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Lute Society of America, Inc. Quarterly
2/01/2005

An Interview with Hopkinson Smith

by Phil Rukavina

I am very happy to announce that the world-renowned lutenist and teacher Hopkinson Smith will be on the faculty of the Lute Society ofAmerica's “Seminar East” held in conjunction with the Amherst Early Music Festival, July 17-24 at Bennington College in Bennington Vermont. Also on the faculty with Hopkinson Smith will be the Venere Lute Quartet. The titlefor the LSA/Amherst event... “The SecretBehindthe Masque: English Music for Lute.” Hope you can all come!

The following interview took place on a gorgeous afternoon in May of 2004, while sitting in the Hopkinson Smith's sunny living room in Basel, Switzerland.

PR: Hoppy, tell us about your background...you’re originally from New York?
HS: I was born in New York City, in Manhattan, but the family lived in upstate New York until I was about eight and then moved back to the city.

PR: Your famly is quite famous in American history. I recently heard that one of your ancestors founded the Saturday Evening Post along with Ben Franklin. Can you tell us if there is a history of musical talent in your family?
HS: It seems that my sixth great grandfather was the first native born American composer. He was from my father’s side of the family and his name was Francis Hopkinson. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; he wrote patriotic songs and was involved in all kinds of other diplomatic activities around the time of the American Revolution. He had an interesting correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, because Jefferson was trying to decide whether to buy a fortepiano or harpsichord for his children, and Francis Hopkinson was all on the side of the harpsichord. I didn’t know about the Saturday Evening Post! My maternal grandmother was a semi-professional musician in the early part of the 20th century. She played violin in the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, and she could play the piano quite well.

PR: You started out as a classical guitarist. Was there a particular experience that sparked your interest in playing the guitar?
HS: I heard Segovia recordings as a teenager, but what really woke me up was a Julian Bream concert in Boston in 1966 or 1967. I couldn’t sleep afterwards. The next day, I called Robert Sullivan who was teaching guitar at the New England Conservatory. He really didn’t have any openings for students, but I was pretty desperate and said, “Well, what shall I do?” He found a place for me and was a big help when I was beginning the guitar.

PR: How about your interest in the lute and early music?
HS: When I was a freshman at Harvard I used to visit a girl at Radcliffe. I would always walk down the same street when I was going to see her. I would pass a house where I noticed interesting string instruments hanging on the wall. One day I rang the bell at the house to ask what these fascinating instruments were. It turned out to be the house of Arthur Loeb, who was a very active amateur musician in Boston, as well as being a professor at MIT.

PR: You just walked up to Arthur Loeb’s door unannounced, and rang the bell?
HS: Yes. I was 19 or 20, kind of brash without even realizing it, a little bit self-important. Well, Arthur Loeb invited me in, and we looked at a viola da gamba and I asked where I could learn to play it. He recommended that I get in touch with Gian Lyman, a woman who was his teacher, and I started to take gamba lessons with her. Of course, I was playing the classical guitar as well, so one day I played the guitar for her. I played some Bach, I believe, and some earlier pieces. She said that if I liked this type of music, I should really play the lute. So, she arranged for me to borrow the so-called “work lute”, made by Boston maker Donald Warnock, from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts.

PR: So, what lutenists influenced you at this time?
HS: During my first year at Harvard I subscribed to the concerts of the Cambridge Society of Early Music. I remember a concert of Spanish Renaissance ensemble music where Joe Iadone played the lute. I went up afterwards to talk to him and found him fascinating, though that was my only encounter with him. That was my first experience of professional lute playing in an ensemble situation. In my second year at Harvard, before I had borrowed the museum’s lute, I used to play every Monday night in the Brandeis University Early Music Collegium, a new group which was directed by Joel Cohen. He was very generous and let me play his lute in the ensemble. Basically, I would play a single line in pieces by Dufay and Josquin, and it was a marvelous experience. They were just beginning their Collegium at Brandeis and there were some professional musicians in the group, like Steve Silverstein, who was a wonderful recorder player and comettist. One day we were playing Monteverdi, and I found myself playing continuo without even knowing what continuo was.

PR: You mentioned continuo; did you study music theory at Harvard?
HS: Yes, as a music major I had to take theory, two years of harmony, counterpoint and analysis, etc. I think the best theory class I ever had was a course called “Music 51”, which was the first year Introduction to Harmony class. We were required to play all the exercises on the piano, in all the keys, so you really had to develop a sense for the keyboard and use the keyboard as a tool.

