Oboist who played flat won’t get his job back

Oboist who played flat won’t get his job back


norman lebrecht

February 17, 2016

Pierre Roy was fired twice from the Buffalo Philharmonic for disruptive behaviour. He was allowed back the first time after promising to take an anger management course. But his appeal against the second dismissal has just failed.

The judge said that Roy, 51, had received a fair hearing. Witnesses testified that Roy ‘defiantly questioned the maestro’s direction … and made off-color remarks to his colleagues that were perceived as insensitive or offensive.’ His attorney said: ‘The bottom line is that Pierre Roy is a brilliant and incredibly accomplished oboist, a world-class musician. To say that because an artist might be temperamental that he’s unfit to play with an ensemble just contradicts the truth.’

Report here.

pierre roy oboe



  • Jeremy says:

    Yup, orchestras and maestros prefer their musicians to have the emotional range of a bricklayer (no offence).

    I suspect that Mr. Roy – a superb oboist – knows full well that he is unlikely to be offered a tenured position elsewhere after the débâcle in Buffalo, which is why he went to court to get his old job back.

    His reed-making videos on Youtube are absolutely superb, BTW – way ahead of most of the professional reedmaking DVDs.

  • CA says:

    So, he’s “flat out.” In time, he will stand on his feet, perhaps still even in the orchestral world; who knows? But, group and interpersonal dynamics are a huge part of an orchestra–whether or not it’s “popular” to admit that. If they are off track, it could affect much or everything else. And if there’s confrontation, especially of the physical kind, in most books that raises the stakes. In my opinion, most of us could probably do better at “parking our issues at the door” when we come to work. But for whatever reason, and across all industries and walks of life, many cannot or do not or will not. I don’t know this gentleman at all, but I can say that recognizing the moment when one needs help in that battle is a gift, but it may not come until one’s old age, if it comes at all. May all of the parties soon heal their wounds from this unfortunate situation.

  • Malcolm James says:

    Shades of Sandy Johnston at WNO. This sort of thing never ends well and, although he eventually won some money, the victory was distinctly pyrrhic.

  • Doug says:

    Basic rule of journalism: the words “played flat” must be in quotation marks. Until then, you remain a so-called “journalist.”

  • boringfileclerk says:

    In other news, there are oboe players that can play in tune…..

  • FreddyNYC says:

    There should be plenty of second rate orchestras in France and Italy that will welcome him with open arms…..

    • Patrick says:

      tres bon…..et miaou!

    • Gerhard says:

      Obviously you have little idea how many excellent oboists there are all over the place in Europe, and how hard the competition is for any tenured job. If he would get a chance to audition, and if he would get a job – two big “IF”s – he would have to change his attitude towards his colleagues 180° around, or he wouldn’t stand a chance to pass his probation period. Here the times are gone when bullying was still tolerated, and rightfully so. Apparently it is developing into the same direction in America now. Good for them!

      • Max Grimm says:

        Indeed. Add to that the facts that Mr. Roy is an exclusively American trained oboist with an “American” sound and that his alleged difficult personality was claimed as a reason for the purportedly unjust dismissal of a Buffalo Philharmonic oboist back in 2007 (http://www.playbillarts.com/news/article/6494.html), his chances in Europe would be slim to none at best.

        • Gerhard says:

          Interesting link. It looks to me that Ms. Faletta’s unwillingness to do the right thing when it was called for backfired badly, because Mr. Roy apparently took this as carte blanche to act towards his colleagues however he pleased.

  • Nicola Lefanu says:

    But it’s a great story about the plexiglass shield between him and the principal flute.

    Sounds like he’s just been there too long.

  • MacroV says:

    Good Lord, even Ray Still and Donald Peck didn’t have a shield between them during the years they didn’t speak.

    I don’t know anything about Pierre Roy, so am making these points as a general matter:

    1) I’m sure he’s an excellent oboist, simply because the standard of play at any audition for an orchestra that pays a living wage (and even at many that don’t) has been very high for many years;

    2) Excellent a player as he may be, irrespective of any personality traits, no guarantee that he’d win another audition, because the competition is really tough.

    3) You can be difficult and temperamental when you’re the star and there is market demand for your work/product in spite of your behavior. And I for one have no objection to orchestral musicians having a little charisma and eccentricity. But ultimately you have to be someone that people are willing to put up with for 250 or so services a year.

  • Bruce says:

    To work successfully in an orchestra, you need to (a) be able to play your instrument well, (b) be willing to play your instrument well, (c) be willing to do what the conductor wants even if it isn’t what you want, because that’s your job, and (d) get along with your colleagues, even if that means not speaking to them because you know it will lead to strife. This is called “behaving like an adult.” If you only have A going for you and are not able or willing to do B, C, and D, then you should expect trouble.

    It probably wouldn’t matter what orchestra this guy was in, he sounds like trouble.

  • ruben greenberg says:

    If there exist special anger management courses for oboists, I know several people I would like to enroll. The waiting-list must be very long, though.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Being a Dick is seemingly a learned trait for many solo players is orchestras. We often tell stories about past masters and pedagogues who treated colleagues and students like crap.
    *often times these behaviors are romanticized as big part of a big personality/artistic temperament.

