Oskar Espina-Ruiz, Clarinet
Oskar Espina Ruiz has been described by the press as a “masterful soloist” (La Nación, Costa Rica) and a “highly expressive clarinetist” (Nevskoye Vremia, Russia) who “brings forth the notes with an energy that reaches down to one’s soul” (ABC, Paraguay). He has performed at major concert halls and festivals to high critical acclaim, including concerto performances at the Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg, Russia, and recitals at Carnegie’s Weill Hall in New York, the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Madrid Royal Superior Conservatory, the Beijing and Shanghai Conservatories and Radio Television Hong Kong. He has appeared as soloist with the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony (Russia), St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic (Russia), Orquesta Sinfónica de la Ciudad de Asunción (Paraguay) and Bilbao Symphony (Spain). His chamber music collaborations include the American, Argus, Ariel, Cassatt, Daedalus, Escher, Shanghai and Verona quartets, the Quintet of the Americas, pianists Benjamin Hochman, Ursula Oppens and Anthony Newman, cellist David Geber (founder, American String Quartet) and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra artists. He has been featured as soloist at the 20th Tokyo Summer Festival, the European Mozart Academy —performing throughout European capitals—, the St. Petersburg Palaces XIII. International Music Festival (Russia) and the VI. Festival Internacional de Música Clásica Contemporánea de Lima (Peru).
During the 2019-2020 season Oskar Espina Ruiz is appearing in concert with the American, Cassatt and Verona Quartets, releasing a new album for clarinet and piano with pianist Victoria Schwartzman and performing with pianist-composer Alfonso Fuentes.
Espina Ruiz has recorded for the Bridge, Kobaltone and Prion labels, receiving high critical acclaim by fellow clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and Charles Neidich for his solo recording “Julián Menéndez Rediscovered.” Charles Neidich, with whom he studied in New York City for over ten years, calls Espina Ruiz “an unusually gifted musician who has already made a mark in the musical world and is becoming one of the most distinguished clarinetists in the US.” Richard Stoltzman wrote: “Bravo! You are and have the kind of energy the music world needs.”
Espina Ruiz devotes much of his time to musical research. His work on Spanish Post-Romantic composer Julián Menéndez brought him the first prize of the International Clarinet Association Research Competition in 2006, later writing an article for the March 2007 issue of “The Clarinet” magazine, and led to the acquisition of one of Menéndez’s clarinets by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for its Musical Instruments Galleries —currently on display at its permanent collection, including a photo and biography of Menéndez next to Benny Goodman’s.
In an effort to bring important works and revisions into the clarinet repertoire, in 2003 Espina Ruiz performed the South American premiere of the original Copland Clarinet Concerto, reconstructed from the manuscripts at the Library of Congress, and his orchestrations and adaptations include Ravel’s Sonate Posthume, Debussy’s String Quartet for woodwind quintet (with baritone sax), works by Arriaga, Sarasate, Turina, Granados and Falla, and Menéndez’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2.
He is deeply involved with the music of our time and has premiered works written for him by Chinese composers Ao, Hu and Chen, Spanish composers Bageneta and Villasol, French composer Gaigne, Puerto Rican composer Fuentes and American composers Weymouth, Anderson and Spinei.
Born in Bilbao, Spain, his first musical training came at an early age performing on Basque folk instruments. He later pursued the traditional conservatory training as a clarinetist and often performed with the Bilbao Symphony, as its youngest member, at age sixteen. He came to New York City in 1991 to further his studies in clarinet and won the top clarinet prizes at the Olga Koussevitzky and Artists International competitions.
He holds a Doctor in Musical Arts diploma from Stony Brook University and a Master in Fine Arts diploma from Purchase College Conservatory of Music, where his major teachers were Charles Neidich and Ayako Oshima. He has also studied with flutist Aurèle Nicolet while at the European Mozart Academy.
Oskar Espina Ruiz held a clarinet faculty position at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, in San Juan, PR, from 2009-2011. Currently he is associate professor of clarinet at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and serves as artistic director at Chamber Music Wilmington, Treetops Chamber Music Society and Music Mountain Festival, while keeping a busy concert schedule.