New resident Concertgebouw Orchestra Martin Fröst: ‘Music is the deepening of existence’

Ask clarinetist Martin Fröst (51) what music means to him and you will reap an early childhood memory. On holiday in France with his parents, he heard Schuberts musicians in a church Second Piano Trio rehearse. For hours he sat enchanted on the hard benches, „hoping that this rehearsal would never end. It wasn’t until everyone had left the building that I sleepwalked back. The world around me breathed differently than before.”

At the beginning of this century, along with the German Jörg Widmann, Fröst belonged to a young generation of clarinetists who not only gave new dimensions to the standard repertoire, but also used the instrument to break through the boundaries of the classical tradition. That is an important reason why the Swede will become artist-in-residence with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra next season – as the first woodwind player. “We classical musicians, often surrounded by sounds from an early age, sometimes tend to think it’s about playing flawlessly, perfecting notes,” he says. “But music is so much more, it is the deepening of existence.”

big story

Fröst wants to give music a place in a larger story, in which sound, word, image and dance flow together. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic gave him the opportunity to experiment with this for the first time. This collaboration resulted in three concerts: Genesisa search for the origin of music, retrotopiaabout the obsession with the past and Exodusabout what ways out man still remain.

“Where do we as humans go from here and now? That question is becoming increasingly important,” says Fröst. “Do we need an ‘exodus’ to find our destination? The concerto begins with a choir that sings softer and softer, until it is almost inaudible and only its echo resounds in our heads. Then I tell them that we know about the existence of the big bang, because it also reverberates in the universe. I want to make the audience feel: we are not just going to listen to music, we are going on a journey.”

The three new formats developed by Fröst will not yet be shown during his residency with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, although he will perform a “dance mosaic” in one of his four concerts in Amsterdam. Exodus to be heard. He also plays new pieces written for him by the British composers Anna Clyne and Sally Beamish.

“At the Genesisproject, in which I traverse music history with the orchestra, I discovered how we always accumulate knowledge and experience. A lot of modern pieces give me the idea that I can feel all those layers, that I can look back centuries on how we developed.”

Silence of nature

Perhaps part of his innovative approach to the instrument and music, Fröst says, is where he grew up: the loneliness of northern Sweden, far removed from the centers of power that determine cultural and musical laws. “In a conversation recently, the clarinetists from the Berliner and New York Philharmonic said that I came into music with such a different idea of ​​how to play. I’m not trapped in a tradition. The region I grew up in consisted of space, silence, the breathing of nature – a white canvas on which you could paint, especially in winter. A city is usually full of compelling impressions, but there the imagination could develop freely. That shadow area between silence and sound also embodies the soul of the clarinet for me.”

Fröst will play four concerts next season with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

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