Actually, I wasn’t that good on the piano, so they organized lessons for me [at Harvard] with Luise Vosgerchian. She was marvelous. She had studied with Nadia Boulanger. She had her office in the cellar of the music building and had been an Assistant, but they promoted her to the rank of Professor in 1971. She eventually became the Chair of the department in 1974. She was so musical and supportive, and she knew how to stimulate the musicality of a student. She died much too early; there were so many things still to talk over with her. She was the first person with whom I discussed the bowings in the solo sonatas and partitas of Bach, for instance, long before I ever dreamed of playing these pieces myself. We would go on and on and had animated discussions on many subjects.

PR: You also studied with the noted musicologist John Ward while at Harvard.
HS: Yes, I had the invaluable opportunity to take one course and two years of independent study with John Ward. It was just at the moment when Arthur Ness’s Francesco da Milano edition had come out, and I analyzed every fantasia in that book with Mr. Ward. He was a wonderful guide, not only for the ear but also for the eye. He helped me to develop a way of seeing what was actually happening in the music. He would often teach by asking questions and these were sometimes provocative and would weigh down upon you. I would ponder sometimes for weeks, think things through and come back with a rebuttal or a reluctant agreement. This approach always resulted in lively and extraordinarily stimulating encounters. In my final year, I completed a senior thesis on the music of Daniel Batchelar. This was during the Vietnam War and I was fortunate not to have had to serve in the Army, but I always used to say I went through the equivalent of boot camp in John Ward’s Introduction to Musicology class.

PR: Were you mostly playing guitar or lute at this time?
HS: I was playing guitar and beginning to play the lute. I also began to teach guitar and lute at the Longy School of Music, and around this time I became the first Collegium Director at Wellesley College. I was still a college undergraduate, and although I had been teaching the guitar and lute there for a year or two, I was completely unqualified to do something like direct a Collegium. Somehow they liked me and must have thought they would take a chance. I certainly learned more than I imparted, and it was a very interesting experience. Through this and other jobs I began to have more work playing the lute than I had ever had as a guitarist.

PR: You went to Spain to study with the great Catalonian guitarist Emilio PujoL How did that come about?
HS: I heard about Pujol from some of his students and I went to his summer course for the first time in 1970. It took place in a semirural part of Catalonia. I kept going to these courses for the next four years. They lasted three weeks and they were very intense and stimulating, and enormously pleasant as well.

PR: How did your work with the lute and Emilio Pujol fit together?
HS: I mainly studied the guitar with Pujol, but in the afternoons the classes on old music took place, and I ended up playing almost every day. Pujol was a completely different type of teacher than any I had experienced in America. In the States, studying the guitar was much more a physical experience. With Pujol, it was a whole approach to the musician as an artist. It was an approach with its roots in the 19th century, really, one that I guess he got from Tárrega and the circle of musicians around him. It has to do with the ideals of art and with the development of your artistic personality. It involved a kind of spiritual awakening and focusing on one’s motives for performing. Pujol was a unique kind of inspiration in this respect.

PR: Can you tell us a bit about what Pujol was like?
HS: In the summers, he lived in a house without electricity or running water in the countryside near Torrebesses, about an hour south of the city of Lenda where it is very dry with isolated olive groves and almond trees. The one time I visited him there, someone who lived in Torrebesses said to me, “Maestro Pujol, es un santo,” tMaestro Pujol is a saintj. We all sensed this about him and it was apparent even to those who were not musicians. There was something about Pujol that made one happy to be around him. He was an enormous inspiration for purity of sound and for using the guitar, with all of its intimacy and sensuality, for a higher musical language-almost a spiritual language. And he was of course also a wonderful and famous teacher for purely technical matters as well. One only has to have a glance at his guitar method to see this.

PR: How did Pujol respond to your vihuela playing?
HS: A most interesting and revealing thing occurred one afternoon when I played the eighth fantasy of Milan for him. After I had finished, he looked at me, smiled and said, “es como Chopin” [it was like Chopin]. Chopin was still very much the lyrical and passionate emotional ideal for him.

