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Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman straddles the worlds of jazz and classical music, his solos demonstrating an accomplished virtuosity regardless of the performance context. Stoltzman is equally at home fronting a full symphony orchestra or a small chamber music ensemble, playing swinging traditional jazz or his own soothing, new-age-tinged brand of chamber jazz. Over the course of his long career, Stoltzman has primarily endeavored to break down boundaries between audiences, bringing jazz to classical fans and vice versa.
Richard Stoltzman was born in Omaha, NE, in 1942 to a father who played the saxophone. He grew up in San Francisco and Cincinnati, and pursued degrees in music and math at Ohio State; he earned his music master's at Yale and studied for his doctorate at Columbia. Stoltzman began to make his name as a professional through Vermont's chamber-music-oriented Marlboro Music Festival, where he debuted in 1967 (the first of ten straight appearances) and began making the contacts that would lead him to co-found the chamber ensemble TASHI in 1973.
In the years that followed, Stoltzman achieved a number of firsts: he performed the first clarinet recitals ever held at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall; he was the first performer to feature jazz in a program at Wagner's legendary Bayreuth Opera House; and he became the first wind player to win the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize in 1986. He appeared as a soloist with a number of major symphonies, and also performed at international jazz festivals, as well as with jazz and pop stars Mel Tormé, George Shearing, Judy Collins, Woody Herman, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, and the Canadian Brass, among others. In the early '90s, Stoltzman began commissioning and premiering new works for clarinet, and was also featured in the BBC's acclaimed 1993 series Concerto!, performing Aaron Copland's "Clarinet Concerto" with the London Symphony Orchestra. Through most of the '90s, Stoltzman recorded for RCA Victor, blending jazz, classical, and new age sounds, and frequently working with pianist/arranger Bill Douglas; Begin Sweet World was his artistic breakthrough and most popular recording.