Meet the Artist – Michael Whight, clarinettist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My first clarinet teacher, Frank Holdsworth who was Principal Clarinet with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta was my mentor from the beginning and he continued to give good advice even when I became a Principal player myself in the Philharmonia Orchestra. As a child I liked the way music could make me feel and I seemed to be good at it too so I really had no doubts that it was the right path for me.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

All the great musicians you meet along the way have an effect on developing your own musicianship and I have been fortunate enough to play with most of the world’s great musicians.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Getting a job, keeping it, making it work with family life and making enough money.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I recorded the Mozart Concerto and solo directed it, Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto with Robert Craft and Chris Gunning’s concerto too. Orchestrally I like my playing in VW’s Norfolk Rhapsody with Philharmonia/Slatkin but usually I can’t stand listening to myself play.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Those that reflect the human condition

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Other people tend to do that

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Philharmonie in Berlin are both good examples of modern concert halls and the Musikverein in Vienna has the classic shoebox shape so loved by musicians.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Pavarotti in Hyde Park. Princess Diana was there in the pouring rain and we were recorded for Decca. It was part of my trial period for the Philharmonia so I felt a lot of pressure especially as I had a big solo to play from Tosca.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Feeling that I’ve done the music justice

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Leave ego behind as much as possible and serve the music.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In the sunshine

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A great meal with fine wine with my family

What is your most treasured possession?

My Grandmother’s biscuit tin

What is your present state of mind?

Semi mental

Michael Whight performs with The Lisney Trio in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre on Monday 9 March. The programme also includes Beethoven’s ‘Archduke’ Trio. Further information and tickets

Michael Whight has a varied career as an orchestral player, soloist, chamber musician, recording engineer and producer, conductor and teacher.

A former Principal Clarinetist with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, he has also played guest Principal with all the London orchestras as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Conductors he has worked with include Giulini, Maazel, Abbado, Levine, Ashkenazy, Sawallich, Sinopoli, Salonen, Sanderling, Svetlanov, and Harnoncourt.

Alongside some 200 orchestral recordings are Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto with Robert Craft and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the concerto by Christopher Gunning ( of Poirot fame) and the Mozart Concerto which he directed from the basset clarinet with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This was voted ‘the top of current offerings’ by International Record Review. He also collaborated with John Adams in performances of his concerto Gnarly Buttons in San Francisco conducted by Kent Nagano. As a session player he has appeared on the soundtracks for films such as Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter Series and can regularly be heard on TV series such as Father Brown and Granchester. Michael is also the clarinetist on the theme tune for Coronation Street.

In chamber music Michael has worked with Gidon Kremer and friends, the Lindsay Quartet, the Medici String Quartet, the Schidlof String Quartet, the Razumovsky Ensemble, the Nash Ensemble, Robert Cohen and Barry Douglas as well as recording the complete chamber music of Richard Strauss with London Winds for Hyperion and with the Wind Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe for Teldec.

Michael was the first British winner of the International Clarinet Congress Competition and won the woodwind prize at the Royal Overseas League. He was invited by Valery Gergiev to play in the World Orchestra for Peace. As a conductor he has given concerts with Northern Sinfonia, and the Royal Philharmonic and Pohang Symphony Orchestras.

Michael also has a growing career as a recording engineer and producer. He has recorded and produced for the Naxos and Toccata Classics labels and mixed a soundtrack for BFI/Miramax, in conjunction with the Library of Congress. Michael has also produced two soundtracks for wildlife films, one for Austrian TV/Schlamberger and the other for Netflix/Silverback Productions. This year will see the launch of his own recording label, Marlie.

Michael is Professor of Clarinet at Trinity Laban in London