‘For a long time there was a certain atmosphere around it’, says Hans Eijsackers. Like: If you’re not good enough for the real thing, you can always become a song composer. Well, I can tell you that my profession requires an arsenal of talents. And the first is that you just have to be able to play the piano really well.
From Friday, Eijsackers (55) will give concerts and masterclasses at the international song festival Zeist. Since the first edition in 2016, the Song Festival has been an oasis for lovers of an intimate genre: the fusion of poetry and music, brought to life by a singer and an accompanist, usually a pianist.
Excuse me, did we say companion? Hans Eijsackers dishes. ‘It may have been the thought before: the man or woman behind the keys should not stand out. Fortunately, singer and pianist are seen today as equal musical partners. It’s a serious job. ‘
What arsenal of talents does the subject require?
‘It all starts with good listening. Singers are sensitive types. Not only because their voice comes from their bodies, appearance also has their consequences. Do you sing in the morning or in the evening, how busy is it, how is the atmosphere in the hall? A singing pianist has ears on stalks.
»One must also understand a text down to the smallest detail. The lines of poetry form the starting point for a composer. They inspire him to a melody, a harmony, a form. It is best to get a general idea of what a text is about. Often, of course, this is a matter of Heart and pain, heart and smart. But in the end, a pianist joins the singer down to the smallest nuances. ‘
Are there national styles?
‘Personally at most. Great singing pianists like Malcolm Martineau and Wolfram Rieger are real co-designers. Maybe there is a Russian style. Surprisingly, not many singing pianists come from Russia unless they have learned the subject elsewhere. Russian singers prefer to put the flap of the grand piano on the super short singing staff. ‘
The singer relay?
‘To stifle the piano sound. Apparently they like to keep it quiet behind their backs. ‘
Which stick do you use?
‘Always the high one. With the lid fully open, you can play nice and soft while preserving all the color. ‘
What are typical beginner mistakes?
‘Pianists quickly find the expression in their right hand. That’s what they’re used to, that’s where the beautiful melodies are. But it also happens to be the area where the singer is active. And it delivers a melody by definition more vocal, you do not want to compete with that. You focus on the expression of the left hand.
‘You also have to learn to breathe. Often singers need time to breathe, but sometimes they take a rhetorical break that flows from the lyrics. It takes a little getting used to for pianists. They then have the feeling that they have to wait for an unwritten beat. ‘
And where is the master?
‘Take the song Gretchen on the spinning wheel by Franz Schubert. Many pianists play the accompaniment spinning and virtuoso. But Gretchen is anything but cheerful behind her spinning wheel. The trick is to let some of her mental state resonate in the accompaniment. ‘
Does the classical song still attract young people?
‘I teach at the Düsseldorf Conservatory and still see new students every year. It’s great to experience how they are gripped by an ancient art. Today’s twenty-somethings can easily recognize the feelings of twenty-something Schubert. ‘
He is sometimes described as the first singer-songwriter.
‘It sounds popular, but in his case there is something in it. He wrote songs and accompanied himself on piano or guitar. ‘
From next year, you will be programming the song festival in Zeist together with the baritone Henk Neven. What is changing?
‘I can imagine that we will include other art and music forms. Henk and I are already giving this festival a first pass along with the Iranian-Syrian duo Saba. With the work of Goethe and the Persian poet Hafez from the 14th century, we commute between two cultures. Not only with the piano, but also with eastern picked instruments like the tar and out. ‘
International Song Festival Zeist. Brænderkirkens kirke, 13. til 22/5.
The heyday of classical song dates back to the 19th century. Name with gold edge: Franz Schubert, who wrote the chopping cycle in 1828 winter trip wrote. Later, composers such as Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf continued the German-language tradition. 20th century weapons include Kurt Weill and Benjamin Britten. Today’s celebrity is the German Wolfgang Rihm. His cycle appeared in 2019 Mixed dreamabout the sleep of death.
On wings of song is the theme of the international song festival Zeist, after a poem by Heinrich Heine that is often set in tone. Singing rises on the wings of singers such as Robert Holl (retiring as artistic director), Katharine Dain, Henk Neven and the young Englishman Laurence Kilsby. The Dutch composer Meriç Artaç will premiere a new look at Heine’s poem.