'You cannot have too much fandango'

By Phil Brown, Arts Editor, The Courier-Mail

Delayed gratification is sometimes the best kind. Which is why this Musica Viva Australia tour – Karin Schaupp & Flinders Quartet - will be such a treat a year after it was initially meant to run. Brisbane-based Karin Schaupp is one of the most outstanding guitarists on the international scene and she performs widely on the international stage as a recitalist, concert soloist and festival guest. She has a unique stage presence, a natural charm and vivacity and undeniable passion for the instrument. 

And she’s not shy about sharing the secrets of her success with her students at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. Her PhD – Moved to Tears: An Exploration of How Acting Techniques Can Transform Classical Instrumental Music Performance - is sure to become a classic reference for musicians and she is an inspiration to her students. The performative aspect is something that has been neglected, Schaupp says, particularly in the classical music world and it is her mission to change that by teaching … and performing. 

Flinders Quartet is one of Australia’s most loved chamber music ensembles. Schaupp and Flinders Quartet are old friends having performed and recorded together before albeit it with an earlier iteration of the group featuring two of the current retinue. The 2011 release on ABC Classic label of Fandango was nominated for an ARIA Award and is a collaboration between Schaupp and Flinders Quartet. It featured Boccherini’s Guitar Quartet Fandango and two movements from that work will finish this concert program with a flourish.  

'You cannot have too much fandango,' Schaupp says. 'I cannot count how many times I have played that piece and it has a real treat in store with Zoe Knighton playing the castanets. We need castanets.' 

The tour may be a year later than planned due to the pandemic but as founding Flinders Quartet member Zoe Knighton points out, that has given the musicians time to work with Paul Kildea and the Musica Viva team to create something special.  

'This program has taken the longest time to curate of anything we have done,” Knighton says. “Everyone wanted to get it just right and we took a number of paths before we settled on what we now have. It’s nice that Fandango is included because that’s the piece that brought Karin Schaupp and Flinders Quartet together. So, it’s a logical inclusion but in the first iteration of the program it wasn’t there. Is it too obvious? We asked ourselves that question. But we are playing it because we want to play it and we just love doing it.' 

Knighton says she had hoped the tour could have happened in 2022 but she’s thrilled it’s finally happening, a tad later than expected. That may not be such a bad thing. 'To embark on a national tour straight out of lockdown would have been a shock. Now we have our concert rhythm back and we are well and truly looking forward to it.'

Schaupp is happy to be 'going on the road with old friends again'. The extra time has benefited the program: 'It’s so important to have the right balance,' she says. 'Each piece can be wonderful but sometimes things don’t go together. But in this case they do.'

She describes the opening piece, Carulli’s Guitar Concerto in A Major, Op. 8 as 'a delicate piece that works really well with the quartet'. 'I first played it with the St Lucia Orchestra in Brisbane in my early teens and haven’t come back to it that often. It’s very charming.'

While each piece has its own resonance for all the musicians Karin Schaupp says she is particularly looking forward to playing Carl Vine’s Endless for Guitar and String Quartet. This is the centrepiece of the concert and Vine is a revered Australian composer and former Musica Viva Artistic Director. In 2019 when Paul Kildea took over the role he asked his predecessor to create a new work, commissioned by a longstanding audience member wishing to immortalise the joyous memory of her late daughter. Schaupp will be joined on stage by Flinders Quartet to premiere this celebration of life and music. It will be a particularly poignant performance and one that Karin Schaupp describes as 'a privilege'. 

'Playing a Carl Vine composition for the guitar has been on my bucket list for a while,' she says. 'I have approached him many times but the guitar is very idiomatic and a unique thing to take on if you don’t play it. Carl is an incredible composer and a fastidious researcher and he really wanted to understand the guitar. He has written for it beautifully and I want to do the music and the subject justice and it will be emotional but I hope it is cathartic as well.'

Knighton says being the first musicians to play this new work will be a career highlight. 'It’s a gift and a responsibility. This program began with this new work as the nucleus. It’s not an add-on, it is the reason for being. The other pieces were chosen aesthetically to set up the Vine.' 

To be performing it with Karin Schaupp is extra special. Knighton describes her as “pretty much a superstar” and the pair have been friends for more than a decade. To be working together again is a treat for them and audiences in each of the cities they will be visiting. 

Don't miss Karin Schaupp and Flinders Quartet's national tour between 18 February to 9 March 2023. Tickets are available here.