Anthony Gigliotti, 79, clarinetist with Phila. Orchestra

Posted: December 05, 2001

Anthony Gigliotti, 79, who for 47 years provided musical strength, integrity and continuity to the Philadelphia Orchestra as its principal clarinetist, died Monday at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden of complications associated with myelodysplasia, a form of anemia.

Mr. Gigliotti grew up in South Philadelphia and lived in Cherry Hill. His tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra is believed to be the longest of any principal clarinetist with an orchestra in the nation.

"It's the tradition of the orchestra for each soloist to be very special," said Donald Montanaro, a clarinetist who joined the orchestra in 1957 and was one of Mr. Gigliotti's first students. "He fit into that."

In a lifetime devoted to music, Mr. Gigliotti played almost the entire concerto repertoire for clarinet. He loved every note, said Ron Reuben, bass clarinetist for the orchestra and a student of Gigliotti's.

"He was one of the few people I've known in my lifetime who got to do exactly what he loved to do most," Reuben said.

In addition to playing with the orchestra, Mr. Gigliotti was a chamber musician and a teacher.

He trained students privately and as an instructor at Curtis Institute of Music and Temple University - he started new semesters at both in September. For several years, he served on the faculty of the Grand Teton Orchestral Seminar. He also taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at Rowan University in Gloucester County.

Mr. Gigliotti also was an institution within the institution of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

"The Philadelphia Orchestra was my husband's life," said his wife, Tai-ling.

After playing with the orchestra of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1947-48 and with the Little Orchestra Society of New York in 1948-49, Mr. Gigliotti joined the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1949 after auditioning for Eugene Ormandy in a New York hotel room.

"I heard Ormandy was desperate for a clarinetist," Mr. Gigliotti recalled in a 1996 Inquirer interview. He played for Ormandy on a Wednesday and was told to report to the academy the next day.

"I told him I was flattered, but that I had contracts. He said he understood, but to be onstage on Monday. 'I'll be there, Maestro,' I told him," Mr. Gigliotti said.

And he was there - without a rehearsal - as a substitute principal, a role he filled for a year. Mr. Gigliotti became a full orchestra member for the 1950-51 season.

A million notes later, he made his final Philadelphia appearance as a soloist with the orchestra in July 1996. He played Debussy's First Rhapsody at the Mann Music Center.

Mr. Gigliotti, who graduated from Frankford High School, began studying the clarinet at age 10 under his father and later entered Curtis as a student of Daniel Bonade's.

Mr. Gigliotti graduated from Curtis in 1947, after his studies were interrupted by World War II. He spent his first two years in the Navy stateside and relatively comfortable, playing in a band organized by Ormandy at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Then he was transferred to the aircraft carrier USS Randolph and shipped to the Pacific, where he escaped death by the width of a reed.

"We were at anchor in an atoll one night, and at the end of the watch, I walked aft to have a cigarette," he recalled. "A kamikaze with a 500-pound bomb hit the ship's fantail about 200 feet from where I was. The air was full of steel and exploding bullets from the planes on our deck. I was lucky; nothing hit me. But that gave me a perspective, which made the rest of my life easier. People used to ask me if I wasn't nervous playing this or that. That kamikaze had cured me of nervousness."

As a chamber musician, Mr. Gigliotti performed internationally and recorded as a founding member of the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet.

As talented as his lip was, his hands were not far behind. He was clever with a lathe and was a consultant with Selmer Instrument Co. He designed the Selmer Series 10G clarinet - the G stands for Gigliotti - as well as the Gigliotti mouthpiece, caps and ligatures.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gigliotti is survived by sons Mark, Neal and Adam; a daughter, Lynne; a brother; and two grandchildren.

Plans for services were incomplete.

Rusty Pray's e-mail address is rpray@phillynews.com.

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