Who or what inspired you to take up the recorder and pursue a career in music?
From a young age I was fortunate enough study with very inspiring teachers – although in the first place I came to the instrument by chance. A childhood friend of mine wanted to learn to play the instrument but did not want to go to the lessons on his own. Further along the way I was also extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to play with other musicians of my age and the chance to experience manifold concert situations in Germany and abroad. When I was old enough to start thinking about what I would like to do for a living, I could not imagine my life without playing recorder and making music everyday…
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
There were several, including studying at three different conservatoires, attending master classes with numerous renowned musicians. Most recently, being chosen as St John’s Smith Square Young Artist for the 2015/16 season has been a major influence and given a boost to my musical development and career!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Making potentially life and career changing decisions, such as deciding to complete a Master of Music in London, rather than somewhere “at home”.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
My two solo CDs: “Upon a Ground” (2012, https://open.spotify.com/album/68Qaixt8WbErB9MpwE3miK), which was the first CD I ever recorded on my own, solely with the wonderful support of the four other musicians playing on the recording. My second CD, “Cantata per Flauto” was released in April this year (here’s a review: https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2016/04/07/tabea-debus-cantata-per-flauto/), and I launched it at St John’s Smith Square with a fantastic ensemble playing with me (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oeUH206Im0)
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
That’s very had to say.., It’s always the questions if the works that I would identify as the ones “I perform best” actually come across like that to an audience. I particularly enjoy baroque music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, but I also love to perform contemporary music for recorder solo or chamber music ensembles – these pieces require a completely different approach to the learning process and the presentation.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I have an long and ever-growing list of pieces I want to play or arrange for my instrument, and I therefore try to include at least a few of those into programmes I am planning. Of course there are many other factors to consider: the venue, its size, the occasion and the audience who will be listening, the scope to bring in other musicians, a possibly already existing overall theme. And finally I always strive to include different facets of recorder repertoire, old and new, solo and chamber music etc.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I could not say I have a favourite venue! Smaller venues, such as an art gallery, a chapel or small concert room have an intimacy and direct exchange with the audience which I value very highly. On the other hand, larger spaces, like London’s St John’s Smith Square, are fantastic as well, as they challenge the projection and presence of the performer in a very different way.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
Probably music by Georg Philipp Telemann – he played recorder himself and through his music one can feel this deep understanding of the instrument’s capacity and special qualities. He has his very own musical language, which is still very flexible and changeable, which for me as a performer opens many doors to creatively engaging with his music. At the moment I often listen to JS Bach Cantatas, as this might related to a future project I am thinking about putting together, but I love music by Henry Purcell, especially his (semi-) operas.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Too many to name all…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It’s hard to choose one! Perhaps playing as part of the Singapore Youth Festival in 2011 – we were preforming in a huge venue, but it almost seemed as if the audience was with us on stage. There was a lot of spontaneous applause, even in the middle of a movement, which is how it should be! One should be allowed to show and react when something is enjoyable and fun, or even the opposite…
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Travelling and having lessons with as many different professionals as possible would be a vital advice – both for the own instrument and others. Also, one can gather so many ideas and concepts by collaborating with other instrumentalists, singers and composers and by embracing different styles of music from medieval to contemporary.
What do you enjoy doing most?
Arranging new repertoire for the recorder is definitely a favourite! I get very excited when there is the chance to include something “new” in a concert programme, to discover repertoire primarily intended for other instruments and make this repertoire my own.
Tabea Debus performs at London’s St John’s Smith Square on Thursday 19th May as part of the London Festival of Baroque music 2016. Further information here
Tabea Debus had her first recorder lessons with Gudula Rosa at the Westfälische Schule für Musik, Münster. Since then she has received many special prizes, including awards from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben, the Manfred Vetter Society, the Ministry of Family, Women and Youth as well as the Irino Foundation.
More about Tabea here