Profile: Rob Blanken, clarinettist, and the Havant Chamber Orchestra

On Saturday 14 October Rob is playing Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto along with the Havant Chamber Orchestra. Written in 1949, it is unusual in using only strings instead of full orchestra to complement the solo clarinet.

Stella Scott, Administrator of the orchestra, writes:

We are particularly looking forward to playing the Finzi with Rob because the piece is not often played, but it is very beautiful.  It reflects in places the interest in folk music which Finzi shared with other English composers of the time. It’s also unusual in using only a string orchestra rather than a full orchestra to accompany the clarinet.

It fits particularly well into this concert because the programme is entirely string music from the early part of the 20th Century.  We’re including the no. 3 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame – the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – Finzi definitely knew Vaughan Williams – and two beautiful short pieces written by Walton for the film Henry V starring Laurence Olivier.

There will be a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm by Tim Griffiths, focusing on this ‘golden age’ of English Music.

We always enjoy performing with Rob because he is a longstanding friend and colleague of the Havant Orchestras and it’s lovely to offer performance opportunities to our very talented local musicians.  He is an exceptional clarinettist with a lovely tone.  He has appeared as soloist with our two orchestras a total of 16 times – the last being to play the Mozart Concerto with HCO in 2018.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Nothing in particular, but I watched a concert by the LSO and was inspired to continue playing.

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

To keep going.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

To be part of a group of people who all strive to obtain the most musical performance to the best of their ability.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

I have wonderful early memories of going to organ recitals with my grandfather in Rotterdam when I was around 8 years old. Renee Fleming singing Strauss’ 4 last songs.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Don’t give up. If you’re not prepared to put up with knocks and want a regular life, music is not for you.

How would you define success as a musician?

It’s difficult to define success as it is so elusive and personal.

About Rob

Robert (Rob) Blanken was born in Rotterdam and came to England at the age of 10. Soon afterwards he began to learn the clarinet with David Leverton and later became principal clarinet in the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Neville Duckworth and Sidney Fell gaining his GRNCM and later a performer’s diploma from the Royal College of Music.

Rob’s repertoire includes concertos ranging in style from Stamitz to Artie Shaw. He plays most of the chamber works for clarinet and has a reputation for excellence – especially in the Monington Duo with pianist Karen Kingsley. Their duo repertoire numbers over 200 works, including several specially written for them.

Rob is principal clarinet in Havant Chamber Orchestra, Solent Symphony Orchestra, Petersfield Orchestra and numerous chamber ensembles. In addition to these commitments, he plays clarinet and saxophone in theatre productions throughout the South, the Anemos Wind Quintet and Ensemble Concertante (Clarinet Quartet). He teaches clarinet at Portsmouth Grammar School and saxophone at Chichester University.

Photo credit: Nick Ingamells

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