Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Gervase de Peyer (11 April 1926 – 4 February 2017)

12:29, 6th February 2017

The British clarinettist, conductor, and founding member of the Melos Ensemble has died aged 90.

De Peyer won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Frederick Thurston. His studies were interrupted when he joined the Royal Marines Band aged 18; following two years of national service, he returned to the RCM, before continuing his studies with Louis Cahuzac in Paris.

In 1950, De Peyer and three colleagues – flautist Richard Adeney, cellist Terence Weil and violist Cecil Aronowitz – founded the Melos Ensemble, with which he played between 1950 and 1974. He conducted the group for EMI, and in 1992 established the Melos Sinfonia of Washington according to the principles of the London ensemble.

De Peyer was principal clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra between 1955 and 1972, and played with the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Centre in New York from 1969 to 1980. As a soloist, he gave the premiere performances of concertos by Arnold Cooke, Sebastian Forbes, Berthold Goldschmidt, Alun Hoddinott, Joseph Horovitz, Thea Musgrave, Elizabeth Maconchy, William Mathias and Edwin Roxburgh, as well as the first performances of Poulenc’s clarinet sonata and Joseph Horovitz’s Sonatina.

He also conducted the English Chamber Opera, the LSO and the Melos Sinfonia, and was associate conductor of the Haydn Orchestra, and in 1959 began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music.

‘He was revered as one of the most beautiful musical players of the instrument, and maintained a busy career as a soloist and chamber musician alongside his LSO job,’ the LSO wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. ‘He will be very much missed and fondly remembered by colleagues from around the world.’


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