November 30, 2008,Mitchell Lurie, who died at age 86 was the quintessential clarinetist, perhaps emulated by all who understood the great beauty of his quality and lyricism, but perhaps unknown to many. His great years were in the 40s through the 60s, but he continued to be heard as the finest clarinetist who ever graced a motion picture for many years. I always thought of him and his lyricism when I played and he really had the special quality and ability to express that which we all look for, but find very seldom.
Many of those times when you went to the movies and heard that wonderful playing, it was Lurie. I’m writing this because there was a rather beautiful episode related in the newspaper today.
It was Luries first year at the Curtis Institution, and he was asked to play in the Curtis Orchestra the day that Fritz Reiner made his first appearance of the semester.
While performaing a solo during the the rehearsal, Lurie noticed that Reiner continued to peer at him over his Ben Franklin glasses. At the end of the rehearsal Reiner said he’d like to have a word with the young musician.
“We went backstage and he said to me, “I need a principal clarinetist in Pittsburgh”.
Lurie recalled, “My heart went straight up through my teeth.”But not now, he said, “you must get your schooling; that’s the most important thing for you right now. But when you graduate, you are my first clarinetist.”
“Inside, I was screaming, NO, no, take me Now!” Because in our business so many people make so many promisies.
But three years later, on Lurie’s graduation day, a telegram arrived. All it said was: “Now”.- Fritz Reiner.
Lurie later told his sons, as the end neared, “I played my song, and I played it well.
Now, go practise, with love,