Who or what inspired you to take up the recorder, and pursue a career in music?

As a child, I wanted to play the piano, but when my best friend started to play the recorder, I decided to join her. Best decision ever!

When I had to start playing the piano later in preparation for musical studies (in Germany, playing the piano is mandatory if you want to study music), I realised how limited the piano is and how much I was missing sound-wise.

I was regarded a great talent from early age on, so it felt natural to pursue a career as a freelance musician. Freedom and self-management are very important parts of my being a musician – I love to explore, create, experiment, and also to say “no!”, if needed.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Mostly non-musical people first, like my grandmother, who told me to listen to my heart rather than to other people; later fellow musicians, teachers, etc..

I was puzzled when I looked around and mostly found men in charge and visible everywhere in the music business. At that point, my focus on fostering the multi-disciplinary artistic work of woman developed, and I started looking for like-minded people, like, for example, composer and fellow activist Dr. Dorone Paris. Together, we founded the organisation ArtEquality, and are on our way to turn the world into a better place through #ArtAsActivism.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

To end the belittlement regarding my instrument and the difficulties of being a woman in the music business. Since I am active in the acoustic as well as the electronic sector, there is always a bunch of guys supporting their fellow guys to deal with. It is such a pity that so much creative energy by women has to be wasted on fighting repression and harassment…

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My solo recording “Windserie” with my own works from basically the last 20 years, and my solo recitals from the series “the sadly unknown”, also the inter-disciplinary work with artist Carola Czempik, …

Which particular works do you think you play best?

The “fun fact” about the recorder is everybody thinks they know the instrument, but when they start to compose for it, it turns out to be a quite interesting and difficult challenge.

The works I play best are the works written for me, by composers who do the necessary research on the instrument, interact with and involve me, etc., like Nicoleta Chatzopoulou, Marc Yeats, Jeanne Strieder, Catherine Robson, Mathias Spahlinger, to name a few beacons in the luckily steady growing group of risk-taking composers.

With Jeanne Strieder, I also perform in an industrial-doom-electronic project called Catenation (as well as in two death metal bands, Coma Cluster Void and Infinite Nomad).

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I am in the very lucky position of having a pool of incredible and diverse works, and also being presented with stunning new works regularly. Since I also travel a lot, many aspects have to be taken into account while creating a new programme: Where is the concert, festival, concert series? How many instruments do I need? (bear in mind that I need a different instrument for every single piece of music on the programme – recorders are very sensitive, and can only be played a certain amount of time on a daily basis, due to air pressure and condensation). Is it possible to use electronics and / or visuals / projection? Is there any composer I know and / or who has written for me residing at the place, or a person I would like to collaborate with? Which part of the world is the concert going to happen, what’s the temperature / air pressure / humidity, plane or train or car, and so on. So my programmes are always exclusively built and adapted for every occasion, place, and audience.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

No, not really – I like many places for different reasons, like acoustics or atmosphere.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones I work with on a regular basis: violin player Alexa Renger (for over 20 years now), the Reanimation Orchestra, oboe player Freddi Börnchen, tenor saxophone player Dr. Dorone Paris, and partner-in-crime Jeanne Strieder.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Performing in Mexico in a contrasting concert programme of Bach fugues and contemporary music. The (mostly young) people greeted the performance with such a heartfelt enthusiasm, like a rock concert – an incredible experience!

The audience in general seems to be very mixed in age; you have the whole range from newborns to seniors. Unlike in germany, people want to express their feelings and gratitude, and love to talk to artists about their experiences: in the concert hall, in the parking garage, at the rest room… Everybody is so open and highly interested, it is just lovely to be and perform there.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be creative, to be content with my artistic output, to be able to bring my music and my artistic creations to the global public, to be able to interact with other arts and disciplines, to be fostering a network and work towards equality.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Find your own way, and take your time! Don’t simply repeat, create!

What is your most treasured possession?

My collection of recorders from sopranino to sub-doublebass in different woods, models, and tunings.

What is your present state of mind?

Forward-looking, but impatient regarding the uprise of the right-winged. nevertheless, without art, there is no hope nor solace.


Praised for her equally fierce and bold dramatic performance style, Sylvia Hinz is one of the leading recorder players worldwide, specialised in contemporary music and improvisation.


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 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