Arts Q&A: The Ulster Orchestra's Francesco Paolo Scola on Mozart, Paganini and how he got started playing clarinet

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, clarinettist Francesco Paolo Scola, principal clarinet of the Ulster Orchestra

Clarinetist Francesco Paolo Scola is one of the performers at Christmas at the Cathedral at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast on December 17 and 18.

1. When did you think about a career in the arts and what were your first steps into it?

I grew up in an underprivileged area of Palermo in Sicily, where the schools offered musical courses as a means of keeping the kids off the streets. In fact, I never thought that a musical career could be possible until my primary school teacher insisted that I take part in an audition. There was only one place available in the course and it was for clarinet. Naturally, as a 10-year-old boy I was more interested in playing football than music. However, I still remember that very moment when I played my very first note on the clarinet; it was like magic. I knew that something rather significant had just taken place.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

Every concert is very special to me, so I find it difficult to pick a favourite. However, there is one that really does stand out for me. It took place in the Concertgebouw Hall and I played Shostakovich's first symphony. Playing under the direction of Riccardo Muti was also a very unique experience.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Mozart on the piano and Paganini on the violin improvising together - it would be a duet of dreams.

4. The record you would take to a desert island?

I would have to choose Blow Up by Richard Galliano and Michael Portal because I love how these two talented musicians interact with each other and are able to make their two instruments play as one.

5. And the book you would take to a desert island?

Mozart's Letters - they are the funniest things that I have ever read in my life.

6. Top three films?

Scent of a Woman, Heat and Amadeus, because I am always amused by its quirky portrayal of Mozart's personality.

7. Worst film you've seen?

It. I watched it when I was a little boy and it gave me nightmares.

8. Favourite authors?

I enjoy the works of Dante Alighieri and Friedrich Nietzsche.

9. Sports you most enjoy and any top teams?

I like to keep fit by like working out at the gym, I also enjoy running along the river Lagan.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Italy, of course. With the food, the weather, the beautiful scenery plus the nostalgia factor, it ticks all the boxes.

11. Pet hates?

Pineapple on pizza - a criminal combination. With regards to literal pet hates, snakes are my worst nightmare.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Pasta alla liparota, this is a Sicilian pasta dish which is made with swordfish, fried aubergine, cherry tomato, fresh mint and garlic.

Dessert? Tiramisu.

Drink? Margarita.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Neil Gallie who plays trombone in the Ulster Orchestra.

14. Is there a God?

I would like to know the answer to this question too.

Francesco Paolo Scola is one of the performers at the upcoming Christmas at the Cathedral event at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on December 17 and 18. Singer and producer, Peter Corry will lead of a team of talented performers in an evening filled with festive song and music.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access