I understand it was hearing a recording of Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto that first inspired you to become a flute player – what was it about that experience that touched you?
I was only seven years old so too young to understand about ‘inspiration’ so to say. It was rather an intense physical and emotional reaction that resonated with me so profoundly that everything from that moment on was about moving towards what I heard that day: the phenomenal beauty of Jean-Pierre Rampal’s tone, and the indescribable magic of Mozart’s music. I still refer to that recording to keep myself on track, Rampal is my bench mark and my hero. And as for Mozart… no words!
Ana de la Vega. Photo © Andy Baker
For you, who are the most inspiring Mozart interpreters, flute or otherwise?
While Jean-Pierre Rampal’s recording of Mozart stunned me as a child, there were three other moments in my life when I felt similar awe and astonishment.
The first was when I heard Daniel Barenboim’s legendary recordings of the Mozart Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra. He introduced me to the magical world of Mozart solo concerts. His slight delaying of time and placement of notes creates such suspense and intense emotion that I am forever inspired.
The second was when a young man, on our first date, gave me a present. It was Horowitz’s famous last concert in Moscow (which includes a Mozart Sonata in C Major). I didn’t know a piano could have so many voices. I was so astounded by the beauty I heard that I married the young man who gave it to me!
Perhaps the most profound influence was when I watched a live film of violinist Pinchas Zukerman playing Mozart’s Concerto No 4 in Munich in the early 70s with the English Chamber Orchestra. Watch it! For me to describe here in words would be to devalue it. Often we learn more from instruments other than our own. The trick is to go beyond your instrument’s technical challenges and take it into the realm of magic and emotion. Listening to another instrument can show the way because that musician is not facing the same obstacles. The listener doesn’t care or need to know about our technical struggles… our job is to give them the music with ourselves removed.
What led you to Paris?
Rampal, and all the other great flautists of the French School of flute playing. The legerity and ‘champagne’ in their tone, the flexibility, the freshness, the agility, the beauty. I wanted that. So I basically took a one way plane, with nothing but a flute and a backpack, to chase a sound. Nuts!
Alongside the Mozart’s, you’ve recorded a concerto by Mysliveček – how did you first discover it?
I was playing in an orchestra in Germany, and the conductor, whom I had never spoken to, came to me in half time and said, “I perhaps have a gift for you: There may be a forgotten flute concerto in a library on the Czech Polish border in a city called Ostrava.” A couple of months later I took a train to Ostrava!
What do you think is special about this music?
That it exists at all! We have so little repertoire. It’s a God send!
How is Mysliveček’s writing different from Mozart’s writing for the flute (or oboe, in the case of the D Major Concerto)?
In a way Mysliveček is closer to Haydn than to Mozart: peasant folksiness, shorter phrases, fragile, and in a way harder to play. Both orchestra and soloist need to give much thought to the phrasing and articulation in order to convince.
Ana de la Vega. Photo © Neda Navaee
The Mozart concertos are so firmly established in the flute repertoire, do you think the Mysliveček deserves a similar place?
I am not a fan of comparisons. I think each work and each composer has its rightful and unique place. Mozart is Mozart… kind of full stop right there! And Mysliveček, I hope, will enjoy the recognition he deserves in the years to come. There are a few other people championing his works and I feel so happy to have contributed in my little way because of the amazing response to this CD.
What were the musical challenges of putting this disc together?
I did not have a conductor… this album is play/conduct! I tremendously enjoyed the challenge however and was very fortunate to have such a great leader as Stephanie Gonley by my side.
What were the pleasures?
Very often in this profession (and in life in general), one finds that the challenges actually ARE the pleasures. Discipline and hence hardship are actually necessary to create art. The pleasure is that my debut album exists, that I hold in my hand the journey of my life thus far, the journey from a farm in Australia, to Paris and beyond, the hardships, the commitment, the sadness, the good and the bad, it’s all in there. It kind of anchors one’s story into something you can touch.
Ana de la Vega’s Mozart and Mysliveček disc is out now on Pentatone