I first met maestro Jan Depreter in March 2017 in Belgium. He’d travelled quite a few hours (Jan travels a lot) to support his student Cedric Honings at the world premiere of my own composition, Tiny Wooden Gods which I’m happy to report was well received by the good people of Belgium. As an encore, Cedric played a short but lovely piece by Jan in honour of his presence and later, and at a loose end because as performers, neither of us could play that night, we made polite conversation.
Jan seemed intelligent, urbane, and focused on something important. A person with a vision has great difficulty in putting that vision into words. You have to make the vision manifest, real in the world and then people can say: “Oh! That’s what you saw”
Jan and I became Facebook friends and over time he became an object of fascination for me because whenever he advertised a new performance, he seems to be playing a different guitar. How many guitars does he have? I feel too embarrassed to ask but he’s clearly obsessed with the instrument to the point where if one is good, 100 must be better.
As a performer I always found Jan trustworthy. When he plays you know you’re in safe hands. His technique is good but his sound, despite all of those guitars, is his own and speaks poetry at every turn.
So why am I writing about a fellow composer and guitarist?
Because of this.
This is the most extraordinary reading of William Walton’s Bagatelle No.1 I’ve ever heard. It’s well thought out surely. Jan is clearly a man of deep intelligence. But it’s played with a love and a passion that comes from the soul. And don’t be mistaken, this is no mere Bagatelle. This piece is a philosophical and technical mountain many have attempted but Jan Depreter climbs that mountain, plants his flag in its summit and declares “I am King of the Mountain!”
I wrote to Jan immediately I heard this and asked if it was recorded direct to camera and, it was. Turns out he got off the plane at LAX (Los Angeles), went straight to the studio and recorded 12 or 13 pieces (he can’t remember how many) with 2 takes each to meet the needs of the camera man. The takes were edited together later but for all intents and purposes, this is a live, on the spot, jet lagged, more coffee please, performance. When he recorded the Walton, he was on 4.30 am Belgium time.
The only sadness is that William Walton did not get to hear this performance. I can see the old man skipping around the room shouting: “Yes! That’s what I saw! This is the vision and now it’s revealed!”