Colorado Symphony recreates ‘Fantasia’ with the ‘Stradivarius of bass clarinets’

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Photo: Andy Stevens in the CPR Performance Studio 2When the Colorado Symphony sets out to recreate scenes from the Disney film “Fantasia” this Saturday, clarinetist Andy Stevens may have a particularly easy job of it.

Stevens owns the bass clarinet used on the film’s soundtrack, meaning his playing on tunes like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the “Nutcracker Suite" will sound especially authentic at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver.

Leon Lester played the instrument on the film's soundtrack in 1940. Lester was a Philadelphia Orchestra member and the instrument's original owner. Don Ambler, a Denver musician and clarinet teacher to hundreds of students, owned it next. When Ambler died last year, he willed the bass clarinet to Stevens.

Photo: Andy Stevens with photo of Lester and AmblerThe instrument is "the Stradivarius of bass clarinets," Stevens says.

"It's been very well-cared for. It's almost like this instrument has a spirit," he says.

The Colorado Symphony will perform live accompaniment to scenes from Disney’s “Fantasia” on Saturday. Stevens will also give a pre-concert talk about the instrument and its unique sound one hour before each concert.

“Fantasia” fans who can’t attend Saturday will have another chance to see scenes from the film in concert. The Philadelphia Orchestra plays the Bravo! Vail music festival this summer, and will provide live accompaniment to its own “Fantasia” screening on July 9.