Franck Russo, clarinettist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My parents are great music lovers (classical music, jazz, blues, rock, rap, slam, world music) and my paternal grandfather was absolutely passionate about classical music and opera. All this obviously contributed to the education of my musical ear by giving me a passion for music. Being a curious child, I naturally wanted to make music to occupy my free time. Happily, I met the right teachers at the right times in my life: P. Clément at the Toulon Conservatory, F. Héau at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory, M. Arrignon and J. Julien-Laferrière, D. Hovora, M. Moraguès, D. Walter, H. Fourès and J. Comte at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris as well as Y. Gilad at the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles.

“A la Nuit” Extrait du disque:

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

A few years ago, when I was part of a musical theatre company. We did two shows for young audiences near Paris at the Ferme du Buisson and later that same evening I had to play chamber music in a quartet of clarinets at the Hôtel de Soubise. These two totally different aesthetic programmes served to convince me that this was what I wanted to be: a complete artist with different and multiple facets. My instrument, the clarinet, was helpful in this respect, because it is present in all music and cultures.


Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?

In the spring of 2015, just before taking up the position of principal clarinet in the orchestra of the Toulon Opera, I won 3rd prize at the Prague Spring International Competition. In the final I played the Mozart and Copland concertos and I’m quite proud of that. Also in 2014 in Tokyo during the Jacques Lancelot International Competition, I won the prize for the best interpretation of Debussy’s Rhapsody.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I think that Schumann is a composer who looks like me: his double personality temperament (Eusebius and Florestan) speaks to me a lot, I often find myself there thanks to my hyper-sensitivity. This is also one of the reasons why I decided to record some for my first album, ‘A la Nuit’ (released on 25th November on Calliope Records). I also adore Mozart – the place he gives to my instrument in his music honours me every day. His concerto KV622, his quintet KV581, his trio KV498, the six nocturnes KV438 all his operas, his Masonic funeral music KV427… All his music is absolutely incredible and his Concerto for Clarinet is in my opinion an Opera. I also admit to having a weakness for Klezmer music, the music of Jewish folklore.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I listen to a lot of different and varied music and I also study different interpreters of the same piece. I also take care of my children and ensure that they listen to lots of various music genres. They are a great source of inspiration. Otherwise, I hike, trail run, cycle, row and bodyboard/surf.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

At the Toulon Opera, where I work, it is not me who chooses the programming but rather our directors. Outside, I have to be eclectic and be able to offer programmers and audiences new forms of chamber music by addressing lesser-known styles and repertoires (world music, Klezmer, Balkan, Jazz, Tango, Flamenco, comedy musical…)

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

No, I have absolutely no favourite concert hall. For me it is the audience that is the most important. You have to be able to reach the audience under any type of condition and adapt yourself accordingly, so in my opinion it is more the duty of the artist than the hall.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I think it might be enriching and motivating for a child at school to have the opportunity to meet instrumentalists, who come in to talk about their craft and give the children an insight into their work. I also think it would be interesting to popularise classical music by programming it on television during prime time (5 p.m. – 11 p.m.) for example.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

One of my most beautiful musical experiences in concert was in August 2019 with the Hanson Quartet playing the Brahms Quintet opus 115. It was quite magical, the audience completely rapt and with time seemingly suspended. I am so thankful for this special moment

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

It seems to me that success for a true artist is to be able to satisfy the audience, give the audience dreams and emotions, and to share with them essential human values that will take them out of the current complicated and anxiety-provoking global context.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

After having ‘fitted into the mould'”, I think you have to stay yourself, know where to go: orchestras, teaching, chamber music, solos… I think you can do everything but you have to find a balance and stay true to yourself, being convinced of your choices, to remain humble and to always transmit via your music.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

Bribery and all forms of moral and sexual harassment wherever it might occur…

What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I think I will still be in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region because my wife is very happy and fulfilled in her work there, my children are growing up well, and the opera orchestra will have changed as there will have been recruitment processes and therefore new artists with whom to work. Besides that, of course, I will have my own projects which will also have matured, such as my children! 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

If perfect happiness exists, I think it’s finding a good balance between professional life, family life, love, and one’s private life. Artistically, I would also like to be able to contribute to making my audiences happy…

What is your most treasured possession?

My most precious possessions are my family, my children, my friends and my music.

What is your present state of mind?

My current state of mind is to tell myself that I am an artist, a clarinettist eager to accomplish ambitious and original projects likely to please concert programmers both at home in France and abroad. As a result, I could shine and blossom even more and grow as an instrumentalist. To sum up, I am calm!

Franck Russo’s debut album ‘A la Nuit’ is available now

Born in 1986, the French clarinetist Franck Russo is Solo clarinet at the Toulon Provence Méditerranée Opéra Symphonic Orchestra, since 2015. He started his professional curriculum at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory. Under the supervision of Florent Heau. He won the conservatory first Prize, a Certificate of Excellence and a chamber music’s First Prize in Michel Moragues’ class. He was unanimously admitted at the Paris CNSM in Michel Arrignon’s class, reputed to be Master of the French School. There Franck graduated with honours alongside Jérôme Julien-Laferrière. He also has studied with Yehuda Gilad in the USA, and with the greatest french solists clarinetists among which Philippe Berrod, Pascal Moragues, Jérôme Comte, Bruno Martinez and Paul Meyer.

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