Philharmonia picks principal oboe, 22

Philharmonia picks principal oboe, 22


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2017

The orchestra is looking to the future.

Gordon Hunt, the veteran principal oboe and one of the Philharmonia’s defining lights, will share his seat from now on with Tom Blomfield, fresh out of the Royal Academy of Music.

Tom, 22, is from north Wales. He recently guested as principal with the LSO and BBCSO before the Philharmonia moved in with a contract.

Gordon Hunt previously shared his title with Christopher Cowie, who has joined the Royal Opera House orchestra.



  • Grace says:

    Christopher Cowie is now Principal Oboe at the Royal Opera House, alongside Julia Girdwood. Many congratulations to Tom.

  • Oboe Fan says:

    Gordon Hunt is not principal oboe at the ROH. Christopher Cowie is.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    Another foetus employed by a uk orchestra. How at 22 does he have the emotional maturity, musical nuance and integrity to hold such a position. While I am sure he is a talented musician, when I go to hear an orchestra like the philharmonia, I’m looking for the best in the world, not the best in short trousers who didn’t annoy anyone on the panel by having an independent musical thought. The worst thing about this is that just like so many others his age, he will be a professor at the Royals Academy within 4 years, meaning you could pay £9,000 a year as an undergraduate to study with someone who has never even played the orchestral extract you want to study. What a joke.

    • mr oakmountain says:

      That’s probably what people said in the 50s and 60s when the LSO hired all those young hot shots: Neville Marriner, Gervase de Peyer, Barry Tuckwell, Denis Wick, … Let’s just hope for Mr Blomfield to flourish in his new position rather than dismiss him on account of his age.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Most of those hot young shots had fought six years of war.

        • mr oakmountain says:

          Which makes you more qualified for playing music? I did not mean to belittle those amazing LSO principals; I just thought Mr Marquez’s statement was unfair since the mere fact that he is young (and has not fought a war) does not automatically mean Mr Blomfield lacks musical maturity.

        • mr oakmountain says:

          According to Wikipedia Barry Tuckwell and Denis Wick were born in 1931. I do hope they were not called up between 1939 and 1945.

    • Oboe Fan says:

      Anyone that heard Mr Blomfields performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony with the orchestra in the spring will know he is more qualified for this role. Why don’t you wait to hear him for yourself before making such general statements.

      The Philharmonia wouldn’t appoint someone they didn’t think was up to the job, and he certainly is!

    • Bruce says:

      So many orchestral legends began their careers as “foetuses” that your statement isn’t even laughable.

      • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

        Indeed. Beecham first hired Peter Graeme (alias ‘Timmy’), also an oboist, when the latter was 17.

    • A Cellist says:

      Mr Marquez, you sound bitter, old and irrelevant. The best orchestras have long appointed exceptional young players – off the top of my head, the Berlin Phil principal cello was recently appointed in his early 20s, and Guenther Pichler – later of the Alban Berg quartet – was leader of the Vienna Phil at 21.


    • John Hosking says:

      I have to say that as a 41 year old, extremely experienced musician, I’ve recently learnt more about general interpretation and emotion in performance from a 23 year old soprano than I did during 4 years at music college and basically for the rest of my career until now. Certainly the most musical, talented singer I have worked with in a career spanning 23 years in some of the UK’s top choral foundations.

      Tom Blomfield is an extremely talented oboist, also, and his inner musicianship was always apparent during the time I spent working with him as a Cathedral chorister. I think it’s wrong to judge someone’s ability on age, but rather the defining moment is to hear that person play in the flesh.

    • GlobalCitizen says:

      The joke here is you, Marquez. I have seen the vicious, inappropriate, and HIGHLY overdramatic emails you sent my friend when you did not receive a place in her program, and all I can say is good luck to you in having any kind of career, anywhere, ever. You are obviously a very unwell person, and I do hope that you can seek help in dealing with this venomous rage that so clearly dictates your every action. Your comments here on SD are but a symptom of what is surely a much bigger issue.

  • Hernando Marquez says:

    The Philharmonia have a record of hiring and keeping players not up to the job. Just a look, and hear one of the other wind principals in the back row to hear a player who clearly isn’t up to the job. The principal clarinet is a laughing stock among many pro Musicians in London. I have heard this new appointment play a few times, and I stand by my comment that he isn’t good enough, and more importantly not musicaly interesting or nuanced enough for such a chair. The only way a young player wins a role like this is to keep his head down and be musical dull, something I would attest to each time I have heard him play. Anyone with a musical voice is ruled out of the process by egotistical panel members. I would put it down to a political appointment from Keith Bragg, Head of Wind at the Royal Academy. Only a few years ago he poached Chris Cowie to the Royal Academy from the Royal College, and this is his way of ensuring his fellow teacher is seen to a success by all who don’t know him. (I think Cowie is an exceptional teacher and player who doesn’t need this kind of thing)

    • Londonpro says:

      Green eyed monster at work here, I fear. London orchestras don’t appoint players if they can’t do the job. Age is but a number. You can play. Or you can’t.

    • Doug says:

      I would tend to believe your perspective over the blind “star worship” types that prevail here,

    • Observer says:

      I agree. I also believe that what Mr. Marquez says rings true.

    • Oboe Guy says:

      Haha. This is fantastic. Your comment regarding your expectations when you see an orchestra like the Philharmonia would suggest that you regard the orchestra reasonably highly; a confusing assumption considering they also “have a record of hiring and keeping players not up to the job”. I would also hedge my bets that the long standing committee of players, who’ve already enjoyed successful careers as orchestral musicians, making the serious decision to appoint Mr Blomfield may have a slightly more informed and intelligent opinion than you Mr Marquez. Maybe not though…perhaps you were present throughout his trial period?

  • Itsjtime says:

    European oboe playing sounds funny, anyways.

    • mr oakmountain says:

      We like to think of it as full or character rather than funny, unless a sense of comedy is implied by the music and intentional.

    • Bruce says:

      ALL oboe playing sounds funny. It just sounds funny in different ways.

    • Max Grimm says:

      True and American oboe playing sounds like a duck being garroted.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no ‘European oboe playing’ sound. Oboists from all the European countries have different reed scrapes, which gives them an individual national sound. Plus, in the UK we play on dual thumbplate/conservatoire oboes and the rest of Europe play on conservatoire oboes. This creates a distinct change in the timbre of a couple of the notes, most noticeably C within the stave. Having attended an audition in Denmark some years ago, myself and another oboist from the UK were given feedback that that the ensemble didn’t like the British sound.

  • Maureen Rutherford says:

    Have you heard Tom Blomfield play. I have and he deserves his place

  • Cor Anglais Blower says:

    I have had the enormous pleasure of sitting next to and working with Tom Blomfield. I have also had the privilege and equal pleasure of sitting next to Gordon Hunt, Chris Cowie, the principals of the LSO, LPO, RPO, BBC Symphony and many others. Tom’s playing is world class and comparable to all the greatest players I’ve worked with and listened to. He was absolutely deserving of his appointment in the Philharmonia and they are very lucky to have him.