Who or what inspired you to take up the clarinet and make it your career?
My father used to take me to hear concerts at Middlesbrough Town Hall given by what was then called the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra. I loved the sound of the the clarinet in that orchestra and declared it my chosen instrument – apparently!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
During my teenage years I loved making music in a variety of settings. The combined energies, harmonies, rhythms and colours from orchestras, wind bands, dance bands and pit bands gave me a hunger for performing that has never left! Chamber music, solo playing, orchestral playing now fill many of my days (and evenings), and the sense of fulfilment just gets stronger.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As a performer on historical instruments I find that I need to have many different instruments in good working order and ready for performance at any one time. Sometimes lining up 10 or 12 different clarinets, basset horns or chalumeaux in the run up to a range of concert programmes can be quite challenging – not to mention ensuring that I have good working reeds for all of them too! But each instrument has its own tonal colour, depth and dynamic range to explore and this also informs my music making so the down sides all have a really positive flip side to accompany them.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m really excited about the new CD with one of my chamber groups ‘Ensemble DeNOTE’, an ensemble formed by my husband and fortepianist, John Irving. We often play historical arrangements of eighteenth and nineteenth century favourites, so this CD celebrates that repertoire with two Beethoven ‘selfies’ – his trio arrangement of the Septet (clarinet, cello, fortepiano) and a piano quartet version of the Op. 16 quintet for piano and wind. With the beautiful added decorations in the Op. 16 I’m enjoying the piano quartet version rather more than I ought to! With ensembleF2 I’ve recorded a second album of chamber music by Franz Danzi. Returning to his two wonderfully operatic sonatas (one for clarinet with fortepiano and the other for basset horn and fortepiano) with Steven Devine has been great fun, especially using the Fritz fortepiano at the Finchcocks museum and its very special percussion pedals!
Some years ago I was thrilled to take part in the first ‘historical instrument’ performances of Wagner Operas with two different orchestras and under two conductors. Daniel Harding and Sir Simon Rattle each brought their own insights to this repertoire, the results were thrilling for players and audiences – such a privilege to be a part of this particular journey of rediscovery.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Mozart ‘s Gran Partita, Requiem and of course Concerto really are enjoyable to perform and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to indulge myself in these works in recent times. Again, the instruments we use are so very special for these pieces and I’m lucky to have very well made (hand made) copies that are as close to the instruments that Anton Stadler played as I think it is possible to have. My basset clarinet was made by Peter van der Poel, it plays really well and is modelled on the picture of Stadler’s instrument from a Riga concert announcement. My basset horn was a recent purchase from Guy Cowley whose instruments just get better and better – it sings so sweetly and is a joy to play.
How do your make your repertoire choices from season to season?
A new bass chalumeau by Guy Cowley and a basson de chalumeau by Andreas Schöni have promoted me to explore a number of baroque composers recently leading to a new programme of music for chalumeaux, voice and continuo with works by Vivaldi, Bononcini, Graupner, Zelenka, Telemann and others. The soprano chalumeau in particular blends so sweetly with a voice – and fits very conveniently into a coat pocket!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
My favourite hall of the moment is The Anvil at Basingstoke. With the OAE (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) we have played large symphonic programmes such as Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique as well as chamber performances of classical wind serenades. The sound in the hall is exceptional and it is so rewarding to perform in such a wonderfully warm and vibrant atmosphere. The people of Basingstoke and the surrounding region may not realise just how lucky they are!!
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I love playing great choral works such as Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Creation, Bach/Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion and others. Performing the texts and sentiments of these great works is always inspiring and there are several great choral ensembles around these days that lift the music to incredible heights – I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of them. Brahms Symphonies, Tippett’s A Child of our Time and Schubert’s Lieder would also be on my desert island disc list.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Playing in TWO chamber groups on a regular basis affords me many wonderful opportunities to play with musicians whose playing I adore, who inspire and challenge me and with whom I can explore ideas and repertoire to my heart’s content. Beyond the lives of those ensembles, I feel most inspired when I’m on stage with people who put the music and their enthusiasm first, leaving their egos outside the room…… A number of them work alongside me at the Guildhall School!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I’ve enjoyed many different performing settings but many concerts with Toronto’s Tafelmusik stand out for me as having incredible energy, consensus and excitement. Under Bruno Weil, Tafelmusik’s exploration of Beethoven Symphonies brought me immense pleasure and fulfilment – even through the recording sessions which so often in other settings can sap the joy out of the music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Technique only has value if you can use it to convey something from your heart.
Where would you like to be in ten years’ time?
In 10 years’ time I’d like to be working one-to-one with more students and directing even more of my own musical projects.
Jane peforms Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K.581 on a period basset clarinet and Crusell Quartet Op.2 No. 1 in a concert on October 5th with Consone Quartet, St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, London E1 6JN. Free entry with retiring collection
Jane is a specialist in the early clarinet and chalumeau. In addition to her work as Head of Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, regular masterclasses and international adjudicating, she has pursued a busy international career, playing all over the world with many renowned ensembles including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Tafelmusik and The Academy of Ancient Music. Her repertoire is vast and extends from the works of Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi through to Wagner, Mahler and Debussy – all on historically appropriate instruments.
After some fifteen thrilling years as principal clarinet of the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees Jane turned her focus towards chamber music. She has performed in the UK, North America, Japan, Australia and Europe with Robert Levin, Ronald Brautigam, Eybler Quartet and Les Jacobins, and currently performs regularly with her Ensemble DeNOTE and Ensemble F2. Concerto performances include baroque concertos by Fasch, Telemann, Graupner, and Molter, Mozart’s Concerto for basset clarinet and Weber’s Concertos performed Europe-wide.
Jane has recorded for Analekta (Canada), ATMA (Canada) and sfz music (UK) performing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, solo repertoire for the Basset Horn, wind music by Gossec and Méhul, and a programme of Lieder by Schubert. A DVD documentary on Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio with Ensemble DeNOTE (Optic Nerve) is complemented by a new recording of Beethoven’s Trio Op. 38 (Omnibus Classics). A second CD of the chamber music of Franz Danzi is in preparation with ensembleF2 on the Devine Music label.