Interview & Facts
Interview and backgrounds: the poetry oft he moment
Frequently asked questions 2021. Answers, notes & news
“The organ is like me” and “Performing music is my kind of sports”
Ann-Helena: Your stage name is your first name. And AHS. You are very talented and versatile on a professional level. How do you manage everything?
Since I am not only a concert pianist but also a concert organist, my life has become even more intense and full with music. And keyboard instruments belong together for me, even in their diversity. In this respect, Johann Sebastian Bach is my role model, who could play all keyboard instruments virtuously, wonderfully and professionally. Today we live in a time when most people only know how to play one instrument professionally. But in the past it was much more “normal” to be versatile and to play piano, organ, clavichord to the highest standard. Basically, this is just a question of time, talent, passion, interest, love and diligence. It is always about music, not about the instrument. Playing the organ inspires piano playing and broadens the artistic horizon. I would never want to miss the organ again. But my pianistic skills also influence my organ playing and vice versa, and playing the clavichord continues to be an important level for de touche, for tranquility, depth. For me, these instruments are a unity that inspire each other to peak performance. You need excellent coaches and supervisors, who work with you regularly, and I have those. I was always fascinated by the piano and the organ, but also the clavichord and the harpsichord. The fact that I tend to be a fast person, full of energy, lively, eager to travel, inquisitive, outgoing and strong-willed has helped me get this far with various instruments. To live with several instruments.
My motivation? Well, I love performing, making high-quality recordings (CDs and videos) and touching people with music. Thank you for all the supporters of my art!
You also have an artist age?
Yes, that was my idea. I look young, am photogenic, spontaneous, unlike the most. I regard that as a Swedish gift and top genes. Especially because there is great discrimination regarding the age (participation at competitions, et cetera) – especially when women are concerned; and because many men are extremely curious how old I am. My artist age will forever remain 14th February 1986.
Since when are you a concert pianist?
I have been playing the piano since I was three years old. Since that time, I have always felt the need to make music and to express myself artistically with my own poems and melodies, my own compositions. I cannot imagine a life without music and literature. I believe that we as artists need to bring beauty back into this world, especially now in times of crises and pandemics. I had the great privilege of growing up in a family of pianists, in a family of soloists. I am grateful for that. For me, this identity is normal. Most people cannot imagine the life of professional musicians and pianists. I was supposed to become a pianist, I became an artist: Books, poetry collections, sheet music, CDs…
Piano and orchestral music were part of life ever since my childhood. I only realized in primary school that not every child plays the piano or the violin. I started playing the piano at the age of three. In parallel to music grammar school, I then began studying at the Würzburg conservatory and attended artistic competitions every year since I was five. It wasn’t until I was studying in my first semesters at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne that I thought about it for the first time: Is this really what you want? Make a living from art? Be a soloist? Or do others want it? What will it be like to live as a solo concert musician; that is even more than being a professional musician, this is a competitive sport. Nevertheless, I decided to become a soloist – regardless of my parents. I had to find my own yes for my vocation and career, to my personality. And this goes much further than just the piano: literature, poetry, the organ, prose, composing, songwriting and painting. Performing at concerts is my passion. I studied music and artistic piano up to the concert exam master class diploma, at home and abroad – at the universities of Cologne, Detmold, Würzburg, Phoenix, Arizona (USA) and Perth (Australia).
My father has recorded my recitals, concerts and lessons since I was a child. That is where my passion for recording CDs, releasing videos comes from. I love and enjoy being a recording artist. I have been giving concerts worldwide since 2010.
Since when are you a concert organist?
Since 2018, when I started studying concert organ, first at the HfMDK Frankfurt am Main, then HfM Würzburg and HfK Heidelberg, then HfMT Hamburg. But since 2014 I have also played many organ concerts, mostly Bach’s Kunst der Fuge (Art of the Fugue). In 2016, I took the C certificate just for fun, to learn chorale accompaniment.
My earliest memories are related to piano music, orchestral and organ music. My encounters with Leipzig and Bach made my longing for the organ a certainty and I wanted to become an excellent organist. Despite the very strong male domination.
