For quite a long time, improvisation was an integral part of what we now refer to as 'classical music'. Over the course of the 20th century, there have been various attempts of reviving that tradition. How much room for improvisation is there within your own approach and how do you approach it?
Sadly, not a huge amount at the moment. I love improvising, it's like throwing random ingredients into a pan and coming up with something delicious, but at the moment so much of my work is learning repertoire or transcribing, so I'm more reliant on written notes. I would never shy away from the chance to improvise though, and if a section of a piece requires it, it can be hugely liberating. If I am improvising, I like to do things that don't come naturally to the instrument. Also, I love playing around with silence; in music, that can be very poignant.
Recordings have always been a hotly debated subject in classical music. What are some of the quality criteria for a good recording from your perspective, what role can technology play and in which way will a recording even allow you to approach a piece from an entirely different perspective?
A good recording to me is one that seems like it's live in terms of the spontaneity and feeling of freedom. I've been lucky to record with many fantastic labels, and my first three solo albums were with the brilliant team at Linn records. They put a real emphasis on sound quality, and also release on SACD. You feel like you are there in the room with the performers. I like to keep my own recordings as true to reality as possible, and don't like too many tricks or chopping up of phrases. I want to present myself as if I'm playing live, and that way I also won't lose any of my musical intentions.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Communication and presence. Without this (and it can come in many forms) music cannot be shared, and that is to me what performance is about. I try and perform from memory as much as possible, because for me it removes all physical barriers between myself and the audience. Whether I'm performing or listening to someone else play, I know it's successful when the atmosphere becomes tangible, when you become completely drawn in by the music.
As Charles Rosen put, “the death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition”. From your perspective, what are some of the root issues for what is generally referred to as the “crisis of classical music” and what, to you, are sensible ideas for improving it?
Education, undoubtedly. I remember the first time I heard an orchestra as a child. It blew me away. And it wasn't Star Wars or a Disney theme.... It was a movement of Mahler. Classical music can be heavy, it can make you smile, yes, but it can also make you cry. And even as a child, I think that's ok. Expose children to the depth of it early on, and they'll be hooked. Show them how eclectic it can be - there is so much variety in classical music, there is something for everyone. Dumbing it down to an "accessible" level actually threatens to miss out the best bits. And, if a child does love Star Wars, then they are also likely to love The Planets, a Shostakovich symphony, Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky.... The list goes on.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
There are so many roles. It's importance in education is immeasurable, and the benefits have been proven. I believe that artists that don't want to acknowledge or be involved with that are living in a bubble! Music can cross every barrier in society if we allow it to. I enjoy all sorts of collaborations, and think they are important for my own development through my career, as well as creating exciting new ways of presenting music and performances. With so much available to us now at one click, live performance has to engage. That can be done with elaborate multimedia ideas, but can also be done with elegance and simplicity. There is a place for all of it, and I think audiences like the variety.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I think, these days, society is interested in people more than ever before. In addition to that, classical music always faces a stigma of being elitist or inaccessible. PR and the promotion of classical music can help to break down those barriers and present classical musicians as human beings, and also present the story of what they want to communicate. The ideal scenario is that the music speaks for itself, which of course it can, but it is essential that we have an audience. People need to know it is happening before they can reach out and discover it.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
I would love to perform a brand new concerto written for me and lots of young flute players, all playing along as a part of the piece. I also think it would be fantastic to showcase the flute in many different musical genres; jazz, folk, classical in all its forms, and maybe even include different sorts of flutes from other parts of the world. Teaching is a big part of my life, as is discovering and enjoying other musical styles. It would be amazing to try and create something that explores it all.