Bonade’s tone was legendary for its flexibility, clarity, depth, and richness. Excerpts that particularly show these qualities are Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite, the Brahms Symphonies, the Schubert entries, and the lyric solos from Stravinsky’s Firebird.
Bonade was also famous for his finger technique, which is amply demonstrated in the Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Stravinsky entries. His technique sounded notably relaxed and smooth, no matter how fast the passage. Bonade’s performance of the solo from Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Procession of the Sardar was played by Robert Marcellus in master classes for his students at the Cleveland Institute and Northwestern University, as an example of relaxed fluidity. Bonade’s performance of the runs in the third movement of Scheherazade have been famous for many years as examples of evenness and ease of execution.
A smooth, creamy legato from note to note is evident in the Brahms Symphonies, the Schubert Unfinished, and Zampa. Note the tonal delicacy Bonade achieves in the opening of Debussy’s Nuages.
Perhaps the unique aspect of Bonade’s contribution to clarinet playing is to be found in the liquid, vocal quality of his phrasing. He regarded the human voice as the most perfect of musical instruments, and often told his students to emulate great singing while playing. This vocal quality is noticeable in the slow solos of Stravinsky’s Firebird, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, the Intermezzo from Carmen, and Rosamunde, among others.