Meet clarinetist and first-year master’s degree candidate Tianyi Shen. Tianyi recently spoke with us about studying with faculty clarinetist David Shifrin, immersing himself in Yale’s music resources, and comparing performances and recordings of the orchestral repertoire.
Q: What drew you to faculty clarinetist David Shifrin’s studio here at YSM?
A: Mr. Shifrin has been an idol of mine since my early years playing the clarinet. I still remember when I first started to study Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto when I was 14, I found this recording by Mr. Shifrin. And he was playing not with a regular A-clarinet, but with a basset clarinet, which is the instrument Mozart originally wrote for. It was my first time listening to this piece played with a basset clarinet and was even the first time learning the existence of this instrument. The remarkable recording left a deep impression on me and became one of my favorite recordings. And it was also the impulse for me to perform this concerto on a basset clarinet later on.
Q: Your career has already featured appearances as a soloist with orchestras around the world. What have you learned from those opportunities that continues to inform your practice?
A: It was a great honor to be chosen to appear as a soloist with multiple orchestras. These opportunities really helped me build up my own artistic taste. And I was deeply influenced by different maestros and have learned a lot from each of their unique musical concepts. I enjoyed bringing these diverse ideas into my own performances and experimenting with them in front of an audience. It has helped me to stay open-minded, which I believe is one of the mandatory qualities for a professional musician nowadays.
Q: The creation and performance of new music is an important facet of the YSM curriculum. What do you hope to bring to and take away from working with emerging composers on new repertoire?
A: During my undergraduate years, I did try a few new-music projects, but I still devoted a major portion of my effort to the existing classical repertoire. I have a deep enthusiasm for new music. I believe it will be interesting to explore new techniques on the instrument and the thoughts of contemporary composers.
Q: What are your career goals at the moment and how do you see your time and work at YSM furthering those ambitions?
A: At the moment, it’s important for me to further enrich my musicianship and build up my musical aesthetic. Inspiration from the renowned faculty and support from the materials in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library will contribute profoundly to my professional path.
Q: What have you been reading, listening to, and watching lately?
A: One of my favorite things I do during my free time is search for old records in vintage stores. Recently I’ve been comparing recordings of Beethoven’s Sixth symphony played by different international orchestras. The character each orchestra brings out really draws my attention. I love the delicate ones, which bring out the pastoral feeling, but I somehow also appreciate rougher ones with more passion. It is shocking that some of them are played by— as I would describe—“educated beasts.” But the primitive sublime really touches me and makes me take another look at the importance of a good tone, a concept that has been deeply ingrained in me since day one of music school. It makes me think that maybe sometimes it is necessary to prioritize the barbaric inner voice, even when out of one’s comfort zone, if the composer intended to make gigantic contrasts in some music.
This is the fourth installment in a series called Generation YSM: Fall 2021.