Already as a child, I composed my own pieces, lyrics and songs. Everything originates in my heart. That is why I started composing for the organ right away. What touches and moves me, continues to develop into melodies and stories. I have the most beautiful vocation I can imagine. I travel a lot, give concerts and play organs that stand for history, beauty, for the respective mentality, for humanity, craftsmanship and faith. I play the most beautiful music on the most beautiful organs and instruments in the world. What more could one wish for? The different facets of the organs reflect my own diverse facets. I feel great understanding through the organ in its majesty, femininity and grandeur – and simultaneous delicacy and vulnerability. The organ is like me: bridge and pioneer. It carries my embers and inner volcano on smooth, powerful wings.
Have you got multitasking abilities?
Oh yes, a lot.
You yourself are a company. How do you manage this?
It certainly doesn’t work without a wonderful team in the background and agencies etc.! After all, it is not just about the art, it is also about fees, the organization, negotiations, decisions, networking, publicity, social media, finances, contracts, travel, press, life design – it is a process, a worldview, hard work, a miracle.
But love and music need to breathe. The big picture of art does not avoid risks. Diversity is not only my working language, but my heart language. Many artists of previous centuries were not one-sidedly professional, but artistically active in many ways: painting, drawing, literature, Mendelssohn and Wagner for example… Music is language, literature. Sounds are words and colours.
To relax, I like to lie in the hammock or in the bathtub.
When was your first stage performance?
My first stage appearance was at the age of 5 in Nuremberg at the Jugend Musiziert prize-winners’ concert. I can’t remember it. I still have the certificate. Then my first solo recital at the age of 9. I played as a soloist with an orchestra for the first time at the age of 11 (at the Nuremberg Opera House). I didn’t study the organ until 2018, by which time I had long since finished my artistic studies with the subject concert exam piano. Within a year, I completed my very good first organ degree with a grade of 1, then the even better second with an overall grade of 1.0.
You graduated with outstanding marks in the concert subject piano and organ. Which are your favourite composers?
Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach. then Liszt, Haydn, Lili Boulanger, Claire Delbos, Jeanne Demessieux, Jeanne Joulain, Beethoven, Buxtehude, Bruhns, Pachelbel, Brahms, Muffat, Sofia Gubaidulina and Tschaikowski. And Schubert! Also Clara, Chopin, (Schumann) and Messiaen. (Und Mozart)
As far as modern music is concerned, I like Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy.
But life is space, no home stretch.
Which are your favorite authors and role models?
Presently, among others Selma Lagerlöf, Undine Gruenter, Paul Gerhardt, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Astrid Lindgren, Marie Curie, Francine Rivers, Ingeborg Bachmann, Jochen Klepper, Andreas Werckmeister, Greta Thunberg, Martin Luther, Leo Tolstoi, Tomas Tranströmer, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Johannes (Johannes-Evangelium) and my father Karl-Heinz Schlüter.
We are living in a money culture. Women (still) have to be ‘more humble’. It is very hard to find female role models. So I like to be a pioneer.
How long do you practice per day?
4-5 hours. As a child, I was dreamy and exercised much less than my sisters, preferring to dream. But since I’ve grown up, I love to practise. Exercising is my retreat from the world and the encounter with beauty, with God, with me, and my refuge. I practise between 4-6 hours a day. I like to touch people with concerts, CDs, videos, sheet music and books.
What are the crucial differences between piano and organ for you?
I love the micro-changes in the strike and in the arrival of the tone in the organ, the focal points through active and non-active playing (if there is non-active playing at all). And that trills develop. On the grand piano, one note usually never sounds like the other, because the impetus solves this wonderfully “by itself”. On the organ, however, one must actively and cleverly ensure that no eighth note sounds like the other, that the focuses are always set, precisely, not at will, pointedly, without “bumps” and imbalances. On the grand piano, much is instinctively solved according to sound, but on the organ, it is not only done with inspiration and instinctive musicality, but in a defined, controlled way. What sounds good on the piano “by itself” can sound frighteningly strange on the organ, no matter how well you mean it. On the organ, for example, pianistic density and over legato often sound inarticulate – so you have to be able to separate the tonal languages exactly for yourself. These are all wonderful tonal challenges.
