Karin Schaupp is one of the most outstanding guitarists on the international scene, her playing hailed by the German press as “so perfect, so complete, that it seems like a miracle”. In her teens she won prestigious international prizes in Italy and Spain, and is today sought after internationally as a recitalist, soloist and festival guest, making countless television and radio appearances.
Karin has released six best-selling solo CDs for Warner Music and ABC Classics as well as various award-winning ensemble and orchestral albums. Recent releases include Wayfaring (2018) with cellist Umberto Clerici, the ARIA-award winning Songs of the Latin Skies (2017) with Australian songstress Katie Noonan; Mosaic (2015) the first ever CD dedicated to guitar concertos by Australian composers; the ARIA nominated Fandango (2011) with Flinders Quartet; and Cradle Songs (2010), a collection of lullabies from around the world, all arranged for solo guitar.
Performance highlights include performing as soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, some 150 performances of Lotte’s Gift, performances at a Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony, Goodwill Games Opening Ceremony, World Expo (Japan) and Hong Kong Arts Festival, and a Musica Viva International Concert Season tour with Pavel Steidl.
Karin is Head of Classical Guitar at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. She lives in Brisbane with her husband Giac and two young children.
The Street talked with Karin before her Canberra performance with Umberto Clerici and launch of Wayfaring, their first album together.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE GUITAR FOR YOU AS AN INSTRUMENT?
The guitar has always been my favourite instrument. From my earliest childhood I loved its warm, lyrical sound and these days I still adore the sound, but I also appreciate just how versatile the guitar is and how much it has offered me as a creative outlet.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR YOUR INNOVATIVE COLLABORATIONS CROSS MUSIC FORMS. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I love to collaborate with colleagues who inspire and challenge me, within and also outside of music. I grow artistically whenever I work with someone I admire, and I love the process of creating projects out of nothing, projects that are completely open-ended and could become anything. That is one of my favourite parts of my job. Of course the guitar can inhabit many musical styles comfortably, so it is a great medium for collaborations.
YOU ARE ONE OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING GUITARISTS ON THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE SOUGHT AFTER BY LIVING COMPOSERS. PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF COMPOSING FOR YOU AND YOUR INSTRUMENT?
Composing for the guitar can unfortunately be quite a daunting process for composers who are not themselves guitarists. The guitar is highly idiomatic and can be rather complex to write for effectively. I try to encourage composers to “go for it” once they have an overview of the instrument and then we can work together to adjust things that may not work as originally written. Usually there are solutions and understanding good “guitar” key signatures can be a vital first step.
WHERE DID THE IMPULSE TO CREATE WAYFARING COME FROM?
Umberto and I wanted to create something different, something outside of the “typical” repertoire for cello and guitar, so we decided on a journey through life, a Wayfaring through song from birth to death and many of life’s adventures in between, covering some five centuries of music. By taking away the text, we were inspired to stretch the expressive capabilities of our instruments, giving a more abstract narrative of the music’s meaning. The cello and the guitar’s combined many colours, registers and textures emulate the human voice extremely well- in turns singing, weeping, sighing and seducing.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH AN ARTIST LIKE UNBERTO CLERICI, CREATIVELY AND TECHNICALLY?
Umberto is one of the most incredible musicians I have had the pleasure of working with. His playing is deeply expressive and emotional, but it is also informed by great musical intelligence, knowledge and technical perfection. From the first moment we played together there was a special intuitive connection, something you can’t predict when you meet a colleague. Playing with Umberto is always inspiring and pushes me to delve deeper in my own playing- in my book, that’s what makes for a wonderful collaboration.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE REPERTOIRE FOR WAYFARING FROM THE VAST AMOUNT OF SONGS AROUND LIFE?
We spent many endless hours scouring libraries, playing through anything and everything and seeing what worked and what didn’t. Some things surprised us by working particularly well, and of course vice versa. In the end, when I play a transcription (as we do so often on the guitar), I always feel that I need to be adding something to the music, a new dimension, a new way of interpreting it that is not only different, but enhances the music in some way. If it is just a compromise and the original is better in every way, then the transcription becomes meaningless and I would rather not do it. Luckily, Umberto and I agreed on every decision we made in choosing the works for this album.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STATE OF THE MUSIC IN AUSTRALIA?
I think live music in Australia is thriving. We have amazing performers in this country and wonderful composers and an increasing hunger for local music from our audiences. It is an exciting albeit uncertain time for recordings in general as the way we reach our audiences is changing so rapidly, with new music sharing platform etc. Noone knows how much longer we will be making CDs which are congruent programmes such as Wayfaring for instance, where the artists think about the choice of repertoire as a journey. With our new currency of single shuffled tracks this kind of planning is becoming sadly less and less relevant.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MUSICIANS?
Follow your heart, invest in what you believe in and try to find good mentors.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
I am inspired by how art and stories can put us more deeply in touch with ourselves, our relationships, our world and humanity’s often mysterious journey. I always have multiple new projects simmering away, but it’s hard to talk about them until they are more fully formed. I am still immensely fascinated by the combination of words/drama and music so that is definitely an ongoing focus and source of inspiration for me, exploring the overlap of those art forms from new angles.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
To be honest my life is so full that I watch basically no TV. The last movie I saw in full was Paddington 2 with my kids.
I tend not to read fiction unless I have a lot of time on holidays for example, as I tend to get too engrossed and find it hard to tear myself away when daily life beckons.
My bedside table has 2 books on it at the moment-
Peter Thompson’s Wisdom The Hard-Won Gift
Ida LIchter- The Secret Magic of Music
And a few issues of Dumbo Feather- my favourite magazine.
I guess there is a pattern there: I love interviews with inspiring people.