18th Feb 2019

ECO’s principal flautist Harry Winstanley catches up with Ana de la Vega

ECO’s principal flautist Harry Winstanley catches up with Australian flautist Ana de la Vega ahead of her Cadogan Hall concert with the orchestra (Tuesday, 19 February 2019)

Are you excited about performing the Mozart and Mysliveček concerti?

You bet I am! Playing with the ECO is always a happy highlight of my year.

How do you prepare for playing a concert like this, and how does playing the concerti in a concert differ from the recording process?

With pieces one has played often, the preparation doesn’t only lie in mastering the technique anymore. It’s the practise in the mind and in tone quality that becomes equally important. I actually practise Bach to prepare for such concerts: he is very good at sweeping out any cobwebs and highlighting where work needs to be done!

The ideal situation in a recording studio is, when it really feels like a performance. I imagine the audience and the concert experience. I try to recreate that magic with my mind as it’s easy in the recording studio to slip into playing with the brain rather than the heart: trying to be too perfect. We lose a certain sparkle when that happens! So for me, ideally, one approaches similarly.

What do you think makes the flute a good concerto instrument, and how do you think that the two works you’ll be performing best show the instrument off?

The flute’s naturally high range makes it a great concerto instrument, similar to that of the violin. It’s said that those two instruments are the closest to the human voice. Both these works combine typical flutey’ features, like big jumps, long scalic passages, with operatic, singing melodies. Both frivolousness and tenderness are characteristic of the flute and it’s all in there in both these wonderful concertos.

Where did you first come across the Mysliveček concerto, and what is it that inspires you to perform it?

In the Czech Republic, in a library. I had been told that it’s hidden there, and I was very curious. When I perform it, I feel excited to give the public an absolute rarity. And I love this concerto of course simply for its fantastic music! I also am inspired by being able to play my small part in bringing this wonderful composer, who was rather forgotten for some time yet so admired by Mozart, to light.

What is it that you love about playing the flute, and particularly in the repertoire that you perform?

That’s a hard one! The flute is my best mode of communication – it is simply an intrinsic part of me. Since the first time I was ever exposed to the instrument it’s what I wanted to do.

You travel the world and play in many different venues – I notice you’ve got a concert coming up at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – what are the challenges of playing a wind instrument in all these varied places?

I guess the same as with non-wind instruments. Instruments react to all sorts of weather, playing feels different in Sydney than it does in Oslo. But air conditioning tries to even that out, of course but there are always variables to consider. But I’m very much looking forward to the Concertgebouw, it’s acoustic is world famous and I have heard it feels just wonderful to play there.

If you weren’t playing the flute, what do you think you’d be doing?

Riding horses on a farm in Australia!

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