Praised for his musicianship and virtuosity alike, Israeli guitar virtuoso Daniel Schatz has been heard on many stages across Europe, South America, and Israel. Fortunately for Six String Journal readers, Daniel took some time this weekend to share some of his thoughts on guitar and to chat about his musical journey so far. Enjoy!
When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?
I started to play at the age of 10 or so. My father had an old twelve-string guitar stashed away and I was always drawn to it when he wasn’t at home. One day he showed me some chords on that guitar, I remember it was very, very hard due to the double-coursed steel strings. I guess we didn’t have computer games back then…
What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?
Bach is my bread and water, I play at least one suit every day.
What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?
I play on a 2009 Karl-Heinz Römmich in concerts. As for strings, I use what works to my opinion the best for that guitar, which is for basses – Augustine blue, second and third strings – Savarez alliance, and first string – Augustine regal.
Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?
From a guitar prospective I guess I always come back to the holy trinity of guitarists: Segovia, Bream, and Williams. But I rarely listen to guitarist. As musicians go I have to say Glenn Gould, Andras Schiff, and Emil Gilels on piano. Pieter Wispelwey on cello, Gidon Kremer on violin, and Tabea Zimmermann on viola are for me always an inspiration.
If you have recordings, which recording/s are you most proud of? If not, are you planning to record a cd?
I don’t see the economic viability of CD’s. Many of my friends have recorded for some labels, they don’t get nothing for their hard work. Some of them recorded on their own equity and paid the label to distribute the CD with no revenue. I find this to be very strange and don’t see me taking a apart of it.
Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?
I love the sound of Carles Trepat’s recordings on an old Torres with gut-strings.
What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?
I have three projects coming up. The first is an homage to the Segovian repertoire with a modern take on the arrangements, the second is a project with string players of the Israeli Philharmonie, and the third is a project with a wonderful soprano and cellist. in between I have some wonderful projects with a piano player and the Aranjuez with orchestra.
Technique and Performance
How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?
I have two children and many students, so I practice when they are away, which is mostly at the morning time. I try to play every Bach day. It keeps my memory and technique fit. After that I practice the program for the oncoming concert and read new pieces.
Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?
Technically guitar is very hard, I think the hardest thing is to see through the technique and find a musical concept. I see more and more young players falling into those technical perfection traps and I try myself to avoid them as best as I can.
Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?
1.Practice slowly 2. Practice slowly 3. Practice slowly.
Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?
I don’t have plans to do this soon since I have much on my plate, but one day I hope to get to it.
Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?
BWV997 fugue slowly.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals?
I try not to have a big lunch on that day and I play trough very slow and pianissimo to get the feel of the guitar and relax my hands
Do you do anything to your nails or shape them in a particular way?
It is very different from one person to the other. I try to have them as short as possible for me (which will be very long for someone else). Any length more than 2mm above the skin and I get a “naily” sound.
Advice to Younger Players
What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?
Play a piece that you like. If you really like the piece you would gladly spend more time to make it sound good.
What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?
I think that every guitarist should go through the pieces that got the guitar to the place it is now. The Segovia/Williams program is our “school”. I find it somewhat strange that students play Britten or Ohana but not Asturias or Recuerdos.
Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?
Villa Lobos with Alvaro Pierri. Pierri is coming to this music armed with amazing imagination rather than with dexterity (of which he is not lacking in any way).
What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?
Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation is the last one I read. I think Bulgakov is maybe my favorite.
Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food?
I try not to eat excessively, I try to exercise, but I find the hardest part is to put the sneakers on. I love local fresh Mediterranean food but before concerts salads are always a good choice.
Do you meditate in any way?
No, but I love to think about things in silence.
What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?
Playing with my kids is a lot of fun.
Any things else you’d like to add?
I hope guitarist will start acknowledging that they are a part of a big musical community and work their way up the ladder in the music world in the same way Segovia did many decades ago, instead of working inwards in the guitar world.