Olivier Patey in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto

For Olivier Patey, a childhood dream will soon come true, when he performs Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with his orchestra, conducted by Klaus Mäkelä. ‘This concerto was the reason why I decided to play the clarinet, once upon a time.'
Olivier Patey (image: Eduardus Lee)
Olivier Patey (image: Eduardus Lee)

Since joining the Concertgebouw Orchestra ten years ago as principal clarinettist, Olivier Patey has mastered Dutch, even if his native French does pop up at unexpected moments. In the cosy house set into a dike in North Amsterdam where he lives with his wife, violinist Diet Tilanus, and their three daughters, he talks animatedly about the instrument to which he lost his heart.

Huge range of timbres

However, the clarinet was not the way he entered the music world. ‘When I was six I started piano, along with my younger sister Sophie. That was just part of our upbringing; my mother had also played piano when she was young. My father was a GP, and loved to sing but otherwise wasn’t actively involved in music. The piano was ultimately not my thing. It just didn’t click between me and the instrument, not even when I was listening to it, except when it was with an orchestra. So I was allowed to choose a different instrument. When I heard Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on the radio, I knew the clarinet was the instrument for me. It was the warmth in the tone, and its huge range of timbres.'

Custom built

A basset clarinet as it looked in Mozart's time.

Most of Olivier's clarinets were built by Buffet Crampon and loaned to him by the Foundation Concertgebouw Orchestra. Buffet Crampon built him a basset clarinet, the instrument for which Mozart originally wrote his concerto, especially for this occasion. 'A basset clarinet is slightly longer and a third lower than the regular clarinet. It has the depth of a low instrument yet the clarity of a modern model. I want to play the Concerto on this instrument, not just because it was written for it, but because it really sounds much nicer, with greater contrasts. Moreover, the music does not have to be adjusted, which is necessary in the version for a modern clarinet. For Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, the best is not good enough...'

Read more…
This was part of Henriëtte Posthuma de Boer ’s interview with Olivier Patey for Preludium. 

Read more in Preludium (in Dutch)