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Ralph McLane

The story of Ralph McLane is unique in the history of the "famous" clarinetists. More than any other, if we follow McLanes career we can see an artist who was in a constant state of development. From the very first accounts and recordings he seems to have always had a unique and beautiful sound. David Weber said that he so passionately focused on his sound that he would make mistakes. This is apparent in some of the early radio broadcasts from the early 1930's.  Born in 1908, McLane grew up in the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. In those days there were no training orchestras so one had to learn in whatever way one could. When he was 22, at the beginning of the Great Depression, McLane had his education "on the job", and not always with good results. When you listen to early McLane you can hear a beautiful sound but a rough musicality. As the years go by he begins to develop a strong sense of feeling. His passion for sound became a passion for music and this growth can be especially heard from 1943 when he captured the principal position in Philadelphia and came under the influence of great principal oboist Marcel Tabuteau.  As Philadelphia English Hornist,John Minsker would say, "everybody learned from Tabuteau".

Click the link below to read McLane's article on double-lip embouchure.

Mozart Clarinet Quintet (1935) Radio broadcast...quartet unknown

Miaskovsky Symphony No 21 Philadelphia Orchestra 1949

Excerpt 1 and 2

Prokofiev Piano Concerto No3 Philadelphia Orchestra 1949

Jules Serpentini 2nd Clarinet

Wieniawski Violin Concerto No 2 (Misha Elman) Philadelphia Orchestra 1949

Copland Concerto (1950 first rehearsal)

Ralph McLane gave two critically acclaimed premiere performances, his last, of the Copland Concerto in November 1950. The recording above is not a pristine performance. It is a first read through at the home of the pianist and is included here for it's historical significance. One must understand that McLane had only months left to live and had had a recent operation that left him weak. This recording is a first read through of a piece the neither McLane nor the pianist Alexander Sokolov had ever heard before. They are just discovering the Melodies and Harmonies that

we are so familiar with. Listen carefully to hear their comments on voicing, etc.(and Sokolov's mother-in-law(?) mentioning  a "Flicker" or woodpecker outside) The read through was made at the home of Sokolov on a very out of tune piano and an early home tape recorder. 

Ralph McLane movie by John Minsker (@1949-50)

McLane Movie (no sound)

Home video made by John Minsker, English Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra (1936-1959) The first part is McLane clowning. The rehearsal section is, most likely a rehearsal for the Copland Concerto in November 1950 (slow motion section included to follow McLane's movements- Note the reed behind his ear in last frames!) Video courtesy of David McGill, former Principal Bassoon, Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ravel "Introduction and Allegro"

Ralph McLane,John Wummer,Flute, Laura Newell,Harp and the Stueyvsant Quartet 1939

Beethoven Septet Op 20

Budapest String Quartet, Ralph McLane, Eli Carmen, bassoon, James Chambers,horn, Anton Torello, bass.Library of Congress 1947

Adagio-Allegro con brio

Adagio cantabile

Tempo di Menuetto

TEMA con Variazioni. Andante

SCHERZO. Allegro molto e vivace

Andante con moto alla Marcia-Presto

Schubert Octet Op 166

Budapest String Quartet, Ralph McLane, Eli Carmen, bassoon, James Chambers,horn, Anton Torello, bass.Library of Congress 1947



Allegro vivace


Minuetto. Allegretto

Andante molto- Allegro

Ralph McLane Recordings with the  Philadelphia Orchestra
Beethoven Symphony #6 "Pastorial"
Liszt "Les Preludes"
Lizst "Les Preludes" - Philadelphia / McLane clarinet
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Beethoven Symphony #6 - McLane clarinet
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Brahms "Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Resphigi "Pines of Rome"
Pines of Rome - McLane clarinetist
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Brahms "Haydn Variations" - McLane clarinetist
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Menotti "Sebastian Suite"
Menotti "Sebastian Suite" - McLane clarinet
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Brahms "Symphony #3
Brahms Symphony #3 - Philadelphia, Ralph McLane
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Kodaly "Hary Janos"
Kodaly "Hary janos" - Ralph McLane Clarinetist
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Ralph McLane
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