Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Concertgebouworkest - Symphonie Fantastique - Berlioz

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I am Arno Piters. I have been playing the clarinet and E-flat clarinet

in the Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam since 2004.

My first musical experiences were with the local wind band

in my home village in Eijsden in the Limburg province.

It was called the Red Harmony or Sainte Cécile.

That made a big impression on me.

As an eight-year-old, I was allowed to join, learning solfège and rhythm.

After a year I was allowed to choose an instrument. I wanted to play the trumpet,

but my father did not like that idea. I dont know why.

So I played the clarinet, and I have never stopped playing.

From the age of fourteen, I dreamed of playing in an orchestra

preferably in the Concertgebouworkest, that would be the best thing in the world.

Through a professor at the Conservatory in Maastricht, Willem van der Vuurst...

I called him, asking to take lessons.

After taking lessons from him for a while, I asked him:

'Mr. van der Vuurst, may I play in the Concertgebouworkest?'

He answered: “That wont happen, you are not good enough!”

But only a few months later he asked me whether I wanted

to play along with him in Mahlers Symphony No. 2 with Riccardo Chailly.

That piece requires two E-flat clarinetsDo you want to play?” – I sure did.

I will never forget the first rehearsal,

I had never experienced anything like that before.

How they played! It was not perfect, but their dedication,

their drive and the desire to play as beautifully as possible

knocked me off for the first 45 minutes.

That was when I decided that I had to play in this orchestra,

and I would do all I could to achieve that.

Apart from the normal B-flat clarinet I also play the shorter E-flat clarinet.

That instrument is similar, but it sounds higher and louder,

with a more narrow sound, more playful and lighter.

It has to suit you, I love playing it.

Seventy per cent of those parts are meant as a special effect... something that is added to the orchestra as something extra.

It is often loud and fast and virtuosic, which is fun.

But some composers like Ravel, Shostakovich, Mahler and Strawinsky

also use it in a rather unusual, lyrical way:

being played with a soft and warm sound.

Unfortunately, that does not happen too often,

but that makes it even more interesting to play.

In this symphony, I play the normal clarinet in the first four movements,

and switch to the E-flat clarinet only in the 5th movement.

After a short introduction which is played twice,

starts the so-called Witches' Sabbath.

This melody has been played throughout the symphony,

but now Berlioz has added that instead of dropping an octave, it now rises

and it's filled with trills.

It starts quite soft but it turns into a huge cacophony because everyone joins in.

And I picture all these Witches coming together and screeching,

cooking up weird plots - it turns into chaos.

That happens in movement five until the Dies Irae starts.

Did you have a good cycle ride Arno?

Sure! You have got to do something if there is nothing to practice for.

But you can always practice, cant you?

That is true. I do that too I practice every day, but...

On your bike?

Right. I practice and teach in the morning and in the afternoons I go on my bike.

But it feels strange if there is no direct goal to practice for.

Okay, enjoy your ride!


Enjoy watching and listening to the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz

played by the Concertgebouworkest, conducted by Daniele Gatti.

The Description of Concertgebouworkest - Symphonie Fantastique - Berlioz