Episode 67 – Charles Neidich on his Upcoming “Wa” Concert Series

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In today’s episode of the podcast I’m joined by the legendary Charles Neidich for a conversation about his upcoming “Wa” concert series in New York City, and he shares some incredible insight into his performance and historical study of pieces including Elliott Carter’s “Gra” and the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, for which he is releasing his own annotated version in the spring of 2018.

Discussion Topics

  • The meaning of the word “Wa”
  • Discussion about the Five concerts from the upcoming series in New York City
    1. “Old and New” – September 29
    2. “Emotion and Intellect” – November 10
    3. “The Originality of Greatness” – December 16
    4. “The Hidden Masterpieces” – March 11
    5. “Celebrating Winds” – May 4
  • Working with Elliott Carter
  • Performing Elliott Carter’s “Gra”
  • Expanding on the Wa concept
  • Integrating visual and culinary art with musical art
  • Tips for being a diverse musician:
    • “You have to have curiosity”
    • “Expand what you appreciate as music”
    • “Have the courage to try new things”
  • Keeping the performance of old music fresh and new
  • Performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto K. 622
  • Period instruments
  • Charles’s upcoming annotated edition of this concerto
  • Lesser-known soviet composers who should be more recognized
  • History’s influence (WWII, death of Stalin, Fall of communism) on the music
  • Sean’s personal experience with “Gra”
  • Continuing conversation about the composers featured in the “Wa” series
  • New York Woodwind Quintet
  • History of the wind quintet (Why the french horn?)
  • More conversation about period instruments, including our “modern” period instrument
  • Playing techniques
  • Schwenk & Seggelke clarinets
  • Gold keys vs. other materials
  • Trends in musical instruments
  • Choosing new instruments and how to invest your money:
    • “The most important thing is practicing”
    • Why you should grow into a “fancy” clarinet

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Extended “Lightning Round” Questions and Answers – Approx 5 minutes

About Charles Neidich

Clarinetist and conductor Charles Neidich has gained worldwide recognition as one of the most mesmerizing virtuosos on his instrument. With a tone of hypnotic beauty and a dazzling technique, Mr. Neidich has received unanimous accolades from critics and fellow musicians both in the United States and abroad; but it is his musical intelligence in scores as diverse as Mozart and Elliott Carter that have earned for Mr. Neidich a unique place among clarinetists.  In the words of The New Yorker, “He’s an artist of uncommon merit — a master of his instrument and, beyond that, an interpreter who keeps listeners hanging on each phrase.”

Mr. Neidich’s recent re-recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, 26 years after his celebrated recording with Orpheus for Deutsche Grammophon, was reviewed by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in the New York Times:

“The mellow, woodsy tone of the basset horn stars in this pleasing recording of works for basset horns and/or clarinets (in various configurations) and orchestra by Mozart and his Bohemian contemporary Jiri Druzecky. Charles Neidich’s reading of Mozart’s Concerto for Basset Clarinet in A (KV 622) radiates sunny serenity. But over the course of the following works, including Druzecky’s Concerto for three basset horns and orchestra in F and a reconstruction of Mozart’s Adagio in F for clarinet and three basset horns (KV 580a), the music takes on an inescapably narcotic quality.”
— February 18, 2015

During the 2017-18 season, Mr. Neidich will continue to direct the Wa Concert Series at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York. This five-concert series which will take place from September 2017 to May 2018 is inspired by the Japanese concept “wa”— meaning circle, but also harmony and completeness; each performance will thus be paired with visual arts and will offer a variety of culinary delicacies prepared by Ayako Oshima.  Mr. Neidich’s programming for this series will highlight works by lesser-known composers of great personal importance, such as Elliot Carter, Alexander Lokshin, and Max Reger, among others.

In recent seasons, Mr. Neidich has added conducting to his musical accomplishments. He has led the Cobb Symphony Orchestra and Georgia Symphony in performances of the Franck Symphony in D Minor and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (also playing the solo clarinet part). Mr. Neidich continues to serve as conductor of the Queens College Chamber Orchestra in Queens, New York City, with whom he has performed the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven in historically informed interpretations.

In past seasons Mr. Neidich has appeared in recital and as guest soloist all over the world, and has been making his mark as a conductor. In wide demand as a soloist, Mr. Neidich has collaborated with some of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Halle Staatsorchester of Germany, Orpheus, the St. Louis Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, San Diego Symphony, New City Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco, Athens Chamber Music Festival, Tafelmusik, the Juilliard, Guarneri, American, and Mendelssohn String Quartets, and the Peabody Trio.

Mr. Neidich commands a repertoire of over 200 solo works, including pieces commissioned or inspired by him, as well as his own transcriptions of vocal and instrumental works. A noted exponent of 20th century music, he has premiered works by Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Edison Denisov, William Schumann, Ralph Shapey, Joan Tower, and other leading contemporary composers. With a growing discography to his credit, Mr. Neidich can be heard on the Chandos, Sony Classical, Sony Vivarte, Deutsche Grammophon, Musicmasters, Pantheon, and Bridge labels. His repertoire ranges from familiar works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, and Brahms, to lesser-known compositions by Danzi, Reicha, Rossini, and Hummel, as well as music by Elliott Carter, György Kurtág, and other contemporary masters.

A native New Yorker of Russian and Greek descent, Charles Neidich had his first clarinet lessons with his father and his first piano lessons with his mother. Mr. Neidich’s early musical idols were Fritz Kreisler, pianist Artur Schnabel and other violinists and pianists, rather than clarinetists. However, the clarinet won out over time, and he pursued studies with the famed pedagogue Leon Russianoff. Although Mr. Neidich became quite active in music at an early age, he opted against attending a music conservatory in favor of academic studies at Yale University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Anthropology. In 1975 he became the first American to receive a Fulbright grant for study in the former Soviet Union, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory for three years where his teachers were Boris Dikov and Kirill Vinogradov.

In 1985 Mr. Neidich became the first clarinetist to win the Walter W. Naumburg Competition, which brought him to prominence as a soloist. He then taught at the Eastman School of Music and during that tenure joined the New York Woodwind Quintet, an ensemble with which he still performs. His European honors include a top prize at the 1982 Munich International Competition sponsored by the German television network ARD, and the Geneva and Paris International Competitions. Mr. Neidich has achieved recognition as a teacher in addition to his activities as a performer, and currently is a member of the artist faculties of The Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music and Queens College. During the 1994-95 academic year he was a Visiting Professor at the Sibelius Academy in Finland where he taught, performed and conducted. Mr. Neidich is a long-time member of the renowned chamber ensemble Orpheus.

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