Gervase de Peyer, Considered “World’s Greatest Clarinetist”

French Music for Clarinet and Piano, Gervase de Peyer and Gwenneth Pryor–Listen on YouTube

When he was performing Gervase de Peyer (April 11, 1926-February 4, 2017) was considered “the greatest living clarinetist” by many critics. He had a long association as Principal Clarinetist for the London Symphony Orchestra (1956-1973). He performed as a soloist and touring performer with many internationally acclaimed maestri, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan and Otto Klemperer. Composers Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland preferred him as a soloist, and he premiered a number of clarinet concerti, including works by Alun Hoddinott, Arnold Cook and Berthold Goldschmidt.

De Peyer was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble of London (1950), which later, due to its international reputation, was shortened to Melos Ensemble. The group was a variable ensemble that included a string quartet, wind quartet, harpist and pianist. Their mission was to perform larger chamber works, such as Schubert and Mendelssohn quartets.

While in the U.S., de Peyer formed the Melos Sinfonia of Washington and was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also befriended Benny Goodman, who, like de Peyer frequented Oscar, a seafood restaurant in the Upper East Side.

“Clarinet Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2: Allegro amabile” by Johannes Brahms–Listen on Spotify