Quarternote catches up with the BSO’s 2017/18 Artist-in-Residence
Tell us your thoughts about being our new Artist-in-Residence next season?
I was so happy to accept this offer. I have some very good memories after the concert when I had the chance to have the first encounter with the BSO and I’m looking forward to dive into this relationship even more. It also comes with so many different programmes. I think that’s something that the Artist-in-Residence really has the advantage of – to be able to not only come with one kind of programme and one kind of musical genre, but really try to show the different aspects of your own artistic journey and I think we chose a beautiful set of pieces and variety of repertoire.
You’re starting the new season with the Hindemith Clarinet Concerto and also Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra; do you want to tell us about those two pieces?
It’s kind of a funny thing but somehow I also think it fits pretty well, because I’ve never actually played the Hindemith Concerto so it’s going to be my first time, which is great because I think when you feel comfortable with your partners on stage, that’s the right time to try new things and widen your own repertoire. Obviously this is the case otherwise we wouldn’t have chosen to do this residency and I’m actually pretty relaxed and looking forward to this! Hindemith’s Concerto is a huge piece, so it’s of course going to be a challenge. I think it’s viewed as a piece that’s not too easily accessible to the audience which I would like to change because along with the opening phrase, it’s so beautiful. If we work on the right balance and the orchestration and the dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra, I think one can really show what a great piece it is and that’s the challenge about it, besides learning the piece of course!
On the other hand, the Weber Concertino is a great piece of standard repertoire where everybody knows where it’s going and it will be just great to play.
You’ll be directing from the clarinet in the second concert you’ll be playing for us
Yes, that’s something I really look forward to – that’s what I’ve mentioned before that you really have these different aspects not only in the repertoire but also of course in my role. This is going to go one step beyond just playing and through this opportunity I have the chance to really get even closer to the members of the Orchestra. It will be a small set of people, so one can really approach it in almost the same way as chamber music. The music we will play is really classical pieces – that’s the flair of the pieces that you don’t have this third party which is trying to put things together, but really you have to be attentive to each other and merge together as homogenously as possible, and then also having these really quick and sudden gestures and the possibility to really play together in a sense of chamber music.
When did you first take up the clarinet?
The instrument has been around me all the time – my father is a clarinettist so I really grew up with the instrument being played or just lying around. It wasn’t something kind of strange that was introduced to me actively which I think is one of the main reasons that I feel so comfortable with it because it’s like the voice of your parent that’s always been around. Actively wanting to play as a very small child, it’s not an ideal instrument to start with, just because your lungs and teeth need to be a bit further developed, so that’s why I also thought it was a really good idea to start with the piano, looking back. But obviously, very naturally there was this kind of curiosity about this instrument that was being played about me all the time, so at the age of 12 I got a chance to try my luck!
Did you always know you were going to be a musician growing up in a musical household?
Just because it was something so strongly incorporated in our lives, there was never this idea of being a musician as a job; it was always a part of everyday life. I remember this really funny story when I was in pre-school and I first realised that not every family had music being played at home – I always thought that was the way it is! So this is the kind of approach you have to think of – for a very long time I just did it for fun and because it was nice to do something with the family together as well, and I think that’s a very healthy approach.
What’s the best thing about being a musician?
I would say the flexibility of taking time off and being able to sit here on a Friday noon doing whatever you have to do. That’s a great thing and then also trying to maintain this attitude of having fun and appreciating your job and I think that’s very possible with being a musician.
You’ve recently released a new album, New Era, would you like to tell us about that?
I’m very happy that we have this opportunity to play pieces from that album where I’m also going to be directing a little bit, so that’s a very exciting thing for me at the moment. It was also something I really wanted to dive into because this period and these concertos from that time are not as well-represented as they could be. It’s a time people pass through quite quickly in their education and something you view as pretty nice but rather easy material. But if you have a closer look, then you actually see how much was going on back then, not always with the clarinet but in general, music-wise, starting from the orchestra set-up or the first time the clarinets were actually part of the orchestra. The form of the symphony itself also changed, and the composers were suddenly conducting and playing in the orchestra, as well as being soloists at the same time, so it was pretty crazy times. Most importantly they influenced so many people like Mozart and so many other composers who came there to hear this magnificent orchestra which was viewed as one of the best orchestras of that time in Mannheim. Especially for the clarinets, this was the birth of the instrument as we know it now, as part of the orchestra and also as a solo instrument; the first concertos were written there for the clarinet, so we have to be pretty thankful for those people. And if you actually look at the material, there’s so much to show and to enjoy for the audience as well. It’s something where you at first have to, maybe like a dialect or a language, be acquainted to or know how to use it and if you really take the time to learn that and understand the manners of the time, then the pieces will sound completely different. That’s something we really tried to do with this recording and that’s what made this so exciting.
