Who: For the past 10 years, Donald Foster has been the clarinetist of choice for composer John Williams, renowned for his film compositions. Foster’s film score work includes “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “La La Land,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and hundreds more. At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, you can hear Foster live when he joins Crown City String Quartet for an evening of Mozart (Clarinet Quintet in A Major) and Brahms (Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115). Part of High Desert Chamber Music’s 11th season, the performance is the organization’s first at Wille Hall, 2600 NW College Way. Tickets are $42, $10 for students and youth 21 and under. Contact: highdesertchambermusic.com or 541-306-3988.
Q: What was your first experience playing for John Williams like?
A: Oh, it was a dream. … He is still the most revered and most beloved of all film-scoring composers. And there are a lot of talented film composers out there, but even they would agree that he is the model of what it means to be a successful film composer because he is also a stellar musician (and) conductor. So it’s a full package that, when you work with him, you really feel like you’re in the presence of a true genius.
Q: And you’ve worked with a lot of other film composers, right?
A: Yeah, I would say I’ve worked with almost every major film composer that is working. I’ve played on over 275 movies. It runs the gamut from — I was super lucky to work with Elmer Bernstein, for example, on one of his last films — to current superstars like Alexandre Desplat … Hans Zimmer, Blake Neely, Alan Silvestri, John Debney. All the names people who know film music would recognize.
Q: Do you make it a point to see all the films once they’re done?
A: (Laughs) I generally don’t go to the theater, but I do watch a lot of movies at home. I’m a huge film buff in addition to being a musician, and I love classic film, but, you know, I don’t necessarily watch all the movies that I score. For example, I really don’t have an interest to see “How to Train Your Dragon,” maybe some of the children’s films that we’ve done. But we are currently working on “Toy Story 4,” which I will definitely see because that franchise is pretty remarkable.
Q: Do you ever catch a movie after it’s been a few years and say, “Oh, yeah, I played on this.”
A: Yeah, it happens. It’s bizarre. You’ll be channel surfing, or there won’t be a picture, it will just be that grid — the guide or whatever — and when you start to get into the movie channels, it can sometimes be a little bit interesting. You’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that movie,” or “Oh yeah, we worked on that.”
Q: Do you enjoy the recording process, or do you prefer playing in front of audiences?
A: I think most musicians would agree there’s nothing better than live music. I think even some of our film composers would agree on that. There’s just nothing better than getting instant feedback, and getting one crack at it. When you’re in the studio, it’s just a very polished — just a whole different way of approaching your instrument, your performance style. I still don’t think anybody would ever disagree that there’s nothing better than live music.
Q: Can you tell me about the Brahms and Mozart pieces you’ll be playing?
A: When Isabelle (Senger, founder and director of High Desert Chamber Music) approached me about this, I really had to do some thinking because these are the two mega-works for clarinet — meaning for string quartet and clarinet. There are many others, but these (are) the two warhorses. What’s interesting about the clarinet literature, particularly with Brahms and Mozart, they wrote the bulk of their pieces for clarinet … at the ends of their lives. Of course Mozart didn’t live past 35, but it’s worth noting that they’re both (from) when they were much more seasoned composers. … The Brahms in particular is physically very taxing. That’s why I was a little bit reticent to do both of these in one program. But it’s coming along great. … It’s gotten me to revisit both of these pieces, not just musically but also relearning the ins and outs. And to be honest with you, it’s an embarrassment of riches. As a clarinetist, we just don’t get these opportunities. So I’m glad I did agree to go ahead and do both.
— David Jasper, The Bulletin