A renowned clarinetist performing one of the seminal 20th century compositions for the instrument will open the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra's 2011-12 season this weekend.
Drucker certainly can speak from experience.
He has performed and recorded the piece multiple times, including during his final solo performances with the New York Philharmonic in June 2009, after a 60-year career with the orchestra.
Drucker's 1989 recording with conductor Leonard Bernstein, who was associated with the Philharmonic for 47 years, earned a Grammy nomination in 1991.
This will be the first time, however, that Drucker performs with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra.
"It's just lovely that the timing worked out," Drucker said during a telephone conversation from his Long Island, N.Y., home, adding that he is looking forward to playing with former colleague David Gilbert, the orchestra's conductor and music director. Gilbert served as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1970 to 1979.
Since his retirement, Drucker has performed around the world and taught master classes. His longevity as principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic has earned him some additional honors, including a Guinness World Record as having the longest career as a clarinetist. He also was named an honorary member of the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York.
Not only does he share that honor -- the highest bestowed by the organization -- with Copland and Bernstein, but also with composers Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt, former presidents Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman and violinist Isaac Stern.
"That was a big surprise," Drucker said of the honor.
The Greenwich Symphony will welcome Drucker for two concerts, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2. In addition to Copland's concerto, the program will include Dvorak's Serenade for Strings and Mozart's Symphony No. 40.
"The program should satisfy everyone," said concertmaster Krystof Witek. "These are three strong ... terrific pieces. It really is a feast for the strings."
The violinist said the group is "absolutely delighted" to be welcoming Drucker to the stage.
"This is one of his signature pieces," the violinist said of Drucker's performance of Copland's concerto.
It actually was commissioned by another legendary clarinetist, Benny Goodman, who lived in Stamford. Copland completed the piece in 1948, but Goodman did not publicly perform it until 1950.
Witek said one can hear Latin influences, which is apt, since Copland was working on the piece while on a four-month tour in South America in 1947, stopping at places such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
In terms of the orchestration, Witek said it's unusual, to a degree, since strings, a harp and piano do not typically come to mind when one thinks of a jazz band. Yet, the piece works.
Drucker said Copland had a great ability to write music that would make every instrument sing, so to speak. And when it comes to the clarinet, it is the range that is its distinguishing feature.
"It's a very vocal instrument," he said. "The range is very large ... very flexible.
"I'm really looking forward to the performance," Drucker said of his Greenwich appearances. "I'm very honored and pleased to open the season."