PR: Is Luys Milan your favorite composer of music for the vihuela?
HS: I can’t really say. When I am working on the music of one composer, I am almost always so taken in by the world of that composer that I don’t wish I was playing something else. The vihuela composers that I know best - Milan, Narváez and Mudarra, are very different from one another and each is fascinating in his own way. I have to wait a little bit with Fuenllana. Here, the vihuela achieves a real highpoint in terms of polyphonic complexity. I think that if one can make Fuenllana come to life with all the clarity and intensity with which a good choir can sing the works of Morales or Peñalosa, then it will be something quite incredible.

PR: Sometimes it seems that music for the vihuela holds a kind of second class status when compared to music for the lute...
HR: Well, by far the majority of repertoire for the vihuela is extremely serious contrapuntal music. You have hardly any of the catchy and accessible tunes and dance music that one finds all over the place, both geographically and chronologically, in the repertoire for lute, for instance. It is as though the aesthetic of the vihuela stayed in a kind of monastery, whereas the lute and the Baroque guitar flourished out in the world and have a whole other connection with society and with popular inspired traditions. Of course there are pieces, isolated examples such as the variation sets or the tenth fantasy of Mudarra, all of which are the exceptions to the basic repertoire. Certain vihuela songs have popular elements, but the Italian repertoire for the lute at the beginning of the 16th century has a greater breadth of appeal in the types of the pieces and the improvisatoiy and dance elements, which are much more accessible for a lot of people. With the exception of Milan, music for the vihuela is much more inspired by Netherlandish vocal polyphony. This doesn’t make it a ‘second class’ instru ment in any way. The repertoire has great nobility and depth.

PR: Returning to early music in general, were there other influences on you at this time besides Pujol?
HS: Two people immediately come to mind. In the early 70s I attended some courses with the countertenor Alfred Deller. His approach to sound had a profound influence on me. Of course it isn’t sound as a commodity that I mean. It is rather sensitivity to sound, its clarity and poetic dimension. He had a way of presenting the text of a song so that you had the feeling that he lived that text, the individual words, the phrases, the whole narrative element - that he lived it completely.

And of course, it was to study with Eugen Dombois that I originally came toBaselin 1973. He is another musician who had a profound influence on me. I had been listening to his recordings over and over again for years - especially the Renaissance program and the Lachrymae pavins with lute and viols. As a teacher, aside from his stylistic expertise, he really made me slow down and listen. He wanted the swdent to be perfectly balanced in everything he or she did, and the sense of harmony that he was looking for between player, instrument, and music went far beyond the field of early music. He could get a student to find time to stop and listen, even in the most complex passages, and by this method he could help a student to find real freedom in everything he or she did.

PR: The feeling that your interpretations are spontaneous is a quality that has always attracted me to your playing, but are you acting? Do you feel that musicians have to actually experience the emotions they are conveying?
HS: You know there are many different opinions about this. I am from the more old-fashioned school, the 19th century school, which believes in being completely involved on the emotional level, as well as on the technical level. You are really right there in the moment. It is about the immediacy; I don’t mean urgency because music is not always urgent, of course, but having a complete focus on even the lightest, most transparent, even frivolous detail in the music. It’s like a sculpture ofAuguste Rodin, for instance, where from one of the fingers of the hand through the whole arm, all is so perfect you think it’s the real thing. Rodin adds all kinds of details besides the general gesture and posture of the statue, of course, but it is important that everything works as part of a whole. In music we need structure, we need big lines, we need horizontality, but then we need all the little details to be in order as well. I think that immediacy is the best word for this. This is what I am looking for in my lute playing.

PR: Every gesture and nuance must add to the spirit of the whole piece...
HS: Right. I think that when we are practicing we must be something like a sculptor. We go over and over a passage, perfecting the gesture and finding just the right movement, always looking for a naturalness of expression. You asked earlier about being an actor. In a way, a musician does have to be like an actor, but an actor who can play every role. Not just a character actor who ends up always performing the same role over and over again. You have to be able to change your character very quickly and be one person at one time and with another voice [in the music] become yet another person. You have to be able to be angry, and you have to be able to be light hearted. You have to be able to be extremely earnest, and then you have to be coquettish. You have to be an actor who plays a bum one night on the stage and the next night King Lear. This kind of contrast has to be a part of your artistic vocabulary, your repertoire, so to speak, because music is about all of these things happening, even at nearly the same moment sometimes.

PR: Rhetoric and the ideals of speech were strongly associated with music for lute, especially Renaissance lute music.
HS: Of course, and the old instruments have a speaking quality. Modem instruments, such as the six-string guitar, have much more projection, a greater volume of sound, but are much harder to articulate in a speech-like way. Speaking is a more natural musical language for lutenists.

