59 – Artist: Ricardo Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra

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In this episode of the podcast, I’m joined by none other than Ricardo Morales, who is the Principal Clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Not only is Ricardo one of the most sought-after clarinetists of his generation, but he’s also one of the few people in the world who has had the chance to literally design his own instrument. The collaboration between Ricardo Morales and Backun Musical Services led to the world-renknown (and Canadian-made) Backun MoBa clarinet series.

We discuss what it was like collaborating with Morrie Backun, including why he prefers Cocobolo to Grenadilla, and the interesting reason why he, at first ,asked Morrie to dye his red cocobolo instrument black. Ricardo shares many insightful and inspirational moments about music, life, practicing, and much more.

Questions and Discussion Topics

  • What brings you to Vancouver?
  • How did you get started working with Backun?
  • The birth of the MoBa (Morales Backun) Clarinet
  • How it feels to have designed your own instrument
  • Why Ricardo wanted his first cocobolo clarinet dyed black
  • What is it that you prefer about cocobolo?
  • What is your favourite feature on the MoBa clarinet?
  • About the automatic low F vent on the Backun MoBa
  • Why Ricardo swears by his neck strap. “Use it all the time”
  • How do you work to recover from injury as a musician?
  • The importance of becoming physically active
  • “Music is life”
  • What advice do you have for young clarinetists starting their orchestral careers?
  • The importance of  good basics, patience, concentration, and repetition
  • Insight into Ricardo’s practice methods
  • “Practice and hope, but don’t hope more than you practice” – Kalmen Oppermann
  • The influence of Ricardo’s teachers
  • The importance of advancement
  • The double lip embouchure
  • Why do you use crystal mouthpieces and synthetic reeds?
  • Lightning Round (Patreon Gold Members)


About Ricardo Morales

Ricardo Morales is one of the most sought after clarinetists of today. He joined The Philadelphia Orchestra as principal clarinet in 2003, having held the same position with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra since the age of 21, under the direction of James Levine. His virtuosity and artistry as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician have been hailed and recognized in concert halls around the world. He has been asked to perform as principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and at the invitation of Sir Simon Rattle, as principal clarinet with the Berlin Philharmonic. He also performs as principal clarinetist with the Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra and the Mito Chamber Orchestra, at the invitation of Maestro Seiji Ozawa.

A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Morales began his studies at the Escuela Libre de Musica, along with his five siblings, who are all distinguished musicians. He continued his studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Indiana University, where he received an Artist Diploma.

He has been a featured soloist with many orchestras including the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Seoul Philharmonic and the Flemish Radio Symphony. During his tenure with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Mr. Morales soloed under the baton of James Levine in Carnegie Hall and on two European tours. He made his solo debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 2004 with Charles Dutoit and has since performed as soloist on numerous occasions.

An active chamber musician, Mr. Morales has performed in the MET Chamber Ensemble series at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall with James Levine at the piano, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Seattle Chamber Music Summer Festival, the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, on NBC’s The Today Show, and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He has performed with many distinguished ensembles such as The Juilliard Quartet, the Pacifica Quartet, the Miró Quartet, the Leipzig Quartet and The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. He has also collaborated with Christoph Eschenbach, André Watts, Emmanuel Ax, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, James Ehnes, Gil Shaham and Kathleen Battle. Mr. Morales is highly sought after for his recitals and master classes, which have taken him throughout North America and Europe. In addition, he currently serves on the faculties of Temple University and the Curtis Institute of Music.

His performances have been met with critical acclaim. The Philadelphia Inquirer hailed his appointment to the Philadelphia Orchestra, stating that “in fact, may represent the most salutary personnel event of the orchestra’s last decade.” He was also praised by the New York Times as having “… fleet technique, utterly natural musical grace, and the lyricism and breath control of a fine opera singer,” Mr. Morales was also singled out in the New York Times review of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Berlioz’s Les Troyens, describing his playing as “exquisite” and declared that he “deserved a place onstage during curtain calls.”

His debut solo recording, French Portraits, is available on the Boston Records label. Morales’ recent recordings include performances with The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and also with the Pacifica Quartet, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. In 2004, Mr. Morales joined forces with internationally recognized musical instrument designer, Morrie Backun, to develop MoBa, a line of professional clarinets and clarinet accessories by Backun Musical Services.

Photo Credit: Nathan Garfinkel




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