A sad week for oboists

William Bennett, principal oboe of the San Francisco Symphony, died today. Washington McClain, gifted Baroque oboist and wonderful person, died yesterday. Are the heavenly choirs hiring an orchestra?

I barely knew Wash, but he is unforgettable. A friendly presence at many early music workshops I’ve attended, he could make you feel respected and welcome with just a nod in your direction. I somehow knew to call him Wash before I had even met him. He is the perfect example of how warmth and generosity of spirit make for warm and generous musicianship.

I can’t find any compelling clips of Wash, but here is the SFF playing the Brahms Nänie, recorded in 1989 with Herbert Blomstedt conducting. Surely it was Bennett playing the opening oboe solo. Translation is below. The Schiller poem recounts three examples of immortals who could not save their beloveds. “Even the beautiful must die,” it begins….

Even Beauty must die!

That which subdues men and gods,

does not move the steely heart

of the Stygian Zeus.

Only once did love soften

the ruler of the underworld,

and still upon the threshold, he sternly

called back his gift.

Aphrodite does not tend

the lovely youth’s wound,

torn by the savage boar

in his graceful body.

The immortal mother does not save

the godly hero

when, dying at the Scaean gate,

his destiny he fulfills.

But she rises from the sea

with all the daughters of Nereus

and raises the lament

for her exalted son.

Behold, the gods weep,

all the goddesses weep

that beauty must fade,

that perfection must die.

Just to be a dirge

in the mouth of the beloved is glorious

(for the ordinary goes soundlessly

down to Orcus.)

About thousandfoldecho

Everyone likes classical music. Not everyone knows it yet.
This entry was posted in Amanda, Listening to Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A sad week for oboists

  1. scillagrace says:

    Thank you for this beautiful piece and memorial. The one year I sang with the Chicago Master Singers with my late husband, we performed this piece.

  2. Van Cliburn, the great classical pianist, died on the 27th also. It’s a sad week for pianists. I think several other big musicians also died this week.

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