PR: There seems to be a growing number of orchestras specializing in Baroque repertoire, yet it seems that relatively few of them have a regular lutenist playing continuo. What do you think about this?
HS: More and more, baroque orchestras in Europe are aware of the importance of plucked instruments as important elements in the orchestral continuo section. The last opera that I heard was [Claudio Monteverdi’s] Poppea in Basel, and the lutenist Konrad Junghanel was directing. There was a very good harp player and three other players who alternated between lute and baroque guitar. You started to have a sense of the mass of sound, not just one lute giving a little color or playing a little counterpoint here and there, but an absolute surging of sound coming from the plucked instruments. We know from historical sources that there were often quite a few plucked instrument players in early opera orchestras. Since the future of baroque music lies in the past, I think we can all expect that this is the direction in which we are going.

PR: What would you recommend to a lutenist who has an opportunity to play continuo in an orchestra for the first time and wants to keep the job?
HS: First, the lutenist has to know the score very well and be willing to listen to the conductor. You want to encourage the conductor to listen to you as well. The more the conductor experiences the intrinsic flexibility and value of plucked instruments in the orchestra, the more he’ll be inclined to use them on a regular basis. If you’re the first lute player to play with a conductor, you can explain the different types of things that a lute does well. Lutes can be very loud if you strum them, they are very flexible in providing color and they can play the bass line very clearly. However, lutes are mostly intimate instruments. Unless you have a strong theorbo that can hold its own, and some theorboes can do it, you are a little at a disadvantage when faced with a whole orchestra’s sound in tutti passages.

PR: Can you give us a sense of what studying lute at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis is like?
HS: For the instrumental instruction at the Schola, a student will normally have one private lesson plus a continuo lesson per week. Every other week or so, we have what is called a “Klassestunde”. It’s an open lesson where all the lute students get together. We will have a theme that will be discussed or several students will play and we talk about it. Sometimes it is a dress rehearsal for a concert. We also have guests come in who will play and discuss an idea or give a master class. Toyohiko Satoh, Jakob Lindberg and Paul Beier have come. Robert Barto has come a couple of times and Victor Coelho has been here. Nigel North will do a session in the fall.

PR: I recently heard of a music conservatory in Italy that requires its lute students to perform a solo recital of Renaissance music one year and Baroque music the following year. How realistic is an approach like this?
HS: It seems a little farfetched. It’s as if the ideal of education was to teach a little something about everything. I’m much more the type who likes to go into depth, and who wants his students to go into depth, even if it means spending four months with one piece, for instance. If you really immerse yourself in~the language and the difficulties and master each individual challenge in a demanding piece, you learn much more than by skipping from one to another and not going into depth with anything. Basically, I think one should match the plan of study to the abilities and interests of the student. Some are very good at combining different instruments and styles. Others need to do one thing at atime.

PR: You often ask your students to sing the musical lines in the music they are playing, and you are very exacting that the student reproduce the dynamics, phrasing etc., accurately when they perform the same passage on the lute...
HS: Very often a student will sing a phrase with perfect shaping and articulation of the line. In my opinion, carefully analyzing the way they did this should provide a model for the way they should play. If there is one thing I ask from my students, it is not so much that they play like me, but that they learn to listen. The most important first step in a student/teacher relationship is that the student learn to hear like the teacher. If the student can do that, then so much of the path to improving their way Gf playing is made clear. You can start to hear what doesn’t work in your own playing and identify things you want to change. Getting them tuned in to their own musicality through singing is a good way to start.

PR: There is so much to keep track of when one is playing a piece on the lute.. .even a relatively easy one...
HS: It’s true. It takes a lot of time to develop your aural microscope and really hear in detail, because we are so often subjective when we are playing.

PR: Do you feel you have achieved a sense of objectivity when evaluating your own playing?
H.S. I’m working on it, but there are always things to learn.

One thing I want to mention, although you didn’t ask it specifically is how I feel we have to avoid the MBA mentality in musical education. A person with a Master of Business Administration degree would probably say that spending forty-five minutes studying and perfecting the quality of movement of one finger one centimeter on the neck of the lute is absolutely indefensible in terms of the profit it might bring. I could not disagree more. I think that working things out on a very minute scale is where we come to a real artistic depth in the quality of movement. It doesn’t mean we only work on details, but details are so important in discovering something about the way a person moves. Always, the process of learning an instrument is the process of self-discovery as well, and it’s through one step at a time that one can overcome the difficulties and challenges that are present in a difficult piece and use the experience of one piece to go on to the next.

