Interview with Anton Steck

Musician interview 25.11.2020

A funny coincidence is that Anton Steck, the leading violist during FiBO's Die Families Bach in November, played the baroque violin for the first time in Finland! The year was 1989, and the occasion was a visit with his chamber group during his studies in Karlsruhe.

Short introduction
My name is Anton Steck, I was born in South Germany, I am a Professor for Baroque Violin and Ensemble Direction at the University of Music in Trossingen (Germany). Since 30 years I lead ensembles, playing concertos and doing chamber music. I founded two ensembles, a string quartet (Schuppanzigh-Quartett Köln) and L'Orchestre heroique, an orchestra which exists mainly out of former master students of mine and is specialized in music from the Beethoven time. My repertoire starts in 1600 and ends up in the middle of 19th century.

How did you end up with your instrument? Who or what made you choose it?
It was quite easy - a friend of my family was a violin teacher and when my father asked me - I was five years old - if I would like to play the fiddle, I immediately said yes!

You have a long career as a baroque musician. Can you tell something about your first years with the renowned baroque orchestras where you have played?
My first lesson with the baroque violin was actually in the CPE-Bach celebration year 1988 with Reinhard Goebel. My first concert with the baroque violin was 1989 in .... FINLAND!! 

In 1991 I became concert master of Musica Antiqua Köln, later Les Musiciens du Louvre and finally Concerto Köln. The first years have been really hard- I had to learn hundreds of pieces, sometimes over night, while traveling, in hotels and so on. On the other hand - at the age of 26 - I had the chance to play in the most prestigious halls in the world, including La Scala di Milano (I saved the wallpaper with my name on it!), Wigmore Hall, Lincoln Center New York, most of the Philharmonic halls worldwide etc. At the same time I had to finish my studies in Amsterdam. So, this time was not really relaxed, but I could handle it because there were no emails at that time - more time to focus on the important things. 

What is the most inspiring thing in the life of the baroque musician?
I discover new things every day. Either new works or new ways of interpretation. That's the most interesting thing, I find. It seems to be endless - also, because you find different point of views every day and I am free to experiment with all sorts of informations! I never ever regretted to stop the modern violin and go for the baroque violin. The diversity of styles of the baroque time is so fantastic and rich that you need an entire life to understand. And if you extend the repertoire up to the point where the violin has been modernized (middle 19th century) it is impossible to get bored...

What other art form is close to your heart?
I love very much architecture, with a focus on baroque Orangeries.

Which is your greatest musical dream?
This is a difficult question- on the one hand I do live my dream, but, of course, there are still things I would like to realize. Actually, since I am a great Gluck fan - I would love to conduct Gluck operas. I conducted operas by Jomelli, Mozart and Handel, but Gluck (opera reform!) is very different and in my opinion as dramatic as Wagner. 

At the moment the effects of the COVID-19 are very extensive for all actors in the cultural field. Do you think that the current situation will affect the cultural life also on a long run?
There are many discussions about that, also in Germany. Just imagine if our advanced civilization would be cut down to the „bum-ka-ka-bum-ka" rhythm which is roaring out of cheap loudspeakers in basically every corner - we would be lost forever! So, I really hope that there are some decent people in this world who do have a minimum of education to understand that classical music and art in general are achievements of many centuries and cannot be replaced with anything else! 

What kind of relation do you have to the composers in the Bach family, who form the red thread of the programme "Die Familie Bach"?
As I said before - CPE Bach was in my first year (1988) totally new to me, there have been the first recordings of Pinnock and Hogwood with the string symphonies. In that year I spend the entire summer learning the symphonies of CPE and JS Bach obligato sonatas. Later with Musica Antiqua Köln we did many programs with Bach&family - both, chamber and orchestral works. So, I know quite a lot of music, also from Wilhelm Friedemann, Johann Christian and Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach. They are so different from their father but also incredibly inspiring! So, Bach and sons have been my first step into baroque performance practice! 

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