When flutist Clara Fishlock auditioned for the 2018 Concerto/Aria Competition, she channeled the sound of bow hairs grating on strings rather than the hushed whispers floating from a flute.
The junior history and French major drew her musical inspiration from the violin rather than the flute to preserve the heart of the piece, which she will perform on March 1 with the Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra after earning a winning spot in the competition. Aram Khachaturian wrote his “Violin Concerto in D minor” for the violin, as the song’s title indicates. When Fishlock transposes the piece to the flute, she strives to keep the musical quality of a violinist.
“If I hadn’t known this piece was a violin concerto, I would have played it very differently,” Fishlock said. “It brings out a different aspect of the flute. Different emotions come out in this piece, maybe, than in the majority of flute concertos.”
Fishlock said she treats notes of shorter lengths, for example, with special care. On the flute, peels of eighth notes and sixteenth notes take on a delicate tone, but a violinist performing this piece would grind her bow across the strings to evoke a more powerful sound.
“I did a lot of listening to violin, and I thought a lot about how to best mimic those sounds on the flute,” Fishlock said.
When Fishlock began practicing the concerto, her ears were already attune to the sounds and techniques of the violin: Her sister, freshman Eleanor Fishlock, has played the violin since she was a little girl. A member of the orchestra, Eleanor will sit among the string section in March and accompany her older sister as she performs her solo.
The sisters are not the only members of the Fishlock family who possess musical talent. David Fishlock, their father, is the principal percussionist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
After winning a concerto competition in high school, Clara Fishlock played Franz Doppler’s “Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise” with the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra at the same concert as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, taking the stage with her father.
Clara Fishlock said competitions like the CSYO Concerto Competition prepared her for her January audition. And Fishlock’s flute teacher at Hillsdale, Adjunct Instructor Jaimie Wagner, said her student entered the college’s music program as an advanced musician.
“Clara was a great flutist when she arrived at Hillsdale, with excellent technical faculty and a beautiful lyrical style,” Wagner said.
Orchestra Director James Holleman echoed Wagner’s observation and said Fishlock is a leader of the orchestra, always modeling preparedness and attentiveness in rehearsals. Though he did not participate with the concerto competition’s judges in picking a winner, Holleman said Fishlock’s performance impressed him.
“Clara’s concerto is technically demanding, and she showed her advanced faculty on the instrument,” Holleman said. “She showed she would be able to be heard playing with the orchestral accompaniment on the concert.”
Wagner said the concerto’s difficulty lies in the fact that it was written for another instrument. Primarily, the piece presents no opportunities for a flutist to breathe, since it was originally composed for a string player who can breathe at any point in the music.
“There are a lot of really long phrases in the piece,” Wagner said. “We work to shape the phrases so that we can breathe in a musical way, where a violin player wouldn’t normally pause.”
Fishlock added that, disregarding its demanding passages, the piece exhausts her just in its length.
“I need to continually build my stamina to be able to play for 16 minutes,” she said. “During the competition I felt myself really losing energy while I was playing.”
Despite the demands of the music, Fishlock said she’s happy with the competitive atmosphere at the music department.
“Our environment is a great one to compete in. Congratulations to the music department for making this a healthy environment,” Fishlock said. “A lot of times these things do not foster community, and I think it does here. I haven’t seen that in music competition scenes elsewhere.”