FeaturedInterviewsIssuesJanuary 2023

Karl Heinz Schütz Artist Interview

Karl-Heinz Schütz is Solo Flute of Wiener Philharmoniker and therefore in the same position at the Wiener Staatsoper, having held the same position with the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker for four years, and with the Wiener Symphoniker from 2005 to 2011. Born in Innsbruck and raised in Landeck, Tyrol, he received his musical education at the Landeskonservatorium in Vorarlberg with Eva Amsler, Conservatoire national supérieur de musique in Lyon with Philippe Bernold, and with Aurèle Nicolet in Switzerland.

He won first prizes at the Carl Nielsen International Music Competition in 1998 und the International Flute Competition Kraków in 1999. He has performed as soloist across Europe and Japan, with performances of the importantflute concertos with Wiener Philharmonikerand Symphoniker as well as NHK Tokyo and Sapporo symphony orchestra, a.o. Conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Fabio Luisi, Yakov Kreizberg, Dmitrij Kitajenko and Bertrand de Billy invited him to be the soloist in their concerts.

Karl-Heinz Schütz is Professor of Flute at the Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität Wien and has held several guest professorships. He gives master-classes throughout Europe and is also an active recording artist, especially for CAMERATA TOKYO, where his Mozart, Prokoffiev and Brahms Cds were released. With the Academy of St. Martin in the fields under Sir Neville Marriner an album was published at CHANDOS, with the title: 20th centuries concerto grosso. He is artistic director at HORIZONTE Landeck.


Could you share a bit about your musical journey and how your passion for the flute blossomed?

Growing up in the picturesque town of Landeck Tirol, nestled in the heart of the Alps, my introduction to the flute began with playing in the local wind band. I explored the traditional repertoire, including the piccolo, influenced by my father's fervor for music. My teacher, Othmar Falch, a visionary enamored with the flute's sound and the art of making music, broadened my horizons. His love for various genres, especially improvisation and jazz, encouraged me to embrace diverse musical styles. Inspired by him, I embarked on a journey to a larger city with a conservatory and Music high school, aiming for a comprehensive classical education.

What were some pivotal moments in your musical education and career that paved the way for your role as the principal flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic?

My foundational education under Professor Eva Amsler not only honed my flute and musical skills but also instilled essential elements like body awareness through the Feldenkrais method and mental coaching principles. These holistic teachings, reminiscent of professional sports education, laid the groundwork for my future endeavors.

Reflecting on your journey to becoming the principal flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic, can you shed light on key milestones and the qualities that set you apart during the audition process?

The audition process in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland typically involves applying for a vacant position, leading to an audition where applicants are narrowed down from hundreds. My audition spanned three days, featuring rounds with orchestral excerpts, including the Mozart flute concerto performed behind a screen. The final rounds showcased finalists without screens, allowing the orchestra to evaluate not just sound but also style and phrasing. The emphasis on sonority, reflective of the orchestra's unique sound and tradition, played a pivotal role.

Becoming the principal flutist of such a prestigious orchestra is a remarkable achievement. Could you elaborate on the challenges you faced during the audition process?

The audition involved multiple rounds, culminating in a performance with the full orchestra. Notably, the final round, featuring renowned excerpts and Ravel's Daphnis, was initially held with the orchestra members listening behind screens. Only after this did they vote, a momentous occasion celebrated with champagne. The honor of succeeding Wolfgang Schulz in the Philharmonic remains a cherished memory.

For aspiring flutists with dreams of reaching your level, what advice would you offer in terms of practice routines, mindset, and perseverance?

Love for music and the instrument serves as the foundation. Equally crucial are extensive practice, unwavering patience, and sustained high-level concentration. Choosing a compatible instructor wisely and seeking guidance from trustworthy friends are pivotal. Over time, discerning whose opinions to value becomes crucial in shaping one's musical journey.

Are there specific aspects of flute playing or musicianship that you believe young flutists should focus on to enhance their chances of success?

My response would be: strive for beautiful playing, discover your unique sonority and voice, and evolve over time to play beautifully even in challenging registers and circumstances. However, I find this question challenging because I would counter with: What defines success?

I am aware that in terms of professional success, one can achieve to a certain extent. Yet, as human beings, there is much more to explore, experience, and accomplish in life. Learning how to navigate setbacks is just one example. Success can manifest in various forms simultaneously—external rewards like prizes or winning auditions, or deeply personal achievements, perhaps known only to your closest confidant.

