Who is Joë Christophe, the revelation instrumental soloist of Classical Music Victory 2023?

Aged 28, Joë Christophe began studying clarinet at the age of seven with Adrien Delattre. After perfecting his craft in Valenciennes and Paris with Caroline Delmotte and Olivier Derbesse, he joined the National Conservatory of Music in Paris in the class of Philippe Berrod and Arnaud Leroy. Winner of several prizes, the musician performs as a soloist and in chamber formation, with renowned orchestras in France and abroad, as well as as a guest at many festivals. Intrigued by all styles, he regularly plays with jazz musicians or traditional music.

France Music: How did you come to music?

I come from Northern France where there is a beautiful urban culture of harmony, which goes back even more than 30 years. Moreover, I was lucky that in my small village there is a free music school that opened next to my parents’ house. I’m not from a family of musicians, but this is an opportunity to take advantage of this teaching. In addition, my mother followed me, she also started playing the clarinet. The school forms a partnership with a village band, which lends musical instruments to students just starting out. So the band lent me my first clarinet and from the age of six I took lessons at music school and played in the band in the evenings. Besides, the clarinet wasn’t my first choice. First year at music school, we started with music theory, and we chose instruments the following year. I’m more interested in the trombone because it’s a large, impressive instrument that can perform glissando. I like it very much. But a friend who plays the transverse flute told me “Most importantly, don’t use the trombone, because by pulling up on the slide, your right arm will be longer than your left.” And I got scared. On the other hand, the clarinet teacher came to present the instrument and he made a glissando to make sirens for firefighters, and I understood that I could do that too with the clarinet without myself distorting it, and I said to myself: “That’s what I wanted to do, it wasn’t too dangerous.”

When I was a kid, I worked half an hour every day. I like it, it breaks. Then I joined the town band pretty quickly, at the age of seven or eight, as soon as I could read the sheet music. It’s great, there are a lot of clarinets, I’m a bit carried away in the crowd, carried away by the others, there is a mix between generations, a lot of people from the village that I don’t know except at home. And produce a good mood, the pleasure of playing together. We play marches, modern pieces written for a brass band, often easy songs, not very high level but we love playing together. This is very beneficial for a child. It allowed me to develop a lot and appreciate the instrument, because working alone in your room for one lesson a week with a teacher, you are very socially isolated.

And then after practice, I was mascot since I was a kid, so I was allowed to eat chips, and all of that quickly convinced me that music was something really cool.

When did you know this was going to be your way?

When I was young, I did a lot of sports along with music, especially gymnastics. And about my ten, eleven year old, I came to a transition. If I want to continue, I have to do more competition, train more. In addition, I play some harmony and I take lessons at the regional conservatory. So we had to choose between music and sports. And I remember attending a little party where our trainer showed us a video of him participating in a major championship. He must have been 20 at the time, but at 35, he had already completed his youth training at Valenciennes.

It was then that I realized, my little boy, that the life of a top athlete was ending fast. When on harmony, I hang out with people in their 70s, 80s who have been making music their whole life. Basically, I realized that making music is a much more sustainable activity than vigorous exercise. It was then that I decided to become a professional clarinetist, and I started marking it on my college report card. Except that I have absolutely no idea how it’s done.

Do you have sporting reflexes as a clarinet player?

According to me. Besides that, I also haven’t completely stopped exercising. I’ve done running, track and field… Several teachers have shown me that gym practice has brought positive things to my instrument practice because there’s already a competitive aspect that forces you to surpass yourself. Go to the end, even if it means pain, we are used to it, we fulfilled the contract. I think it allowed me to stay solid on this very tricky road: You have to practice your instrument a lot, you get stuck, you don’t understand, you don’t feel progress, and you still keep practicing. , which causes it to open.

What do you like about your instrument?

It is a very social instrument, perfect for playing with other people, and is also capable of playing many different styles of music. When I was little, my parents made me listen to a lot of classical artists, from the traditional world, from jazz. That really motivates me. And then, what I love is the feeling of you playing the clarinet, it’s a wind instrument, you’re making music with your own breath, and I think that’s magical. We build everything from start to finish and we fully experience every note that comes out of our bodies. Instruments become an extension of that. The thing I love the most, not to mention the feel, is that you can really play with a lot of timbres, the sound is so malleable. Playing jazz and klezmer allowed me, at thirteen, fourteen years old, when you start asking yourself questions, having doubts, opening other doors and staying highly motivated.

Traditional music and jazz are really part of the nature of this instrument, it is a kaméléonesque instrument. It blends with all styles, you can accompany or accompany. And I don’t want to discount this part of his character: knowing this style of music can be very useful and inspiring for interpreting classical music as well. In klezmer music, for example, you might cry or laugh with your clarinet, whereas in classical music, I don’t get the impression that you systematically link the clarinet to human action in this way.

Do you have dreams of being a musician?

My model is my teacher Philippe Berrod, who has had a very full career: both soloist with the Orchester de Paris, he also does chamber music, he is part of the Sirba octet, a klezmer ensemble in which I I also replace a lot, he plays jazz and Latin, contemporary music… that’s what I aspire to be, to be as open musically as possible.

What do you think is the role of your musicians in society?

To me, making music should be an expression of tolerance and openness to the world, to all cultures. Living by music means sharing emotions with people whose language you do not share, despite all aspects and political differences. Whatever our origin, our religion or our culture, playing together is still possible. In my career as a musician, I hope to continue living by sharing this culture permanently.

Would you like to meet a composer, dead or alive?

The problem with the clarinet is that it kills composers because they are drawn to it at the end of their lives. I think of Mozart, of course, of Brahms, Poulenc. They all wrote clarinets before they died, so I’m a little afraid to jinx it (laughs). These composers became interested in the fall of their lives, with real artistic maturity. So it’s kind of sad that some people, like Schubert or Fauré, don’t have the time to do it, or those who do, can’t write more.

Can you do anything else?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. Frankly, I’m afraid I won’t be able to play the clarinet anymore. I am in any case, I feel the effort, I like the challenge. One day I want to travel with a backpack and go far away, but I can do that with my clarinet too. This is an opportunity to be able to meet people and communicate with them in addition to broken English.

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