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Peter Van Heyghen

Ph credits Luc Verhelst

Where were you born?

Bruges, Belgium.

Where do you live?

Antwerp, Belgium.

Why did you start playing music?

Innocently, as just one of a number of youthful hobbies.

What is your favourite instrument?

Soprano saxophone, cornetto, duduk: all wind instruments that have the potential to stir the soul.

What music did you listen to as a child?

Classical music (my father was an opera fan, and my mother played the piano) and what is now called world music, especially Peruvian and Bolivian.

What was your first record?

A record with Vivaldi concertos (for cello, flautino, violin, and strings)

What musical period would you like to live in?

Now! Because we now have access to so many different kinds of music

Where do you prefer to listen to music?

In the kitchen, in the car, in my working space, …

Where can we find you when you are not making music?

At home, cooking or reading, and (not often enough): in nature, hiking.

Where did you study?

Ghent and Bologna.

What awards have you received?

An award for professional excellence by my former secondary school, a Cecilia prize for one of the recordings I conducted, …

Who is your favourite composer?

Very difficult to say, because my preferences change periodically. But if I were forced to take only one composer to an uninhabited island at this very moment, I think it would be Nicolas Gombert.

Which composer would you like the public to rediscover?

At this moment (because that too changes periodically): one of the Italian composers of the classical period, who now live in the shadow of the great Viennese trio Haydn- Mozart-Beethoven: Niccolò Piccinni, Giuseppe Sarti, Antonio Sacchini, Gian Franceso De Majo, or Luigi Borghi.

What is your first recording?

The first ‘serious’ recording I was involved in as a first-year conservatory student, was Rameau’s Zoroastre (1983) conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken. I was merely a choir singer, but this recording session which enabled me to get very close to many of the Early Music pioneers in the Low Countries left a lasting impression.

What is your favourite recording? (Passacaglia, with you)

Niccolò Jommelli’s Requiem & Miserere.

What is your favourite Passacaille recording? (Passacaille, other artist)

I sincerely don’t know; I haven’t heard half of them, and there are so many good ones!

Who do you dream of recording with? (realistic or not)

With any of today’s great younger musicians, I haven’t met yet.

Which piece have you never recorded but would like to?

Haydn’s Schöpfung or Gluck’s Orfeo.

What do you do before a concert?

I am strolling backstage, mentally preparing for the task ahead.

What do you do after a concert?

Having a drink.

What would you do if you were not a musician?

I would probably be a historian (and I would also teach, as I do now)

Anything important to add?

History is a grab bag of all possible human behaviour and expression. Playing historical music in a culturally informed way presents plentiful occasions to actively empathize with a number of these different expressions, all of them with the potential to sensory, emotionally, and intellectually enrich us, to open up our minds, and to protect us against too much uniformity and complacency towards the greatness of our own time and place.