Listen to Stanley Drucker’s remarkable career with his Heritage Collection, Volumes 8 and 9. The Heritage Collection consists of 9 volumes where repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary. With the help of producer, Jerry Bunke, many of these prerecorded concerts were edited and remastered to create the Heritage Collection.
This is truly a history lesson on repertoire for clarinet. Learn about Stanley’s performance career with a a few of these stories below.
Why did you choose the clarinet?
As a kid you don't 'choose' that much - you're handed something! There must've been a reason for it: The Big Band Era with the Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw "world" of clarinet. And then there were the Klezmer clarinet players: Dave Tarris and Naftule Brandwein who they called the Goodman/Shaw of Klezmer music. Another reason was that the instrument was very cheap. It wasn't a high-end violin or piano. They gave me a clarinet for my 10th birthday. It was a used Buffet clarinet and it was quite good.
How did you start auditioning and what was it like and what was your journey like to the New York Philharmonic?
Auditions were very different in those days because you never knew what you were going to be playing. You played what you had prepared first and then they put music out and said play this. The conductor ran the auditions and if he liked somebody, you got hired. It was as simple as that. But if he didn't like you 2 weeks later, you were out. There was no tenure or job security. The seasons were also short. The Indianapolis Symphony had 22 weeks in their season. It was exciting because every program and piece was new. You either learned the new repertoire fast or you went into a different profession. It was a great experience doing that.
Buffalo was terrific and paid more than Indianapolis. It had a beautiful concert hall, the repertoire was big, and it had a world-class conductor. I didn't realize it, but Busch had spoken to the other conductors and I got a message that the New York Philharmonic was holding a clarinet audition and invited me to come play. I was in Buffalo at the time and naturally I said sure!
New York Philharmonic
I was in the Green Room at Carnegie Hall. It was Bruno Walter who was the music adviser and a committee of musicians. I played what I had prepared for the committee. Then they put out music and one of the pieces was the Overture to Tannhäuser. Walter sat down at the piano and played the orchestral part. I heard Walter say to the managers, "He'll be a valuable member of the orchestra." I got the acceptance letter in the next couple of days and I signed it. I started the next season in 1948-'49.
What was touring with the NY Phil like?
I got a lifetime of memories because we toured everywhere. We played in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South America, Europe, and Asia. There were some major tours throughout the years. We played a 10-week tour that covered every country in Europe. We got to experience a different world.
I did many solos on tour. I played the Corigliano Concerto on tour. I did Copland Concerto multiple times. The New York Philharmonic kept records of all the concerts and they think I played 10,200 concerts!
I look back on it and believe I gave it my all. I have no regrets. It was a long run and now you pass the flag onto the next generation. That's my story.
People try to find the 'secret' to how you do something. There is no secret! You do what you have to do as best as you can, but, it helps if you have a little bit of luck.
What are some of your earliest memories with Vandoren?
The first time I heard the name Vandoren was when I was a kid and there was a little neighborhood music store that had a large box… I think there might've been 100 reeds in that box. In those days, there were no numbers on the reeds, just the name 'Vandoren'. Every strength was in the box of reeds. It was like buying an assorted box of chocolates...This was going back to the 1940s. So that was my introduction.
My real introduction to Vandoren was the first time I was in Paris. It was with my first tour with the New York Philharmonic to Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival. After the 2 weeks of concerts, the season ended (they didn't have the year-round seasons in orchestras in those days). We were given a choice whether to stay for 2 or 4 weeks longer or come right home. Naturally, I was 21-years-old and I was going to go to Paris.
I went to Vandoren and I saw people working on the reeds. Today's Vandoren studio is a bit more glamorous with the showroom and the little recital hall, and a place to peruse music. But at that time, it was a working plant. I saw one room where the tube cane was being split by a triangular tool and fell into 3 parts. I saw all the manufacturing going on, by hand, which was amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.
Then someone said they wanted to introduce me to Robert Van Doren (the father of Bernard Van Doren). I met this gentleman who had been a performing clarinetist and a graduate of the Conservatoire. That was really exciting because you hear about these things as a kid and until you see it in action and get the atmosphere, I thought it was an amazing memory. That was the first time I was at Vandoren.
In later years, I used to visit every time we were in Paris, on vacation, or with an orchestra tour. One year I was down in the south (where the big factory is located and Bernard lives). We had a wonderful time being with the Van Dorens. Going out on the water, he had a nice runabout: 23ft Bertram which is a very fine make of boat. We really got to sample what it is that makes you tick when you do something. When you create something, like the Van Doren reed, you wonder what life is like other than that. Then you see the amount of joy in what they're doing. He was a wonderful man.
My experiences of all the years I've played - those highlights stay with me. They lie as fresh as when they happen.