Fame and clarinet: Who are the famous clarinet players? If you were to ask the man or woman on the street, they might say Kenny G. (not knowing he’s a saxophonist) or give you a really funny look and return the question - “Uh, famous clarinetists?”
This “person on the street” from the 1930s to at least the 1990s would say Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw or Woody Herman hands down. These famous clarinet players were the bandleader/clarinetists that rocked the world during the big-band era.
All-time Famous Clarinet Players - Goodman, Shaw and Herman
Famous Clarinet Players - Benny Goodman
Hum? Let's get a glimse of why these clarinetists lit the world on fire with clarinet "back in the day." Here is the Benny Goodman Orchestra playing Sing, Sing, Sing featuring Gene Krupa-Drums, Harry James-Trumpet from the film Hollywood Hotel from 1937.
Sing, Sing, Sing By Louis Prima. Arranged by Roy Phillippe. By Louis Prima / arr. Roy Phillippe. For Jazz Ensemble. Jazz Ensemble. Jazz Band Series. Level: 3 (Medium) (grade 3). Conductor Score. 12 pages. Published by Alfred Publishing. (SS9408C) See more info...
Then you have Artie Shaw. Below is a video of Artie Shaw’s playing his Concerto for Clarinet. You'll see and hear his stature as a clarinetist, bandleader and entertainer from the 1940 film Second Chorus.
“One of the greatest big bands ever,” is how it is often described, here is Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd.
Famous Clarinet Players - Soloists
Famous Clarinet Players - Sabine Meyer and Julian Bliss
One of clarinet's young superstars is Julian Bliss. He collaborated, and studied with, Sabine Meyer, one of the greatest German clarinetists and also one of the top clarinet soloists in the world.
There was a great promotional video in this spot before that is now off YouTube. You can still experience their amazing artistry here with the Concerto for Two Clarinets in Eb Op. 91: mvt. 1- Allegro by Franz Krommer
If you are interested in learning the Spohr and Krommer works on the Bliss/Meyer CD, check them out here...
Concerto in Es op. 91 By Franz Krommer. For 2 Clarinets, Piano. This edition: 2 Clarinets, Piano. 92 pages. Published by Breitkopf and Haertel (German import). (MR-2158) See more info...
While clarinetists today aren’t necessarily household names like Britney Spears and Tom Cruise (thank goodness for us and the players), there are clarinet superstars among the classical, jazz and klezmer styles. Here is a small selection of names of famous clarinetists:
Famous Clarinet Players - Richard Stoltzman
Richard Stoltzman, Grammy-Award winning clarinetist, plays some music and talks about his experiences working with modern classical composers. The music he is playing on this clip is the Bach Chromatic Fantasy.
See and hear this amazing montage of Swedish clarinet virtuoso Martin Fröst. Charismatic and multi-talented, you’ll see him performing clarinet while rollerblading and articulating the Flight of the Bumble Bee.
Want to learn Flight of the Bumblebee? Go through Opperman's Chromatic Machine methodically and you'll turn some heads with speed.
The Clarinet Chromatic Machine By Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, Kalmen Opperman, Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin. Text: Kalmen Opperman. For Clarinet. Soft Cover. 144 pages. Published by Carl Fischer. (WF46) See more info...
So, Mr. Clarinet-Now.com, what do you mean by “pushing the envelope?” More Martin Fröst to follow; this is the short version of Hillborg's Clarinet Concerto "Peacock Tales". The playing is amazing all by itself. Now, add the acrobatics in between…
Famous Clarinet Players - Orchestral
Famous Clarinet Players - Orchestral players - Larry Combs, Karl Leister, and Ricardo Morales.
Watch Larry Combs, former principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, play this original arrangement of Schubert's Shepherd on the Rock.
Hear Mr. Karl Leister play Carl Maria von Weber's Rondo. Allegro giocoso from the Clarinet Quintet, Bb Major Op. 34. with members of BPO (1990) Berliner Philharmonic Chamber Music.
Quintet Op. 34 (Clarinet) Clarinet and Piano. By Carl-Maria Von Weber. Arranged by Pamela Weston. This edition: F593. Fentone Play Along Books. 62 pages. Published by Fentone Music. (44005334) See more info...
Eddie Daniels, Clarinet, and the Ensemble Sans Frontière (String Quintet) playing an excerpt from Frank Proto’s String Quintet.
You will not find the Proto quintet in the book following, but you will get good incite as too how to play works that difficult here...
The Vandoren Etude and Exercise Book Fpr Clarinet The Secrets of Ten Master Clarinetists. By David Weber; Eddie Daniels; Gary Foster; Ginger Kroft Barnetson; Greg Raden; Harry Skoler; John Bruce Yeh; Mitchell Estrin; Paquito D'rivera; Teresa Reilly. Edited by David Weber, Eddie Daniels, Gary Foster, Ginger Kroft Barnetson, Greg Raden, Harry Skoler, John Bruce Yeh, Mitchell Estrin, Paquito D'rivera, Teresa Reilly. For Clarinet Solo. Classical. Student Book. 109 pages. Published by Carl Fischer. (WF55) See more info...
