Interview to Hélène Devilleneuve

Interview to Hélène Devilleneuve

We are so proud to have the opportunity of interviewing Hélène, an oboist that we admire even before Medina Reeds was born. If you want to learn more about her professional career as an oboist, we recommend you to read this page:

First of all, Hélène thank you so much for your time. We are still shocked that you replied to our Instagram stories. This made us very happy.

1: When did you start playing the oboe?
I started playing the oboe when I was 9 at Versailles.  I was already studying the recorder with a very good teacher.

2 : Why did you choose this instrument?
I liked the color of the oboe, which made me think of the sun.  And the director of the conservatory at the time, Jean Aubain, a very good composer, encouraged students who did not play an orchestral instrument to choose a second instrument that could be played in the orchestra.

3 : How much time do you spend playing the oboe daily?
It obviously depends on the schedule!  During a normal week, between orchestral rehearsals, lessons, etc., and now during confinement it is different.  Right now, during the confinement, I play for around 2 hours a day.  We are like sportsmen, or dancers.  It is important that the body machine is well oiled.  In addition, this confinement makes it possible to think more about how to play, why, for what purpose.  this allows you to discover new scores, interpretation treatises, etc.

4 : Is there an oboist who inspires you in a special way?
Several oboists inspire or have inspired me: Maurice Bourgue for his work on air and his incredible phrasing, Pierre Pierlot for his joy in playing, Heinz Holliger for his culture, his phrasing also, his love of the contemporary repertoire, then  Francois Leleux, who pushed the limits of the instrument, its incredible technique and his warm sound.  Baroque oboists like Marcel Ponseele, Alfredo Bernardini, and  in modern oboe Ramon Ortega also with a sweet sound like honey. This list, of course, is not exhaustive !  We are fortunate to have a fantastic oboe school.  But I feel just as inspired by the musicality of Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, Harnoncourt and his symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert, Sir Roger Norrington… There are so many great musicians!

5 : Of all your achievements as an oboist, which one would you say is the most important one for you?

All stages of a musician’s life are important.  Maybe my first orchestral auditions and the joy of becoming an oboist in an orchestra marked me.  Certain recitals or concertos also.  The joy of being assigned a teaching class as well.  Also the happiness of seeing my students winning competitions, flourishing in professional life is very important to me.  The release of my Cd’s was also a beautiful emotion… In addition, being an ambassador of an oboe maker, as I am now with the Buffet-Crampon oboes, and carefully selecting the oboes for their Paris showroom is a great pleasure and pride for me.

6 : What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the world of music and wants to become a professional oboist?
I would suggest to be patient, tenacious and consistent in their work. To sing a lot, to imagine in their heads and their hearts how they want to play.  I would also suggest, as Reiner Maria Rilke does in “Letters to a Young Poet”, to ask themselves if they could do anything else to be happy.  If they can’t live without music then to go straight on! But with patience, determination and above all a lot of love,  and lastly, to always have fun when playing music.  Play like everything is going to stop tomorrow and work as if you have your whole life to progress.

Our mission is to give pleasure and transmit emotions.  So feel this desire and joy of music to the fullest while playing so that the audience can feel part of it!

7 : In addition to playing the oboe and being Principal Oboe of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, you also teach oboe classes at the Conservatoire de Paris and at CRR Saint-Maur, what do you like most to play or to teach how to play?
The two aspects, orchestra musician and teacher are complementary, as well as chamber music or playing in recital or concerto with Orchestra, also playing with my contemporary music ensemble Court circuit and record CDs. Each activity feeds on the other and enriches each other.  I cannot be only a teacher, neither just an oboe player.

Moreover, by being a teacher, the two classes that I give are also very complementary: I love teaching Oboe, and I’ve been doing this since I was 16, and teaching sight reading at the Paris Conservatory, for all wood winds instruments, is marvelous!  I am in contact with young passionate students, who are intelligent, very talented, and with great sensitivity.  With this class, I am in contact with a whole generation of great musicians.

8: Your Instagram is like a photo album of your life: cats, flowers, oboe, your students, your videos, concerts… We truly love it! Do you believe social media is important for the musicians?

I’m glad you liked my Instagram account! Thank you. I try to share everything that I like in my life, what inspires me, what gives me joy is what I try to share. Indeed, I try not to put too many barriers between the different aspects of my life.  Even if my professional life is important, I like to share my other sources of joy and inspiration.  I love the arts, cooking, nature, ecology, my cat, I love to share and show all the enthusiasm and I love to talk about the things I love.

I have the impression that social networks break down the barriers between generations, countries, and can directly touch the sensitivity of people.  That’s what I really like.  It also undermines the image of classical musicians that sometimes too many people see only with the Beautiful dress on the stage.  We are men and women like any other, and if that by showing how we are and how we live can make some young people want there are other people going to music, that would be great!  But on the other hand there are certain things which I will never show on the social networks, my close family and my intimacy for example.

9: Can you tell us a bit more of your career as an oboist? What is that you like the most about being an oboist?

You now know a lot about my life as an oboist! 🙂  I always like to have new projects… I always like to renew myself and have new sources of inspiration.  Obviously the life of an oboist orchestra is essential for me. 

I have the same joy when I go to the orchestra now as when I was 23 years old, in my first post.  Now, I also like to pass on this life and culture of orchestral playing.  I like more and more to conduct and make work in section the harmony of the youth orchestra or other orchestra.
 I also have other CD recording projects.  I have plans to order new pieces from composers, because I have always loved contemporary music and I love the creative process with a composer. 

I would like to keep making new videos, posting them on social media, sharing the music I love.

Transmitting, sharing, giving emotion, surpassing yourself, being as close to your own truth, these are the axes that I try to seek in my life.

The oboe, like all other instruments, or like dance, is a demanding instrument, which is learned with humility every day, self-questioning and surpassing oneself.  It’s a beautiful life program, isn’t it?

This is what I try to follow in my life.

10 : Anything you want to share with Medina Reeds readers?
what would I like to share with you?  First of all thank you for your interest.  Thank you for your love about oboe players! 🙂

Merci beaucoup Hélène! We are very thankful to be able to interview you.

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