Who or what inspired you to take up the guitar and pursue a career in music?
Growing up in an opera family it sounds strange to fall in love with guitar, but all my life I was fascinated with Spain and Spanish music. I learnt piano from earliest childhood – and I could have stayed with it playing Granados, Albeniz etc, but I guess it was the attraction of this instrument that you can hold in your arms, carry with you and physically feel the vibrations that made me want to become a guitarist. Nothing between you and the sounds your fingers make with the strings, no bow or other “tools” to start the vibrations and it is the most “touching” instrument existing!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Without the courage of my first teacher, Professor Heinz Teuchtert who later confessed that he liked the interesting case to bring a complete musician with no experience on the guitar within one year from zero to University I would not answer your questions today. I had my first guitar lesson with 18!! I soon started to work as chamber musician and to play all kind of plucked instruments in opera houses. Then I met Pepe Romero who changed my life completely, turning me into a full soloist!
Musically I always feel my opera roots, it is all about singing with your instrument!!!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To handle all the rejections you receive when you start to become a freelance indie-classical, between clear “No” to you or to the guitar itself. And I write hundreds mails to presenters and promoters around the world every year…. It is a big challenge not to take it personal. My mantra: “Every “no” brings me closer to the next “yes”
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
It was a highlight to be part of the opening festival of the Salzburger Festspiele last year- I am proud to play at all the places which are devoted to music and where very few guitarists appear. We have a vivid culture of guitar festivals but it is like an “ivory tower”, I am so happy of my concerts in “real world” feeling like an ambassador for classical guitar.
Recordings? You can’t really earn money with CDs anymore, so why not do something idealistic? I will be very proud of the newest, featuring female composers.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
No secret, I LOVE Spanish music (and almost no concert without ‘Recuerdos de la Alhambra’)…. and I am trying more and more to connect my roots of opera and all my piano years with guitar.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Some programs stay for years, just with exchanging some pieces. Yes, and people book me again with similar programs because the loved it and guitar recitals still are rare in many concert series, so they love to repeat what worked once. It is different from piano world I guess.. I have tried to offer a big variety of programs in the last ten years, but I got almost no bookings for example with tango or really contemporary music, so it is by far to much work to keep them in my portfolio. Maybe it also that I am already considered specialist for Spanish music and those hyper-classical programs. And it is music I deeply love, so I am in the happy position that the music I get booked the most is the music I love to play the most!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I LOVE venues with historic flair, especially castles – they add a magical atmosphere to the music!
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
Recuerdos de la Alhambra already became my signature piece, playing it in almost every concert and never getting tired of it…
To listen to I need regular doses of Mozart and all kind of operas!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Emil Gilels, Artur Rubinstein, Marta Argerich, Tzimon Barto, Fritz Wunderlich (eternal: Dichterliebe), Maria Callas, Nathan Milstein, Julian Bream and of course Pepe Romero.
When I pack my bags for concerts I listen to Vicente Amigo or Yasmin Levy!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The moment when I was completely alone in the Alte Oper Frankfurt preparing my banjo etc for Shostakovitch Jazz Suite, and Tzimon Barto came on stage and played his encore for the evening, the Albeniz ‘Tango’, just for me with a smile, a magic gift of pure beauty.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Oh my god, I hope you know what you are doing to your life: Insecurity (also financially), difficult family life, loneliness— and on the other hand magic experiences, inspiration, pure bliss. Be prepared for a wild rollercoaster that will challenge you in all aspects of your life and your personality .
So the most important advice: Treat yourself like if you were an olympic athlete, you are your own coach, mental coach, cook and doctor!
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
I will be performing regularly in the small halls in the big venues – and in 40 years I hope to be the “grand old dame of the guitar” still playing concerts with the unbelievable wisdom of age.
What do you enjoy doing most?
Spectacular answer: Playing guitar!!!!
What is your present state of mind?
Balanced, full of courage, happy and completely addicted to this wonderful crazy life.
Heike Matthiesen is one of Germany’s leading guitarists whose virtuosity and spirited performance, coupled with a charismatic stage presence, are regularly highlighted by the press.
Born in Braunschweig, she received comprehensive musical training on the piano at an early age and only took up the guitar when she was 18. About a year later, she started studying at the Frankfurt Conservatory. Pepe Romero, who taught her for several years, was the formative influence on her playing.
In addition, she attended a large number of master classes, inter alia with Manuel Barrueco, David Russel, Roland Dyens, Alvaro Pierri and Leo Brouwer.
Apart from her solo commitments, Heike Matthiesen regularly performs with chamber music ensembles, and since 1997 she has been closely affiliated with Villa Musica Mainz. She has appeared with Los Romeros and, in 2005, recorded a CD with the Spanish Art Guitar Quartet (“Bolero”, NCA).
Heike Matthiesen has performed in many different countries, including the US, Russia, Japan, China, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Iceland, Austria and Bulgaria, and is a very welcome guest at festivals and in guitar concert series.
She has had two recordings with Tyrolis, on “Sol y luna” with a Spanish-South American repertoire and “Tristemusette”, an internationally acclaimed portrait of Roland Dyens.