Farewell to Hans-Dieter Michatz

Music Trust written by Sally Melhuish, September 6, 2023

One of Australia’s most respected pioneers in historically informed performance practice, Hans-Dieter Michatz, has announced his retirement after more than half a century of performing. As a reputable player of modern and baroque flute, as well as recorder and the unique csakan, he has performed with many ensembles and orchestras both in Australia and overseas, most notably as founding member and principal flute with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Hans’ knowledge and passion for baroque music was already legendary when I first invited him to perform with Salut! Baroque nearly 28 years ago. In the years since then, Hans has been a generous collaborator and a great pleasure to work with across so many concerts and recordings. His versatility from his incredible breadth of experiences has been wonderfully inspiring.

For most of us, Hans has been our link to the remarkable phenomenon of Early Music revival by luminaries such as Frans Brüggen in the 1970s. For those who were not able to continue further study overseas at the ‘source’ and for others who marveled at the limitless font of information that came from a deep understanding of European languages, history and culture, Hans has been a formidable force.

Rachael Beesley, Co-Artistic Director, Conductor and Concertmaster of Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, fondly recalls performing with Hans on numerous occasions as a regular guest artist with Salut! Baroque: “Hans has an exceptional ability to bring out the best in his fellow musicians, fostering a delightful and joyful atmosphere through unexpected musical twists and turns. He has been a source of inspiration to many generations of musicians, particularly in the field of historically-informed performance, leaving a significant mark on the Australian music scene. I wish him all the best in his retirement from performing and will always remember to embrace the spirit of the music, especially those deceptive cadences!”

Instilling the understanding that bringing music to life goes far beyond notes on a page, Hans’ refrains over the years will ring on in our collective memories, including his pleading to string players (“You must breathe with us!); to the unfocused (“Can we acknowledge the interrupted cadence?”); and the unprepared (“How can you play this cantata if you don’t understand the German text?”).

Having also studied violin, piano and choral music in his youth, and later conducting ground-breaking choral, orchestral and opera performances, Hans is comfortable across the entire spectrum of genre and repertoire.

For Soprano Anna Fraser, the many Salut! Baroque projects she has shared with him over the years are fresh in her mind: “Hans is always astutely listening and guiding us through our collective creative endeavours to capture nuance and panache at every corner. His ability to blend, resonate and showcase his artistic verve (with the smallest of instruments!) has been done with much respect and support for all. Witty, clever and determined in all he sets out to achieve, Hans also breaks the record for his Germanic approach to a swift late night ‘autobahn’ style return from Canberra post show!”

Hans’ European background and training have influenced generations of students and professionals in Australia, many of whom have gone on to significant performance and teaching positions. Flautist Sally Walker, who worked with Hans as part of her doctoral studies, says, “I had the pleasure of learning baroque flute where he was enormously generous with his time. He is an inimitable personality with an encyclopaedic knowledge of an unusually large historical span of music, making the rehearsal process very lively. He leaves a distinguished legacy of having had a large impact on many generations of musicians.”

Announcing his retirement, Hans wrote, “After celebrating a long and joyful collaboration with Salut! Baroque, this is my last appearance with the ensemble. It is with much gratitude towards Sally, Tim, Monika and the many contributing musicians, as well as to the loyal and enthusiastic audiences, that I take my leave.”

Farewell Hans – you are truly one of a kind. I’ll miss your inspiring playing, your humour and, above all, our treasured moments of magical music making.

Read the article in Loud Mouth, Music Trust.