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Fiterstein: “Playing with Hamelin Is a Dream.”


Alexander Fiterstein
Alexander Fiterstein

This is certainly Marc-Andre Hamelin’s season to shine for the Celebrity Series. The third of the super-virtuoso’s appearances this year is in a chamber music trio with Anthony Marwood, violin and Alexander Fiterstein, clarinet, on Friday at Jordan Hall. Beginning at 8:00, the very interesting program includes Schubert’s Rondo in B minor for violin and piano in B minor, D. 895; Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet and Piano; Stravinsky’s Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat for violin, clarinet and piano; Poulenc’s Sonata for clarinet and piano; Debussy’s Sonata for violin and piano in G minor; and Bartók’s Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano.

BMInt had a brief conversation with clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein:

I recall Kim Kashkashian’s anecdote about how her daughter thought a clarinetist playing the Brahms Clarinet Sonata was literally a joke because she’d only heard her mother play it on viola before. The clarinet clearly has some idiosyncratic qualities that Brahms recognized but the young Kaskashian missed.

BMInt: How do you come to terms with trying to make a career out of a relatively small repertoire with a lot of diversity? There’s a lot of diversity for violinists too, but there’s also enough of everything that you don’t have to touch all of it.

AF: To me, it seems the clarinet has a great repertoire. With a mix of solo and chamber music and a good amount of new music I think there is no shortage of pieces to play. Also, I feel that audiences and concert presenters are more open (in our time) to a bigger variety of instruments, repertoire and programming ideas.

Tell us about the challenge of playing effectively in pieces with the violin, two instruments that share a similar range but almost incompatible solo personalities.

Having a trio combination with violin/clarinet/piano is very successful in my opinion, especially in 20th and 21st century music. The two instruments share a similar range and the ability to “sing” but they are also very different and the combination allows for a lot of “contrast” and Bartok uses that extremely well. Also, both instruments can sound extremely virtuosic and are often used together in folk music (especially in Eastern Europe).

Will there be any narration with L’Histoire? That’s often the clarinetist’s job.

There will not be narration for the L’Histoire. Stravinsky made this trio version himself from the well-known piece and dedicated it to his patron and friend (who was an amateur clarinetist).

What it is like to have  Marc-Andre Hamelin as your partner, a guy with superhuman technique and a deep intellect and strong personality… what exactly does he bring, for example, to Poulenc that a more mortal accompanist might not have brought?

Playing a duo with Marc-Andre Hamelin is a dream. From the first rehearsal of the Poulenc Sonata (and Debussy Rhapsodie) on Monday morning in San Francisco I felt that this time is going to be different from any other time I have played these works. He really understands the language of both composers and lets the music speak for itself.

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