Who or what inspired you to take up the clarinet and pursue a career in music?
Hearing the sound of a clarinet in a live orchestral concert – I had been advised to take up a second instrument to complement my piano studies and the sound won me over!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My two most important teachers – firstly, my initial piano teacher, Bridget Christian, who above all encouraged me to love the music that I played. Secondly, my major clarinet teacher during my school years, Dr. Kevin Murphy. He was not just a teacher, but a friend and mentor in every respect, demanding excellence and dedication, fostering (and sometimes reining in) my enthusiasm, and giving me advice and principles which I use every day in developing my career.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Leaving full-time study and transitioning into the profession – occasionally staring at a worryingly bare diary, and having the confidence to continue.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Walking onto the stage at Snape Maltings aged 14, and summoning the courage to perform my first concerto (Weber’s 2nd, op. 74). I don’t remember much about the experience except overwhelming nerves before it, and overwhelming excitement and relief after it.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I don’t know if I play them best, but the works that I enjoy performing the most are those which I truly can put my own interpretative stamp on, or collaborate with other musicians to create our own unique, musically considered approach. I am also – for better or worse – a bit of a showman, and I love to engage with that element in concertos, or lighten the tone of a recital with a fun and frothy showpiece.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
At the moment, my main priorities are variety (to keep both myself and audiences engaged), stylistic balance, and originality through new works.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I’m sure that I haven’t performed in nearly enough venues to make a choice, but for sentimental reasons (certainly not for acoustics) it would have to be Wells Cathedral, Somerset, a place I associate wholly with my formative musical years.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
To perform: undoubtably the Mozart Quintet K581 and the Copland Concerto.
To listen to: Jessye Norman’s 1982 recording of Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Claudio Abbado’s Daphnis et Chloé with the London Symphony Orchestra, or Earth, Wind and Fire’s Greatest Hits.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Far too many to list – but three that spring immediately to mind are: Joyce Didonato, for her advocacy of an utterly healthy, positive and enthusiastic approach to the world of music; Mitsuko Uchida, for her unwavering musical integrity; and Edith Piaf, for the sheer authenticity of her expression.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
During my final course as principal of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – the principal’s ensemble played John Adam’s Chamber Symphony and Copland’s Appalachian Spring under Pablo Heras-Casado, and the full orchestra performed Copland’s monumental 3rd Symphony with Antonio Pappano live on BBC2 at the BBC Proms. It was an unforgettable and idyllic three weeks, with so many cherished memories. Rehearsing and performing the Weber Quintet op. 34 during my final year at university with the Endellion String Quartet was equally terrifying, thrilling, and enlightening.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Enthusiasm, enjoyment and dedication.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Settled, happy, and making a living out of what I love doing, while continuing to love doing it!
What is your present state of mind?
Incredibly excited, if a little apprehensive about what my career will bring.
Joseph Shiner’s biography