Image of Peter Holtslag

On Expression

or

why I stayed with the recorder

It is general believe that the recorder is an instrument for children, to start their musical journey, changing to "a real instrument" at a later stage.
Why does somebody like myself stick to this troublesome instrument ?
Like so many children, it was given to me by my parents as a 7-year old with the motto "go and have some basic musical experience" - without any idea of repertoire or possibilities. After some frustrating starting years, a new teacher ( n° 3 in a 4 years' timespan...) made me listen to a recording ( only black discs in those days ) of Frans Brüggen playing Holborne, Corelli and Vivaldi.
As it turned out, this hour changed my life forever.
I was both fascinated and puzzled and soon this disc appeared on my birthday wishing list. In Brüggen's playing, I sensed a sincere purity combined with excellent musicianship. It didn't take long to get excited by his colleagues Gustav Leonhardt and Anner Bijlsma, too.
Logically, I started to practise obsessively, playing all the pieces Brüggen played and everything I could lay my hands (and ears) on, including Haydn Symphonies and the like. Music became an obsession for me, listening to the extreme expressiveness of David Oistrakh playing Glazunov, Moura Lympany playing Von Weber's Konzertstück &c. As soon as possible I entered music academy, combining this with secondary school. Initially in Maastricht, with Joannes Collette, moving back to my native Amsterdam soon after I started studying. Meanwhile, Brüggen had just stopped teaching, handing it over to Kees Boeke and Walter van Hauwe. At numerous occasions however, I still was lucky enough to experience Brüggen in Den Haag, where he kept teaching masterclasses.
Musical life in Holland in the 1970's was vividly creative. "Early" music didn't exist as a movement as such. It had its followers but as a recorder player, there always was the connection to various fields in the contemporary music scene.
In the recorder I had found an ideal instrument for expressing my musical needs -: an instrument of fascinating beauty and purity, extremely difficult to cultivate. Its supposed limitations made (and still make) it extremely challenging for me, always looking for utmost expressiveness. However, over the years I came to understand that in the end the instrument can be quite irrelevant, being just an aid, although important, a body extending my own body.
Like in the higher spheres of love, it is this symbiosis of two bodies which brings ultimate beauty.
The daily sensation of "blowing down a tube" - be it the recorder or traverso - is comparable to the ancient art of Yoga. It is like a drug. There are worse drugs which can be taken...