I like teaching, but at the moment I’m not a university lecturer, I’m studying the organ.
You are also a composer, a poet and a book author. Since when?
I have been writing poems since I was 8 years old. Now I write them on my travels and at the piano or at the organ. The words become music, inspire, and can encourage you to reflect and dream. I am happy that I have won so many literary competitions until 2021. My first book of poetry was published in 2014, my first novel in 2018.
Composing, on the other hand, is an important responsibility for me, as there are far too few women who take up this challenge in this awkward male domain. I work with wonderful publishers. I have been composing since I was a child.
The arrival of the tone sings.
Word boundaries broken
What is ‚classical music‘ for you?
The fragrance of sounds. For me, so-called “classical music” is eternal music, always in search of beauty and perfection in melody, proportion, frame and form, sometimes elegant, noble, sometimes powerful or smiling, sometimes serious and painful, sometimes sweet, innocent, then again full of rage, fire and storm, sometimes longing, but always precise, artfully and exactly put down in notes and in accordance as opposed to songs, jazz, pop… You can also say E-music, even if this is a strange term for me, or art music.
Which instrument do you play at home?
The most beautiful grand piano in the world: a new brilliant Steinway B (chosen in Hamburg in 2016). And a Hauptwerk organ with beautiful sounds (Os-Organum Hessen, 2019). In addition, my beautiful loan instrument Clavichord Zander 2010 from the Sozietät Stuttgart and a harpsichord from Ulm, plus a spinet. I also own a Martin guitar, soprano and tenor saxophones and a C melody. These are lying under my grand piano. (And then I have a Yamaha stage piano and two alto flutes).
What are your favorite sweets and mood-lifters?
Toffifee, ginger tea, latte macchiato, animals (especially wild animals and horses, dogs, cats, birds, migratory birds), cuddly toys, sun, sea, a warm bed, reading, time, fragrances, sauna. And especially talking with god.
Which sounds do you dislike?
I hate noise, I do not like if someone sitting next to me in the ICE eats a carrot loudly. Aren’t there any other foods you can eat in the train? I do not like crackling noises in general, also radio music or horns, freight trains, ambulances, motor bikes …
What fascinates you about Bach‘s music?
His devotion, patience, humbleness, comfort and feeling and his Soli Deo Gloria. And the dramatics and tenderness in his music within wisdom and framework. His music is exaggerated, adds by means of music how the Bible describes love: gentle, never giving up, never puffing up, enduring all, believing all. Soli Deo Gloria.
What kind of car do you drive?
A dark blue Beetle called Drop. However, I am not a long-distance driver, I prefer to take the ICE. Sometimes I live in an ICE because of my concert trips. It’s more comfortable (even though everyone grumbles about Deutsche Bahn, I don’t; how could I get to the concerts without the train? Domestic flights should be banned because of climate pollution). Besides, I have a motorbike license. In Cologne, I used to ride a big orange Vespa with a sunflower on the fender while I was studying. I miss it. Instead of riding a Vespa, I ride a horse. Sometimes. I love animals, especially dogs and horses. But because of my journeys, I can’t have my own animals any more (when I was a kid we had rabbits for a while, canaries, then I had guinea pigs). Besides running, riding is my sport. But mostly the only sport I do is music.
A talent rarely come along alone. You have an extraordinary composition of talents.
In music, poetry, colours and all poetic art are linked to each other. It is one for me.
It is the mixture that touches and fascinates people, opens horizons, breaks through borders and walls. For me, it is about creating something new, living out art, enjoying musicality in all its facets. Freedom and art belong together for me, and the world and the universe are not only vibration, but also soundscapes and resonance, i.e. instruments. I feel very much drawn to music as well as to literature. It’s not always easy to focus completely on the concert activity and the art and not get confused, and to always want to learn more, plus everything around it: marketing, organisation, acquisition, sales, business, artistic decisions. But I trust in God. He has guided me very well up to this point.
