Huge debut for Philly’s French oboe

Huge debut for Philly’s French oboe


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2021

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s new principal oboe Phlippe Tondre, appointed amid controversy over a breach in sound tradition, has made a stunning debut in the Mozart concerto.

Peter Dobrin reports: Not only is he elegant and powerful in his ensemble work, but Tondre is a soloist in a way not all orchestral players are. In Mozart’s Oboe Concerto he’s got opinions that he expresses in stylish flourishes, like the way he takes those spiky grace notes just before the end. Technical challenges don’t exist for him, even in the most sustained phrases of the serene second movement or in mad-dash stretches of the first-movement cadenza. Tondre is a serious artist, and his influence could be a very good thing.



  • Not a surprise France is the country of oboe there are several oboists in the great orchestras french or some students foreigners from the Paris conservatoire. And it’s the country of Marigaux

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Move along everybody. Nothing to see here.
    Tabuteau was French. Bonade was French.

    The Philly/Curtis woodwind school, which became, the American school of note, was always influenced by France.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Philadelphia is commencing an ambitious “Digital Stage” series (for subscribers, but inexpensive). Significant classical works (Haydn, Mozart, and yes Beethoven), but also a Florence Price piano concerto, Louise Farrenc’s second symphony, and the Schoenberg/Riehn arrangement of “Das Lied von Der Erde.” Yannick and Strutzmann. This and the Boston spring series are inexpressibly welcome to us starved American orchestral concertgoers.

  • Edgar Self says:

    If Pierre Monteux or Charles Muench ever made a poor record, I haven’t heard it. Muench was an Alsation, born in Strasbourg, and concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra under Furtwaengler before taking up conducting. His cousin Hans Muench conducted in Switzerland and Strassburg/ Hard to keep track. Greg can speak for Desire IngelbrechtWe had Jean Martinon in Chicago for a few seasons. Andre Cluytens I think was Belgian, like Cesar Franck, EugeneYsaye, Andre Gretry, and Guillaume Lekeu.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      The only reason why Paul Paray is not held in greater esteem by the general public is because he never conducted a Big 5 orchestra. But musicians knew of how good he is. In fact Menuhin (I think it was him; if not, definitely an imprtant soloist) said something along these lines: that Paray is the French conductor that he most enjoyed working with – and Menuhin, if indeed was him – did collaborate with Monteux and with Munch.

      And I can say, listening to his recordings, that I almost always prefer Paray’s interpretations over Monteux and Munch.

      And if we are to talk about great French conductors, one should also mention that French-Swiss guy, Ansermet. Yes, the Suisse Romande orchestra of that era was not the most polished one. But what a great musical mind!

      As you can see, Ansermet and Paray are my favorite French conductors.

      • Edgar Self says:

        Paul Paray ws also a noted composer and recorded his own Mass along with some rousing Auber overtures. I saw him conduct the Pittsburgh Sypphony in Syria Mosque, but that job went to William Steinberg.

        Ernest Ansermet was esteemed in modern music, and was also a mathematician. Or another Swiss watch-maker.

    • Wannaplayguitar says:

      Good to hear someone mention Guillaume Lekeu….over here in Grande Bretagne, he is unknown except to the few die hard fans of his compositions

  • Edgar Self says:

    Oboists! Marcel Taabuteau and Pierre Pierlot among many others in France and the U.S., Lothar Koch and Karl Steins in Berlin, Ray Still in Chicago, Bloom in Cleveland … Bruno Walter’s first words in rehearsal were often “Come, my friends, Mr. Bloom” adding an sided “There is always someone named Bloom in the orchestra.” I could usually identify whatever orchestra the idiosyncratic Leon Goossens was with by his tone and slow vibrato. Only the VPO ldid not have an audible distinctive solo oboe for me, with their speccial Vienna instruments.

    Definition of minor seconds: Two oboists playing in unison.

    zFirst advice to newcomer: Don’t lend money to an oboist.

    • buxtehude says:

      Note to Self:
      I don’t get the last joke . . .

      • Edgar Self says:

        Buxtehude, it’s dangerous to explain jokes, but i’ll try. The joking definition of minor seconds as two oboes playing in unison, presumably on the same note, arises because the oboes’ wide varying vibrato makes collisions inevitable, hence minor seconds.

        Sorry I mixed up the Blooms, but that was rather the point of Bruno Walter’s aside that there was always someone named Bloom in these orcchestras.

        Vurtwaengler’s VPO record of Mozart’s “Gran Partita” Serenade for 13 Winds K. 361 ” is incomparably beautiful and a favorite. He even took it on tour and played it in several German cities. But I still have trouble hearing Vienna’s oboe.

