Clarinetist Alex Dergal first appeared with MusicaNova in a Young Artist Concert (then called “Chamber Music at Steinway”) in November 2013, sharing the bill with pianist Eric Lin. Since then he’s graduated from Mesa Dobson High School and is about to enter his junior year at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. In July 2016, MusicaNova president Bob Altizer asked Alex to tell our readers a little bit more about himself.
Who are some of the composers (well known or not) to whose work you’re drawn?
I am particularly drawn to the music of Johannes Brahms since it captures the essence of the human experience in the most realistic way. Brahms creates a sound to the indescribable emotions that we feel throughout our lifetimes, and he does it in a special and fragile manner that appropriately frames each feeling. I also feel very drawn to contemporary music, and I have premiered pieces by my good friends Daria Tennikova and Justin Weiss. Premiering new music is always an exciting thrill that the standard repertoire can never seem to recreate.
Who are the players who have influenced you?
My playing is mainly influenced by my teacher Richard Hawkins [The Fenelon B. Rice Professor of Clarinet at Oberlin]. His concept of playing the clarinet is to draw the audience in with the beauty of the clarinet’s sound and ability to play legato. Rather than impress a crowd with endless technique and a flurry of notes, we strive to inspire the audience with much more complex musical ideas that are born from tone and legato. I am also greatly influenced by numerous recordings of David Shifrin and Karl Leister.
What are some of your upcoming activities in the 2016-17 season/school year?
In the 2016-2017 school year I will give a Junior Degree recital, as well as a duo clarinet recital with one of my best friends. I have also formed a group that will perform all of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in December. Getting to perform the third movement in this [MusicaNova Young Artist Concert] recital is a wonderful start to a much longer journey.
How about your post-Oberlin goals?
Post-Oberlin I hope to be accepted to a Masters program where I can study with another one of the great contemporary clarinet players. During that time I will be freelancing and taking auditions for jobs in orchestras around the country.