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1. After having already produced the critically acclaimed 6 voll. of Complete Mozart Sonatas for Fortepiano and 3 voll. of Complete Beethoven Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello, in November 2018 you have released a CD Album with Piano Works by J.L. Dussek. What’s the origin of your interest in this MozartEra composer? How did you prepare yourself for this CD Album and how did you work to record it? What kind of choices you made to perform the music by this composer? Thanks to your special and exclusive experience, can you tell us how you see the music and pianism of Dussek among the works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven, also within a possible influence/difference game?
a. What’s the origin of your interest in J.L.Dussek, this MozartEra composer?
I have been fascinated by the 18th century music since more than 30 years ago. My interest first revolved around Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, but it very quickly broadened into the music of his contemporaries such as Emanuel and Christian Bach, Dussek, Hummel, Vanhal, Clementi, Schobert, Boccherini, Galuppi and others. The point is really that no composer develops in a vacuum, and that understanding the undercurrents in musical thinking of an era crystallizes ideas about a specific composition as well, through enlightening its context.
Jan Ladislav Dussek’s music is expressive and exciting, full of bold ideas and with a lot of musical drive. Some years ago I performed Dussek’s E flat major Piano Concerto with a Finnish period orchestra (it can be listened to on SoundCloud), and was overwhelmed by this inspired music and its wealth of ideas.
His music seems to be a mixture of gallant and Empfindsamer styles, and it uses operatic melismas and effects in adagios, thus extending its tentacles into the romantic era. Anachronistically his slow movements sometimes make us think of Chopin’s cantabile movements.
b. How did you prepare yourself for this CD Album and how did you work to record it? What kind of choices you made to perform the music by this composer?
As to my recent Dussek recording, I am grateful for the invitation by the Brilliant Classics to participate with one CD in the recording project of Dussek’s complete fortepiano sonatas. For the selection of the four sonatas on my CD, I went through tons of his fortepiano music, and picked up my favourite sonatas, which were quite a few, of course. I thought about the design of my program, and opted for covering many different periods in Dussek’s life and output. This was the most challenging option for myself, and I hope this proves to be gratifying for the listener as well. Dussek’s life’s story is an account on its own right, full of adventure, escapades, love stories and what not. I read accounts of his doings, and got some insight to his entourage and the ideological background of that tumultuous period.
My sonata selection on the CD starts in the period Dussek spent in Paris just before the French Revolution… I see him dashing from one salon to the next, performing and networking, and getting perhaps inspired by the revolutionary Zeitgeist, though at the same time socialising with the Queen Marie Antoinette. I have the chance to own an original, anonymous Viennese instrument from the 1790s, which I used for this early French sonata in A flat major (Op. 5 No. 3). The sonata, albeit in just two movements, is pure fireworks of liveliness and ideas, much in the vein of Mozart.
My fortepiano was imported to Finland sometime in the early 19th century by Bureau de musique in Leipzig, the music business of the composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister, a friend and publisher of Mozart’s among others. The soft sound colour, the resonance and the rich spectrum of overtones of this Walter type fortepiano are very special and inspiring.
I used this instrument also for the A major sonata (Op. 43), which represents the burgeoning virtuoso style of the time, and was written relatively late in Dussek’s English period (he fled his debtors to the Continent some time in 1799 or 1800).
Dussek’s earlier London period (he probably escaped to London to save himself from the turmoil of the French Revolution) is represented by a light divertimento sonata in B flat major (played on a replica of a Clementi fortepiano of 1799). To wrap up the program I chose the tragic and highly moving F sharp minor sonata, which sounds like an intimate confession of Dussek’s sorrow over the death of Prince Louis Ferdinand, for whom Dussek worked for several years in close personal interaction.
c. Thanks to your special and exclusive experience, can you tell us how you see the music and pianism of Dussek among the works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven, also within a possible influence/difference game?
I have the impression that the composers of that period, as any artist today would be, were influenced by anything they heard or played, anything, I say, that they considered, for various reasons, of some particular inspirational value. Musical scores were not only circulating in manuscript copies, but more and more frequently music was being printed and published through professional firms, and it was easier then to stay tuned about the state of music than at earlier times.