Already as a child, I composed and wrote poetry, searching for my own means of expression. I write composition, and also songs. I am classically trained, come from a family of pianists and I love Bach. It seems that artistic people are always longing, always searching, and in a way that’s true, because when I reach out, discover a new idea, a new song, a new image inside me, the next door is already opening. I take this risk of constant inspiration. Jazz studies in piano, saxophone, singing, guitar, improvisation didactics, music education (Prof. Metzger, Prof. Henning) have inspired me. Composing, improvising and writing are important to me. I love to play different styles, to build a bridge so that young people come into contact with classical music, but to also reach older audiences with new compositions, improvisations and songs.
What do you like to do besides art?
Friends, people. I like riding, running, reading, lying in a hammock or in the bathtub. I used to enjoy leading youth camps, for example Bostrak/Norway, children’s staff training B-courses Solingen GJW, extracurricular projects in Eastern Europe and concerts with people at risk, for example in the Gefährdetenhilfe Haus Kreckersweg Cologne. Today I touch people with concerts and books.
- Start Piano Playing: Age 3 (born into a pianist family)
- University of Music Würzburg: age 16
- Professional Instruments: Piano and Organ
- First Piano Competition: Age 5
- Start Writing Poems: Age 8
- First Full Recital: Age 9
- First Public Orchester Concert: Age 16
- First 1. Literature Prize: Age 16
- First Published Prosa and Poetry: Age 16
- Total Recitals Played: at least 1500
- Start studying Organ: 2018
- Voice and Choir
- published Books: 8
- published CDs: 10
- Total Number of Scholarships: 12
- Youngest Member of Verband Deutscher Schriftsteller: Age 16 and older 1st Prize
- First Prizes Piano and Literature: 12
- Written Songs: 201
- Degrees Earned: 8 (some in the same year)
- Favorite Sport: Horse Back Riding, Running
- Cities Visited: ca. 1000
- Countries Visited: 55
- Continents Visited: 6
- Perfect Pitch
- Number international Masterclasses: 22
- Masterclasses given, Germany & abroad: 14
- Diplomarbeit, Masterarbeit, Magisterarbeit, Bachelorarbeit
- Next Tour: Neuseeland, Kanada, China, Japan
- Instruments for Fun: Saxophon, C-Melody, Guitar, Recorder, Percussion
- Interests: Acryl, Oil, Coal, Chess, Horse Riding, Stepp-Dance
- Languages: Englisch (TOEFL Graduate), Swedish (Niveau B2), Großes Latinum
- Structuring of social, art and social welfare projects, especially in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa; combination of elements from different fields of art with music (honorary diploma of the University of Manila, Philippines), music and literature combined, canvas painting with improvisation, composition, Jazz, Bach
- Duets: Martina Trumpp, Christian Busslinger, Tanno Michalke, Lena Wirth, Nina Osina, Uwe Steinmetz, Susanne Lampidis-Pirsch, Senta Studer, Carola Thieme, Torsten Laux, Kathrin Duschek, Rafael Lukjanik
- Jazz: Com’Ann Ann-Helena & Band: Michael Reiß, electric guitar; Julian Soder, electric guitar, Bass; Benedikt Held, double bass; Lena Wirth, Violine; Vladimir Strecker, Saxophone; Thomas Frühinsfeld, Rouven Köhnen, Mathias Scheurer, Drums; Andreas Claus, Label & Verlag; Ann-Helena, Piano, vocals, Songs, producer
- Teaching: Jazzhausschule Köln, Klangwerk Koblenz, Arizona State University, Performing Art Studio Scottsdale, Phoenix, AZ, USA, Musikschule Schweinfurt promotion of highly talented, conservatory Magdeburg, Zempleni Musikfestival Ungarn, Crescendo International, lecturer at Universität Würzburg, lecturer Jeunesses Musicales Weikersheim, lecturer Improvisation- und songwriting seminars; management of scientific and education projects, regular student concerts DTKV (Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband), Hochschule für Musik Würzburg
Soli Deo Gloria