For Clarinet Month on Bachtrack, we decided to conduct short interviews with clarinettists of some of the leading orchestras to get a view from the principal’s desk and to learn more about the role of the clarinet within an orchestra. Next up is Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet with the New York Philharmonic.

Anthony McGill with the New York Philharmonic © Chris Lee
Anthony McGill with the New York Philharmonic
© Chris Lee

What made you choose the clarinet?

I wanted to play the saxophone but it was too big for me so I chose the clarinet instead.

Did you have any clarinet heroes, clarinettists you’ve looked up to?

I have many clarinet heroes. I’ve been influenced by many different players of many different styles and tones.

How long have you been playing with the New York Philharmonic?

I’m finishing my fourth season.

What’s your favourite orchestral solo? (Why?)

The slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 2. It is stunningly beautiful.

What’s your most dreaded orchestral solo? (And why?!)

I try to make a habit of not dreading solos. They don’t go very well if you do!

What’s your favourite clarinet concerto?

This is a tough question. The Mozart-Copland concerto hybrid.

Which clarinet work do you think is most unfairly neglected?

All of the ones besides Mozart, Copland, Nielsen and Debussy.

Do you get opportunities to perform concertos with your orchestra? What’s your most memorable performance as a concerto soloist?

Yes I do quite often. I performed and recorded the Nielsen concerto with the New York Philharmonic in my first year.

And finally, for the real clarinet nerds, what make of clarinet and what make and strength of reed do you play? Do you play on plastic reeds as well?

I play a Buffett Clarinet RC Prestige and Vandoren V-12 reeds. I don’t play plastic reeds.