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RIP William Bennet, Oboist
February 28, 2013 5:16 PM   Subscribe

William Bennett, principal oboist of the San Francisco Symphony, passed away today after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while performing a concerto onstage.

The Strauss oboe concerto, which he was performing when he collapsed, "held a special place for him." Bennett was an active teacher and performer in the Bay Area.
posted by Red Desk (26 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
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Tough week for classical music. Wolfgang Sawallisch, Marie-Claire Alain, Van Cliburn, and now Mr. Bennett.
posted by in278s at 5:29 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by BogusPomp at 5:33 PM on February 28, 2013


Oboe woes.

A Professor of mine who was a professional oboist mentioned that the high back pressure created by the instrument often led to severe headaches, sinus problems, hemorrhaging, aneurisms, and perhaps over time, dementia.
posted by sourwookie at 5:40 PM on February 28, 2013


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Perversely, a common pedagogical measurement device for oboe players is a tire pressure gauge (or so my brother would have me believe).
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 5:54 PM on February 28, 2013


Oh, heavens, that's sad news.

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posted by Sidhedevil at 5:56 PM on February 28, 2013


while performing a concerto onstage

Lord, should we all be so lucky as to go out doing what we love.
posted by Suddenly, elf ass at 5:57 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


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I saw him at the Thursday performance 2 days prior, it was great. Poor fellow.
posted by skintension at 5:58 PM on February 28, 2013


You can see him playing the oboe here. He's the soloist during the first 50 seconds. That's Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4, second movement, by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. (If you'd like more context for the symphony, here's the first movement in two links, and the third movement; the last one isn't on YouTube.)

The sad news about William Bennet calls to mind Giuseppe Sinopoli, who died of a heart attack while in the middle of conducting Verdi's Aidi in Berlin in 2001. Many noted musicians and other entertainers have died in concert.
posted by John Cohen at 5:59 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somewhere in Rock'n'Roll Heaven, Mark Sandman is slapping this guy on the back, saying, "On stage, eh? I'm putting together a little band up here ... how do you feel about a baritone oboe?"
posted by adipocere at 6:23 PM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the links, John Cohen. I hope someone else does an FPP on Van Cliburn, another terrible loss this week.
posted by Red Desk at 6:26 PM on February 28, 2013


Sad news. Heard this a few days ago:
One patron who was in attendance said Bennett began to sway unsteadily during his performance, then lost his balance and fell to the stage. As he fell, he held his oboe aloft long enough for one of the orchestra's violinists to take it from him.
A rather poetic way to go, huh? Talk about dedication to the craft.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:30 PM on February 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


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posted by foxhat10 at 6:40 PM on February 28, 2013


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posted by fremen at 6:54 PM on February 28, 2013


conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas

That warm, encouraging, intimate look would creep me the hell out as a musician - Give me the occasional concerned glance and righteous thunderous glare or maniacal smile of Arthur Fiedler as he invited you into your moment.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:06 PM on February 28, 2013


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Very sad.....he will be missed. My daughter is an oboist and a good one...It is a tough instrument to master, hard on the body...... I wish his family well....
posted by pearlybob at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2013


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posted by mosk at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2013


One patron who was in attendance said Bennett began to sway unsteadily during his performance, then lost his balance and fell to the stage. As he fell, he held his oboe aloft long enough for one of the orchestra's violinists to take it from him.

A rather poetic way to go, huh? Talk about dedication to the craft.


Not that it means any less that Mr. Bennett did that, but I think a lot of professional instrumentalists would do the same if they were able.

But Bennett had already come back to his career after throat cancer, so it's pretty clear he was a badass.

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posted by The Potate at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2013


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posted by spinifex23 at 9:13 PM on February 28, 2013


Deoboed is a palindrome.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:29 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god, the Strauss concerto. It isn't a piece you merely rehearse; you train for it, like a marathon. Twenty-five minutes long, an eternity for a wind player. It comes out fighting, too, beginning with 50+ measures of nothing but notes, notes, notes and the gnawing fear in the pit of your stomach of breaking the beautiful, flowing phrases with something so vulgar as a breath. To make the endurance test all the worse, the piece frequently tosses out an, "I know you're the soloist and you're doing your little thing right now, but we need you to cover the normal oboe parts in the tutti because all we have left playing in the section is the English Horn player, so be a dear and join in because he's feeling very lonely right now".

Mr. Bennett was a beautiful player. I had an oboe teacher once tell me that musicianship is the art of transforming a meticulously controlled performance into something that sounds free and spontaneous. You can very clearly see that happening in the video link to Mr. Bennett's solo in Tchaik 4. I suppose it's only fitting that a piece like the Strauss, one in which you have to work so hard to sound so effortless, bookend his career, albeit in a too-tragic way. He will be missed.
posted by Wossname at 9:32 PM on February 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Well, that sucked. Bummer.

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posted by Pudhoho at 9:39 PM on February 28, 2013


Here is a 2011 video of Bennett playing "Billie Jean"
posted by notmtwain at 11:47 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by get off of my cloud at 5:05 AM on March 1, 2013


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posted by maryr at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2013


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posted by Lutoslawski at 12:15 PM on March 1, 2013


Lord, should we all be so lucky as to go out doing what we love.

I've heard this sentiment often, but it's not one I, personally, share. I want to die doing something I hate (albeit preceded by many, many things I love). I want my final thought to be "Thank God I never have to do this again."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:40 PM on March 1, 2013


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