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Orchestral Tales: the clarinet

Paolo Pietropaolo

If you take the most famous solos for a given instrument of the orchestra, you’ll find a vivid character emerges — a character with a magical story to tell. That’s the idea behind Orchestral Tales, Season 3 of the award-winning Signature Series.

To hear the clarinet’s tale, click on the Soundcloud play button below. Follow along with the pop-up comments to find out what composition is playing, or scroll down for a complete list.

Read more about the clarinet’s characteristics below.


Orchestral section:


Patron instrument of:

Dancers, free spirits, tricksters.

Clarinet-like fictional characters:

- Pippi Longstocking.
- Mary Poppins.

1 clarinet clip to watch before you die:

Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst demonstrates that clarinet playing should perhaps be an Olympic sport:

3 immortal clarinet moments in pop culture:

1. The great Benny Goodman leads his orchestra in "Sing, Sing, Sing" in the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel.

2. The Beatles, "When I'm Sixty-Four," featuring not one, not two, but three clarinetists.

3. Joni Mitchell, "For Free," clarinet solo by Paul Horn.

1 reason to play the clarinet:

It's one of the most flexible instruments — you can join a band in many different musical genres.

Famous clarinetists you should know about:

- Benny Goodman
- Artie Shaw
- Richard Mühlfeld
- Sabine Meyer
- Martin Fröst
- Woody Herman
- Woody Allen
- Steven Spielberg

Pieces heard in The Clarinet’s Tale (in order of first appearance):

- Dvořák: Cello Concerto, first movement
- Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, first movement
- Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, first movement
- Puccini: “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca
- Mahler: Symphony No. 1, first movement
- Gounod: Funeral March of a Marionette
- Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
- Alberto Ginastera: Variaciones concertantes
- Borodin: “Polovtsian Dances” from Prince Igor
- Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
- Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, second movement
- Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol, first movement
- Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, first movement
- Kodály: Intermezzo from Háry János
- Kodály: Dances from Galánta
- Messiaen: “Abyss of Birds” from Quartet for the End of Time
- Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2, second movement
- Respighi: “I pini del Gianicolo” from Pines of Rome
- Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, second movement

Special thanks to Toronto clarinetist Michele Jacot.

Meet all of the instruments.