UPDATE FROM THE AMICI CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
Something incredibly special happened with the Amici Chamber Ensemble’s recording of Goulash Musik (premiering Sunday, December 13 at 3 p.m.). Joaquin Valdepeñas, considered one of the most distinguished clarinetists of his generation, shared the stage for the first time professionally with his son Alejandro Valdepeñas.
While at very different stages of their careers, these two have so much in common! A desire to be the best musicians they possibly can be and the work ethic and desire to make it happen.
Joaquin’s musical legacy is vast; he has been Principal Clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 41 years and Co-Artistic Director/ Founder of Amici Chamber Ensemble for 32 years. He teaches extensively at the Aspen Music Festival and School, The Glenn Gould School at The Royal Conservatory of Music, and The University of Toronto Faculty of Music. He is a prolific recording artist with over three dozen recordings, two JUNO awards and three GRAMMY nominations. Joaquin has performed in festivals and concert halls all over the world.
Joaquin and his wife, violinist Mi-Hyon Kim, have two children: Josué Valdepeñas, the assistant principal cello at the Calgary Philharmonic and Alejandro Valdepeñas, a multi-talented young professional musician playing both the violin and the viola.
Today’s interview takes place with Joaquin and Alejandro and provides insight into their musical life together and growing up.
What was it like working together on the same stage?
Joaquin: “It was amazing being with my own kid and hearing him sound so good, sitting across from me. I have a great feeling of pride having him there. Seeing that he did so well, it made it even more special. Alejandro can be critical of himself, and it was a joy getting to watch as he listened back to the recording and realizing how good it sounded. A rewarding affirmation of how much practice and work he has done.”
Alejandro: “This was my first time playing in a setting with other musicians with this level of experience. Seeing how quickly things are put together showed me the level of preparation and musicianship expected at the highest level. It opened my eyes to their natural presence, how the music feels and how they just understood what is needed. I must admit, it was a weird feeling, playing with people again after playing alone for so long. As a violin player, growing up, Jonathan Crow has been an inspiration, now sitting beside him and playing for hours together as a colleague is something I am proud of.”
How does your father influence you? What is it like as a young musician now?
Alejandro: “Growing up, it is the norm having successful musical parents, but as you get older, things feel more real, and I realized how good he is and his status. I put a lot of pressure on myself to become as good and as successful as my parents, and that makes me aspire to that level of musicianship. In the summer when there were less restrictions, I was able to get together with friends as a quartet practising together in the park or at a friends’ home. It was a lot of fun. It was enough to simply rehearse together without expectations or do studio classes for each other. In this time, you have to be proactive and create goals for yourself. Friends are there to share and grow with.
The exposure over the years to Aspen and my father’s varied career has given me high-level goals of what this life can look like. This profession is so tough, and seeing my dad gives me hope that getting one good opportunity can change your life. The hope that that can happen is so motivating and inspiring. It is the feeling that I am working towards something that I really want.”
What is your advice for musicians getting their start?
Joaquin: “Stay true to your art, work hard and be a good person. You have to stay true to your own basic principles, true to yourself. I have always been a believer that you must go after what you love and give that a chance first. I hope my teaching is relevant to how people live their lives, not just how they play the instrument. I know it has for so many of my students, and it can also be a channel to other opportunities. One of the reasons I started Amici, is that I know working in the orchestra, while amazing, can box you in and performing chamber music was a way to work with guest artists, listening, growing, and learning from each other.
It is such a different time, before the internet you were in the dark, and it was a blessing to not know. We could work on our craft and make music, but nowadays, for example, Alejandro loves to listen to recordings, and that can be intimidating to constantly hear the best performing so readily.”
Can you share with us your story of learning the viola during the pandemic?
Alejandro: “As with many violin players, my instrument was chosen for me at the age of 3-4. I am happy my parents chose the violin because, with the violin, you have the most options for repertoire. There is just so much great music and more job opportunities as well. Although, I have worked hard all these years learning the violin, I always wanted to play viola as well. The pandemic has provided me with time, and there was nothing to lose — no audition to work towards or performance to rehearse. This summer, I was supposed to play with Santa Fe Opera, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID. The Opera still paid their musicians, and I decided right away to use that money to buy my viola, and here I am playing alongside Toronto’s finest musicians in my first professional recording.”
Enjoy Goulash Musik, Amici’s free virtual concert experience on Sunday, December 13 at 3 p.m. on the Amici Chamber Ensemble YouTube Channel.
Program: Ernő Dohnányi, Sextet OP. 37 and Zdenek Fibich, Quintet OP. 42.
Featuring guest artists Jonathan Crow (violin), Neil Deland (horn), and Alejandro Valdepeñas (viola) performing with Co-Artistic Directors Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), David Hetherington (cello) and Serouj Kradjian (piano).
Stay tuned following the concert for a special chat with the Goulash Musik artists.
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