Martina, you decided very early on against a career as an orchestral musician and instead chose a different, very individual and exciting path. How did this decision come about?
It is the versatility that interests me. Finding my own path, of course with detours and dead ends, was a challenge, but one that I am always happy to take on. It was important to me early on to pursue everything that interested me and to give myself the freedom to realise my dreams. This is unusual, but for me it has always felt right.
Because it is not just about music. If you think further, you can find synergies with other art movements. You can discover talents in yourself that have been lost in the course of time and that lie dormant in you. If you listen to yourself, you can find them again, use them and make something out of them. That is a big concern for me.
Nevertheless, you are regularly engaged as a freelance flutist in major symphony orchestras, and have played a Mahler symphony in Paris with the Munich Philharmonic, for example. In an orchestra, you are always part of a big whole. Part of a musical idea to which one must subordinate oneself, of which one is a building block. This can be inspiring at best, how do you experience these moments?
I still love sitting in the orchestra. The feeling of playing a Mahler symphony is incredible. So I understand that there is a desire to go to the orchestra and grow with these works.
It has always been important for me to develop programmes that suit me, me as an artist, not just as a musician. That I bring people to new ways, things they have not heard before. That they leave the concert with a new thought, that I have brought about something new in them, that is my intention.
Where do you get your ideas from? What do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of things were already inside me and bubble out at some point. As a teenager I wanted to be an actress, but at the same time I also dreamed of studying music. It was not possible to do both at once, so I decided to do the music first. But the actress is still dormant in me!
I do not want to impress, but to move.
I always want to bring the moment into it. It is like cooking. I like to have the recipe in my head, of course. But if I think chilli has to go in, then I put chilli in and see what my other chamber music partners have to say about it. That’s also the beauty of making chamber music, that I choose musical partners who respond when I put chilli in the soup rather than pepper as specified. That you have moments on stage that you do not have during rehearsals. That the spontaneity remains, the freedom. That you take a risk. Maybe it goes in a direction you did not want, but the whole is in the foreground, the space, the audience and the interplay. Being open to that is the beauty of chamber music.
As a classically trained flutist, you have also explored jazz and even found the courage to improvise. What were your first attempts on stage like?
You feel naked at first, but basically you are freer at some point. If you had to practise the things you improvise, you would work on them for a long time. When you improvise, you need courage. In the beginning, there were only selected musicians with whom I dared to improvise. It is like jumping into cold water, at some point you swim. I am not a jazz flutist, but I have learned jazz articulations and I have developed my own style over time while improvising.
There are many similarities between the world of jazz and baroque music. Improvisation plays an important role in both genres, but also the relationship to the bass and the preference for contrapuntal vocal progressions. Chord symbols and basso continuo – you have dealt with both and completed a postgraduate course in traverso after your studies. I remember your graduation concert very well, I was very impressed and touched by how intensively you dealt with the instrument. How have you been able to integrate this aspect of your training into your everyday musical life?
I play Traverso regularly, but only for myself. The studies have shaped me, even though I do not earn my living with them. I learned a lot. Playing on a wooden flute without keys is like going back to the origin.
I compare it to a face with make-up and a face without make-up. A face without make-up is true and pure. That is how the Traverso is. If I do not feel so beautiful, then I use a bit of vibrato, if I am not happy with the tone, then I can hide a lot through virtuosity. You cannot do that with the Traverso. There is only the pure, the unadorned. That is why this study has shaped me and changed my understanding of music. The instrument says so much. Much more so than a modern flute made of metal, because wood reacts differently. Similar to a string instrument. A violin is very sensitive to external circumstances such as the weather, humidity and many other things. This is also the case with the Traverso. The modern flute is much more robust. But through my involvement with the wooden flute, I have gained greater flexibility, a finer feeling for tone colours and sound design. I was able to experience the awareness that I was playing a woodwind instrument much more directly through my involvement with the Traverso than on the metal modern flute.
The Boehm flute offers many more possibilities than the traverso, both tonally and technically. In the meantime, you have found your musical home there, play a gold flute and are an endorser of Miyazawa. How would you describe your sound, or the ideal of your sound?
If I may compare it to red wine, I would say it’s a nice Bordeaux, a Saint Emilion. Why I compare it to a wine, you can see a lot in the colours, this Bordeaux red. What I like is a warm round and rich sound that has many nuances.
The instrument has to suit you, but your chamber music partners are at least as important, because you work very closely with them and in the best case scenario you form a musical unit on stage that complements and inspires each other and where you can rely on each other. How do you choose your partners?
It is very important for me to get along with them on a human level. It does not have to be a friendship, but there has to be a common frequency on which you meet. What is important to me are musicians who have the same passion as I do, who extend their sensors on stage, react and look. There are these very special moments when I really experience that, with my harpist Feodora Johanna Mandel it is often like that. I can rely on her having that seventh sense for me on stage and me for her tooa, which is very rare. I have played with a lot of harpists, but with her it is just that I feel like she already knows what I am about to do, she has this forward thinking and is always with me.
It is similar with my cellist Katerina Giannitsioti. With her, I played a sonata by Bach, the E minor sonata, for the first time with cello only. The piece is actually composed for flute and basso continuo. At first I thought something was missing! But she contributed so much in the interplay that nothing was missing. She has her sensors out and it is nice when unexpected things happen on stage sometimes, in a positive sense. Things that can only happen with adrenaline and in front of an audience. So geht es mir auch mit meiner Pianistin Susanna Klovsky, ich weiß genau, dass ich mich auf sie verlassen kann. The fact that you just make music, that people are spontaneous, that the music is in the foreground and not the ego, that is very important for me.
Your concert programmes always have a thread, a story.
Your children’s concerts in collaboration with the Georgian Chamber Orchestra or “Der Gasteig brummt” are very successful, the children love your stories. What kind of experience have you gained in this genre?
Children are the most honest and critical audience of all. That is why it is most difficult to make something for children. But when you have done it, it is also the most beautiful thing because they just react immediately and authentically. If the children go home with a catchy tune or are carried away by the story, I am overjoyed.
I play in these concerts, moderate and sometimes I also write a role. Then I am a detective, a witch or a magician, but my great concern is always to take the children into the magical world of music.
Your professional field is incredibly diverse and I think you have managed to combine all your interests and talents in an impressive way. But your love of chamber music runs like a thread through your projects, is it the continuum that holds everything together?
I chose chamber music because I can be who I am and because I can always grow there.
There are so many possibilities. The instrumentation alone is very versatile, you can play with wind instruments, strings, harp or piano. High flexibility is always important.
I played 2nd flute for a long time because I could adapt to others very quickly. But when I played first flute, I enjoyed setting the tone. When I play chamber music, I have both facets. One is not fixed, sometimes I play the subordinate role, sometimes I lead. I like this mixture.
Of course, it is difficult to get by as a freelance chamber musician. But for me, this is the right way. I chose it out of conviction.