McGill has a silken tone, but he possesses the admirable ability to vary it, moving into the foreground or receding into the ensemble as in the swirling textures of the first movement.
Anthony McGill, excelled in the grave material for contra-alto clarinet in the second movement
And McGill deserves plaudits for playing the fiendish piece right after the Davis concerto, and without any intermission.
McGill was performing a programme of works with the Catalyst Quartet – Karla Donehew Perez and Abi Fayette on violin, Paul Laraia on the viola and Karlos Rodriguez playing cello – in an online event called ‘Cadence: The Sounds of Justice, the Sounds of a Movement’.
“Art is life. Music is life. Music and art live inside of us,”
In his time with the group, McGill has not only won great critical acclaim, he’s also used his platform to be a voice for racial equity in classical music with activities ranging from the institutional to the deeply personal.
“As much as I love certain styles of painting and painters, when I go into a museum I think it’s interesting to pause by those artists that I don’t know; to pause and to explore what that experience is. I think we can do that in classical music too.”
Mr. McGill joins the ranks of previous winners, who in recent years have included the new-music champions Leila Josefowicz and Claire Chase, as well as the pianist and writer Jeremy Denk.
“We’re trying to ensure openness and opportunity for all kids, regardless of background, race, religion, sexual orientation,”
McGill later recounted that he had been searching for some way to respond to Floyd’s killing.
“Sometimes life is minor. It goes off its true melody. It goes off of that simple, beautiful melody that we all expect it to be.”
McGill turned “America the Beautiful” into an incisive song of mourning, sinking to his knees after letting the second-to-last note trail off unresolved, an unanswered question.
This “normal” isn’t new. For Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Now’s the time to protest. This time let’s take #TakeTwoKnees in the struggle for justice and decency. Film yourself taking two knees. Let’s put a spotlight on this evil. #TakeTwoKnees #icareaboutblacklives #howaboutnow
On May 27, McGill posted a solo performance of "America the Beautiful" to Facebook. Tweaked achingly to a minor key, his rendition hovers in the air with a combination of beauty and sorrow.
I never imagined that this would affect so many people, but I think a lot of us are feeling the same way. A lot of my fellow musicians are feeling the same way and are trying to express it. And that's why I tried to leave it open. If you want to just take two knees and sit there silently, that's what my wish would be as well.
McGill, who was recently named the principal clarinettist of the Philharmonic, makes his début as a soloist with the orchestra in the visionary Clarinet Concerto by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, whose music Gilbert conducts with expressive fervor and technical aplomb.
Clarinetist Anthony McGill enjoys a dynamic international solo and chamber music career and is principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic—the first African-American principal player in the organization’s history. He is the recipient of the 2020 Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most significant awards.