For Clarinet Month on Bachtrack, we decided to conduct short interviews with clarinettists of some of the leading orchestras to get a view from the principal's desk and to learn more about the role of the clarinet within an orchestra. Last, but not least is Stefan Schilling, principal clarinet with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Stefan Schilling © Astrid Ackermann
Stefan Schilling
© Astrid Ackermann

What made you choose the clarinet?

I came across the clarinet through the pragmatic approach of my father, an administrative lawyer. Music education is important, but it should also be practical. It had to be an orchestral instrument, chamber music was important as well, it should be transportable and I should be able to play jazz, thus: the clarinet!

Did you have any clarinet heroes, clarinettists you’ve looked up to?

From an early stage, my idol was my teacher Hans D. Klaus, and he still is today.

How long have you been playing with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra?

I joined the BRSO in 1993.

What’s your favourite orchestral solo? (Why?)

I don’t have favourite pieces or solos. I appreciate my job, because of the ever-changing challenges. I was brought up to realise the composer’s aims and not my own (present) likings.

What’s your most dreaded orchestral solo? (And why?!)

Also, I’m not afraid of specific tasks. I always look forward to the music, and it’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t work out.

I’m afraid of loud entries by the colleagues behind me when I couldn’t protect myself beforehand.

Which clarinet work do you think is most unfairly neglected?

The works of the Austrian composer Hans Gal definitely deserve more attention.

Do you get opportunities to perform concertos with your orchestra? What’s your most memorable performance as a concerto soloist?

There are possibilities to play concertos with our orchestra, but the opportunities are rare.

Can you give us a funny conductor anecdote? (Anonymous if need be!)

I can still remember the 90-minute rehearsal for Strauss’ Duett Concertino with Marco Postinghel and Lorin Maazel. Maybe we couldn’t clarify all questions…

My first experience with Brahms’ Third Symphony was a bit shorter. After the first (and only) rehearsal, which lasted 32 minutes, we played it in Japan three weeks later. On this journey and the one after, we had 26 works in our music cases. The usual music stands weren’t big enough so we had to place the scores on the floor.

And finally, for the real clarinet nerds, what make of clarinet and what make and strength of reed do you play? Do you play on plastic reeds as well?

I play on clarinets by Leitner & Kraus and Herbert Wurlitzer, with different mouthpieces and reeds, depending on what I’m playing.

I haven’t been able to use plastic reeds yet, I haven’t found the right setting.