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Gervase de Peyer’s 80th Birthday

Finally, the last movement of Schubert’s Octet, with a collection of friends to treasure, including bassonist William Waterhouse, horn Stephen Stirling, violinist Susanne Stanzeleit, and Celia Waterhouse, cellist Robin Ireland and Bernard Gregor Smith and double-bassist Leon Bosch, which ended he official part of the programme in admirable style; the wholly appropriate encore being the Scherzo from the same work! A truly memorable concert.

Robert Matthew-Walter

most admired and well-loved artist. Here was a remarkable programme, chosen by Gervase, not least in length,

Gervase de Peyer an friends was the tittle for the Wigmore Hall programme on the 4th April marking the 8oth birthday of the outstanding clarinet player, the friends being fellow musicians appearing with him him on the platform, but to judge by the capacity audience everyone in the Hall was a friend of this

for it went on until 10.25p, enabling his still undimmed technique and musicianship to be placed at the

service of a wide variety of music, and in which, with typical modesty, he was not always the main


Thus we heard Mendelssohn’s two remarkable and very rarely heard Concert Pieces Opus 113 by 2

Clarinets and Piano, opening both halves of the programme in turn, and wonderfully played by our

hero and by Vincenzo Perrone, accompanied by Carlo Balzaretti. Schumann’s Fairy Tales Opus 132

for Clarinet, Viola and Piano made a deep impression, with Robin Ireland joining Gervase and Gwynneth Pryor.

Joseph Horovitz’s enchanting Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano, composed in 1981 for Gervase and

finely projected in this performance partnered by Gwynneth Pryor, was much enjoyed by the audience,

and the 80 year old dedicatee and composer acknowledged the warm applause. The concluding part of

Ponchielli’s Divertimento Il Convergo for two Clarinets and Piano ended the first half in brilliant fashion.

After the second of the Mendelssohn’s Concert Pieces the first movement of Arthur Bliss’s Clarinet Quintet was followed by Bartok’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, outstandingly well-played by Gervase withViolinist Susanne Stanzeleit and Gwynneth Pryor.


For about half a century, critics (including me) have been calling Gervase de Peyer the greatest living clarinetist. I hadn't heard him in a few years, except on his recordings, but I caught him live last weekend and all the old superlatives came back to mind. The concert was a double bargain, featuring him as soloist in two of the greatest concertos written for his instrument - Mozart's and Aaron Copland's. 

The familiar artistry was all there in this performance: phrasing  like that of a human singer, but with a power, agility  and range beyond any singer's capability; technique that treats the music as though it were happening spontaneously for the first time;  an acute awareness of overall form and a tone like a voice coming down from Heaven - voices, actually, because the clarinet has more than one. 

I had forgotten what a masterpiece the Copland concerto was, and this performance was a timely reminder. The Mozart concerto, as familiar as the back of my hand, came out sounding fresh, new and somewhat different from usual, for reasons we will examine below.  De Peyer has played the Copland concerto many times with Copland conducting and performed it


with easy grace and sensitivity to its unique, jazz-influenced style.

The peg for last week's program was The Benny Goodman Story. Goodman, a clarinetist, songwriter and big band leader who was proud of his classical skills, played and recorded the Mozart concerto. He also commissioned the Copland work and quite a few others, some of which he never got around to playing. "Benny did a lot for the clarinet," De Peyer told me, "whether or not he got his money's worth. I guess he didn't, personally, but the result of his ambitions was an enrichment of the clarinet repertory." 

The Mozart concerto, one of the first works that really established the clarinet as a classical instrument, was a result of the composer's friendship with a clarinetist, Anton Stadler (1753-1812), who invented the basset clarinet. This instrument includes added notes at the bottom of the clarinet's already wide range, and it was for this instrument that Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto, one of the 18th century's most beautiful works, near the end of his life. Like Schubert's equally beautiful Arpeggione Sonata in the following century, it was composed for an instrument that never attracted many players, and it was neglected for a long time.

Joe Mclellan 11/2002


Joe Mclellan on Gervase de Peyer


WEDNESDAY night's curious collection of clarinet pieces at Merkin Concert Hall had a common denominator - their personal associations with the featured performer, Gervase de Peyer. Mr. de Peyer arranged the sonatas by Handel and Schubert and has given the premieres of all the other items on this program except one.