Paquito D’Rivera starting out on clarinet and ending on alto sax.
I believe we tracked down the tunes on the above Paquito D’Rivera video. The first one is Vals del Sur. The second one is called Snow Samba, composed with the Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi, and it's one of the tracks of the album "Return to Ipanema", released in 1989. I can’t find any recordings other than this video of Paquito playing Vals del Sur. Thanks to Marco R. for filling me in on the second tune.
Yesterdays with Buddy DeFranco with Les Brown and his Band of Renown, "Aurex Jazz Festival", Sep.1,1983 at Budokan(Tokyo,Japan). Make sure you listen to this one all the way to the end. AWESOME!
You can find DeFranco’s transcription of Yesterday’s here…
Famous Clarinet Players - Jazz, Klezmer and World Music Meet
Clarinetist and composer Don Byron performs numerous styles of music. Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Ph.D. interviews Byron at the University of California. This is a 59 minute video so I’ve highlighted times below so you can skip to subjects that interest you or go directly to the music performance segments. See subject and performance times below video frame and let the video "load-in" before you skip from one section to the next.
Times and performance sections in bold: (0:00) Byron speaks about his latest project and Afro-Caribbean music. (2:00) Great world clarinetists who influence Byron. (3:09) Byron speaks about how he started studying clarinet and how it helped him overcome challenges of asthma. Also, family influences and studies from classical to jazz to Eastern European folk music. (6:00) Byron talks about album Tuskegee Experiments and klezmer music. (12:38) Ideas on uses of different musical genres and pushing their limits. (14:30) What is the Don Byron “stamp” on music? (16:45) Byron performs with pianist, Billy Childs, at Price Center Lecture, UCSD. (23:15) Music as a Social force? (24:15) Byron answers. (28:35) About Blacksploitation CD. (31:16) Byron plays Waltz for Ellen from Tuskegee Experiments during the interview. (34:49) Byron plays another waltz with Billy Childs. (41:35) About Byron’s composing process. (45:00) Music style and idiom influences on Byron. (47:40) Byron on Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto. (50:35) Byron on Hip-Hop. (53:25) Byron’s advice to young musicians. (54:14) Byron plays again as a closer.
Dixieland Jazz New Orleans jazz man Pete Fountain playing Just a Closer Walk with Thee with Amazing Grace in the middle and a few bars of I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire.
New Orleans Jazz Clarinetists
Famous Clarinetists - Classic New Orleans Jazz - Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmie Noone.
Sidney Bechet – song Blue Horizon, Sidney Bechet and His Blue Note Jazzmen, December 30, 1944
As noted on the YouTube write-up:
“Listen to the fine tremolo Bechet brings out of his instrument. Like all great jazz musicians, Bechet can bring everything about a song, from the sound of his instrument to the melody itself, to the very edge, where it appears as if it might just break off, without losing control. You may not notice how sure-footed some people are until you see them prance nimbly around a cliff. Here Bechet is in command throughout the piece, which is practically all clarinet solo. Richard Hadlock recalls some musical advice Bechet gave him regarding how to produce a tone: I’m going to give you one note today, he once told me. See how many ways you can play that note—growl it, smear it, flat it, sharp it, do anything you want to it. That’s how you express your feelings in this music. It’s like talking. (quoted in Ted Gioa, The History of Jazz, p. 50).”
Hear clarinetist Johnny Dodds in Chicago in 1928 with his usual gang - Natty Dominique and George Mitchell cornets, John Thomas on trombone, Charlie Alexander piano, Bud Scott banjo, and Baby Dodds drums.
Johnny Dodds playing with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band – below is Dippermouth Blues (Sugarfoot Stomp) 1923
Joe "King" Oliver was a jazz cornet player and bandleader. Johnny Dodds performed clarinet with him as well as Oliver’s protegé Louis Armstrong, second cornet, Baby Dodds, drums, Lil Hardin, on piano, Honore Dutrey on trombone, and Bill Johnson, bass and banjo. Recordings made by this group in 1923 demonstrated the serious artistry of the New Orleans style of collective improvisation or Dixieland music to a wider audience.
Jimmie Noone – song You Rascal You
Jimmie Noone is generally regarded as one of the greatest of the second generation of jazz clarinetists, along with Johnny Dodds and Sidney Bechet.
Famous Clarinet Players - Klezmer
Klezmer - Dave Tarras, Andy Statman, Janfie Van Strien (clarinetist with the Amsterdam Klezmer Band)
The Andy Statman Trio (Andy on clarinet, Jim Whitney on bass and Larry Eagle on drums and percussion) performing an untitled original melody in concert, summer 2007.
