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Rachel Thompson, winner of the 2017 NSW Drs Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship.

An interview with Rachel Thompson


Clarinettist Rachel Thompson, winner of the 2017 NSW Drs Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship wowed audiences with her performances of  Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo by Igor Stravinsky, Peregi Verbunk, op. 40 by Leo Weiner and Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Francis Poulenc. 

She took some time to speak to Sydney Eisteddfod about which performers she is most inspired by and what she would say to a young clarinettist thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod. 

What inspired you to start playing the clarinet?

As long as I can remember I have loved music and at first I found that creative outlet through ballet dancing. Then at the age of nine I was able to join the school band, I was handed a clarinet and it has stuck with me ever since.

You choose to perform Peregi Verbunk, tell us about the piece.

My teacher Sue Newsome introduced this piece to me and I fell in love with it. It uses Hungarian folk song melodies that become more embellished throughout the work. It is full of character and emotion and is such a great piece to perform! As well as being for violin and viola with piano accompaniment, Weiner wrote a clarinet part of the work that was written for Gyorgy Balassa who brought Boehm clarinets to Hungary. 

Which other performers do you most like to listen to, and why?

I love listening to a wide variety of clarinettists to hear different interpretations, new repertoire and various sounds. One of the clarinettist’s recordings I always listen to first is Martin Frost, as I love his style of playing. He performs with such passion and technical clarity that I wish to bring to my playing. He also performs a wide variety of music, bringing life and dancing to the stage in his contemporary performances as well as perfectly executing classical standards.

What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?

Before the competition I had never performed from memory so that was a good challenge. I leant how to practise in order to memorise the pieces and during the performances I had some memory lapses but learnt how to keep going.

What would you say to a young clarinettist that was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?

Go for it! You never know what will happen and every performance is a good experience.

Pick a piece that you love and can play over and over again, then get out there and give it your all!

What are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2017?

I am really looking forward to playing in NSW Fine Music’s Young Virtuoso Award, which is another new experience for me, as it is a live broadcast competition.

I am also performing in a couple of local musical productions, which are always fun and am continuing to work on my technique and prepare for auditions to continue my studies and musical experiences.