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Just in: New York Philharmonic lures principal clarinet from Chicago

Stephen Williamson, appointed principal clarinet of the Chicago Symphony by Riccardo Muti just two years ago, has heard a siren call from New York and raced to answer it.

The NY Phil has been without a #1 clarinet for four seasons since Stanley Drucker’s retirement and Williamson must have been hankering for the bright lights and pastrami. Before joining Chicago, he was principal clarinet at the Met. So it goes.


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  1. It’s not the pastrami. It’s the pizza. With pastrami on it.

  2. He’s leaving a great orchestra and a fine conductor for a less than great orchestra and a mediocre conductor.
    But NYC’s a cultural universe unto itself (so much so that it is easy to forget the richness of the world outside).

    • You never know when Muti will leave Chicago. [redacted]
      We really don’t know the reasons of Mr. Williamson for leaving the orchestra. I am sure that he thought a lot before leaving Chicago.
      Many conductors would love to be at the helm of that less than great orchestra.

    • Kundry's Therapist says:

      He’s leaving a great orchestra and a fine conductor who is past his best and now churns out repeated performances of his usual warhorses (and crucially has missed the vast majority of his scheduled periods as Music Director due to illness) for a fine orchestra with a competent conductor who is actually able to fulfil his commitments and has lead said fine orchestra in some very interesting repertoire directions over the past seasons. Maybe not quite so clear-cut a distinction….?

      • What nonsense. Muti has not by any means missed a majority, let alone a vast majority of his performances. And he has played works new to him and new works altogether as well. Steve had family considerations and that’s life. A big loss for Chicago and great for the Phil. He’s a wonderful musician and a lovely person. Have any opinion you like on any subject but a shame that people make up “facts” and that they get published.

    • He might just like New York better.

    • I just a little while ago I saw both CSO/Muti and NYP/Gilbert live within days of each other and while oth were good concerts, I was far more impressed by the latter, both by the orchestra and Gilbert’s conducting. He directed a very musical and nuanced performance of Scheherazade, a piece which seems to play itself but which can also easily be very bland and repetitive, but in Glbert’s performance, there was not a dull and uninflected moment. The orchestra also followed him very well and there was some really outstanding playing by the wind soloists, especially the principal bassoon Judith LeClair and who played the solos better than I have ever heard them played. Incidentally, Mr McGill who has been mentioned in this thread played in this concert, too, and he contributed some really beautifully phrased playing.
      In comparison, the CSO with Muti were good but not that impressive. They also didn’t follow Muti as well as the NYP did Gilbert. They delivered a fairly mechanical and unidiomatic performance of Dvorak 5 and the wind solo playing didn’t have the character the playing of the NYP principals had.

  3. There’s no pastrami or pizza in NYC anymore, not since Ed Koch’s era. And I’d have to agree with ed, he traded down.

  4. Graf Nugent says:

    If the NY Phil came looking for him he might just have been able to dictate his terms. And Alan Gilbert won’t be there forever…

    • Mati Braun says:

      Why is it so important to know why a person does? He decided therefore let it be. It is really his bussines.
      This question is for all of us?

  5. Daniel Farber says:

    It’s the home-fries, stupid! NO OTHER CITY IN THE WORLD can boast of great home-fries on nearly every block. But seriously, folks, you have to wonder why the NY Phil didn’t go after the Met’s Opera’s principal, Anthony McGill, who is just across Lincoln Center Plaza and is every bit as good as Williamson if not better. And the Met Orchestra also has as its acting principal, Jessica Philips-Reiske, who is also terrific. (Levine hired her when she was just 25.) You have to wonder…….

  6. Or maybe he just cannot be far from the Knicks…Or his mom’s steak. Why always We thought that reasons are just money? Perhaps due to the fact that 90% just do something for the bucks. However, how to identified and not be unfair with the 10%?

  7. Marko Velikonja says:

    I think this is all much ado about nothing. Note the CSO said next year Williamson will be “on leave.” Per standard practice, he’ll take a year playing with the Philharmonic, and then get to decide whether to stay or go back to the CSO. And I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he goes back to the CSO, just as Mathieu Dufour did when he won the Los Angeles Principal Flute position a couple years ago. Steve Williamson has nothing to lose by showing his market value and spending a year with the Philharmonic. Perhaps Mr. Lebrecht can see if he can find a London bookmaker who would offer odds on Mr. Williamson going back to the CSO.

  8. Officially, Williamson is not *hired* by the NYPhil but he is going to take a one-year leave of absence from the CSO, effective in September. Meaning he’s still under contract with the CSO. That’s a funny arrangement.

    • This is the normal way this is done with contracted players. In the past these initial “hiring” were not trumpeted, so to speak, as they did not always pan out. This way both “appointing” orchestra and player have fallbacks if things do not work out. This also delays the start of auditions for a successor player, however.

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