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Salute to a Friend

A Holocaust survivor inspires clarinetist's recital theme.


The road to a career as a classical musician can be twisty, especially with the growing number of accomplished young people entering a diminishing classical-music work force.

For Studio City clarinetist Marcus Eley, who performs Sunday at the Brand Library in Glendale, that path took a fortunate turn in 1991 when he was offered a job in Los Angeles at Rico, a well-known manufacturer of reeds.

He took the position, which turned out to be beneficial because it gave him a solid foundation that allowed him to establish his musical life, which has included solo spots with orchestras in Berlin, Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky., and a 1998 CD for Arabesque, "Welcome Home: A Collection of Works by American Composers for Clarinet and Piano."

The theme of Sunday's recital, "Shalom! Salute to Music of Jewish Composers," came out of his friendship with California composer Leon Levitch, a Holocaust survivor whose Trio, Opus 2, has a special meaning.

"Being very close to him," Eley said, "I felt there should be more of this remembrance, not only of what he went through, but other composers, as well. I thought I could do a program and call it 'Shalom,' with music of other Jewish composers and their contribution to the totality of clarinet music."

The program will range from Mendelssohn's Sonata to George Gershwin's Preludes. Also in the mix will be Paul Ben-Haim's "Three Songs Without Words" and James Cohn's Sonatina, Opus 56. Joining Eley will be pianist Rosanna Marzoli and flutist John Barcellona.

Eley would like to record the program, but he is realistic about the options in a shrinking classical music market.

Another recording project he hopes to do one day is a collection of works by African American composers. As an African American, he can sympathize with their plight.

"There are composers who I have spoken with over the years who feel their works are never recognized until Black History Month," he said. "The other 11 months, they might as well be invisible."

Professional and racial hurdles notwithstanding, Eley understands the core meaning of making music.

"I did a recital in Chicago some years ago, and I noticed that a woman was crying," he said. "I came up to her afterward and said 'I noticed you were crying. Is something wrong?' She said, 'I was so moved by this experience, it was the only thing I could do.' That is the highest pleasure. That's the purpose of all the arts, to offer people a way of escaping."


"Shalom! Salute to Music of Jewish Composers," by clarinetist Marcus Eley, Sunday at 3 p.m., Brand Library, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale. Free admission. (818) 761-5661.

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