For Southbank Sinfonia’s final Rush Hour concert of 2016, the players are in charge. They’ve picked the music to be performed (Kodály’s Dances of Galánta alongside Sibelius’ Symphony No.2), and have taken the lead on managing the event – providing an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of an orchestra as well as on-stage.
Curious to find out more about Kodály’s folk-infused work, the orchestra decided to put clarinettists Max Mausen and Jordi Juan Perez in the spotlight…
How does Dances of Galánta compare to Sibelius’ Second Symphony?
Max: Dances of Galánta really shows off the virtuosity of each section of the orchestra, in particular the clarinet. It’s full of energy and takes the players – as well as the listeners – on an adrenaline fuelled journey through Hungarian gypsy sounds.
Jordi: It’s Kodály’s take on the gypsy music that he heard when he was growing up. The changes of character and tempo keep everyone interested, because they don’t know what will come next.
Max: Sibelius’ Second has a much more sombre and majestic character, so Kodály’s work is a bolt of electricity to warm everyone up before the more intense Sibelius.
Max, how are you feeling about your solo?
Max: I guess it’s obvious that having to play a 5 minute solo is always going to be slightly nerve wracking. But it’s also a thrilling experience, especially when supported by an orchestra of dear friends.
Do you think the historical context of the piece is important?
Max: Composers are almost always influenced and informed by their environment and the history that surrounds them. A performer could probably still give a creditable performance of a piece without knowing anything about its context. However, if they’re attempting to really grasp the meaning of the music, I think it’s crucial to find out as much as possible about the composer’s life and the historical context surrounding them.
This is especially true for pieces that reflect a style of music which originates in a particular place or time, and which might even have used particular instruments – such as the Tàrogatò. This single reed instrument – vaguely similar to the clarinet – is very typical for eastern European folk music, and has a very recognisable sound, which I shall do my best to try and emulate.
See the Tàrogatò in action here.
What was your first impression of the piece?
Jordi: It sounds like a weird piece when you first hear it, but it’s a very important piece for clarinettists because we play it in every audition! Next Thursday will be my first time performing the piece in concert.
How about you Max, have you played the piece outside of an audition context before?
Max: Yes, I’ve had the chance to perform it with an orchestra, which definitely showed me how fun and full of life the piece is – something you don’t necessarily realise when you’ve only played it in auditions.
Do you have a favourite recording of the piece?
Max: There are lots of great recordings, but I think one of my favourites is the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra with János Ferencsik conducting. I’m not sure who plays the clarinet solo, but it’s very virtuosic and characterful.
Who’s your favourite clarinettist?
Jordi: I don’t really have one; depending on the kind of music or style I like different players… I like Martin Fröst for his technique, Sharon Kam for her characterful playing, Alessandro Carbonare for his musicality and Wenzel Fuchs as he just creates magic!
Max: Mine is Jordi Juan. He’s such an incredibly expressive musician.
[Jordi laughs and goes bright red.]
When you’re playing in an orchestra, do you play in the same way as you do in the practice room?
Jordi: I always try to play in the same way, yes. When I’m practising I always know which sections the orchestra plays with me and which sections are a complete solo, which I think is very important as it will often influence the way I play.
Max: Most of the time when we have to prepare this piece it is for an orchestral audition, which obviously adds some negative connotations to this solo. When I’m practising, I always try to remember what it feels like to sit in the middle of the orchestra and play it. Nothing comes close to the actual experience though!
Watch the Berliner Philharmoniker for a taster of Dances of Galánta:
See Jordi, Max and Southbank Sinfonia play Dances of Galánta alongside Sibelius’ mighty Symphony No.2 on Thursday 6 October, 6.00pm at St John’s Waterloo. For more information, click here.
Interview led by our Rush Hour #15 marketing team: Mireia (oboe), Helena (flute), Alice (flute), Eve (violin), Sujin (violin), and Kana (violin).