Tell us about your trio with your father Ernst and brother Daniel, The Clarinotts
This is the most natural thing that happened, because we just took the music out of our living room and where we played at home. We just put it on stage and are still amazed that people are coming to the concerts! It’s really nice to play with your family of course; I would say it’s the most intimate way to make music.
Is there a friendly rivalry between you?!
Well, as we play so much together I think it’s beyond that point! I think the moments of despair happen when we try to rehearse, which is not our strength! But on stage it’s really something where no words are needed and that’s basically a big advantage.
Are there any performances from your career so far that are particularly memorable for you?
Well, probably the last one! It’s really hard to pick out – there are some moments of course but not necessarily linked to one performance, but maybe rather encounters or experiences. I’m not a fan of picking out this one thing or that, because it’s all connected together. If you have one concert which is really memorable then probably there were a few others that led up to it, so I wouldn’t want to pick one.
Is there a musician or conductor from the past you would have loved to work with?
Oh so many! Last year we just had numerous conductors passing away which is really a pity and most of them I didn’t have the chance to work with, like for example [Nikolaus]Harnoncourt. But from my father’s stories, of course especially also connected to the opera, Carlos Kleiber must be one of the top choices one would have loved to experience working with. But there are great young new conductors coming as well, so I think we’re pretty well set.
You’re Artistic Director of the annual Bürgenstock Festival in Switzerland which was held earlier in February this year. How did it go and would you like to tell us about it?
It was beautiful – the setting there is really just out of this world. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen so far. It’s a little mountain-top just above Lucerne with the lake just beneath and basically it’s a family up there that loves music. We started this festival together wanting to have a friendly intimate atmosphere and that’s what it’s all about. This year that’s what we tried to create and we had great friends there – Maximilian Hornung, cello, Barnabás Kelemen, a violin player and also my colleague Albrecht Mayer was there to present the new CD with me at the last concert and I’m doing this with my friend José Gallardo, the pianist. It’s really a great joy and something completely different from just being a musician and being on stage. You have to plan and organise and talk to sponsors – it’s a really different approach but also really fulfilling in another way.
Tell us about your clarinet
It’s a Viennese clarinet. Basically there are two big systems – the French system and the German which differ in the fingerings and the bore and everything. And then there’s this one little outsider, the Viennese system, which actually was one of the first stages of development. The clarinet is strongly linked to Vienna and Austria. In Vienna we have this school in which the biggest part of it is the imagination of sound you want to create. We look for this very round and rather dark sound, and this is of course supported by the instrument we play. My instrument has a wider bore than for example the German instrument, which in the end very roughly explained, leads to the fact that you have to use a lot of air to produce the sound. That again has an effect on your way of playing and also makes for this round and big sound. I’m very close with my instrument makers – we met up a lot of times before they made my clarinet so they’re pretty personalised to my way of playing and that of course makes for a closer bond between the instrument and myself.
Just a couple of short questions to end – what are your interests outside of music?
I think it’s so important to have a wide outset of interests. As a musician, your musical personality is so dependent on your character, which can only develop when you have a lot of inputs from all kinds of daily things. I really like to incorporate that into what happens on stage because that’s what makes for a very personal performance, so I’m trying to be very open to many things. I would say my biggest hobby is sport of all kinds which is also a great balance to life as a musician and just works really well for me. I’ve done this for as long as I could probably walk, and people often ask how do these things fit together, but if you’re used to playing tennis or whatever, the danger is very limited!
How do you prepare for a concert?
All your life you’re preparing for a concert! It really depends; I’m so happy and lucky to be able to have these different aspects of music with the orchestra and chamber music and also solo performance. All of these three fields are so different but at the same time they’re so important for each other, so I’m trying to look at it as a big picture. But of course every concert needs a different kind of attention and preparation. Sometimes it’s also most helpful to just relax and not tense up too much trying to think of every detail, but practice and try to be in the right mindset for whatever is coming.
Last question – have you had any embarrassing moments on stage?
I’m very sure of course, like trousers open! I think the funniest moments probably actually were with the trio because as close our understanding is, also brings the danger when just a little thing happens, at least two of us could start to laugh right away. It has happened once or twice we couldn’t hold back and were just laughing on stage but you know we’re all just human!
To find out more about Andreas’s forthcoming performances with the BSO in the 2017/18 Concert Season and to book tickets, please visit BSOlive.com