The other unifying element was Mr. de Peyer's ardent and successful pursuit - no matter the style at hand -of the tension and grace in melodic lines. He pursued this songful quality by any means possible - by slowing and speeding tempos and by making bar lines melt into insignificance when necessary.

Mr. de Peyer's playing also instructed us in the honorable - and now less-heard - British school of clarinet playing that, with its slightly different instrument and different style, often relinquishes pure, fluid vowel sounds in favor of a more blunt, direct, even wintry tone.

Of the newer pieces, Andre Tchaikowsky's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was impressive for its sustained and tightly argued contrapuntal thinking. Michael Cave's Sonata, a substantial reworking of a two-year-old piece, was all muscle and constant movement, particularly suited to Mr. de Peyer' s skills, while the Joseph Horovitz Sonata at the end aspired to something quite the contrary - a kind of flowing innocence after the manner of a Poulenc or a Gershwin.

The Handel transcription (a sonata in G minor) sat awkwardly for the clarinet, both in range and style; but the instrument proved a better metaphor for Schubert's darker, more mellow ''Arpeggione'' Sonata.

Carol Archer was an excellent partner in all this music, especially in the Tchaikowsky piece. She gave way once to Mr. Cave, who was the pianist in his own sonata. The other work was a Solo Sonata by Miklos Rozsa notable for its pastoral tone, modal flavorings and raucous finale.



Now, here's a real bargain--some of the greatest recordings of much of Mozart's best music at the Double Decca two-for-one price. The Barry Tuckwell horn concerto recordings and Gervase de Peyer clarinet concerto reading are the best in the catalog, both combining virtuoso execution with innate musical expression. There are incredible moments in the horn concertos where the soloist actually accompanies the orchestra and Tuckwell is fully tuned into the whole event, subtly switching his role in a way that eludes other players. De Peyer plays the slow movement of the clarinet concerto as a true "romanza", letting it speak for what it is, one of the lovliest slower movements in all of music. The other concertos receive excellent performances, if not quite the transcendental ones that Tuckwell and De Peyer achieve. The audio recordings, ranging from 1959 to 1992, are all pretty good, though understandably variable. I've never felt that the Tuckwell or De Peyer recordings have been given the CD transfers they really deserve. By the way, both the horn concertos and the clarinet concerto are conducted by Peter Maag and it seems no coincidence that this conductor, one of the greatest Mozart maestros of the 20th century, contributed greatly to the overall artistic level of these recordings. Decca has two other Maag/LSO recordings in its vaults that are ultimate Mozart representations: a coupling of the 32nd and 38th symphonies, and a disc of serenades and divertimentos. They should be put on Double Decca double quick. [4/12/2000]

--Rad Bennett


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My first LPs were bought second-hand from a school chum who played the clarinet, so I became very quickly familiar with Gervase de Peyer, the leading British clarinettist of the Sixties and for many years principal clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra.

De Peyer;s 1967 CD from CFP (****) offers beautiful, mellow performances of the two Brahms sonatas with Daniel Barenboim accompanying on piano, and some charming trifles by Shcumann. The sound is exemplary.

Mail On Sunday 14 August 2005

This recording is available to buy /download from i-tunes, 7 digital & amazon.com


This record has been re-released more than once and is available at numerous music websites.

A treat for classical music lovers, apart from the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas it also includes the Beethoven Clarinet Trio, featuring the legendary cellist Jacqueline du Pre.

The notice that these two collections with Gervase de Peyer in his prime are available now with gorgeous remastering should be all that is necessary to send lovers of the clarinet out to grab copies for themselves and those near and dear. De Peyer, who was one of the London Symphony Orchestra’s first-chair stars in the 1950s, went out on his own more than 40 years ago, and was a founding member of both the Melos Ensemble in London and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. They now come with the considerable bonus of the Beethoven Clarinet Trio (with Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré) as well as the sonic update. The catalogue number looks like full price, but this is one of the outstanding gems in EMI’s budget-priced Encore series.

Richard Freed - Sound Stage

Classic FM - David Mellor


Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra Op.3* (1950) [14:21]

Gervase de Peyer (clarinet)

London Symphony Orchestra/David Atherton

The performance of the Clarinet Concerto is all that could be wished for. This is an attractive work; its performance at the Cheltenham Festival in 1954 marked the beginning of general interest in Hoddinott’s music. That first performance was given by Gervase de Peyer, who is also the soloist here. His version of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto long held the field alongside Jack Brymer’s and the Double Decca which contains it and the Eloquence CD containing his Mozart, Spohr and Weber concertos are still highly recommendable. de Peyer’s playing here is of the same high quality; the slow movement, marked arioso, is especially entrancing. No comparisons available, of course, but it is hard to image anything here being bettered.

