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Obituary: Louis Paul / Principal clarinetist of Pittsburgh Symphony for 28 years

Thursday, May 08, 2003

By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic

Louis Paul "never called attention to himself" -- until, that is, he picked up his clarinet. Then the longtime Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musician could not be ignored.

Louis Paul in 1986.

Principal clarinetist of the PSO from 1956 to 1994, Mr. Paul was the featured soloist for countless concerts, tours and recordings.

Friday, Mr. Paul died at the Hilton Head (S.C.) Regional Medical Center of complications from a stroke. He was 73.

"His sound was dark and warm, his playing well-suited for the warmth of Romantic music such as Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Mahler and Brahms," said Thomas Thompson, PSO co-principal clarinetist and a member of Mr. Paul's clarinet section. "There was such wonderful depth in his sound, like rich, dark chocolate."

"Louis had one of the best sounds of the clarinet," agreed Martin Lerner, former PSO flutist. He added that Mr. Paul excelled at everything in the orchestral repertoire for the clarinet.

Mr. Paul was not one to flaunt his ability, however.

"The neat thing about Lou is that he was known and respected, but he did not promote himself," said Thompson. "He was the most private person you could ever meet."

Mr. Paul's other interests included tennis, painting, sitar, opera, scuba diving and jazz.

"He was an excellent tennis teacher," said Thompson. "He taught me to play tennis because he needed a partner!"

Born in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 7, 1929, he was raised in Cleveland, studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music before moving back to New Jersey to attend the Juilliard School, where he studied with clarinet great Daniel Bonade.

After six years with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as principal, former PSO music director William Steinberg hired him in 1956.

"He was an incredible musician -- his musicianship is what made him acceptable to Steinberg," said Thompson.

Mr. Paul also taught at Carnegie Mellon University, living both in Murrysville and the North Hills.

He is survived by a brother, Peter Paul of Somerset, N.J.


Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.

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