Richard Stoltzman

Richard Stoltzman's virtuosity, musicianship and sheer personal magnetism have made him one of today's most sought-after concert artists. As soloist with over a hundred orchestras, a captivating recitalist, an innovative jazz artist, and a prolific recording artist, this two-time Grammy Award winner has defied categorization, dazzling critics and audiences alike throughout many musical genres. Stoltzman's unique way with the clarinet has earned him an international reputation as he has opened up possibilities for the instrument that no one could have predicted. He gave the first clarinet recitals at both the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, and became the first wind player to receive the Avery Fisher Prize. He has performed or recorded with such jazz and pop greats as Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Judy Collins, Eddie Gomez, Woody Herman, Keith Jarrett, Mel Torme, and Spyro Gyra founder Jeremy Wall. His commitment to new music has resulted in numerous premieres, including acclaimed clarinet works by Steve Reich, Toru Takemitsu, Stephen Hartke and Einojuhani Rautavaara. Richard Stoltzman's discography numbers well over sixty recordings and he has won Grammy Awards for his recordings of the Brahms Sonatas with Richard Goode and Trios of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax.

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Richard Stoltzman and the other members of the group TASHI are well-known for their work performing and recording this exquisite work by Messiaen. Some thoughts on the piece, written for one of the performances are shared below:


During his internment in a WWII German prison camp, Messiaen encountered three other musicians among his fellow prisoners. It was for them that he composed his Quartet for the End of Time, which they first performed for their 5,000 fellow inmates in 1941.

Richard Stoltzman’s relationship to Messiaen’s quartet goes back almost 40 years. He reflects:

“The TASHI group had a very special coaching in Manhattan one afternoon in the late 1970's. Messiaen came with his wife, Yvonne Loriod, who translated into English for him. Quietly sitting in the corner was Toru Takemitsu.

“The coaching was a turning point for the group, which had been formed specifically to play the QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME but had never before worked directly with Messiaen. Messiaen gave great insight and encouragement into how to perform his intentions, which are sometimes indicated through his own religious fervor and meditation on the name Jesus, and in colors. He used phrases like "powdery chords" and asked me to make the tone "noir," or black, over and over again. His musical language incorporated very precise rhythms and then using them backwards, and in 2, 3, or 4 times the duration, or in half the duration.

“Messiaen was adamant about getting those ratios precise because they meant more than just exactness -- they revealed a sense of cosmic unity. He also worked a lot with Peter Serkin on the sonority of the piano and on the use of pedals.

“It was a great afternoon and was especially meaningful because Takemitsu witnessed the wisdom of this great French composer and was inspired to write QUATRAIN for TASHI.”

The Eroica Trio, for a performance with Mr. Stoltzman at the Rubin Museum in 2010, stated:

“According to the composer, the Quartet was intended as a musical expression of the concept that the end of Time would be the end of past and future and the beginning of eternity. Although Messiaen's structure is guided by the Book of Revelations account of the Apocalypse, the composer's personal statements about the work also reflect Buddhist ideologies of impermanence and nothingness, a time and existence with no beginning, no end, void of reference. The concept of sunyata, void, or emptiness can be discovered in the The Pali Canon, many of the Buddha's teachings (sutras), and Buddhist art found throughout the Rubin exhibitions.”

Simone Dinnerstein and Richard Stoltzman, March 2011

Simone Dinnerstein and Richard Stoltzman, March 2011

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What type of mouthpiece do you use?
I play on a mouthpiece made by Kalmen Opperman.

Q: What type of clarinet do you play?
My clarinets are Buffet R-13 clarinets (both A and B-flat). They have gold-plated keys and are worked on by Mr. Opperman.

Q: What reeds do you use?
Vandoren White Master reeds, size 3.

Q: What type of ligature do you use?
I play on a Buffet ligature, which was reworked for me by my teacher, Kalmen Opperman. I also use an M. Martin ligature which is very similar. When I'm testing out reeds, I use a Ratterree to save time.

Q: How much do you practice every day?
It would be difficult to know the exact number of hours every day, but I take the clarinet out when I wake up and come back to it all throughout the day.

Q: Where can we find your concert information?
In addition to this blog, you can check my website, Frank Salomon Associates' website (links are listed just to the right of these posts), or contact/friend me on FaceBook.

Q: When and why did you start using double lip embouchure?
I switched to double lip 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.

Richard Stoltzman and Mika Yoshida rehearse at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall

Richard Stoltzman and Mika Yoshida rehearse at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall

Patrick Wilkins, composer

Check out two neat pieces for clarinet and piano by composer Patrick Wilkins! They are available as audio tracks at: . You can contact Mr. Wilkins to order the pieces at