Ambassador Interview - Daniel BelloviFebruary 13, 2024
Ambassador Interview - Gaël HorellouFebruary 13, 2024
Hello David! Could you tell us about your early musical career?
I started playing the clarinet at the age of nine in a wind band in Turin, my hometown. At the time, the mayor had decided to organize music lessons open to all, to set up wind bands in every district of the city, and my parents signed me up. Initially, I wanted to play drums or saxophone, but the band leader said, "You've got a clarinetist’s lips, so clarinet it is!" I think he simply needed clarinetists to complete his line-up. But he did the right thing! What I particularly appreciate about the clarinet is its rich, elegant sound. It's not for nothing that many composers have given it the role of princess or seducer in their works!
You have collaborated with numerous orchestras. Could you share one of your most memorable experiences as a clarinetist with these orchestras?
It's really hard to sum up thirty years of encounters and memorable experiences in just a few words... I've been lucky enough to meet many great artists and to play in some of the world's finest concert halls, notably with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. If I had to choose one outstanding memory, it would perhaps be the premiere of Bruno Mantovani's "Quasi lento", conducted by Tugan Sokhiev. Indeed, Bruno dedicated this piece, which he composed for the Orchestre du Capitole, to me, and its world premiere took place at Toulouse's Halle aux Grains in 2018. It's an "obbligato" clarinet work, rather in the style of Claude Debussy's "Après-midi d'un faune" for flute. It's a unique experience for any musician, and a great honor to be a source of inspiration for a composer like Bruno Mantovani.
In your role with the Orchestre National du Capitole, you've had the opportunity to play with conductors of many different nationalities. Is there a particular repertoire you've discovered in doing so that you particularly enjoy?
At the Orchestre du Capitole, we're lucky enough to be able to work with conductors of all nationalities on a daily basis, covering all styles of repertoire (symphonic, operatic, ballet, etc.). It's always an enriching experience to perform Italian opera with an Italian conductor or, as at the start of my career at the Capitole, to play French music with Michel Plasson. More recently, I've been lucky enough to discover many Russian works under the baton of Tugan Sokhiev. So I don't have a favorite repertoire, and I tend to enjoy works that are enthusiastically led by a passionate conductor.
How would you describe the life of a professional musician for young people wishing to pursue a career similar to yours?
When I think back on all I've been lucky enough to experience thanks to my career, I can't help but feel happy and fulfilled. I would encourage all young people who wish to become professional musicians to believe in their abilities and give themselves the means to succeed. As with top-level athletes, this requires meticulous preparation and a well-structured life plan. We need to know where we want to go and put all our energy into achieving that goal. And never forget to do it with passion!
You also have a career as a chamber musician. How do you approach chamber music compared to the symphony orchestra? What attracts you to this form of music?
Chamber music is an ideal opportunity for exchange with other musicians. When you succeed in creating a climate of collaboration and sharing from the very first rehearsals, it becomes quite simply magical. That's why my fondest memories of chamber music are the concerts I've given with my friends, as part of projects that were close to our hearts and on which we all worked together.
In 2016, you released your first recording, "On Air", with the Orchestre des Parachutistes de Balma, in quite a jazz-based repertoire with an American vibe. How did you approach this project, and what inspired you to make this choice?
The first clarinetist who made me love this instrument was Benny Goodman. When I was really young, I had a great collection of his recordings. He was a very eclectic musician to whom we owe several works in our repertoire, and who knew how to combine jazz and classical music. I've always had a great deal of admiration for jazz musicians, and when the opportunity arose to record this album with the paratrooper musicians, I naturally turned to this style of repertoire. I find it an ideal link between the sound of the clarinet and the rhythmic, expressive side of a wind band.
As a clarinet teacher, what values do you aim to pass on to your students?
I was lucky enough to have Michel Lethiec as one of my teachers, and he welcomed me not only into his class in Nice, but also into his family, as if I were part of it. For me, that was a great life lesson that shaped me as a person and as a musician. I can't thank him enough. Like him, I try to pass on to my students my love of music, the passion we need to put into this profession, and never to overlook the emotions we want to convey to our listeners.
You also have a passion for conducting. Since 2008, you've been conducting the Quint-Fonsegrives wind band. How do you reconcile your roles as musician, teacher and conductor?
Fifteen years ago, my wife Paola (a flute teacher) and I set up the Quint-Fonsegrives wind band. We met in Italian bands and grew up together in this environment. It was an unforgettable experience. Conducting this band has nothing to do with my professional activity. It's a chance to share and pass on knowledge with people who have become friends over the years. It's very time-consuming, because the few free weekends I have are devoted to these lessons, but I'm lucky enough to be able to share this with my family – we’re all part of the harmony – and that's priceless!
Three questions for young musicians:
What original works for solo clarinet would you recommend listening to or playing?
I'd recommend Edison Denisov's sonata.
In your opinion, what are the must-have pieces for the "orchestral" clarinet?
What pieces would you recommend for discovering the jazz clarinet repertoire?
What pieces would you recommend for discovering the jazz clarinet repertoire?
I’d recommend listening to Benny Goodman, just like I did when I was young! Although these days, I really appreciate female voices in jazz, such as Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, and Madeleine Peyroux.
We're honored to have you as an ambassador for Steuer reeds. How do you see this role?
It’s a great honor for me to be a Steuer reeds ambassador, and I want to sincerely thank Thomas Donati and his entire team for their trust. I've always tried to promote and represent the values of the Steuer brand, which combines the excellence of a hand-crafted product with cutting-edge technology. It's important to me to showcase this know-how in my various activities, whether playing in concert or teaching. I'm feel strongly that a product of such quality deserves to be known and recognized, and I'm very honored to be part of this process.
You play "Exclusive" reeds. Why did you make this choice and what do you like about the sound of Steuer reeds?
Steuer "Exclusive" reeds give me a round, warm tone that I appreciate. The attacks are precise, and their lifespan is remarkable. In our lives as musicians, we need to feel confident with the equipment we use, and I have to say that with the "Exclusive" reeds, I immediately felt very comfortable.
What did you learn from your visit to the Steuer workshops in Carqueiranne?
My visit to the Steuer workshops left a lasting impression on me, both in terms of the fascinating history of this company, and the skill and passion the team offer musicians. I was lucky enough to meet musicians who shared with me their love for these little bits of reed that vibrate with our breath. I think every wind musician should have the chance, at least once in their life, to visit these workshops, in order to realize just how complex and extremely demanding a process making a reed actually is.
Apart from music, do you find time for other passions?
My greatest passion outside music is cooking, and particularly pastry-making. I like to share it with my family and friends, and I have to say that if I hadn't had the chance to become a professional clarinetist, I might have followed the path of pastry-making.