New York musicians mourn a pivotal clarinetist

New York musicians mourn a pivotal clarinetist


norman lebrecht

March 13, 2017

Laura Flax, former principal clarinet at City Opera, died on March 12, aged 64.

Laura was a role model for innumerable orchestral players and an inspiration to their children. She chaired the orchestral committee at NY City Opera unflappably through rocky times.

And she found time to premiere works by works by Joan Tower, Shulamit Ran, Philip Glass and Elliott Carter.

She was also principal clarinet of the part-time American Symphony Orchestra from 1994 to her death.

Our condolences to her twin daughters.


  • Constantine Kitsopoulos says:

    I knew Laura and worked with her from time to time. I first met her when I was working at New York City Opera in the 1980s. In those days NYCO did a summer season. The first time I heard the orchestra play “Tosca” Laura was playing principal clarinet. The opening solo of “E lucevan le stelle” stopped me in my tracks. It was so beautiful and lyrical. The sound of the clarinet seemed dissolve in and out of the sound of the tenor.

    A couple of years ago I was conducting the Louisiana Philharmonic. I looked at the clarinet section and noticed that the woman playing bass clarinet kept looking at me. She looked familiar but I didn’t know why. I glanced down at the personnel list to see who it was. The name seemed to jump off the page. There was Laura’s daughter Molly. I stopped the rehearsal and told the orchestra about my experience hearing her mother play for the first time.

    Musicians talk about their lineage. Many of us have a musical lineage that starts with our parents. We talk about our teachers and the infinite variety of music that we encounter. Molly and her sister will carry her mother’s spirit with them until it is passed on to the generation after that. My sympathies and thoughts are with them as they go through this very difficult time. I know that they understand what their mother gave them.

    C’è una nuova stella che illumina il cielo con la sua bellissima voce.

  • alice flax avigal says:

    thank you for your beautiful and comforting words. Laura’s unique spirit and musical gifts will definitely live on through Molly and Fanny… and so many others who knew and loved her.
    sincerely yours,
    alice (one of Laura’s sisters)

  • madelon rosen-solomon says:

    Laura taught my son Phil at Juilliard’s Pre-College. She helped my son develop into an incredible talent…….i met her only a handful of times, yet in our conversations she was always kind and thoughtful with great insight about my son both as a person and a musician. i still remember her taking notes down at one of my son’s recitals in Juilliard’s downstairs recital hall. She will be sorely missed, but between her daughters and her students she leaves an amazing legacy. My condolences to her family.

  • Mindy Kaufman says:

    Very nice tribute to Laura.

  • Manuel Reyes-Otálora says:

    We first performed Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro. Wow! But sadly the piece had an end. Now sadness again.