Pavel Steidl interview part 2
Despite the earlier popularity of the lute, theorbo, and other relatives of the guitar, Schaupp and Steidl have resolved to pick up the threads of history with the music of 19th-century composer Johann Kaspar Mertz. ‘For me he is one of the strongest composers in that period,’ Steidl says. ‘At the time the guitar was a salon instrument, but he was searching for a bigger sound, and wrote some of the strongest Romantic music for the instrument.’
Steidl will perform some of Paganini’s guitar music, which he has made a personal speciality, reconstructing the composer’s bemusingly sketchy scores into the kinds of display pieces they were probably meant to be. ‘Paganini was mostly known as a violin player, but his secret love was always the guitar, which he only played in private. The music he left looks very easy, but Hector Berlioz describes in his memoirs how Paganini played the guitar with a virtuosity which he’d never heard before. So you have to use your intuition and build on the written notes with colours, ornamentation and cadenzas.’
They will play the entire first half of the concert on 19th-century instruments, including a small ‘Terz’ guitar, which sounds a third higher than normal instruments, made specially for the tour. For the program’s second half, performed on modern instruments, Steidl and Schaupp will assemble a mixture of Spanish, South American, Australian and Czech repertoire. As well as transcriptions of Romantic repertoire (Granados and Albéniz), the two will interleave recent Australian works by Phillip Houghton and Ross Edwards with that of Leoš Janáček: a transcription of music from his autobiographical keyboard cycle On an Overgrown Path.
There is, says Steidl, a strong congruity between Australian music and that of Janáček – something he first discovered through the music of Peter Sculthorpe. ‘The sound of language, the sound of nature, the birds, the trees – everything is in there. This is for me why Australian music is some of the strongest of the 20th century. And Janáček’s music was a strong influence.’
In this, too, then, Steidl feels a closer musical connection to Schaupp than the 16,000km which separate their homes would tend to suggest.
‘I was born in Czechoslovakia, where we were not allowed to travel,’ he reflects. ‘And over the last ten years I’ve been to Australia four times. It’s not bad, is it? I’m a lucky person, actually.’
Shirley Apthorp © 2012