Harmonia Early Music

Great Musicians Series: Han Tol

This week we speak with Dutch recorder virtuoso Han Tol. Plus, a new release of music by François Couperin.

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Photo: Benjamin Krieg

The Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble, directed by Han Tol in the 2004 Carus label release "Perpetuum Mobile."

Dutch virtuoso and director Han Tol has been playing the recorder nearly his whole life.  What began at the age of five developed into a professional career that has taken him all over the world as a noted performer and teacher.  He has been a member of the Flanders Recorder Quartet, as well as a founder of La Dada and La Fontegara Amsterdam, with whom he’s explored the vast recorder repertoire.

Today, Han continues his busy schedule with stop after stop on both sides of the Atlantic.

Han was in our studios recently and reminisced about the recordings he’s made throughout his career.  In particular, he mentioned being especially fond of one all-Telemann CD, a collaboration with the Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble, where he was asked not only to perform, but to direct, as well.  The recording included several pieces of previously unpublished music.

“I had been working for many years with a very exciting ensemble in Germany—the Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble—with an old colleague and friend, Thomas Hengelbrock. [He's] actually the founder of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.  They asked me at a certain point if I would be interested to do a project on small vocal and instrumental pieces—chamber music of Telemann, part of which [included] three newly discovered cantatas that had not been published and had not been recorded before.  Another part was the “Perpetuum Mobile Suite that had also never been recorded. ”

A long-time faculty member of the German music conservatory in Bremen, Han has taught many musicians.  This has given him a unique perspective which he’s translated into a very personal philosophy about teaching:

“In 1986 I was not as experienced as I am now, so my way of dealing with students has changed.  It’s a combination of things that have developed, and that have become settled.  Frankly, I must say I have never been as happy teaching as I [am] now.  I don’t know if it’s [because] I’ve mastered the art of teaching, [but] I know how to deal with students.  I think I understand that my role is to make myself unnecessary, to make [my] students independent and give them as much material as possible, and to give them the vocabulary.”

Han spends quite a bit of time during the year in the U.S.  He can be found teaching all over the country at many music workshops.  And after dozens upon dozens taught, he continues to be impressed by a certain type of keen amateur found only in America:

“I teach courses organized by the American recorder society, and I must say it is always to exciting to see that the pupils I teach are very mixed.  Some of them are students at universities, others are much older, often amateurs that are so incredibly dedicated and very educated.  I find that fantastic.  We don’t have that in Europe.  I feel this enthusiasm for the recorder.  People at an older age being able to learn an instrument like that, then play ensemble music and learn to know this incredible recorder consort repertoire.  I find that there is something fantastic in American society—it is that you’re never too old to learn.”

Our new recording of the week features the viola da gamba music of François Couperin.  A trio of Finnish musicians (Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, Aapo Hakkinen, Miko Perkola) is led by soloist Markku Luolajan-Mikkola.  Released on the Avie label, two different collections from Couperin’s chamber repertoire are highlighted in energetic readings.

Music Heard On This Episode

Georg Philipp Telemann: From Cantata Hier ist mein geliebter Jesu, TVWV 1:795
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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Georg Philipp Telemann: From Cantata Hier ist mein geliebter Jesu, TVWV 1:795
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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Georg Philipp Telemann: Quartett in A minor, TWV 43:a3
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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From Ouverture “Perpetuum mobile” in D major, TWV 55:D12
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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Georg Philipp Telemann: From Cantata Weiche, Lust und Fröhlichkeit, TVWV 1:1536
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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Georg Philipp Telemann: From Cantata Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zom, Psalm 6, TVWV 7:2
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble (Han Tol, dir.) — Perpetuum mobile (Carus , 2004)
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François Couperin: Piece de Violes avec la Basse Chifree Mr.F.C. 1728: 1eme Suite
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola and Mikko Perkola, violas da gamba, Aapo Hakkinen, harpsichord — Pieces de Violes: François Couperin (AV, 2007)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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