Perth’s own ‘Rock Star of the Clarinet’ Ashley Smith will soon take to the stage to perform Weber’s ever-popular Clarinet Concerto No.1.

Ahead of his soloist performance in Symphonic Stories, we asked Ashley about how the program for the concert relates to his own life, and how he’s been preparing to take on the concerto.


Mozart’s Haffner Symphony was composed for festivities in Salzburg, Germany. What music do you listen to when you’re celebrating?

Haffner has such an exuberant, uplifting quality and I often use it to motivate me when going for a run. Running, for me, is a form of celebration – it lets me connect with nature and puts me in a good head space. In terms of dinner party music, my go-to is Buena Vista Social Club, which is a celebration of the music of pre-Revolutionary Cuba.

Smetana’s Vltava traces the journey of a river through the Czech countryside and celebrates the nation’s natural beauty. Can you tell us about some of your favourite places in Western Australia?

Every Saturday morning I run a six kilometer loop through Kings Park. We are incredibly lucky to have a haven of protected bushland of this size, right in the middle of our beautiful city. I also adore our coastline and spend most of my summer at City Beach.

In composing Taras Bulba, Janaček determined that it would be his ‘musical testament’. What do you think your ‘musical testament’ will be?

As a performer, I’m not sure if I agree with the notion of a ‘musical testament’. For me, the most beautiful aspect of music is its ephemeral quality. It is for this reason that I love live performance. The value of music lies in the immediacy of experience it offers. Adopting this philosophy allows me the freedom to take greater risks on stage.


Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 1 was created through collaboration between composer Carl Maria von Weber and clarinettist Heinrich Baermann. Has art ever played a part in enabling a relationship for you?

Haha! More often than not, art has been the source of both the professional and not-so-professional relationships that have been important to my life. One example is the close professional relationship I share with Perth composer Lachlan Skipworth. In many ways, our collaboration is a contemporary take on the artist/composer collaborations of Baermann/Weber, and Stadler/Mozart.

What do you like about performing Weber’s Concerto?

Those who are close to me know that I’m a diva at heart and that I’d probably drop my clarinet career to become an opera singer at a moment’s notice. For this reason, I love the unrestrained drama of the Concerto - F minor is such a stormy key!

How have you been preparing for the performance?

The preparation actually started all the way back in 2002 when I had my first clarinet lesson as a UWA undergraduate with WASO Principal Clarinettist, Allan Meyer. This Concerto was the first piece of music I worked on with Allan, and the music I’m playing from still features Allan’s pencilled-in annotations. Following a gap of nineteen years, I started preparing the concerto earlier this year. My love of opera has guided my interpretation in this performance.


Please note, Symphonic Stories has been postponed until further notice. Please visit our event page for more info.