Sad news: Chicago’s Dale Clevenger has died

Sad news: Chicago’s Dale Clevenger has died


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2022

Dale Clevenger, principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1966 to his retirement in 2013, died in Italy on January 5.

He was 81 years old.

The family will shortly be issuing a statement. UPDATE: Family statement here.

Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, he joined Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra and the Kansas City Philharmonic before hooking with Chicago as a defining tone, one of its most recognisable and best loved players. John Williams wrote a horn concerto for him (interview here).

Away from the night job, he conducted the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra from 1981 to 1995.

After the death of his wife Alice in 2011 and his retirement in 2013, he moved to Italy and some years later married Giovanna Grassi.



  • Dan says:

    Sad news, great player. Is my memory playing tricks… or did Barenboim not ship him in to play, and lead the section in the Orchestre de Paris in 1975, a move taken as a slap in the face for the French horn school in general and for Georges Barboteu in particular?

    • Bob says:

      Barenboim brought Myron Bloom in from Cleveland.

    • Dan oren says:

      It was Myron Bloom, actually

    • Amos says:

      Perhaps you were thinking of Myron Bloom who joined in 1977 from Cleveland.

    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      No wonder the French think Americans are arrogant.

    • Dominic Fyfe says:

      I believe that was Myron Bloom from Cleveland

    • Axl says:

      You propably mean the late Myron Bloom? After Szell leave Cleveland, Mr. Bloom was unhappy and take Barenboim’s offer to being principal of that Paris orchestra (in 1977-1985)

    • Craig from LA says:

      Actually, that was Myron Bloom from Cleveland. Two worthy players to confuse!

    • Claremonter says:

      I think that was Myron Bloom (ex-Cleveland Orchestra) who went to Paris, not Dale Clevenger.

    • ruben Greenberg says:

      I think you are mixing him up with Myron Bloom of the Cleveland Orchestra in the Szell days. Both Clevenger and Bloom were great players. Rest in peace, Mr. Clevenger. You will be remembered with much fondness and admiration.

    • Orchestral Musician says:

      It was another great American horn player, Myron Bloom, who was principal horn of the Orchestre de Paris from 1977-1985.

    • Andrew Pelletier says:

      You’re thinking of Myron Bloom, the former Principal of Cleveland, who passed away in 2019. After his tenure in Cleveland (1954-1977), he did indeed go to Paris, from 1977-1985.

    • MK says:

      You’re confusing him with Myron Bloom from the Cleveland Orchestra. Barenboim’s time in Paris preceded his time in Chicago.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I read a different story that was probably part of the same trip. Principal trombone Jay Friedman was sent to show the French how to play the Chicago way. When Jay came back, he allegedly told Solti “they should be teaching us”. Cleveland’s Myron Bloom moved to Paris and became principal horn for the Orchestre de Paris in 1977 at the request of Barenboim.

    • Marc says:

      Your memory is playing tricks, Dan: That was the great Myron Bloom.

    • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

      And Maestro Abbado sat a student of Mr. Clevenger’s in La Scala, the Concertgebouw Orkest chose Miss Julia Studebaker as first horn (a Clevenger protegé) and Maestro Maazel sat another student of Mr. Clevenger’s in the Cleveland Orchestra, and so and so forth. Those were the days!

  • Roger Kaza says:

    Dale was a legend in the horn world, a shining example of conscientious musicianship, heroic horn playing, and a passionate approach to the art and business of music. He created a CSO horn sound that continues to this day. I am lucky to count him as a friend and colleague. Pax vobiscum, Dale.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    A huge loss- he was one of the greatest players ever!

  • Axl says:

    Oh noo!! What a lost! He was an absolutely legend and one of that last old guard horn giants (only Baumann is now still alive).
    He’s version of Mahler 6 horn solos ( are staying forever in my mind and there’s no better playing of these solo passages than what he did.
    Rest in peace DC and thank you for all of your legacy what you have done/leave for horn world!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A decade ago I heard this splendid orchestra in Vienna!! I wonder if this player with there at the time? Anyway, they literally glowed in the dark!!

  • SunnyEd says:

    Very sad news. He and Herseth were the standard by which every American brass player strived to achieve.

  • Robert Levin says:

    This is shocking and very sad news. Dale was one of the eminent horn players of our time – his solo in the 1969 RCA recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with Ozawa and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply sublime, perhaps the best on any commercial recording. I represented him for a brief period of time as a conductor, and I found him to be an excellent orchestra leader and a very decent human being. It was unfortunate that he didn’t retire from the CSO sooner, but those last few years will be forgotten and he will always be remembered as a towering french horn player, one of the very greatest of the twentieth century. RIP Dale.

