Michele Zukovsky, clarinetist with L.A. Phil for five decades, is retiring

Michele Zukovsky, clarinetist with L.A. Phil for five decades, is retiring
Los Angeles Philharmonic Conductor Esa–Pekka Salonen, left, directs clarinetist Michele Zukovskyduring a performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on April 24, 2008.Zukovsky will retire at the end of the year. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Michele Zukovsky, principal clarinetist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic who has played with the orchestra for more than five decades, will retire in December, a spokeswoman for the orchestra has confirmed. Her last concert with the L.A. Phil is Dec. 20, and she will retire at the end of that month.

Zukovsky joined the L.A. Phil in 1961 when she was in her late teens and often played alongside her father, the late clarinetist Kalman Bloch, who was a former section principal. She remains one of the longest-serving musicians with the orchestra.


During her tenure, Zukovsky has played under five music directors — including Zubin Mehta, who was appointed in the early 1960s. She has performed numerous solos with the orchestra and holds teaching posts at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, Azusa Pacific University and the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.

Among her distinctions is serving as soloist for the world premiere of John Williams' Clarinet Concerto in 1991.

Bloch, her father, died in 2009 at the age of 95. He had served as principal clarinetist for more than four decades until he retired in 1981.

Zukovsky told The Times in 1988 that female musicians have come a long way since she joined the orchestra. "In those days, we didn't make waves," she said.

She added: "Playing in an orchestra keeps the soloist honest ... since what orchestra playing demands is a fuller tone plus the most careful intonation. When you're surrounded by colleagues, you have to play in tune. These are things the soloist, left to his own devices, can forget, out in the world."

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall, in 2013, she told The Times that the L.A. Phil is "the most flexible orchestra in the world, and we can sight-read a very contemporary piece and make it sound like a performance. Plus we can put together a performance on very little rehearsal time."

News of Zukovsky's retirement was reported earlier by blogger Norman Lebrecht.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT