Karin Schaupp & Pavel Steidl in the Canberra Times
Double celebration of guitar’s hidden history
February 16, 2013
Janet Wilson, Canberra Times
The empathy, respect and affection between Czech guitarist Pavel Steidl and Australian guitarist Karin Schaupp is obvious as they talk to me about music, program design and life in general. I’ve interrupted their practice at Schaupp’s mother’s home in Brisbane but they are forgiving. Like all performers at the musical zenith they had just been lost in the music.
How did it come about that these two are playing together for the first time, touring Musica Viva’s first 2013 concert, playing at Llewellyn Hall on February 28 and later at the Adelaide Festival?
“I was given carte blanche by Musica Viva and allowed to choose another guitarist to collaborate with me,” Schaupp says. “Pavel was my first choice. It’s really a dream come true for me. I’ve admired Pavel’s playing for a very long time.”
Steidl cuts in with a laugh: “You can imagine what this is doing to my ego – of course I couldn’t say no.”
Schaupp is not only an internationally acclaimed musician but also an actor. David Williamson wrote a one-woman play, Lotte’s Gift, for her in 2006. Is there ever a conflict between these two roles? “Oh no,” she says. “It’s very similar – just using a different language. I’m predominantly a guitarist who’s done a bit of acting rather than the other way around. I play the guitar in David Williamson’s play but it’s mostly a play: a piece with music.”
She has had to turn down a couple of other acting opportunities because of concert commitments: “My real interest is in combining acting with music. It fascinates me that you can say things in music that you can’t say in words and vice versa, but to combine the two opens up a whole new medium. Certainly I’m looking at future theatre projects.”
Steidl has been to Australia before, the first time visiting Darwin for the Guitar Festival where he met Schaupp. “I had such a wonderful time visiting guitar societies in Australia that I thought I would have to come back,” he says.
For the sake of creative freedom he left Czechoslovakia when it was under Communist rule and lived in the Netherlands for 18 years. “Nine years ago I came back to the Czech Republic which had become part of the European Union,” he says. “I think it will take generations and generations before the Czech people will really start to think more freely. With freedom you can be who you are; you don’t need to pretend to be otherwise.”
The Musica Viva concert will be an intimate affair with stories shared with the audience. “I think the stories are a beautiful part of the program,” Schaupp says, “because most people may not know too much about the interesting history of the guitar. Quite a bit of it is a hidden history.”
The duo will play replicas of historical guitars, including one – the Terz – built especially for the tour. It was made by an Australian luthier, Simon Rovis-Herman. “I have many original guitars,” Schaupp says. “I think the most beautiful one is a guitar that was made in Barcelona in 1926 by Francesco Simplicio. I use these guitars. I’m not a collector,” she says. “A guitar has a life. After five, six or seven years you feel that the guitar is tired and you need to replace the instrument, but I always feel sorry to give them away. Most people don’t realise that unlike violins and cellos, guitars don’t really improve with age.”
Steidl will not be playing any of his own compositions at the concert, but he has arranged some works of 19th and 20th century music, including “a beautiful Janacek arrangement”, Schaupp says. “We’ve made a little suite of pieces and sandwiched it between two beautiful Australian works, one by Ross Edwards and another by Phillip Houghton, one of Australia’s best composers for the guitar. I feel a strong responsibility – a passion – to play Australian music,” she says, “and especially to introduce it to audiences overseas.”