Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

Update re: Michele Zukovsky, her last LA Phil concert date, and her retirement

Michele Zukovsky, Principal Clarinet, Los Angeles Philharmonic Some good news for all of you fans of Michele Zukovsky:  I received official confirmation on when the tenure of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Principal Clarinet  will end, and it’s a little later than was originally thought.  Her official retirement date will be December 31, 2015, with her final concert less than two weeks before that . . .

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 2pm
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Kirill Gerstein, piano

RACHMANINOFF:  Piano Concerto No. 2
RACHMANINOFF:  Symphonic Dances

Since her official start date was September 9, 1961, that makes her time with the orchestra a whopping 54 years, 3 months, and 22 days, almost all of it as Principal.

Whew.  Not the longest tenure in LA Phil history, but pretty damn close (e.g. I know Richard D. Kelley played in the bass section from 1955 until his death in 2013, a 57-year run).  When compared to other prominent LA Phil musicians who were her colleagues, including former Principal 2nd Violin Harold Dicterow (1946-1996, 50 years), Principal Bassoon Frederick “Fritz” Moritz (1923-1970, 47 years), and Concertmaster David Frisina (1937-1978, 41 years), it’s truly astounding.

The biggest upside to this news:  we get to hear her play in the acoustically awesome confines of Walt Disney Concert Hall before she leaves the orchestra.  That said, even in the less-than-ideal sonic environment of the Hollywood Bowl, she sounded typically wonderful last night playing short solos in the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin and Ravel’s Bolero, and it’s clear she could continue playing at an extremely high level for longer if she wanted.

Without a doubt, she’s going out with style and class.  In the meantime, we still have a few more months to relish her musicianship.  Don’t blow the opportunity.



Photo credit:  courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic

11 thoughts on “Update re: Michele Zukovsky, her last LA Phil concert date, and her retirement

  1. Truly a treasure among many in the orchestra, but that longevity is truly astounding.
    Already have my tickets for 12.20.15.
    Interesting program for her finale – all Rachmaninoff(?)!


  2. Michele Zukovsky’s playing is simply magnificent. It is an understatement to say that she has helped to shape the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I will truly miss her playing. However, it is also clear that the woodwind section hasn’t actually gelled for some time. I remember quite fondly some of the concerts I heard 10 and 20 years ago and the woodwind section was incredibly tight. Maybe it’s just my ears but the woodwind sound use to be softer and more focused. The performance of Ravel’s Bolero a week ago was a perfect example. It was good but not great. Michele’s clarinet solo was remarkably soft, almost to the point where you couldn’t hear her, and it was completely different than the way the oboe solo was played. It seems to this one listener that she prefers this type of playing and that the current cast of other woodwind players is playing in a totally different world. Not that they are bad players, but the harmonious sound that developed in the days of David Briedenthal and David Weiss just isn’t there right now. In any event, I truly wish this great musician a well deserved retirement.


      • Mark – describe your idea of the differences. Love to read them.
        Enjoy both conductors, yet the orchestra does sound so different.


        • Very briefly and necessarily simplified: clear/lean/cool vs lush/juicy/hot. Exceptional talents like Michele Zukovsky manage to sound very good in both approaches, as well as in just about everything in between.


          • Thanks so much. Latin blood vs. Northern European blood – no surprise there.
            Adaptation is what I really appreciate about the orchestra, meaning regardless of who is on the podium, or who is the soloist, the orchestra adapts.
            Sign of a great orchestra.


            • I recall a comment that Jim Wilt made to a previous “All is Yar” post (HERE) after Mr. Dudamel became MD stating that audition committees were looking for “more confident, assertive” players. While Mr. Wilt was specifically talking about principal brass players Bain, Hooten, and Haroz, I think the principals hired during Mr. Dudamel’s tenure, especially Whitney Crockett (bassoon), Julien Beaudiment (flute), and Robert deMaine (cello) can also be considered more “assertive” than their immediate predecessors. This would be consistent with both Michael Tassos’s original and MmarkK’s subsequent comments.


  3. Just would like to clarify one thing here: an ability and a willingness of an orchestral principal to play certain passages extremely softly does not at all mean that such a player is any less musically “confident” and “assertive” than someone who prefers to play louder.


  4. Pingback: LA Phil comings and goings (Fall 2015 edition): Principal Clarinet update and much more | All is Yar

  5. Pingback: A chat with Michele Zukovsky (part 1 of 2): the LA Phil’s outgoing Principal Clarinet reflects on how her 54-year tenure began, the audition process, and more | All is Yar

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