    FYI: oboists give the a because the pitch of the instrument is stable as it corresponds to the scale in a very small window. Once you put the reed in, the reed vibrates freely only as it has been adjusted to a particular pitch. Often times oboists feel as if the only way to “fight” for the pitch stability that will enable them to sound their best is to maintain the original pitch..which 99% of the time is lower than the general rising pitch of most orchestras. Pitch discipline is a real art that is truly elusive.

    This particular information and opinion is related to Mr. Pierre being a player who was trained and sounds from the American/Philadelphia school/style of Oboe playing. The oboe is one of the only different instruments where a discernment can be made between different (national) schools of playing. There are American trained musicians of every other instrument playing in the best European orchestras (concertmaster of the Berlin and Vienna, and every other type of position). There are basically no Viennese oboes played outside of Vienna and almost no American oboists accepted in nearly all of Europe.

    • Daniel F. says:

      Is the American/Philadelphia oboe school of playing the one founded by the French musician, Tabuteau? If so, how does it differ from the French school?

      • ruben greenberg says:

        Yes, it is the school of playing founded by Tabuteau and perpetuated by Tabuteau’s students and now, the students of his students. American oboists use a different scrape on their reeds-smaller reeds. Their sound is perhaps slightly metallic, but very sweet and focused. They also tend to play Lorée oboes, made in France but not used all that much in France. The current French school of playing has changed radically in the last 50 years. The tone of French oboists used to be far more nasal. It is heavier and rounder now and has probably undergone a German influence.

        • Bruce says:

          What do they play more commonly in France? I always assumed it would be Lorée.

          • Max Grimm says:

            The most frequently encountered maker that I’ve noticed among French oboists has been Marigaux, though I’ve also met French oboists who play Buffet Crampon and to a lesser extent Fossati oboes.

          • Gerhard says:

            Don’t forget Rigoutat.

          • Max Grimm says:

            Yes, I passed over Rigoutat as I myself know only 2 oboists that play one. The list of makers to be found among European orchestral oboists and soloists however goes on and on with oboes by Marigaux, Buffet, Lorée, Rigoutat, Ludwig Frank, Roland Dupin, Gebr. Mönnig, Püchner, Howarth, Bulgheroni, Patricola, Fossati etc. pp. being played.

          • Gerhard says:

            There is a list of players on the Rigoutat website which is obviously not quite up to date:
            However, I know that several of these oboists are in fact playing this brand these days. And Christoph Hartmann of Berlin Phil who switched to Rigoutat not so long ago is not yet listed. On the other hand he isn’t a French player either, which was the initial question.

          • Max Grimm says:

            Duly noted, Gerhard. I never doubted that numerous oboists played on an instrument by Rigoutat, I was merely speaking of instruments of oboists that I personally had noticed and was aware of (regarding Rigoutat, I personally only knew of Thomas Indermühle and Maurice Bourgue).
            Regarding Christoph Hartmann, I find it rather hard to keep up with the oboes he plays on, as his choice of oboe maker seems more variable than that of Mayer, Kelly, Wittmann or Wollenweber. I know with certainty that I’ve heard him on a Lorée (together with Schellenberger), a Marigaux which he had borrowed from Kelly, a Bulgheroni he owns/ed and of course on his Dupin Impérial , I can’t say whether I’ve heard him play on his Rigoutat or not.

  • michele zukovsky says:

    it sounds like he just doesn’t tune or listen to what is around him.
    he is not flexible in his approach to the instrument.

    anyways, intonation is always a question of morality.

    • eline brock says:

      How, exactly, is Intonation a question of morality? That’s a rather fantastic assertion.

    • Bruce says:

      “Intonation is always a question of morality.” HAHAHAHAHA! I feel that way myself sometimes.

      I guess I would say it’s a question of self-discipline and ethics: self-discipline because it’s hard (but possible) to play a wind instrument in tune rather than just do whatever the instrument naturally tends to do, and ethics because intonation is not just something you do to try to make the music sound good, it’s something you do to (and hopefully for) your colleagues.

      It’s much easier to hear yourself in a large group if you play a little sharp; in fact it’s common to play a little sharp unconsciously in an effort to hear oneself. It takes discipline — control over both one’s instrument and one’s ego — to play in tune with a group. Sometimes you have to play “sharp” to reach the new pitch level established by the brass during your 64 measures of rest and reinforced by the strings, who typically go along with whatever is loudest. (No offense, string players)

      OK, I’d better get down from my soapbox now…

  • Itsjtime says:

    In the case that anyone one cares…

    There is a marked change in the way the Philadelphia oboe sound evolved as evidenced by a chronicologic survey of the historical recordings of the Philadelphia orchestra with Stokowski. The theory has been posited previously that this evolution in sound was influenced by this conductor’s particularly personal style of sound.
    One can find a single recording by George Gillet in the beginning of the 20th century and hear the similarity between Tabeuteau and his teacher. The sound at the Paris conservatoire went in a different direction after Georges Gillet (who by the way developed the modern oboe with F. Loree the systeme 6).