    • Jerome Hoberman says:

      The Bloom in Cleveland was Myron, Szell’s principal hornist, not an oboist. Perhaps you’re thinking of Robert Bloom, principal oboist of Toscanini’s NBC Symphony until 1943 and later of the “RCA Victor Symphony” in New York. Or perhaps you’re thinking of Marc Lifschey in Cleveland, later in San Francisco. All three were superb. And of course, like most American players, they played Loree oboes (like Marigaux, Rigoutat and Buffet also French), as did Goossens.

      • Gerry McDonald says:

        But bear in mind that Goosens, like Craxton played on an open hole fairly simple system oboe, very different from the “Gillet system” used by the “Tabuteau school” players.

      • John Kelly says:

        Lifschey a superb player. A friend said that his view of the world was always “MARC LIFSCHEY with the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA conducted by G. Szell” (Caps intentional and smaller font for Szell if it were possible)!!

    • Yossel says:

      Wasn’t Bloom a horn player?

    • You say “Only the VPO l did not have an audible distinctive solo oboe for me, with their special Vienna instruments”. Sorry but I disagree: Hans Kamesch was a superb oboist, with a totally distinctive tone and overall style. Please listen to the slow movement of the VPO/ Furtwängler recording of Mozart’s K361 as well as hundreds of other VPO recordings.

  • Joel Kemelhor says:

    Not to forget the lines from a Danny Kaye record:
    “And the oboe, it is clearly understood,
    Is an ill wind that nobody blows any good.”
    Or is the age of proverbs and adages now past ?

  • Jeff Werthan says:

    Let’s get this out of the way; Tondre is a great artist, no doubt about it.

    But I can promise you that generations of late American oboists are spinning in their graves. And don’t you dare say that, well, Tabuteau was French! Tabuteau created the American school of oboe playing, marked by long-scrape reeds that produce a darker, richer, and unmistakably more mellow tone compared to the bright and bouncy sound of the French oboe. Is there no American oboist capable of sitting in the first chair in Philly? Please!!! Tabuteau, deLancie, the Gombergs, Still, Lifschey, Mack, many others, and all their students have been disrespected.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Please stop.

      The market for world class principals is now global. You get the best player you can from around the world especially when you are talking about a top orchestra that tours and records (now on its own label)

      The position should go to best player possible irrespective of nationality if the other principals want him in their section and the music director agrees.

      And the American school is based on the French school but it has evolved into its own entity.

      If there is an American trained player that plays as well as this fellow, I would love to hear him/her. This musician deserves to be playing in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

      • Jeff Werthan says:

        “If there is an American trained player that plays as well as this fellow, I would love to hear him/her.”

        Really? Did you really just say that? Another insult to oboists trained in the American school. I would think Tondre himself would be appalled!

    • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

      I personally prefer the American oboe sound but I don’t think I would call it “darker” than the European sound.

    • Billy Joe says:

      An entire generation of American oboists have been taught to play like a MIDI keyboard – precisely in tune and in time, with one consistent tone colour and vibrato speed irrespective of the music, and smooth/subtle changes of volume to signify phrasing. It is incredibly dull and robotic, it doesn’t reflect the drama/meaning of the music, and no doubt the scores of european conductors running American orchestras are sick of it, given that most the oboe players on planet Earth do not adopt this approach to music-making. “The Great American School” is not something to try uphold when so many people want to hear something more colourful and meaningful. You’re going to start seeing a lot of American oboists taking their studies to Europe in the coming years once they start hearing players like Tondre live.

  • Billy Joe says:

    Newsflash – Americans hear a modern European oboist and can’t believe they’ve been putting up with monochrome, electronic-keyboard American oboe playing for decades. Welcome to the world, USA.

  • JussiB says:

    I missed the French flute in his short tenure at LA Phil.

  • Edgar Self says:

    annaplayguitar — I just saw your post of the 15th above and hope you see this about Guillaume Lekeu, whose “Adagio pour cordes” in memory o his teacher Cesar franck is an immortal masterpiece, magnificently recorded by the Liege Philharmonique under conductor Pierre Batholomee on an Astree CD with Franck’s symphony. It’s thought by some to have influenced Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

    Yehudi Menuhin championed Lekeu’s violin sonata. Other chamber works and songs written in his brief 24 years repay interest and performance, like his back-story and this anecdote, which I’ve told before.

    Lekeu, Erik Satie, and Debussy went to B ayreuth to hear “Tristan”. At the first notes, Satie burst into tears, Debussy began making notes for a parody, and Lekeu fainted. Keep the faith!

  • CGDA says:

    The Paris and the younger Lyon Conservatoires Supérieurs produce incredible musicians. The pity is that most great orchestras around the world now sound the same. The other issue linked to this is that French woodwind companies are wiping out excellent Italian and German manufacturers.