If you know this untitled Klezmer melody, please contact me. Otherwise, hear Mr. Statman perform A Collection of Timeless Jewish Melodies here
Bulgaria - Ivo Papazov and His Wedding Band. You need to check this out. Unbelievable playing and exciting...
Greece - Expand your horizons and sound concept with this traditional Epirus Song by Greek Clarinetist Petroloukas Chalkias.
Macedonia - The famous clarinet player from Republic of Macedonia, Tale Ognenovski played the clarinet as a Macedonian folk instrument and became famous worldwide with his work. Below is not a video but a montage with some great playing on it.
Famous Clarinet Players - Historical
Historical Famous Clarinet Players – Anton Stadler, Richard Muhlfeld, H. Klose, C. Rose, Ralph McLane
18 Trios - Volume 2 By A. Stadler. Arranged by Trio Di Bassetto. For 3 bass horns, 3 Bb clarinets, or 2 Bb clarinet and 1 bass clarinet. Classical. Level: 5-6. Published by International Music Diffusion (Arpeges Diffusion) (French import). (395) See more info...
40 Studies For Clarinet - Book 1 By C. Rose. Instructional book for Clarinet. These technical etudes for developing dexterity in the advancing clarinetist have become celebrated standards. Book one presents twenty musical gems that should be part of every clarinetist's library. 24 pages. Published by Carl Fischer. (CF.O437) See more info...
If you ask a clarinetist who the most famous clarinet players are, they might give some of the aforementioned names, but more than likely they’ll give you their spin on the greatest clarinetist alive or dead and why that person is the greatest. And, they’ll subdivide the players into musical styles, or countries and continents like: the greatest American clarinetist, French clarinetist, German clarinetist, Jazz clarinetist, Klezmer clarinetist, Greek clarinetist, etc…
Then, you have the category of the most famous clarinet players of all time. It’s hard to compare this category because recordings didn’t become available until the late 1880s (cylinder disks). But, you can guess that the historically famous clarinetists would include Anton Stadler (Mozart’s friend and inspiration to write the Clarinet Concerto and Quintet) and Richard Muhlfeld (Brahm’s friend and inspiration to write the Clarinet Sonatas, Trio and Quintet).
Matter of fact, Brahm’s had decided to quit composing completely until he heard Richard Muhlfeld play as principal clarinetist of the Meiningen Court Orchestra in Germany. Thanks to Stadler and Brahms, the clarinet world has music written by two of the greatest composers that ever lived; written specifically for clarinet; and during the most mature time period of the composer’s life.
So, how does a young clarinetist figure out who the MOST famous clarinet players are now-a-days? Well, let’s start with the Grammy awards. The “person on the street” knows what the Grammy awards are, right?
These Grammy winning recordings include soloists, chamber and jazz. As you might imagine, the recordings that win Best Classical Performance, Best Orchestral Performance, Best Choral Performance, etc… nearly all had clarinetists in the ensembles. This list does not cover these categories.
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE! THE WINNERS ARE: Larry Combs, Eddie Daniels, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw and Richard Stoltzman.
To see the recordings and years these players won their Grammys and a full list of nominees, go the
Clarinet Grammy Awards.
Famous Clarinet Players
ORCHESTRAL PRINCIPAL CLARINETISTS
Winning the position of Principal Clarinet in a major symphony orchestra is a massive undertaking. You could say it is American Idol times ten. The competition is stiff among really talented, trained and already extremely professional musicians. Imagine this, and then the fact the principal clarinetists hold onto their jobs for a long time. Now, you come into famous clarinet player range.
Especially in large cities like New York City, the principal clarinetist is Stanley Drucker. He won a post with the orchestra in 1948 and became principal in 1960. He retired in 2009 having played with the orchestra 61 years and as principal a total of 49 years. Can you imagine a professional football player still playing competitive “on the field” football for 61 years?
These famous clarinet players perform the greatest orchestral literature of all time and premiere the new works of the day. As each orchestra produces professional audio and video recordings (like Live from Lincoln Center) often, these principal clarinetists execute perfectly musical phrases both in live performance and under the microphone.
The entire section of a major symphony orchestra is “famous” to clarinet players, especially in the host city. However, I’ve only chosen to list the principals of some major orchestras here. The orchestras are listed alphabetically.
Principal clarinetists of selected major symphony orchestras
My recommendation is that if you live with-in two hours drive of one of these orchestras, try to talk your parents into buying recordings of that famous clarinet player and eventually go see them in a live concert. If you live far away from any of these orchestras, look up the local orchestra in the nearest city, and find out the name of the principal clarinetist and/or whole clarinet section. Then, see if they have any recordings and better yet, see the orchestra live. Also, once you know the name of this clarinetist, seek-out master classes or clinics they might give in the area.
To see a complete list of orchestra clarinet sections of orchestras worldwide, go