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Barry Tuckwell

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Barry Tuckwell
Tuckwell in 2008
Background information
Born(1931-03-05)5 March 1931
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died16 January 2020(2020-01-16) (aged 88)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation(s)soloist, conductor, teacher
Instrument(s)French horn
Years active1946–1997

Barry Emmanuel Tuckwell, OBE, AC (5 March 1931 – 16 January 2020) was an Australian French horn player who spent most of his professional life in the UK and the United States. He is generally considered to have been one of the world's leading horn players.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Barry Tuckwell was born on 5 March 1931 in Melbourne, son of Charles Tuckwell, an organist,[2] and his wife Elizabeth. 5 March is known by many as the Horn Duumvirate Date, as it was the birth date of both Tuckwell and Philip Farkas, both highly regarded horn players. He had an older sister, Patricia, a violinist and fashion model widely known as Bambi. She married the photographer Athol Shmith and later George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

After studying the piano, organ and violin as a chorister at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Tuckwell was introduced to the French horn at age 13[3] and was playing professionally within six months. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music under Alan Mann, one of Australia's most influential brass players. Tuckwell has said, "The horn chose me. Right from the beginning, it was something I knew I could do."[citation needed]

Tuckwell related an anecdote regarding his choice of instrument: sitting in a cafe one day with his sister Patricia, Charles Mackerras and a horn player from the local symphony, Patricia speculated on what Tuckwell's future in music might be. The horn player suggested, "Why not try the horn?" Tuckwell did so and within two years was playing in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.[4] With characteristic humour, when recounting this at the British Horn Society's festival in 2005, he turned to the audience and said, "One note at a time, piece of cake!" The horn is often considered to be one of the most difficult orchestral instruments to master.[5]

Performing career[edit]


At 15, Tuckwell was appointed by Joseph Post as third horn with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. A year later, he joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Goossens, where he remained for three and a half years before leaving for England. His first appointment in 1951 was with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli.[6] After two years, he went to the Scottish National Orchestra under Karl Rankl and a year later to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Charles Groves. In 1955, he was appointed first horn with the London Symphony Orchestra.[6]

During his 13 years with the LSO, a co-operative orchestra run by the players, he was elected to the board of directors and was chairman of the board for six years. The chief conductors during this time were Josef Krips, Pierre Monteux, István Kertész and André Previn.


He resigned from the orchestra in 1968 to pursue a career as a soloist and conductor. For the next thirty years, he carved out a career exclusively as soloist – one of the few horn virtuosos to have done so [citation needed], rather than combining occasional concert performances with an orchestral position or a teaching post. At the age of 65, he decided to retire. His last concert was with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1997, at the age of 65.[7]

He was one of the most recorded horn soloists,[8] having made over 50 recordings. He has received three Grammy Award nominations.

Chamber music[edit]

In 1962 he formed a trio with Brenton Langbein (violin) and Maureen Jones (piano) for a performance of the Horn Trio by Don Banks, which was commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival. The trio played together for many years, touring in Europe, Asia and Australia until the death of Brenton Langbein. They recorded the Banks Trio, the Brahms Trio, and Quatre Petites Pièces by Charles Koechlin for Tudor records.

He formed a wind quintet in 1968, which also toured internationally.


Tuckwell was also well known as a conductor, appearing with leading orchestras in Europe and the United States. For four seasons he was Chief Conductor of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and in 1982 founded the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. He enjoyed a long association with the Northern Sinfonia and was appointed their Guest Conductor following an acclaimed fourteen-concert tour of North America.

Recordings as a conductor include three CDs with the London Symphony Orchestra of music by Dvořák, Elgar and Wagner. More recently, he conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in an ABC Classics recording of the Mozart horn concertos with soloist Lin Jiang and The Queensland Orchestra for Melba Recordings of horn concertos with Ben Jacks.

Works written for Tuckwell[edit]

Many composers wrote works for Tuckwell. Oliver Knussen, Don Banks, Gunther Schuller, Robin Holloway and Thea Musgrave wrote concertos; Richard Rodney Bennett wrote "Acteon" for horn and large orchestra at Tuckwell's request.[9] Barry Tuckwell premiered Tony Randall's Prelude for solo horn.


Barry Tuckwell wrote three important books on the horn and horn playing. For the Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides, he wrote the book on the horn. His definitive manual Playing the Horn was published by Oxford University Press (now out of print) as was Fifty First Exercises.


Tuckwell was known for his master classes. He was Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College and Pomona College in the United States, and was Professor of Horn at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1963 until 1974.[6] He served as Distinguished Visiting Faculty at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore in the 1980s and 1990s. He held the position of Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and for several years hosted the annual Barry Tuckwell Institute at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado.


Tuckwell died in Melbourne, aged 88, on 16 January 2020 of complications from heart disease.[10][11]

Awards and honours[edit]

Tuckwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1965 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1992.[12]

Among the many other awards he has received are an Honorary Doctor of Music from the University of Sydney, Fellow of the Royal College of Music, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America, the Andrew White Medal from Loyola College and the Harriet Cohen Memorial Award.[citation needed]

He was also an honorary member of both the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.[citation needed]

He was the first president of the International Horn Society and was honorary president of the British Horn Society and the patron of the Melbourne International Festival of Brass.

He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[13]

Bernard Heinze Memorial Award[edit]

The Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award is given to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to music in Australia.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2007 Barry Tuckwell Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award awarded [14][15]

Helpmann Awards[edit]

The Helpmann Awards is an awards show, celebrating live entertainment and performing arts in Australia, presented by industry group Live Performance Australia (LPA) since 2001.[16] In 2007, Tuckwell received the JC Williamson Award, the LPA's highest honour, for their life's work in live performance.[17]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007 Himself JC Williamson Award awarded


  1. ^ Eleanor Blau (5 August 1978). "Barry Tuckwell Tells French Horn Secret". New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  2. ^ [1] Tuckwell, Charles. "When wattles bloom [music] / music by Charles Tuckwell ; words by A.I. Mockendge", University Library Catalogue of the University of Melbourne, 1931-1940.
  3. ^ Paul Hume (25 July 1979). "The Non-Stop World of Barry Tuckwell, Master Magician of the French Horn". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  4. ^ Profile, Minnesota Public Radio.
  5. ^ The Horn Player, Summer 2005
  6. ^ a b c Kennedy, 1985, p. 669
  7. ^ Edward Seckerson (11 August 1996). "The master hangs up his horn of plenty". The Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Horn Players". University of Iowa. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Richard Rodney Bennett". Music Sales Classical. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  10. ^ Zwartz, Barney (17 January 2020). "Australia loses one of its classical greats, Barry Tuckwell". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  11. ^ Nicolson, Mairi (17 January 2020). "Barry Tuckwell, Australian horn player and conductor, has died aged 88". ABC Classic. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  12. ^ "It's an Honour: AC". Archived from the original on 10 May 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  13. ^ Delta Omicron Archived 27 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ MUSSE Archived 2011-10-18 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Horn Society
  16. ^ "Events & Programs". Live Performance Australia. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  17. ^ "JC Williamson Award recipients". Helpmann Awards. Live Performance Australia. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2022.


External links[edit]