Thus one can imagine to hear echoes of Mozart’s melodic lines, Haydn’s richness of ideas and Clementi’s use of colours in Dussek’s compositions, if one wants, but nevertheless Dussek also comes out as a talent on his own right…
… in his works, when he reaches his best, he is always witty, emotional and charges his pieces with a lot of musical drive.
The typical trademarks of his music are the never-ending flow of new ideas and themes, his beautiful melodic ideas and the thrilling swing in his instrumental passages.
It is less discursive and operatic than Mozart, and he develops his ideas differently from the surprising Joseph Haydn, but he is personal, sincere and touching. Dussek was himself a virtuoso player and put this quality into display in his sonatas much more than Haydn or Mozart had ever done in their own ones. Muzio Clementi’s pianism in his serious sonatas is more in line with the way Dussek treats the instrument, and Beethoven of course rivalled anything written before him from the very beginning of his piano music production.
TUIJA HAKKILA’S MOZARTERA DISCOGRAPHY
2. You have released another two extremely interesting recordings with music by Haydn and with music by the Finnish Lithander Brothers, early Finnish 18th/19th centuries music which was in part also inspired by Haydn himself (i.e. Variations on a Theme by Haydn in A major). What led you to rediscover and produce this world premiere and critically acclaimed recording? How did you work to prepare this recording? Can you tell us about the Lithander Brothers? And what about the CD with Haydn trios? What’s your relationship with Haydn’s music? In your opinion, what was and what is the influence of Haydn on Finnish composers and music?
a. What led you to rediscover and produce this world premiere and critically acclaimed recording? How did you work to prepare this recording? Can you tell us about the Lithander Brothers?
If one is born in a small country outside big musical centres, like I was, one easily gets curious about the past music life in one’s own region as well. Thus I have done some digging into the repertoire of the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries. The Lithander brothers are among the important exponents of this period. Other names worth mentioning would be Bernhard Crusell, Thomas Byström and Erik Tulindberg. They all are composing in the style of their international contemporaries, in all types of music, serious sonatas as well as lighter pieces, sets of variations, with a more or less prominent personal touch. As a matter of fact, I recorded the three exquisitely beautiful sonatas for violin and fortepiano by Thomas Byström with the violinist Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch… a fine addition to the duo repertoire for these two instruments.
As to the Lithander brothers, they were born in the 1770s, on Estonian ground. to Finnish parents. Carl Ludvig made a career for himself internationally in Sweden (Finland was until 1809 a part of the kingdom of Sweden), England and Germany, and his works were published even by Clementi himself. Fredrik, on the other hand, was active in Russia, St. Petersburg, which was a major musical capital, and nearly attached to the Finnish territory. Their music is inspired also by Mozart, Haydn, Clementi and probably even Dussek himself. They all were acquainted with a lot of repertoire by their contemporaries all that available as published and performed internationally.
In my mind, playing music by these lesser known composers sheds light on the aesthetic currents of the whole period. One starts making a clear distinction about what is conventional and what is more original in each composer’s thinking. And honestly, much of this now forgotten music is really musically valid and well worth to be performed, rediscovered and reproposed to the great public. In a certain way, I might add that for a performer it is a thrilling challenge to make this dormant music alive again.
Back in 2001, I was asked to make a recording with Lithander brothers’ music by a society promoting Finnish music. I spent one whole summer getting acquainted with their music production and choosing the pieces for the CD, with the idea of shedding light on different types of music, and making the CD program the most valuable, charming and fascinating possible.
b. And what about the CD with Haydn trios? What’s your relationship with Haydn’s music? In your opinion, what was and what is the influence of Haydn on Finnish composers and music?
Joseph Haydn – what a musician! What a composer!
In his time Haydn was the most famous composer in the world. His music was published everywhere, and his scores also landed in the far-away eastern provinces of Sweden (today’s Finland) through Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Reval (Tallinn). Stockholm and St. Petersburg were big capitals and melting pots of cultural thinking, and their influence radiated on the Finnish ground, Turku, Oulu and Kokkola being the most important towns in this regard.