PR: Speaking of things on a minute scale in playing, in a recent lesson you spoke to me about putting a crescendo into a note... after I plucked it...can it really be done?
H.S. Actually, there are physical things you can do with the left hand to give life to a note after you have plucked it, but normally the way to give shape to a slower moving voice is through the way that quicker notes in another voice are phrased as they “listen” to that slower voice. This is a technique in playing polyphony on a plucked instrument that gives the impression of some of the expressive power one can have with the sung voice.

In other words, you suggest it. One would think that the organ would be the best instrument to perform polyphony because you can sustain everything, and that the lute would be the worst, because nothing can sustain. But, I think it’s just the opposite, -the organ is the worst instrument to play polyphony and the lute is the best. This is because with the lute one can really give life to every voice - one can breathe, adding a whole suggestive dimension to polyphony that is extremely difficult to do on the organ.

PR: Regarding objectivity, many lute players in the United States don’t have the opportunity to study with a teacher. Getting an informed and objective view of their playing is really not possible. What would you recommend to such a lutenist?
HS: It is difficult to say. Teaching is not just giving fingerings for sixty minutes every week. Sometimes it’s really accompanying a student on many aspects of life that are related to studying the instrument.

PR: So, what fundamental advice would you give to a person who has a genuine interest in developing to a high level of playing, but has no teacher to help?
HS: First of all, they should sing all the time. They should sing in a good choir that does Renaissance polyphony. That’s such a wonderful enriching experience and was the type of experience that inspired so much Renaissance lute music. Of course, having a good teacher can save you a lot of time, because you don’t have to figure everything out for yourself, and you can profit from the teacher’s experience. But if you don’t have one it would be important to play a lot, sing a lot and listen a lot. Try to hear your own playing in the context of other musical instruments and concentrate on music from the time you are interested in. Another thing that is very important is that one should have an idea of the musical gesture of the passage he or she is playing. Almost always, we should be trying to reflect this musical gesture of what we are playing with a physical gesture on the instrument.

PR: Sometimes when I ask a student to invest more of themselves emotionally into their playing, the music will fall to pieces as the student’s focus is overwhelmed. What is the real problem here?
HS: It is a question of technique. You have to practice and practice and practice to get your movements under control in a more emotionally charged situation. But it is also a matter of controlling your emotions and your expression of them with the hands. You might be the most compelling Hamlet in the world, but if it’s so compelling that you lose yourself and forget your lines...it’s no good. You have to go over and over your part, developing your character, saying the lines in the forceful way so that it really has the impact that you want. Still, things can happen in a concert. We have to be prepared for the worst possible situation, not necessarily the best! We work and work, so that if we are at our emotional limits we can maintain enough control to play well and enjoy what we’re doing.

PR: How long have you been teaching at the Schola Cantorum here in Basel?
HS: I think it’s almost thirty years now. They gave me a bottle of champagne after my twenty-fifth year and that was some time ago - I’ve forgotten - so thirty years can’t be far off. Its worth it -they only start to give you champagne after twenty years...

PR: Looking back over the last ten years, how do you see your approach as a lute teacher changing?
HS: That’s a very good question. When I was younger, I used to be a little more forceful. Having children of my own helped me to find more patience with my students. I try to guide them and listen much more to what they have to say themselves rather than trying to impose a solution on them. When I began to teach lute, it used to be gratifying for me to give a solution to the student right away and have them say thank you. Now, I tend much more to ask a question of the student and have them figure it out for themselves, which I think is pedagogically a more interesting approach. I don’t think the students are any less successful in achieving their goals than when I began to teach, but it almost always takes place on a more human plane of interaction. You could sum it up this way: when I began to teach, I thought the most important thing was to teach music. Now I think the most important thing is to teach people! I am still demanding, but I see it more in the context of the person. I try to help my students see for themselves what they have to get done and the direction in which they need to develop.

