This page pays its respects to some of the great brass and woodwind performers the world has had the pleasure of hearing; to those outstanding musicians who, sometimes in a deceptively simple way, weave their magic and leave the listener with a different (usually better) feeling about life.
[Many of the links on this page lead to archive.org, which is a huge repository of information and freely downloadable material - audio, video, photos, books etc.- much of which is on the performing arts.
Just one example is G E Lambert's book on Duke Ellington, from the 'Kings of Jazz" series - readable on line, or a free download in a choice of seven formats]
To cover all the great wind performers (over centuries of wind instruments) would be impossible. So far, my guiding principle had been to include many musicians from different genres and cultures. But for now, the listings are mainly from the jazz and classical fields. [ Is wind instrument playing becoming a lost art among most 'pop' musicians? ]
The lists of performers on this page often feature Australians, and cover people from earlier 20th century to some of the young guns who are now setting the pace! When I entered the music profession, the standard of professional performance did not have the depth that it has today. Then, the standard of the top jazz players (e.g. Don Burrows, Charlie Munro and Errol Buddle on winds, and Ron Falson on trumpet or John Bamford on trombone) was always able to match that of the best of their peers anywhere in the world, but once dropping below that top ten percent, the standard became inconsistent.
Such is not the case now. The top student players of today reach a technical standard at least as high as that of the average professional of earlier generations.
A great recent example of the younger reed players of today, was NICHOLAS RUSSIANELLO's performance [at the ABC's 'Young Performer of the Year'] of the Takashi Yoshimatsu 'Cyber-bird Concerto' for Saxophone' - phenominal playing!.
Fifty or sixty years ago, young sax players were expected to master their instruments over a range of around two and a half octaves, with maybe a few 'show-off' harmonics above this. Today, it is quite common to hear advanced students covering at least another octave in their technical work as a matter of routine (and using that range as part of their normal playing).
In addition to the greater ranges used on wind instruments, there is also expected of professional players, a whole range of 'unusual effects'. Multiphonics (the sounding of multiple, simultaneously sounding notes) are now called for not just in 'solo' pieces (often written for a specific player) but are now appearing in the orchestral works of many contemporary composers and some arrangers.
Just as jazz musicians had been very much influenced by musicians from overseas, so too, were classical wind players. In many cases very good woodwind players emigrated from Europe to Australia as a result of either the Nazism or communism which had dominated much of Europe. An example of this among woodwind players was Edward Simson, an Estonian clarinettist who came to Sydney in 1927 and was Principal Clarinet with the Sydney Symphony from 1934-1946 [see Don Westlake's book on Simson and John Lemmoné (Melba's flautist) in the NSW State Library]. Unfortunately, Eddie, after his retirement from the SSO chair, succumbed in 1959 to leukemia.
Among later emigrees were oboist Jiří Tancibudek (who had a great influence over oboe playing in Australia), pianist/composer/arranger Tommy Tycho and clarinettist Gabor Reeves.
Gabor had arrived in Sydney from Hungary in 1948. Worked a variety of 'disastrous' jobs until he started playing in clubs by night and studied at the Sydney Con by day.
He was offered principal in TSO and QSO within a couple of weeks of each other. He chose QSO because Brisbane was closer to Sydney.
He started as principal in SSO in 1954 and was there until 1960. He resigned in 1960, then he and his family moved to London. He had originally wanted to study with Frederic Thurston but Thurston had died before they arrived. While they were there, Gabor played a long season of G&S Pirates and Pinafore, and became a fairly regular member of London Mozart Players -- including Schubert Octet with Menuhin, played several tours to Holland and had some solo engagements with BBC light orchestra. Wasn't a happy time -- his wife hated it and wanted to come back to OZ.
In 1962 he auditioned and won the principal clarinet position in the then Victorian Symphony (later became the Melbourne Symphony), but his appointment was blocked by the Musicians' Union. Auditioned again to ABC's London rep and was given the all clear -- still nothing, and then finally played directly to the chief conductor who also wanted him. The union still objected (on the grounds that he was a foreigner -- despite being an Australian citizen) so he came back, sued the union and was allowed to take his place.
Melbourne wasn't a very happy time for him (or the family!) and when John Bishop [the power behind the birth of the Adelaide Festival of Arts] contacted him to be a part of the University of Adelaide wind quintet, he jumped at it. [The personnel of the UAWQ - Gabor, Tancibudek and Tom Whiteman having been poached from the (then) Victorian Symphony Orchestra and David Cubbin and Stan Fry from the Adelaide Symphony.] Gabor stayed with the quintet until he and the family moved to Sydney in 1974 where he had the Sydney Wind Quintet and was Senior Lecturer at the Con. While in Adelaide he had started studying psychology and eventually morphed that into a MMus. degree which he finished in Sydney. He wrote a thesis entitled 'Tension creating problems in a Symphony Orchestra' -- which well encapsulated all of the issues we are all too familiar with!!!
Gabor finished up in Sydney as Associate Professor at the Sydney Conservatorium.
[The above detailed notes on Gabor have been generously provided by the Reeves family. His experiences with the Musicians' Union were not uncommon at that time. In later years, the union lost touch even further with the realities of professional music, eventually leading to a break from the MU by most symphony and opera musicians in Australia. Those musicians migrated to MEAA (see below).]
On the formation of the wind quintet in Adelaide, a new Australian standard in wind quintet playing had been established. This standard was not equalled again until the formation of a professional wind quintet at the Canberra Music School some years later. Unfortunately both those quintets, which (in their teaching roles) had attracted students from all over the country, are now effectively defunct, but students who studied with the those groups, themselves went on to become respected professional musicians and teachers.
The photo below is of some of the members of the Sydney Symphony in Martin Place in 1976, who took part in a rally against cuts to the funding Australian orchestras. Without the support of concert-goers, and such activities by the musicians themselves, the orchestral scene in Australia today may be much more dismal.