  • MacroV says:

    Certainly in the top tier of the CSO Hall of Fame.

    As I recall when he retired, he was going to join the faculty at Indiana University. Well, Italy can be nicer than Bloomington.

    A well-lived life and career that won’t soon be forgotten.

  • Geoff says:

    He and his horn section were the rock stars of the horn world for decades. When he played Mahler or Strauss or Bruckner or Stravinsky, it was like he was running the whole orchestra. A nice guy and patient teacher, he and his section inspired thousands of horn students, and the whole brass section – many more!

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    I’m absolutely gutted by this sad news. He was one of my heroes as a horn player. I loved his sound and he was a wonderful person. He and Daniel Barenboim were good friends and I often watch the video recording of the Brahms Horn Trio on YouTube in which they both perform with Itzhak Perlman, I think. RIP maestro. You were one of the greatest horn players on the planet.

  • Max Raimi says:

    Early on in my time at the CSO, we were playing the Strauss “Rosenkavalier” waltzes. In the first pages of the score, the violas have the same material as the horns for a time. I had prepared the part of course, but then I heard Dale playing the same music. I was doing it in black and white; Dale was playing it in living vibrant color. One of those moments when a brilliant colleague teaches you to expand your imagination.

  • J Barcelo says:

    What a legend….what a sound! Someone once said that the Chicago brass section with Solti was the “Mack Truck” of brass sections. Clevenger must have been the driver. RIP. Your legacy is solid.

  • Philip F Myers says:

    I was one of the first few students of Mr. Clevenger after he came to
    the Chicago Symphony. My father would drive me in (110 miles) for
    my lesson every two weeks.
    Mr. Clevenger once told me twenty years later that he felt one of his
    chief duties as a teacher was to inspire.
    What an understatement. Overwhelming. I was a 17 year old kid, my
    dad was a band director and I was going to be a band director.
    My first lesson Mr. Clevenger asked me “What do you want to do for
    a living? Because I really only want to teach people that want to be
    professional horn players.”
    I wasn’t so stupid.
    I said, “I want to be a professional horn player”.
    Frankly I had been playing for nine years, couldn’t play any high notes
    and I didn’t consider I had a chance to be a professional but now he
    had me wanting it. Inspiration no. 1
    He suggested after two years that I go to study with his teacher Forrest
    Standley which I did. When I came home for the summers I would go
    to hear a rehearsal (in those days you could just walk in and sit in the
    front row) and the concert at night. He would teach me in the afternoon.
    But hearing those rehearsals and concerts were Inspiration no. 2.
    I have never heard before or since such a strength of center to the sound
    that resulted in a magnificant corona. That recording of the Martin concerto
    which was made early on during this time with Martinon shows such strength
    of horn sound at every dynamic that I have listened to that recording my
    whole life to remind me of what I was trying to do. Inspiration no. 3
    Some of those live conerts I attended were remarkable in that once he began
    playing an important part the audience was absolutely drawn to the
    sound and phrasing. It was a palpable direction of group attention, you
    could feel it.
    So many of us owe him so much. He will be greatly missed.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      And may I say, Mr. Myers, that I heard you in concert several times in the latter 1980s, and thought you were magnificent. Holy moly, what a sound!

  • Joanna Herrick says:

    This industry continues to glorify people who were known industry wide to prey on young females with extreme sexual harassment–especially at a time when there was no “Me Too” movement or help. You took it or you lost your job. Dale may have been a great horn player but he was not a great human and I’m dreading the influx of gushing praise that’s about to flow about this predator.

    • Anon says:

      Women who actively went out of their way to sleep with him is not predatory behavior on his part.

    • loudlong says:

      Did you study or work with him?

    • Midwestern Violin says:

      Not sure about the industry, but this is Chicago. The culture is toxic. The person at the top (married) has an illicit relationship with a married person. Many (all?) know and many male colleagues of the old school are proud cheerleaders.

      The other person at the top covers it up instead of putting a stop to it.

    • Aubergine Amontillado says:

      Sad to see this defamatory drivel is still tolerated on SlippedDisc. De mortuis nil nisi bonum. RIP Mr. Clevenger.

      • Chicagorat says:

        It’s true what people say. B***s*** in Latin does sound better.

      • little horn says:

        how do you know this is defamatory? it could very well be true.

        what is the motive of just making random, false accusations?

        If it’s true, kudos to this person for bringing it up. sometimes (though not always) where there is smoke there is fire and many powerful personalities get a pass when they shouldn’t

        It rings true to me

        • Aubergine Amontillado says:

          Indeed, it is precisely because there is no motive that this kind of hateful libel is so confusing and hurtful. We can and must do better better; we cannot allow a few bad apples to tarnish the great legacy of such a wonderful a musician.