PR: But what if a student just doesn’t catch on, or your words of advice go unheeded?
HS: Of course, the challenge for the teacher is to find just the right words that a student can understand. You can describe everything with the best of images and the clearest language, but if the student doesn’t understand it as you do, it won’t help at all. Many times I have had a past student come up to me and say, “Oh, now I finally understand what you were talking about.” That is perfectly good, but what you want to do is to find the way for a student now, in the moment of the lesson, to understand the thing, and not some years later. This is a challenge.

PR: The number of really fine lute players that have graduated from the Schola are living proof that you are a gifted teacher, yet you haven’t taught at an ISA Summer Seminar in many years. Is there any way to get you to come? Any reason you haven’t come?
HS: I have been invited several times to come and teach, and they must think I am a terrible snob, because I have never been able to accept. One reason is that the LSA Seminar regularly takes place at end of June and the beginning of July, which is quite a busy time for music festivals here in Europe. As you might imagine, it is more gratifying for me as a player to be invited to perform at a festival and do what I most love to do, which is play the lute. I would love to teach sometime in the States. Still, one of the reasons I am glad to live in Europe is that the concert life, including the early music concert life, is so much more deeply established. It is not a kind of appendage to normal life, it’s a necessity. Of course, as you know, culture is not in the library, and it’s not in the museum or in the architecture; rather, culture is in the people. Here, there is a somewhat different attitude towards art and, in a certain sense, toward life.

PR: How would you sum up your projects of the last few years, and what about your future plans? What projects are calling out toyou?
HS: For the Bach year, 2000, I recorded the Bach sonatas and partitas for violin. In the ten previous years, I had concentrated on the Baroque lute, putting a new sonata or partita into my concert program from time to time. I did a third Weiss recording and one of Baroque concertos for lute. Around the middle of 2001 I came back to the Renaissance lute. My first project was devoted to Pierre Attaingnant’s publications of 1529 and 1530. Everybody knows a few pieces from Attaingnant, and usually they’re the same pieces, but I was interested in going a little more in depth into the repertoire. I feel that a lot of the versions we have in the Attaingnant prints are unsatisfactory. I tried to approach the project in the context of what I considered to be the creativity of the period, and I rewrote half the pieces that I ended up recording. Musically, Paris during the 1520s was a very interesting place. The whole spirit of music-making was a little naive perhaps, and a bit nostalgic, and this led to a very special mood in much of the lute music. So, I spent a year working on this repertoire also to see how it was to play the Renaissance lute again. It was a way to redefine myself as a Renaissance lutenist as well.

PR: Now you’re touring a concert of music by John Dowland. I recently had the chance to hear your program in Turin, Italy. The multiple shades of emotion and expressivity you put into it, even into Dowland’s lighter pieces, made his music seem new to me.
HS: I have a hunch that the Dowland of the songs and the Lachrimae Pavans and the Dowland who wrote the texts for many for his own songs, was one and the same as Dowland the lute player and lute composer. For instance, in the shaping of his lighter pieces, I am trying to find all the nuances and subtleties of gesture that a singer might bring to the lines. I am slowly making some headway and having quite a rewarding time doing it. I will be making a recording of Dowland’s music in July [2004]. Next year I will be doing some concerts of Italian Renaissance music, including [Vincenzo] Capirola and Francesco da Milano. Maybe there will be a recording at some time, but I don’t have anything planned at the moment.

PR: Do you have anything you feel should be mentioned to those learning to play the lute?
HS: Well, I think that sometimes there is an oversimplification in what is involved in lute playing. I think the lute is no less expressive than the violin. Think how much time people spend learning to play the violin. The violin bow goes up and down just as a Renaissance lutenist’s arm goes up and down, but there are many nuances necessary to master expression with the bow and different ways of manipulating the bow to get the broadest results from the instrument. It is the same with the fingers and the arm of the lutenist. In order to have an expressive vocabulary as rich as one’s imagination, one must consider many details. Where the weight of the hand is at any moment, how independent the joints of the fingers are, or how unified they are, these are all closely related to musical questions as well. What is the objective you want to achieve musically and how does one achieve it? It is extraordinarily complex.

PR: It’s hard for beginners to appreciate the enormous complexity involved in playing the lute, but when they have a good spirit and natural musicality...
HS: Of course, enjoying the lute is the main thing; the lute speaks to the soul - that is why we all play it. If you’re teaching someone who does not have a lot of musical experience, you try to make them feel good about their playing and show them a couple of things along the way. You want to encourage their native ability, and you want them to get a lot from the lute without losing the fun.

PR: Thanks so much for your time, Hoppy.

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