Our old Haydn Trio CD of the 1990s is one of my darlings, a production which was inspired by the collaboration with the flautist Mikael Helasvuo and the cellist Anssi Karttunen. I had started the festival for early music in Hämeenlinna, Finland, which at the beginning focused on the many facets (and also lesser known composers) of the classical period. Our trio with flute was the core house band in the festival, and we played in all possible combinations, with other instruments too. The collaboration culminated in the recording sessions of this Haydn CD.
Last spring I came back to Haydn, and had a marvellous time playing and enjoying his music for months as I was preparing my recording for a double CD with eight of Haydn’s fortepiano sonatas from the 1760s (possibly 1750s sonatas included) and very early 1770s. The Finnish Ondine record company is going to publish it in 2020, and I am currently working on the text for the leaflet book.
Many recordings of the later sonatas of Haydn are published, but I wanted to challenge my thinking and musicianship with this a bit less played repertoire in the chiasm of an earlier gallant style, still pregnant with older elements and the more mature Viennese style of the burgeoning 1770s. The exquisite way of Haydn’s composing enthralled me completely. There is such a difference in the musical language between Mozart (whose music I find so easy to approach and to understand) and Haydn! Haydn manipulates his material in a more surprising and instrumental way; it is full of tension building, turns of mood within musical periods, witty twists for effect and such pure beauty, good-heartedness and love of music. Yes, he has now become a close friend, I dare say.
3. You have dedicated to Mozart and Beethoven two marvellous CD cycles: the 6 voll. of Mozart’s fortepiano sonatas and the 3 voll. of Beethoven’s Fortepiano and Cello. When did your passion for Mozart’s music start? And when did you think for the first time to perform Mozart’s music through a period instrument, a fortepiano? What’s the origin of your interest in Beethoven’s Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello? Is there a different approach to treat Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music on an original Fortepiano?
a. When did your passion for Mozart’s music start?
My passion for Mozart’s music started early on, with the first touch at the age of five or six. I must have been twelve when I heard Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in a live performance for the first time, albeit with an amateur orchestra… and this was a true revelation for me.
Until then, even if my piano studies always were around conventionally classical repertoire, my main passion had been J.S.Bach and rock music… but suddenly there was this jive and swing of Mozart’s music, with its fascinating textural richness.
For some reason playing Mozart always came easy to me, and I performed a few of his piano concerti with orchestra already during my study years, and got smitten by this marvellous experience.
Mozart, 12 Variations for violin and piano KV359 in G major, La Bergère Célimène (Wien 1781)
b. And when did you think for the first time to perform Mozart’s music through a period instrument, a fortepiano?
As to the fortepiano, the story goes back to my early interest in the music of the Baroque era. As I sweated over performance practice questions when playing Bach on the modern piano, I finally felt some real relief in hearing Early Music Orchestras play that repertoire – this was in the late 1970s. I played a bit of harpsichord early on, but unfortunately did not pursue. During my Paris years then, in the 1980s, I followed radio programs on France Musique, and at one time the pianist/fortepianist Paul Badura-Skoda was invited to speak and play his recordings every morning during a whole week. He woke up my sleeping interest in the early pianos. Some time later I heard Malcolm Bilson’s Mozart fortepiano concerto recordings, of great importance, and had the occasion to play on a Stein fortepiano replica that my Finnish colleague Olli Mustonen had acquired. All that had a real huge impact on me. I ordered an instrument, a Stein copy, from the same Dutch-born maker, Henk van Schevikhoven, who had made Olli’s instrument. This led to my writing a letter to Malcolm Bilson, to take lessons with him… and I visited Cornell in Ithaca, NY, for lessons for different lengths of time. I also started to follow the discussion around the performance practice questions of the Mozart era, including the problematics of the choice of instruments. The artistic director of the Finlandia Records then called me at the beginning of the 90s, and offered me to record a complete Mozart fortepiano sonata set… what a strike of luck this was!
c. What’s the origin of your interest in Beethoven’s Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello?
