Paul Taub: Interview
Cornish College of the Arts faculty and flutist, Paul Taub, will be joining Philharmonia Northwest Sunday, October 12th to perform Peteris Vasks’s Flute Concerto. We had a moment to touch base with Paul and get his thoughts on music, Northern Europe and, of course, his favorite Seattle spots.
I started the flute at age 9, but the reason is a bit of a mystery to me. I was always drawn to the instrument, despite the piano and guitar that I had my first music lessons on as a very young child.
When I was in college in the early 1970s, in addition to my wonderful flute teacher, I had professors who were composers, gamelan builders, improvisers, jazz musicians…we had a teacher/student new music group that did some pretty wild stuff. That was my introduction to contemporary music. I then went to the California Institute of the Arts for my masters degree, and played in the new music ensemble. And my first years at Cornish in Seattle, in the early 1980s, were a continuation of that formative period for me. We had a wonderful ensemble called the New Performance Group that worked with John Cage and many, many other composers.
I was always interested in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe because of my family background and my interest in politics. In the late 1980s, I realized that most people – myself included – knew practically nothing about the contemporary music of that region except for a few famous names like Shostakovich and Arvo Part. I was interested in developing repertoire that I would be a “specialist” in, and that was the start of it. I gave a concert for the Goodwill Arts Festival in 1989 of all of my best discoveries, and that included the first solo flute piece written by Peteris Vasks, Landscape With Birds. I was lucky to meet Vasks both in Seattle in 1991when he was here meeting a cousin, and then years later in Riga when I was on tour with the Seattle Chamber Players. Walking around with him in downtown Riga was a wonderful experience. It seemed that everyone knew him. Everyone greeted him in Latvian, of course, but I am sure they were saying things like “your music means so much to me” and “What a wonderful cultural ambassador to the world you are for us Latvians.” It must’ve been like that when Leonard Bernstein walked around the Upper West Side… Vasks really is a major international figure in the world of music!
It was written in 2007 for the German flutist Michael Faust. There are three movements, slow – fast – slow. The outer movements are extremely expressive with arching modal lines that are very eloquent and singable.The fast movement, however, is titled “quasi una burlesca” and as limpid and flowing as the slow movements are, the burlesque is animated, biting and sarcastic. The piece has wonderful orchestration with fantastic colors, using doubled winds and brass, harp, three percussion, and in the fast movement, a harpsichord! And Vasks writes extremely well for the flute, with some extended technique in the second movement such as slap tonguing and simultaneous singing and playing.
As much as I love walking to the many adjacent neighborhoods to where I live with fabulous restaurants – Capitol Hill, Madrona, Madison Valley, Capitol Hill, downtown… – the place I most enjoy eating is in my own backyard on a warm summer evening. And my favorite spot for outdoors is either in my garden or on the seat of my bike exploring the city.
To learn more about this concert’s composers, visit our interactive map here!