We first sat down with Paul in November of 2016, when he had recently joined the orchestra as our new Principal Clarinetist. This week, he will be featured as our soloist on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622. We checked in with Paul this week to talk about the upcoming concert.
What an exciting event! Can you tell us a bit about what this concerto means to you?
The Mozart clarinet concerto is the most beautiful piece of work written for clarinet. The technique, expression and musical language used by Mozart is the utmost art itself that communicates with people in the most beautiful and genuine way. And I think it speaks more or less the same to all of the clarinetists and musicians in the world.
Are there any special challenges to playing Mozart, as a clarinetist?
It is challenging for me to present “everything” in the music that has to offer. Calmness, anger, happiness, cries and such feelings are which I am trying present throughout this concerto, and it is very challenging not only playing-wise but planning-wise. In a practical sense, I am playing this on a basset clarinet, which is the original instrument that Mozart wrote for, and the horn has four more lower notes (covers down to concert A2) that are used in several passages in the whole piece. Sometimes I have to use my right thumb, which is not used in soprano clarinet playing, to press the key down.
Is this a common piece for clarinetists to play?
This is the most important piece for clarinetists so it is being played in every audition situation you can imagine(at least in professional settings as well as conservatory entrance auditions). So yes, it is a very common piece.
Have you performed it with orchestra before?
I have performed it two times with modern orchestra, and once with period ensemble with period basset clarinet. My most recent performance was October 2017 in New York City.
How do you prepare differently for performing as a soloist than you do for sitting in the orchestra?
Obviously soloing in the orchestra, you have to be musically present at all times. So I generally imagine to play bigger. In the orchestra in contrast, generally when you play together, you really want to think about blend your playing. Also you need to be ready to be present visually as you are soloing, as you have limited opportunities to gather yourself and cleaning the instrument etc., whereas when you play in the orchestra and you have 40 measures of rest, you can sometimes think of “Do I want tacos or sliders afterwards?”.
Besides your work with the Philharmonic, what other kinds of performances are you involved in this spring?
I was recently in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale to perform compositions by students. It was all world premieres so it was a lot of fun performing, working with them and getting to know them. When I go back to the City, I will appear on Carnegie Hall for an orchestral concert with bass clarinet, and I have few woodwind quintet concerts lined up in May and June.
If you could name something about yourself that people in the audience might never guess, what would it be?
I was born and raised in Korea, and I spent my half of US years (seven) in NY but I am a die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan.