A Minute with GRAMMY-winning Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

A Minute with GRAMMY-winning Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

On Saturday, March 23, two-time GRAMMY-winning clarinetist Richard Stoltzman will perform Rautavaara’s Clarinet Concerto with the Orchestra of Indian Hill. The performance will be the Massachusetts premiere of the stunning piece, which was commissioned for Mr. Stoltzman. The concert will also feature Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No.5.

In anticipation of the performance, we’ve collected some of Mr. Stoltzman’s thoughts on his beginnings as a musician, performing, practicing, and more!

Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

Beginnings and Speaking Through Music

RS: Mr. Howard Thompson was my first clarinet teacher. The Sherman & Clay music store located in downtown San Francisco close to Market Street provided a room for him and I can remember he was a benign little man with gray hair, glasses that magnified his blue eyes in a warm way, coat and tie, both clarinet and alto saxophone at his side. He listened gently to my playing, guiding me to make my sound, joining me in duets, and encouraging me to try the alto.

He was a kind and gentle man and when my parents announced the family move away from San Francisco to Cincinnati, I was very sad for my last lesson and felt my life in music would now be over. Howard Thompson looked at me, light blue eyes through his thick glasses, which made his eyes seem larger and luminous and told me, “Now Richard, don’t cry. You just continue the way you’re going. You’ll find another teacher and just remember you have something to say with your music.”

Using a Double Lip Embouchure

RS: I switched to double lip (both lips having contact on the mouthpiece) after hearing a recording of Schubert’s Der Hirt Auf Dem Felsen for soprano, clarinet, and piano with Benita Valente, Harold Wright, and Rudolph Serkin. Wright’s gorgeous legato and sublime homogeneous sound was so inspiring. I discovered that he used double lip embouchure. He suggested I work with Kalmen Opperman. Mr. Opperman basically tore my playing apart and rebuilt it again based on his philosophy of sound and understanding of technique.

I find double lip feels organic and natural for me. It allows for subtle variations in the amount of mouthpiece and reed inside of my mouth. It also seems to allow for greater variety in tone color.

Nervousness as a Performer

RS: Being nervous is part of life. I still get nervous and I have been performing for sixty-three years. Know the music as well as you can. Memorize and sing and copy it on manuscript paper, play slowly, know the intervals well by name and appreciate their characters from half step all the way to octave. Perform the music many, many times in front of anyone who will listen.  Send your music out into the air of the room. Use the power of your breath to continue the stream of sound, pushing through nervousness into connection with the composer. You are there to serve the composer and send his music to inspire the listener.

Read more about Richard Stoltzman here.

(Excerpts from richardstoltzman.com and “Another Name for God” by Richard Stoltzman)

Stoltzman Clarinet

About Rautavaara’s Clarinet Concerto

(From Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara)

ER: It is obvious that Richard Stoltzman’s cooperation at the composing stage was essential for many of the technically demanding passages. But the lyricism of the slow movement was also, in a way, a result of the exceptionally soft and expressive sound of his clarinet. Therefore I decided to dedicate the concerto “to Richard Stoltzman and the sound of his clarinet.”


See Mr. Stoltzman perform Rautavaara’s Clarinet Concerto with the Orchestra of Indian Hill on Saturday, March 23. Hear more at the pre-concert talk and Encore cafe post-concert Q&A with Mr. Stoltzman and Maestro Bruce Hangen!  Buy your tickets here.

2019-03-15T15:50:16+00:00March 15th, 2019|Categories: Concerts, Orchestra|0 Comments

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