To succeed professionally, develop top-notch skills through consistent training, trust in a mentor or teacher, possess a measure of talent, exercise patience, and a sprinkle of luck. Moreover, in playing musical instruments, residing in this 'non-digital' but 'purely analog world,' the key is self-discovery. Understand yourself as you would a good friend; genuine connections grow gradually. Familiarize yourself with your skills, enormous potential, and possibilities. It's analog, and the essence of live music, unlike streaming, cannot be fully experienced outside the magic of a live concert. Our ears and senses detect the difference. Some musical experiences unfold their true beauty only in the live concert setting.

Are there any fundamental principles or axioms of music that you cherish and consistently apply in your playing?

My fundamental principle is to bring music and joy to people while remaining open to inspiration from my fellow performers. For those who have encountered the enthralling 'flow-feeling' in music-making, it can't be forced but can be facilitated:

Preparation is key—know the score, understand the piece's background to become the translator of the music or the 'feeling' hidden between the lines.

CD Releases?

I have around 10 releases on the CAMERATA TOKYO label, featuring Mozart quartet concerti, Schubert variations, and Prokofiev. Additionally, Brahms Sonatas are available on NAXOS, and a POULENC and Syrinx on APARTE in 2023. Notably, a Lowell LIEBERMAN concerto, performed with the LANDECK wind band, is available on iTunes.

What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?

Apart from the Philharmonic season, which includes a US tour (Carnegie Hall) and European tours with Welser Möst, Mehta, Thielemann, I'll be performing at the Vienna Opera, home of the Vienna Philharmonic. This includes engaging with inspiring voices.

I have soloist projects in France (CONNESSON FLUTE CONCERTO) and Taiwan (playing and conducting the national symphony). Additionally, I'll be creating a SOLO PIECE by Austrian composer CLEMENS GADENSTÄTTER (4 soliloquies on making of intimacy).

A tour to Japan for chamber-group concerts with the RING-Ensemble, focused on music around Blue Danube Waltz and the Strauss family, is on the agenda.

In June, I'll present a new project with my cherished chamber group, the ENSEMBLE WIEN BERLIN, at the Konzerthaus Vienna.

I'm honored to be a judge at a conducting competition in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Moreover, I'll coach the six students in my studio at the MUK (Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität VIENNA) and conduct masterclasses in Croatia and Norway.

What are your personal and professional goals?

Personally, my enduring goal is to cherish and be with my family, providing me with roots and grounding me. Professionally, I am on the brink of releasing my upcoming recording, a project that is almost complete, though the final steps always pose a unique challenge for me.

What inspires you the most in life?

I draw immense inspiration from nature, relishing in the diverse moods and colors of the changing seasons. Engaging in sports amidst the natural beauty further fuels my passion.

What has been your greatest professional challenge?

My most significant professional challenge was preparing for the flute concerto composed for me by Clemens Gadenstätter last year. It took nearly six months of dedicated effort. Fortunately, Clemens has now provided a continuation—a set of 4 soliloquies based on the concerto, set to be created in April, making it accessible to everyone.

What has been your greatest personal challenge?

Maintaining composure while fitting chains on my car's wheels on an icy winter night, without gloves, during a road trip home was undoubtedly a memorable personal challenge.

Who were your music mentors, and what did you learn from them?

In addition to my previously mentioned teachers, I must acknowledge the renowned AURELE NICOLET. He instilled in me sincerity and a profound approach to music. It was Aurele who encouraged me to pursue an unconventional path for my university studies, leading me to Lyon, France. There, I spent four inspiring years with PHILIPPE BERNOLD, who opened my ears to the impact of French finesse in flute playing. The guidance of these strong and determined mentors allowed me to forge my own artistic path.

Can you share five quirky, secret, or fun hobbies or passions?

  1. I take pleasure in personally ironing my white shirts, finding satisfaction in achieving a visibly impeccable result.
  2. Similarly result-oriented activities include mowing the lawn in summer and cutting wood for the winter oven, offering a grounded counterbalance to the airy mood of playing the flute.
  3. Engaging in various sports, including freestyle swimming, road biking, mountain biking, and skiing, provides me with a well-rounded physical outlet. However, ice skating is off the list—ice is just too hard.
  4. Last but not least, I enjoy commuting to work on my VESPA, skillfully navigating through traffic and avoiding jams.


One thought on “Karl Heinz Schütz Artist Interview

  • Heidi Hooper

    What a lovely article. Thank you for sharing Maestro Schutz with us. I have a small question which is, will the Beethoven concerto ever be published? I have listened to it many many times on YouTube and would love to try playing it. You’re playing is so musical and gorgeous. Best wishes for a great 2024 Heidi in Atlanta

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