'The horn chose me. Right from the beginning it was something I knew I could do.' - Barry Tuckwell
Australian horn player and conductor Barry Tuckwell was born in Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne, on 5 March 1931. His father had been an organist. After learning piano, organ and violin whilst a chorister at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, he began to study the horn aged thirteen, initially with a family friend Richard Merewether. He had perfect pitch.
Tuckwell took to the horn amazingly quickly, playing professionally within six months, and playing third horn in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra within two years. He moved to Sydney and studied with Alan Mann at Sydney Conservatorium, also playing as Mann's assistant in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, where he worked for three and a half years. Emigrating to England, he worked with the Buxton Spa Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra and Barbirolli, then the Scottish National Orchestra and Karl Rankl, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Charles Groves.
From 1955 until 1968 he was the London Symphony Orchestra's first horn, during which time he worked with chief conductors Josef Krips, Pierre Monteux, István Kertész and André Previn, was elected to the Board of Directors, and was Chairman of the orchestra for six years.
For the rest of his career, from 1968 until retiring in 1997, he worked as a horn soloist and conductor, and was successful enough not to have to combine this with teaching or working in orchestras. He made more than fifty recordings as a horn soloist, and received three Grammy Award nominations. Don Banks, Richard Rodney Bennett, Robin Holloway, Oliver Knussen, Thea Musgrave and Gunther Schuller all wrote works for Tuckwell as horn soloist
As a conductor, he appeared regularly with orchestras in the USA and Europe. He was chief conductor of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for four seasons, and he founded the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in 1982. He also worked extensively with the Northern Sinfonia.
Tuckwell wrote several books about the horn, and played chamber music - a horn trio with violinist Brenton Langbein and pianist Maureen Jones, and a wind quintet. He was also well-known for his masterclasses and other teaching in Australia, the UK and the USA, was the first President of the International Horn Society, and worked to advance horn playing, collaborating with manufacturers on instrument design,
Barry Tuckwell died of complications from heart disease in a hospital in Melbourne on 16 January 2020, aged eighty-eight.
Classical music news - January Obituaries - Our summary of those the classical music world lost last month
CD Spotlight. Sovereign Horn Territory - Music for horn and orchestra, recommended by Howard Smith. '... stunning breath control and consummate understanding ...'
CD Spotlight. A Surefire Winner - A recital by Lin Jiang and Benjamin Martin, recommended by Howard Smith. '... superbly performed.'