Jonathan Hadas is part of the “next generation” of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. At only 29 years-old he has been a bass clarinetist with the orchestra for four years. He recently spoke to us about how nerve wracking his audition was, his views on the future of classical music, a love of Stravinsky and much more.
What made you want to become a classical musician?
I can’t say that at age three I knew I wanted to be a musician, I kind of just found myself as one. From an early age the house was full of music. When I started it was just a hobby and then it became more and more serious so I went to an arts high school, the Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance, and then went into the outstanding musician program in the IDF. Somewhere before the army audition was probably the moment I understood that I would become a musician. After that I received a Bachelor’s degree from the Buchman-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv.
What made you chose the clarinet?
I wanted to play the saxophone, but was told to start with the clarinet and then switch. So I did that and fell in love with the clarinet. It always had a bit of an appeal to me; I was fascinated by all the different styles it’s capable of – it’s such a flexible instrument. A year and a half ago though I finally started playing the sax!
Who is your most important musical influence?
My parents were big supporters from the start. There was the usual getting me to and from places and being patient and the financial aspect of course. But they also contributed a lot to my being musical as a child. My talent is really due both to my education and to the fact that music was always in the background when I was growing up; it was always part of my life.
Describe the audition process for the IPO
It’s not something I like to remember… But it was a big deal. These don’t happen often, the next clarinet audition now will probably be in 15 years. At the time I was studying with Yevgeny Yehudin who is the first clarinet in the IPO, he let me know a year before it happened. I tried to imagine if this was something I could really do.
Three months before the audition I purchased a bass clarinet and started practicing. Before that I had been playing a regular clarinet – the bass is much bigger, you need a lot more air and the technique is different too. It’s sort of like going from a keyboard to a piano.
I went to the audition and was shaking like a little boy. I thought I didn’t have a chance! When you are playing behind the screen in the audition it feels like an inspection, it was very stressful. I played well but I feel so lucky. It was only the second audition of my life!
You grew up in Israel; did you attend IPO performances as a child?
Yeah, a lot. As a student, we had reduced prices so it was a regular thing for me to go once a week. I have so many memories of sitting in the last row all the way in balcony. After being accepted into the orchestra it felt amazing going to the artist entrance and walking in with confidence.
Is there a specific memory of playing with the IPO that stands out for you?
The first time I played bass clarinet with an orchestra was with the IPO. My first concert was in La Scala and I was really really nervous. It was crazy. It was the first time playing in a really professional orchestra and the first time playing this instrument…Then Avi (Avi Shoshani , Secretary General of the IPO) came on stage and asked us to play especially well because he had invited a number of important people. It was really nerve wracking! But once it started it was amazing, everything came together. But I always remember that beginning. Those first concerts were difficult on my nerves.
What is it like being part of the younger generation of the IPO?
It’s amazing. I’ve been there for four years, I was the first of this new generation and I can already see the change just in this short amount of time. When there is fresh blood, every piece is new and I think it brings enthusiasm. Everyone is also eager to ask older colleagues for help and hear recordings. I think this group brings fresh energy. There are a rather large number of young people and we are all good friends outside of work too.
Audience cultivation for classical music is a big topic right now, what are your thoughts on it?
It’s a problem, but when I think about what concerts I like to go to and pay for, it’s ones that combine different forms of art and music – dance, video art, pop stars, etc. For me, I think that is the future. I belong to a group called the Meitar Ensemble and that’s what we try to do, produce shows that bring together different musical styles; a classical quartet, guitar, dancer – a taste of all. You don’t have time to get bored when you hear different styles of music and I think it’s really cool to have.
It’s difficult to survive four hours of opera. It shouldn’t disappear, but if you want new audiences to come to this “scary” environment they need some help. I think the IPO is doing this quite well; we have a lot with different artists that we perform with and different types of shows.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Right now I have this balance, since I don’t play as a principal I have time to juggle different types of projects. I have a group called Kbetch we play klezmer and we tour which is great. I mentioned before that I also play a lot of modern music with the Meitar Ensemble. I like the variety. I hope that I can keep working in these different styles.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals?
I’m actually trying to avoid them in my life. Every time I realize that I have some type of ritual I try to get rid of it. I don’t know why, maybe I want to be unpredictable. So I don’t really have anything; if there’s a concert I’m a bit stressed about I’ll probably be on stage before to review passages, but that’s it.
Who are your favorite composers and why?
Stravinsky – it always moves me. I really like his orchestration and all of his ballet music attracted me. Also as kind of a selfish approach, the bass clarinet parts are always nice and interesting. They always keep you on the edge of your seat; it’s always a pleasure to play his music. He just writes cool.
What do you like to listen to when not performing or rehearsing?
Right now I’m really into Bulgarian music. I’m deep into Balkan countries – because we’re focused on that in my other group, Kbetch. I’m always listening to and learning this. When I’m at home the stereo or Spotify is on this style.
If you weren’t a musician what career would you want to have?
Maybe a designer. Interior design is a second hobby of mine. Every time I go to an antique show I think about where different things could be placed or what pieces I like.