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Uebel Interviews: Conversation with Nicholas Carpenter

We would like to start the new year with a small series of interviews with our F. Arthur Uebel artists, who give us an exciting look behind the scenes of their artistic work. The British clarinettist Nicholas Carpenter will kick off this series.

How did you discover your instrument?

My father was Principal Clarinet of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for nearly 40 years. As long as I can remember I heard him practising and always wanted to play the clarinet. I received my first instrument for my eighth birthday which, still today, is the best birthday present I have ever had. Although he died a few years ago, I am so lucky to have an enormous legacy of recordings of the BSO (particularly Sibelius and Shostakovitch with Paavo Berglund) in which I can still hear him play.

Did you have important role models during your studies?

Obviously my father was my first important role model. My two main teachers, David Campbell and Thea King were also very important for me. David, because when I was sixteen, he took me right back to the beginning and really sorted the foundations of my technique. Thea, because she spent so much time encouraging me to engage with the musical and expressive side of the music, and then showed me how to project it in my playing. More recently, my partner MImi, who, amongst many other things, has really shown me what it is to work with incredible concentration, focus, determination and application.

What were the first pieces that you played for an audience?

Romanza by Max Reger!

When did you know that you wanted to be a professional musician?

From the moment I realised that I was not going to be a professional football player, I decided that I wanted to play the clarinet for a living!

What are the goals that you have achieved as a musician?

As a student I always dreamt of being in a London Orchestra. I realised this dream when I became a member of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I remained there for nearly twenty years and during this time I was so fortunate to work with many of the world’s finest conductors and soloists in many of the finest concert halls in the world.

How important is passing on your knowledge, for example with teaching?

As well as being a performer, I have always taught the clarinet. I consider teaching incredibly important, and am always trying to learn and improve how to do it!

What would be your advice for music students (college/university level)?

I always tell my students that there are no shortcuts when learning any instrument. All the finest players have spent thousands and thousands of hours in focussed, constructive and hard work. If my students really want to achieve a very high level, they must do the same!

Which piece would you bring to a deserted island?

Bach: St. Matthew Passion

Beethoven: Eroica Symphony

Mozart: Clarinet Quintet (am I allowed to take my own recording?)

Brahms: Clarinet Quintet

Puccini: La Bohème

Britten: War Requiem

What’s the book that has influenced you the most?

‘The Making of Them’ by Nick Duffel

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