Brian Wilson

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WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART - Clarinet Concerto in A major

CARL MARIAVON WEBER -Clarinet Concerto No.2 in E Flat, Op. 74

LOUIS SPOHR - Clarinet Concerto No.1 in C min, Op. 26

"There are plenty of other recorded performances of Mozart's and Weber's concertos to choose from, even a couple of Spohr's, but these have acquired classic status. de Peyer is at his finest in Weber's work, which finds him relishing its drama and its technical challenge; he is sympathetically accompanied by another fine clarinettist of yore, Sir Colin Davis (the two of them were once the clarinet stars of the Royal College of Music). De Peyer gives a fluent, easy performance of Mozart's concerto - the Adagio is gracefully phrased, without sentimentality, and the Rondo has a delightful spring to it. The record is a pleasant tribute to his artistry." - Gramophone.

"This is another bargain from Down Under and deserves a place on our shelves. Highly recommended."

John Phillips, Musicweb International.

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Classic Chamber Concerts pick another winning combination;

Johannes Brahms' Trio in A Minor, Opus 114 for clarinet, cello and piano.

Of Swiss descent, the London-born Gervase De Peyer, internationally acclaimed concert clarinetist, was the afternoon's featured guest artist. De Peyer, an associate and fellow of the Royal College of Music of London, is a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center and founder in this country of the Melos Sinfonia of Washington.

For all his creativity, it was not until late in his life that Brahms became enamored of the clarinet and its chamber music possibilities.

This trio, performed by De Peyer, Phillips and Blumenthal, was the first of four such compositions by Brahms. A serious, provocative composition with redundant melody lines, first De Peyer, then Phillips traded off the melody, then blended into even more beautiful, mysterious harmonics, all the while Blumenthal serving as the glue to bind the interchange between the clarinet and cello together.

It was the second of the four movements, "Adagio," however, which got my vote for some near-rapturous sounds. If you tend to purr in ecstasy, as I do, when lulled by a particularly thrilling chord, unexpectedly beautiful harmonics, interesting segues, or a snippet of a melody from the gods, this was a guaranteed "purr" movement.

Following a brief intermission, the mood of the afternoon's offerings shifted from one end of the spectrum to the other as De Peyer and Blumenthal performed three bagatelles for clarinet and piano by the only 20th century composer of the day, British- born Gerald Finzi.

Finzi, who was 50 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, succumbed to the illness five years later. Until then, he was a prolific composer, best known among concertgoers for his wonderful choral music, with the always-present theme of the transitory, fragile nature of life.

De Peyer was at his best for these three bagatelles, starting with "Prelude — Allegro Deciso," which brought several gasps of approbation from the attentive audience at its sudden conclusion. A different, prayerful mood next emanated from his clarinet, for Finzi's "Carol - Andantino Semplice." But it was the final bagatelle, "Fugetta," which best displayed De Peyer's virtuosity and garnered roars of approval from the crowd.

GOLDBERG LONGSTRETH - Daily News Tuesday, February 3, 2004


"Mr. de Peyer is now the greatest clarinettist appearing before the public. His playing was so beautiful, his tone so seamless and his musical instincts so unerring that everything else last night palled in comparison".

(London Mozart Players' twenty-fifth anniversary concert) (THE TIMES, London).

"Extraordinary and magical...vivid characterisation and seamless technique".


"De Peyer's melodic lead was always precise ... it was musicianship of a very high order".

(Alan Greenblatt - THE WASHINGTON POST, Washington D.C.).

"The performances by de Peyer and the Amadeus are radiant—and unsurpassed on disc. Mozart: Quintet for Clarinet and Strings".

(William Bender - TIME MAG).

"Gervase de Peyer is one of the greatest instrumentalist alive.”

(Fanfare U.S.A)


Joe Mclellan on Gervase de Peyer



Gervase de Peyer’s 80th Birthday




Brahms Sonatas 1 & 2. Beethoven Clarinet Trio


New York Times by Bernard Holland


Mozart Clarinet Concerto - Rad Bennett


Alun Hoddinott Clarinet Concerto






Mozart Clarinet Concerto - John Phillips


Brahms Trio - Goldberg Longstreth


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