Li Xin entered the middle school affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music for clarinet learning with Professor Gu Peng and later entered the middle school affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, study with Professor Tao Chunxiao. Li Xin has won the prizes at the National Clarinet Competition at the age of 16 in Beijing and the “Shanghai Spring” International Music Festival in 2001.
With a full scholarship awarded by Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at National University of Singapore, Li Xin continued studying with Ma Yue and completed his Bachelor degree of music. In April 2005, Li Xin was among the first group of six Conservatory students selected for Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Fellowship Programme at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, USA, where he received coaching from Peabody faculty, as well as the clarinettist in Philadelphia Orchestra and the professor at Julliard school.
In the past years, Li Xin performed often with the conservatory orchestra in China and solo performance at Shanghai Concert Hall. In Singapore, he performed with the Conservatory Orchestra often as principle clarinet and as a member of a Conservatory Wind Quintet. He also played in the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and as Principal clarinet in Macao Orchestra. He often goes to the international music festival as well, like Asian Youth Orchestra, the Canton International Summer Music Academy, where he performed with some renowned soloists and conductors, such as Martha Argerich and Charles Dutoit.
In 2007, Li Xin continued his studies in Europe, where he received lessons with the clainet professor in Geneva, Zurich and Lyon. He was accepted as freelance musician in the Orchestra of Zurich Opera and the Orchestra Musikkollegium Winterthur in Switzerland.
(This interview was conducted in January 2012)
It’s my pleasure to share some of my experiences and feelings of what I am doing now in Singapore.
The title of my recent recital presented by The Philharmonic Winds at the Esplanade Recital Studio in November was “Clarinet Concord”, in music it means “a harmonious combination of simultaneously sounded tones”. I have already stayed in Singapore for 6 years, and I was so glad that I can give a recital together with my Singaporean musician friends, clarinetists Desmond Chow, Liang Jiayi, Lim Liphua, and another clarinetist who did not play but provided a very nice rehearsal place for us, Sean Tan, who also provide us with excellent instrument services always. The pianist Beatrice Lin was my schoolmate whom I really trust. She agreed to be my accompanist when the original pianist was unable to make it. That’s the meaning of my recital, putting musicians, friends together and making something we like to share with the audience. I hope that through everybody’s contribution to the music performance and education in Singapore, more and more people will benefit in music.
What inspired you to take up the clarinet? Were there any particular influences?
When I was nine years old, my music teacher at that time brought me to a wind band rehearsal. I was surprised and fascinated because it was first time that I saw so many schoolmates playing instruments together, with the clarinet in the front which was the first instrument I touched. The teacher told me later that the clarinet is very important in the group and can play lots of different kinds of music. Now I can see it is true.
Tell us about some of your achievements before coming to Singapore to study music?
I spend so much playing time in my childhood, finally I could luckily enter a professional music school and later make the music to be my profession. During the study, I found majoring in music is so interesting and easy in my school time. Another lucky thing is I had great teachers, they gave me many good advises and keeped me motivited. I got competition prizes, scholarships for my studys and chances to go different schools in many different places.
Why did you choose Singapore as a place to study music?
Singapore has a good environment for studying – not very expensive in terms of living, excellent teachers and very open for culture development.
Describe your fellowship programme at Peabody Conservatory. What have you learnt and what were some of your memorable experiences?
It was great experience to fly 18 hours to another land to meet people who do the same thing as yourself. I had the chance to have clarinet lessons, music theory and history lectures with famous professors, and played music with people who are so different but are doing the same thing as me, had concerts together in different places and travelling together, eating together, making friends, party and participated university events, etc.
What is it like to be performing at different orchestra and chamber concerts?
The most meaningful thing in playing with different people and in different orchestras is you could find different cultures and tastes, and you could learn more from them.
From a huge and expanding clarinet repertoire, how do you choose which pieces you’ll play and which pieces to keep in view?
As a musician, I choose different pieces in my different learning stages. It is important to choose suitable pieces to practise. Meanwhile, I also consider the purpose of the performance and the audience when choosing pieces for concerts – if my audience are mostly professional musicians, I will choose pieces in different genres and different technical performances; if it is for amateurs, I will also choose different genres of music to perform, but more to show what the clarinet can do and how clarinet achieve the musical needs of the different pieces.
Is there a favourite piece that you always enjoyed performing? Why?
There are really many pieces I always like to listen and play, for example, Debussy’s rhapsody for clarinet, it’s always fresh when playing, because Debussy’s music is so mysterious and sometimes oriental, it’s just like clarinet sound. His music is morden and cool, combined clarinet sound, will give colorful imagination and sensitive feeling to you.
In general, do you find playing clarinet fun?
Absolutely! I treat the clarinet as my good partner to discover the musical world and to enjoy life.
What do you think is the hardest part of being a musician?
Persistence. Actually, that applies to everything. You must believe in what you are doing and persist to do it.
Often, we hear people say they don’t listen to classical music or go to classical music concerts for fear of “not knowing anything about it” or “understanding it”. What advices do you have for them?
Actually almost everyone can enjoy the music it is a pleasure for the ear and the mind. Since classical music is often quite serious, people do not play classical instruments and have less chance to listen that kind of music, they do not have the sense of participation. It is the same as all other different kinds of art, like painting, dance, theatre etc. You do not really need to know the “meaning”, it is the natural beauty of feeling, it’s a great thing in people’s lives, and if there is a chance you get into it, you will find why people continue playing and enjoying the classical music for hundreds of years.