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The horn of plenty has blown his last

Chicago has announced the retirement of the sometimes controversial Dale Clevenger, after 47 years. Release follows:







CHICAGO—Concluding a distinguished career of nearly five decades as principal horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Dale Clevenger will retire from the CSO, effective June 30, 2013.

A legend in the world of French horn for his sound, technique, finesse and fearless music making, Clevenger joined the CSO in 1966 under then-Music Director Jean Martinon. Throughout his 47-year tenure, he performed under subsequent Music Directors Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti, as well as Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez, former Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink, former Principal Guest Conductors Carlo Maria Giulini and Claudio Abbado, and countless guest conductors.

CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti praised Clevenger, saying “Dale Clevenger will remain in the world of music not only as a great horn player, but also as a true musician and dedicated teacher. His unique contributions to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as Principal Horn since 1966 leave a legacy that will forever be remembered and admired. I thank him for the music he has shared with me personally and I wish him great joy, peace and happiness as he begins a new chapter in his musical life, one I am sure will continue to enrich the musical world in innumerable ways.”

Clevenger has appeared with the CSO as soloist 35 times on subscription concerts in Chicago, as well as 23 times at the Ravinia Festival during the summer months. Among his most notable appearances was the world premiere in 2004 of a horn concerto composed for him by John Williams.

Before joining the CSO in 1966, Clevenger was a member of Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air, directed by Alfred Wallenstein; he also served as principal horn of the Kansas City Philharmonic and was an extra with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic.

He has participated in many music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Florida Music Festival in Sarasota, Affinis Music Festival in Japan and Marrowstone Music Festival in Bellingham, Washington. In addition, he has worked as a brass coach, given recitals, and led master classes around in the world in Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, China, Australia, Mexico, Canada and Israel.

Teaching has always been an integral part of Clevenger’s life, and horn players who have studied with or been coached by him have won positions in some of the world’s most prestigious ensembles, including the Berlin and New York Philharmonics and the Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston and Detroit symphony orchestras. Over the years, he taught at Northwestern University and is currently professor of horn at Roosevelt University. He has served as an adjunct professor of horn at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, where, in fall 2013, he will assume the post of full-time Professor of Practice in the Brass Department.

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  1. eitan bezalel says:

    What a great person, great musician & a great horn player!!!!

  2. Daniel Farber says:

    This is great if overdue news. DC had become the sad, last-days-of-Willie Mays of horn players. Let’s all try to forget the recent past and exult in the greatness he gave us for over 40 of the 47 years he served with the CSO! And let’s recall, too, the great brass players of the past who had the courage and foresight to take relatively early retirements while at or near the top of their respecitve games–e.g. Ghitalla, Voisin, Bloom, Chambers.

  3. Seems the claque — mostly the music critics, I gather — got its way and hounded the poor guy out of the orchestra. They weren’t very nice to him and the piling on of constant criticism surely could not have been the least bit pleasant.

    The media criticism was particularly mean spirited — for a while there, almost every review managed to point out how Mr. Clevenger had once again “splatted” a note or two. It got to be tiresome, those reviews.

    The next man or woman in the job better be damn good.

    • Some did, some did not.

      • I have noticed with great interest how classical criticism has acquired a smarmy sportscaster tone as to imply things beyond the pay grade of a concert reviewer. For example, how did shockingly personal revelations about Clevenger’s dying wife even make it into a public discussion about a guy bagging some intonation on The Firebird? This went way over a concern about someone not playing as well as before and these guys know it. As for von Rheins, I say slap on the plaid jacket and start working color for the Cubs games because that’s where your gimmick is best suited.

    • Marko Velikonja says:

      A lot of people groused at the comments by critics in recent years, but seriously, you can’t expect someone to play the horn as well in his late 60s/early 70s as he did in his 30s/40s/50s. I doubt any of those critics (including Mr. Patner, perhaps most prominent among them) had any agenda other than to do their job and report honestly on what they’re hearing.

      I appreciate that Mr. Clevenger so loves what he does that he wanted to stay on the job so long, but the time comes for everyone. Throw him a heck of a retirement event, erect a statue in the CSO Hall of Fame right next to Ray Still, Arnold Jacobs, Frank Miller, and Bud Herseth, and wish him well.

      • Malcolm James says:

        Some are accusing critics of ‘hounding’ Dale Clevenger out, but the opposite can be ‘the emperor has no clothes’ syndrome, where people are so in awe of a musician and their reputation that they are afraid to say that they are past it. Here in the the UK, I heard a radio broadcast from the Proms of a concerto performance by a legendary soloist and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I listened to the repeat a few days later to check my ears weren’t deceiving me. A friend was at the concert and he agreed that X ‘had completely lost it’. Yet none of the reviews in the London papers mentioned it.

        • Daniel Farber says:

          Malcolm James: Am wondering how critics in the UK dealt with the last, sad years of Menuhin’s violin playing. In the US, critics remained respectful but generally honest in dealing with the combination of revelatory moments and the lurid technical problems that could make listening to him turn from the ecstatic to the excruciating in a twinkling.

          • Malcolm James says:

            I don’t know. The broadcast I referred to was last Summer, so the soloist was not Menuhin.

  4. Antonio Augusto says:

    Thanks for everything Mr. Clevenger! The history of our instrument was enriched throughout yours 47 years of service at the Chicago Symphony!

  5. Best wishes to the historically superb Mr. Clevenger on his retirement.

    One hopes that the haters who manifested in so many of your recent posts on Mr. Clevenger will chose to, for once, stay away.

  6. itrinkkeinwein says:

    Really? Riccardo Muti said that? Doesn’t sound like him.

  7. Alicia Randisi-Hooker says:

    Somehow, I doubt he has blown his last; perhaps only in that now that he is under less pressure, he will surely find other venues who will welcome his brilliant playing as soloist and chamber musician. It is a beast of an instrument, and now he is free to enjoy playing without the weight of having to produce perfection every minute or every day.

  8. The long line of the classic CSO brass (which also included Herseth, Jacobs and Clevenger’s forebear, Farkas) is coming to an end. How would Mr. Clevenger be remembered if he’d retired some ten years ago, while still at the top of his game? I can think of Beverly Sills own “early” retirement as well as few sports “heroes:” Barry Sanders comes immediately to mind. Carrying on past one’s best times only soils a fine reputation. Fortunately for Mr. Clevenger, there is a vast recorded legacy of CSO performances.

  9. I think it is particularly touching that Clevenger is headed to teach at his deceased wife’s (ne Alice Render) alma mater. A great way to carry on an excellent legacy of brass teaching at IU!

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