As to my Beethoven recording with the cello, the story goes back to my teen years, when I collaborated closely with the cellist Anssi Karttunen playing both modern and older repertoire for cello and piano. Thus I was tinkering with Beethoven’s sonatas for piano and cello from early on… at first of course on modern instruments. When we were offered the occasion to make a recording of his complete works on period instruments, we added the variation sets and the arrangement sonatas to the repertoire… what a treat again! Such declamation, such rhetorical music at times, so full of invention, power and surprises… just along the lines of thinking of C.P.E. Bach and Haydn.
d. Is there a different approach to treat Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music on an original Fortepiano?
The emotional expression in music is not really dependent on the instrument. The choice of an instrument and all the knowledge one can learn in books will never overrule the good taste that one can develop only with sincere feeling. However, many musical things change when playing on period instruments. The texture, which is such an important quality in the music of this period, becomes fuller and more expressive, as it were. The presence and liveliness of the accompanying figures can sound more natural. And, in chamber music context, it is a staggering experience to play with period instruments and hear the balance problems disappear: the massive sound of the modern piano is not overpowering the string instrument, even if the music is fierce and powerful. Suddenly the texture is heard in all its nuances. This is true of the performance of Beethoven’s music as well as Mozart’s and any other composer’s. Even the most dramatic texture can be rendered up to its full emotional energy without it becoming ridiculously out of scope.
4. You regularly organize International Masterclasses. You have been also the Artistic Director of various Music Festivals, Academies and Concerts Series, in particular of the Early Music Festival in Hämeenlinna, the birthplace of composer Jean Sibelius. How do you think such experiences influenced, enriched and modeled your vision of MozartEra Music? What’s your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music on a period instrument and in a more historically informed way? What your projects for the future?
a. How do you think such experiences influenced, enriched and modeled your vision of MozartEra Music?
The festivals and masterclasses have always been an integral part of my artistic work. Organizing events is a wonderful way to share your music with your community, to share ideas and questions you might want to raise. Festivals also offer an occasion to collaborate with colleagues and expose yourself to new ways of thinking around music. The way these experiences have influenced my understanding of the Mozart era is probably simply by setting myself high expectations for the performances and gaining musical understanding through these experiences.
b. What’s your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music on a period instrument and in a more historically informed way?
My first advice for someone who wants to play on a period instrument and to work in an historically informed way would be just to start playing, to start exploring the repertoire and to start reading the sources of the past – preferably on a regular basis. Doing all this, one slowly develops one’s own musical TASTE. And taste is only built up through experience and honesty – honesty towards one’s own listening and one’s own musical feeling, with the risk of every now and again coming up with not such a great solution. This sort of “stumbling” is the tasty part of artistic experimentation and the source of any creative process.
I would start by learning about the conventions in notation of the 18th century. Then I would try to understand the hierarchy inside a bar and between the measures, I would experiment with the changing lilt in more danceful sections, look for the heavy and the light parts of the texture, try out effects, expression and timing in each section, and the list goes on, of course.
For wanna-be-fortepianists I would also strongly advice to acquire performing skills in continuo playing and in performing the music of the early 18th century, in its international styles. The fundamentals for the later repertoire can be found there. For this passion of mine, I had a copy of a Silbermann 1740s fortepiano made a few years back. I am thrilled by the possibilities it offers not only for the music of the likes of Emanuel Bach and Haydn, but it also works perfectly as a continuo and solo instrument in the repertoire of the early 18th century.
As to the period instruments, each instrument will communicate its potential only through sensitive and mindful practice. Each piano with its resonance is the most important guide to acquiring a sensitive touch. Each musical texture will also reveal its nature, and its role in the context of the piece and the period through experimentation and knowledge.
Finally, in my own learning path, getting advice from and playing with more experienced colleagues has been crucially important. It is especially rewarding when preparing solo repertoire, as what is de facto a lonely practice is, in this way, counterbalanced by another person listening and, hopefully, also with a sympathetic ear.
c. What your projects for the future?
For my future projects, besides my concert and recording sessions, I must say that teaching remains a fundamental centre of activities. Teaching can be a truly artistic activity, often tied with the psychological challenge of individual mentoring. The question is how to pass your vision to another person clearly but without imposition. How to give the student tools to find their own way of thinking and tools to cultivate their own musical sensitivity.
I have an intense activity of teaching as a Professor of Piano at the Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts in Helsinki, Finland. I teach modern piano to pianists and give performance practice workshops on historical pianos. Our University offers a Masters Program in Fortepiano, in collaboration between the Piano Department and the Early Music department. Thus we can flexibly tailor the curriculum of studies for each student.
As to my future recording projects, my Haydn double CD with early fortepiano sonatas will come out with Ondine next spring. A project on contemporary piano works is coming up, and hopefully a CD with Franz Danzi’s quintets for fortepiano with winds. I would love to record Schumann’s music, as well Lied and chamber as solo works, but these projects are still to be negotiated. We all know just too well in what kind of a turmoil the record companies are in these days.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
This is a tough but funny question!
There is so much music to be loved in the production of these two fellows!!!
In Mozart’s case, I immediately say Clemenza di Tito: but now all the other operas are shouting: «And why not me?»!…
… then the Symphony No. 39, the E flat major Piano Concerto K482, and so many chamber works which are just a miracle in music!
And what about Haydn?
I love his Piano Trios and The Seasons and his A flat major fortepiano sonata,… and those pieces just to name the first works I have in my mind now at this very moment…
Ah! It is impossible to choose!
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
A good question!
I think Emanuel Bach (Haydn and Mozart revered as their music teacher/father) still today has not that great popularity he certainly deserves among the main audience, if we consider the great level of his importance in the history of music, both as a highly influential theorist and a highly influential beautiful composer.
Gottfried Müthel, a late student of J.S. Bach, is interesting, as Zelenka is, but the latter is of course of a slightly earlier period.
The significance of several neglected and forgotten female composers, among others the dedicatee of Dussek’s A flat major Sonata, Hélène de Montgéroult, is yet to be established, studied, discussed and re-evaluated…
In that period only very few female composers used to hit the public music scene, with main public works such as operas or symphonies: Haydn’s and Mozart’s friend von Martinez was certainly one of them. They were usually more active in a chamber music context, and there might be some music works of a certain value which are still hiding from us.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Gottfried Müthel’s Sonata for Two Fortepianos is certainly a first piece, I have in my mind now, and then Boccherini’s chamber music works.
However, I think that also Haydn’s Piano Trios, which are, without doubt, the cornerstone of the chamber music repertoire, should be performed and studied much much more…
And I think that also Beethoven’s String Quartets should be played with the same urgency.
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
One should follow two principal ways…
One should try to directly read the source literature of the period, including, for instance, Emanuel Bach’s and Quantz’s treatises, both fundamental works in their genre.
On the other hand, there are various interesting modern books, which are based on a selection from original historical sources. Under this respect, a good handbook useful to keyboard players is Sandra Rosenblum’s Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music. And I’ve really loved also Leonard Ratner’s Classic Music: Expression, Form and Style from the 1980s.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Malcolm Bilson’s video Knowing the Score can be a good introduction to understanding the performance challenges one can find in the works written in the classical style.
The understanding of each composer’s notational practices is crucial to being free to interpret it.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
So many European courts, castles and palaces are really inspiring in this regard, be it in German lands, Italy, France or England!
There is the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam near Berlin, where Frederick II was reigning from the 1740s onwards, and where C.P.E. Bach and J.J. Quantz, among others, were hired as court musicians. The Berlin Aufklärung circles incited them to write their important treatises, which both of course had a huge impact on the future generations of composers and musicians. Haydn for instance credited Emanuel Bach to be his sole mentor, and Mozart was generous in his remarks on Bach, and so was Beethoven.
The Dresden court was crucially important of course, having many Italian musicians among the court musicians (and Italian fortepianos too, by the way), and being a melting pot of musical ideas of the period. J.S.Bach and Gottfried Silbermann, among others, were closely in contact with the court.
And there is Eisenstadt with the fabulous Eszterhazy Palace and gardens. They managed to hire the Big Shot talent that Haydn was already early on, and the place became, thanks to Haydn and his orchestra, a town well worth the visit for anybody interested in music.
However, the city of Vienna continues to be the greatest inspiration for my love of the late 18th and the early 19th century. If you get acquainted with the palaces and the churches where musical performances took place, and if you visit the homes and the cafés where the artists lived and loved, you might get an idea of the context the music of that period was written in.
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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