      • Anon says:

        You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

        Clevenger [redacted]

        • norman lebrecht says:

          If you have evidence submit it under your name. We do not permit anonymous denunciations.

          • Craig says:

            Who is going to have “evidence” from the 1970s or 1980s? Who is going to want to open themselves up to god knows what on a public forum?

            The horn group you posted this notice to generated a huge discussion with real names and horn word legends backing this up. If you’d simply looked, you would have the evidence. The admins have taken all of it down and the discussion will likely never happen again. So all’s well that ends well I suppose.

    • Max Raimi says:

      I knew Dale for more than 35 years. I am unaware of any remotely plausible allegations of sexual harassment. As far as I know, all of his relationships were consensual. If you have evidence that this is not the case, please provide it.

      • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

        Thanks, Mr. Raimi, for your courage. You stepped forth and I salute you, sir.

      • SSS says:

        If a relationship is consensual because it is a fact that if the women does not sleep with the teacher it will effect the work they get and their career how does that fit in with you? Is that predatory behaviour? Women in those days DID NOT have a choice so lets not pretend they did.

    • David Posner says:

      Good for you, Joanna.

      I support you.


  • Chris Dwyer says:

    Arguably the most iconic and influential American horn player of the 20th century. He will be very missed.

  • Peter Borich says:

    Sad Indeed, but attended so many CSO concerts with this wonderful musician leading the brilliant horn section that memories of his superior music-making will live on in my mind forever

  • David J Hyslop says:

    Great artist, period the end .

    • LM says:

      So if you were a woman who fell victim to this predator, you should just shut up? Period? The end?

      We all know it’s still a man’s world and it was very much people like you who protected men like him and left the women stay quiet lest their careers be ruined.

      You’ll notice all the glowing praise for Dale is from men or maybe an occasional woman who really didn’t know him. The one woman who has already commented here has been largely down voted.

  • Guest Player says:

    I came here for the comments that you only see on Slipped Disc. This is a good start but c’mon, let’s get to the good stuff. Who were the “enemies and detractors” that Dale was so fond of referring to?

  • Peter San Diego says:

    A wonderful player, indeed. According to Wikipedia, he died of Waldenstrom lymphoma (a cancer that causes runaway overproduction of white blood cells).

  • Gary Freer says:

    Wonderful recording of the Britten Serenade with Robert Tear and Giulini. By all accounts a top bloke, too.

  • I hope we will eventually see a full appraisal of his legacy. It would provide the classical music world with some important lessons.

  • CRWang says:

    I couldn’t help noticing the soloists on the DG album cover. Dream team. Still, Herseth, Elliot, Clevenger. Just add Donald Peck and Arnold Jacobs and you have an all-star team. These were the best musicians of their instruments playing in the same orchestra. Sadly, a lot of them have passed and only Mr. Peck is left.

  • Richard Miller says:

    When I was an undergrad a U.Chicago in the mid-70s, Clevenger came to a “sherry hour” at my dorm to demonstrate the horn. Unforgettable. Someone asked him what his favorite composer to play was. I expected him to say Mahler, but he said Brahms. Decades later, this exchange in an interview with Bruce Duffie: “BD: Does it frustrate you that some of the other major composers didn’t write sonatas or concertos? DC: Oh, yeah. I would love to have had a concerto by Brahms, or a sonata by Brahms.” RIP:

  • Robert Levin says:

    This is shocking and very sad news. Dale was one of the preeminent horn players of our time – his solo in the 1969 RCA recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with Ozawa and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply sublime, perhaps the best on any commercial recording of the work. I represented him for several years as a soloist and conductor and found him to be a very decent human being as well as an incredible instrumentalist and excellent orchestra leader. It was unfortunate that he didn’t retire sooner form the CSO, but those last few years have already been forgotten and he will always be remembered as a towering French horn player, one of the very greatest of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. RIP Dale.

    • Peter Borich says:

      Yes, the only frustration I had with Dale as an avid CSO concert attendee is that he did not know when it was time to go. But I wholeheartedly agree that it really does not cloud his incredible music-making career. Not one iota.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    I agree with many of the supportive posts on here. It is a very cowardly act to defame someone’s name after they have died and cannot answer for themselves. I was always brought up to never speak ill of the dead. Society has changed for the worse. Dale Clevenger was a big influence on me as a young horn player and thoughout my playing career along with Alan Civil and others. That will never change.

  • Marge O. says:

    Surprising so many details left out. Ask women.