The young Spanish clarinettist has played in many of Europe’s most prestigious orchestras, but lately, he went on to be a solo artist and a chamber musician. He’s playing with our orchestra on 4 December. Máté Csabai asked him about her carrier and the concert.
A friend of mine who plays the clarinet told me he chose the instrument because he wanted to make the siren sound at the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue. What was your motivation?
That passage is one of the most fun moments in a clarinettist’s life. Freedom, flexibility, energy and optimism, are the essence of the clarinet. My motivation was jazz and Benny Goodman. His swing made me feel free and happy too. I come from a town near Seville, in Andalucía, and at the time, this is the early 90s, there was a prominent jazz festival in town. Some great bands and artists came as a “warming up” for their tours around Europe. That rhythm and the flow got me addicted. The unexpected of their improvisations, the versatility and virtuosity, how those musicians were singing with their instruments and the passion they embraced in each note… captivated me.
What is the most important trait a musician – especially a clarinettist – should acquire?
For a clarinettist, it is versatility. Our magic ability is to be able to sing like a singer, pulse like a percussion, vibrate like a cello, and play as high and flexible as a flute or as virtuous as a violin. To fit into the colours of the music like a chameleon, but also playing loud if it’s needed.
You have played in several orchestras. Are you a solo artist now?
Yes, but the way you say it sounds a bit lonely to me. I’m independent, but I’m rarely alone.
Starting from Mozart, more and more composers write clarinet concertos, and you have played quite a number of them. Do you have a favourite?
The clarinet is an instrument in continuous development, growing and expanding its possibilities. It is almost unlimited. Recently I had a good adventure performing Magnus Lindberg’s Concerto and I fall in love with it. Same now with Hartmann Kammerkonzert. It’s a dream come true.
Hartmann’s Kammerkonzert is a real curiosity and is rarely played. What are your thoughts on the piece?
It’s a gem of music heritage. Expressive and passionate, a homage to the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. The music represents those strong principles that were articulated in the dark moments of our recent history. Hartmann was a man of strong convictions, he was eagerly expressing them. He also forbade his music to be played during the Nazi regime. The Kammerkonzert is vibrant and full of spirit, its folkloric essence and temperamental sense of rhythm got me from the first second. Also, Mr Hartmann explores very special harmonic universes, transporting us into his cosmos. It’s a pleasure to perform with such a phenomenal crew: Liza Ferschtmann, István Várdai and the Liszt Chamber Orchestra.
Have you ever been to Budapest?
Yes, I have, but only a couple of times. I felt the city is so vibrant and energetic that I could never get enough of it. Last time I gave a masterclass at the Bela Bartok Conservatory.
And what about the orchestra?
I am a big fan of the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra and István, in my opinion, it is one of the leading ensembles in the world. I have great admiration for their music-making, and it is a great privilege to be their guest.
In these turbulent times, what is the role of the musician?
We must put our hearts and brains at the service of the music and share it with passion, devotion and humbleness. We are indeed living in extremely turbulent times, it’s very hard and sad in many ways. Sometimes it makes it difficult to come on stage and not have mixed feelings… I think we have to be careful to not let music slip from being humane. Music should live with us in the present. I’m constantly thinking about whether we do enough to spread generosity, understanding, and tolerance. I hope I don’t sound too cheesy but I look at the world and feel truly horrified. My answer is only music.