Concerto conversations with our soloists

26 June 2024

This Summer, Welsh National Opera is travelling to the heart of Europe for WNO Orchestra’s Crossing Borders concert tour in a sumptuous offering of Smetana, Schumann, alongside either the Beethoven Violin or Mozart Clarinet concertos*. Ahead of the tour, we caught up with our concerto soloists, WNO Orchestra Leader and violinist David Adams and WNO Principal Clarinettist Thomas Verity to find out just why their solo pieces are so special to them.

Could you give a bit of background about the pieces you are playing?

Thomas Verity: The Mozart Clarinet Concerto was the composer’s last completed work, finished just weeks before his death in 1791. The only surviving manuscript we have today is actually for an early sketch of the first 199 bars which was written for basset horn in G - a lower instrument that doesn’t really exist today. Like many modern performers, I will be playing it on the standard clarinet in A, in an edition that redistributes those very lowest notes.

David Adams: Beethoven wrote his violin concerto for Franz Clement, who first performed it in Vienna in 1805. The only cadenza Beethoven wrote for the concerto was for an arrangement with piano, so I’ll be playing the cadenza by Fritz Kreisler, the famous early-20th century Viennese violinist.

What is your concerto’s significance to clarinet/violin players today?

DA: The Beethoven Concerto is a huge piece for violinists - it was literally the longest concerto written at the time when it was composed.

TV: Mozart’s concerto is one of the most central pieces to the clarinet repertoire and we’re really lucky to have this masterpiece among the limited number of pieces for solo clarinet. It’s also one of the instrument’s earliest significant pieces and set the stage for how writing for the clarinet would develop later.

What is the trickiest part of playing your concerto and why?

TV: It’s probably safe to say that Mozart is one of the hardest composers to do justice to on any instrument. His style is so pure and precise that there’s nowhere to hide, and everything has to be graceful and balanced. 

DA: Some of the trickier moments in Beethoven’s last movement are technically demanding, but the main challenge is to bring elegance and meaning to the music.

Do you have a favourite recording of your concerto?

DA: My favourite is the audio recording by the violinist Pinchas Zukerman with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I grew up listening to Zukerman play the concerto, particularly the BBC Proms video recording of his performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. I virtually wore out the tape on our 1980s VCR! I was totally captivated by his incredible warmth and depth of sound. 

TV: The Wolfgang Meyer recording with the Concentus Musicus Wien and Nikolaus Haroncourt is amazingly fresh and energetic, and relies on a historically informed performance method - a movement that aims to perform pieces in a way that’s authentic to the music of the time.

Don’t miss your opportunity to see WNO’s star soloists in action during the Crossing Borders orchestra tour this Summer: *Thomas Verity performs Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in Bangor, Cardiff and Newtown with David Adams performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in Brecon, Southampton and Aberystwyth.