Philadelphia Orchestra Loses Ricardo Morales To New York Phil

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Ricardo Morales, principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2003, will join the New York Philharmonic as principal clarinetist starting in September 2012.

Morales will continue with Philadelphia through the end of the 2011-12 season, and will return in 2012-13 for Yannick Nézet-Séguin's first season as music director in those weeks in which Nézet-Séguin conducts, a Philadelphia Orchestra spokeswoman said.

At the Philharmonic, Morales succeeds Stanley Drucker, principal clarinetist from 1960–2009. Morales was previously a principal in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.

Morales was offered the Philharmonic job more than a year ago, and his decision to take it now will no doubt stoke fears that, since declaring bankruptcy, the Philadelphia Orchestra risks losing its best players.

I'm feeling less pained than some others, perhaps, about Morales' decision. Many factors figure into an individual players' decision to move on. Sometimes the criterion is musical, sometimes it's financial. Let's not forget, too, that musicians have lives outside of the ensemble; for some former Philadelphia Orchestra musicians, the decision to leave was personal, relating to a divorce and not wanting to live far from the children.

Morales is a wonderful musician, and the loss is undeniably a serious one. But he's not the only wonderful clarinetist out there - not by a long shot. The salient questions are these: Will the orchestra do what it takes to replace him with an equal - if different - talent? And is Morales the thin end of the wedge? In other words, are other departures coming, and is the Philadelphia Orchestra, through these losses, on the way to forfeiting its core identity?

Morales, by the way, occupies the Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Chair - Worley being the chairman of the orchestra board, and Miller being the daughter of a clarinetist. 

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