12th September 2016
During a recent EUBO tour with Belgian recorder player Jan Van Hoecke, we took a few moments whiling away time in an airport departure lounge to chat to him about recorders, music and life in general.
Q: Rumour has it that you spend quite a lot of time and energy visiting various recorder makers in various cities when you are on tour; how many recorders do you presently own?
Jan: At home in Lausanne I keep the most important collection of my recorders. Some of my instruments are still at my parents’ in Belgium and others at the conservatoire where I teach in Switzerland and at my girlfriend’s in Spain. I think it’s 68 recorders altogether, but some of them also have a ‘second body’ to alter the pitch. For performances I actively play only half of the recorders I own. Over the years my taste has changed and therefore there are some of my instruments which I no longer play.
Q: What are your tips on choosing a good recorder?
Jan: Of course it’s really important to check the intonation and the sound of the instrument. The octaves should be pure and the sound pleasing. If you play with other musicians whose instruments are tuned in equal temperament, you need to check your recorder matches their tuning. I recommend finding an instrument without wolfs. If the recorder starts trembling when you play a low g on an alto recorder (a low d on a soprano recorder), even if your way of blowing is very stable, then the instrument has a wolf. It’s also important to test how the instrument reacts to articulations. Some instruments don’t allow much air pressure with articulations. When testing the recorder, play pieces you know well and play often.
Q: What repertoire do you personally recommend to your recorder students?
Jan: For musicians it is important to study many different pieces in different styles. I recommend my students play pieces which they themselves find interesting, as it helps to keep their practice ‘on schedule’! For all student and amateur players I always suggest playing with friends. Working together in an ensemble helps develop stability in playing, matures the ear, and above all it’s fun.
Q: You’ve been touring with EUBO since July 2016 and given concerts in Luxembourg, Estonia and Italy. What have been the highlights for you?
Jan: It is a great pleasure to perform with EUBO and exciting to play as a soloist. The musicians of EUBO are all very talented and play with loads of energy! I also enjoy being a ‘tutti’ member of the orchestra in Handel’s Water Music. Recorder players have few opportunities to play orchestral repertoire, as often the flautist, oboist or bassoonist plays the recorder as well and are given the part. So, I am very happy to have that experience with EUBO. And as for the highlights – every concert is a highlight, we just keep working better together!
Jan Van Hoecke performing with EUBO under the direction of Lars Ulrik Mortensen in Tartu, Estonia in July 2016.
Read also the biography of Jan Van Hoecke.