31 October 2023

In the Green Room with YCAT: Clarinettist Jonathan Leibovitz opens the new season at Wigmore Hall

By Lark Music

A time of special connections

My older sister Yarden was in the audience for my Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) recital with pianist Joseph Havlat at Wigmore Hall at the beginning of October and afterwards, backstage in the Green Room. It was there that she told me how she had struggled to hold back tears as she could feel the presence of our late father as I played. This was a very special moment for us.

Yarden is a teacher in Israel and a school holiday meant she could spend four days in London with me. We lost our father, Andy, a few years ago – and he had been the biggest supporter of my musical development.

Like most children, I had started out playing the recorder and enjoyed the freedom to express myself through music. But when I watched older children play other instruments at my school, Giv’atayim Conservatory, in Israel, I thought I would like to try the clarinet, particularly as I really liked the teacher Eva Wasserman-Margolis. I have played the clarinet ever since.

Wigmore Hall has therefore become a very important place for me; it was here in 2022 that I became a prize-winner at the YCAT and Concert Artists Guild (New York) International Auditions after completing my Masters at the Music Academy in Basel.

So much has happened in that short time. YCAT creates new, different kinds of exposure as well as supporting me to think ahead. They’re helping me find my way and to make contacts. I can ask questions and talk to YCAT openly.

Another special connection

My recital at the Wigmore Hall opened with Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op.28 by Mieczysław Weinberg. I feel somehow attached to Weinberg (December 8, 1919 – February 26, 1996) as, like him, part of my family originally came from Poland. They were forced to leave during World War II for Israel while Weinberg fled Poland for the Soviet Union.

There has been a renaissance of Weinberg’s work since the Soviet Union fell and especially in the last few years. He’s an immense figure in post-modern classical music and this composition for clarinet is very different to any other composer’s work.

As a young clarinettist I often doubt myself and so, for this programme, I wanted to find something that I would relate to while expressing myself to the maximum.

I find I can connect with Weinberg’s 20th Century folk music as well other Eastern European composers such as Béla Bartók, György Ligeti, and Witold Lutosławski. They will all feature on my debut album with pianist Joseph and violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux, due for release in late spring 2024 on Delphian Records.

I met Joseph through a YCAT recommendation, just a short time ago. He’s a wonderful pianist and everything he plays seems so easy for him – and annoying for me! We immediately struck up a rapport and it’s a real pleasure to perform with him at Wigmore Hall and record the album.

Where would I be without Brahms?

I also included Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata in E Flat Op.120 No.2 in the Wigmore Hall programme. To me, Brahms is the most important composer for clarinet and I wonder where I would be without him. I would probably have changed instruments… again! It’s a great honour to include this at Wigmore Hall – the perfect place to play such beautiful music.

The final piece in the programme is Franc Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; a piece that I love and play a lot – he was an expressionist, so I find his music is easy to follow. The sonata was written a year before his death and there is much reflection of his life – both joyful and melancholic as well as some sarcasm.

On tour with YCAT

This year has been very interesting for me with performances at the Alte Oper Frankfurt, Konzerthaus Berlin, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vancouver Recital Society, Saffron Hall, and St. George’s Bristol as well as a concerto performance with the London Firebird Orchestra at St George’s Hanover Square, in London.

With YCAT at my side, helping me find my own way as musician, I am looking forward to the many opportunities to meet and play with more musicians. As I am the only musician in my family, it’s so good to have the YCAT team supporting me. I can speak to them about anything as they care so much about the musicians who’re under their wing.

I will now embark on a small tour of the UK, including the Isle of Wight and Bath as well as appearing as a soloist and in chamber performances throughout Europe and beyond. This tour encompasses the Vancouver Recital Society, Kiel Musikfreunde, Brandenburgische Sommerkonzerte, and the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

About Jonathan

Jonathan, 26, was nominated as a 2022 Rising Star Artist by Classic FM and he’s appeared as a soloist with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Gävle Symphony Orchestra, Slovak State Philharmonic Košice, Jyväskylä Sinfonia, and the Israel Sinfonietta. He has also recorded and performed chamber music with Südwestrundfunk in Bruchsaal and given concerts in the Verbier Festival, the Crusell, Rauna and Hauho Festivals in Finland.

Jonathan has also attended the Bendigo Chamber Music Festival in Australia and undertaken a tour of Colombia. He performed with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rodolfo Barraez, and performed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, where he will return this season.

An avid chamber musician, Jonathan founded the Avir Wind Quintet, and has collaborated with the ‘Mietar Ensemble’ and the Israeli Contemporary Players. He has given recitals across Israel, in Germany, Switzerland and Finland.

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