village church in Southern France, it can be a social worker that tells you about the power of music for deprived children and much more. We are moving through the world with open eyes, ears and minds and there is many things and people that inspire us to do what we do and, as solemn as it might sound, to make the world a better place.
Using one word, how would you describe each member of amarcord?
Holger (2. Bass) – bookworm
Daniel (1. Bass) – brainy
Frank (Bariton) – sporty
Martin (2. Tenor) – posh
Wolfram (1. Tenor) – persistent