It isn’t pretentious, it’s unapologetic, and it’s unmistakably Copland.
Ahead of his Masterworks performance of Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, Principal Clarinet Eric Abramovitz joins Noteworthy to answer our ten burning questions about his journey towards this concert. A Montreal native, Abramovitz has toured broadly from the McGill Symphony to the New York Symphonic Ensemble, and joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2018.
1. NW — When did you start playing the clarinet?
EA — I first met the clarinet as a five-year-old. My mother, Roslyn, was the keyboard player in a local Klezmer music band, and upon attending a concert for the first time I was immediately awe-struck by the velvety sound that emerged from this wooden stick with metal keys called a clarinet. After almost two years of strategic begging, my parents finally acquiesced and got me a clarinet of my own.
2. What was your experience like growing up surrounded by music?
EA — Growing up with a mother who was a pianist and a sister who played the violin made for a very music-filled home, and we would frequently perform together as a trio for events like Bar/Bat mitzvahs, weddings, and parties.
3. NW — What is it like preparing for a big performance?
EA — Leading up to a big performance, in addition to meticulous preparation with the instrument, I find it very helpful to practice visualizing all of the motions of the performance. This allows me to arrive on stage with an added sense of familiarity and confidence, and all that’s left to do is to play as beautifully as I can.
4. NW — How do you approach connecting with a new piece?
EA — Approaching a new piece usually begins with exploring the clarinet part, as well as the orchestral score, and seeking out a high quality recording to better understand the entirety of the work. Once I’ve slowly learned the notes and rhythm of my own part, I approach the piece as a blank canvas, using my imagination to leave my musical imprint and make it my own.
5. NW — When did you first hear Copland’s Clarinet Concerto?
EA — I was probably around 11 years old, and I knew I had to play it one day. Although I’ve performed this piece several times before, every performance is an exciting opportunity to rediscover it and approach it in a fresh way.
6. NW — What do you appreciate most about this concerto?
EA — I always loved how this piece explores the many voices of the clarinet, from the expressive and lyrical to the brilliant and flashy. You can really sink your musical teeth into the work and let your personality come through.
7. NW — How does this concerto compare to the rest of Copland’s compositions?
EA — I have played some of Copland’s orchestral music. While his orchestral music includes full wind sections, the concerto is scored for only strings, harp, and piano to accompany the solo clarinet. This creates a beautiful bed of sound for the clarinet to soar above, and features the clarinet in a very intimate way.
8. NW — What do you find special about Copland’s compositions?
EA — I feel there’s a very honest and down-to-earth quality in Copland’s music. It isn’t pretentious, it’s unapologetic, and it’s unmistakably Copland.
9. NW — What’s this about jazz elements in this concerto?
EA — This piece was written for the great Benny Goodman, and there is certainly a jazzy element to it. As someone who loves jazz music, having the opportunity to play in a jazz style is always a great joy and lots of fun for me!
10. NW — What experience do you hope to deliver to the audience?
EA — I simply hope that the audience will enjoy it and have fun. And to those who don’t hold the clarinet in such high esteem, I’m hoping I can change your minds!