John de Lancie (oboist)

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This article is about the oboist. For his son, the actor, see John de Lancie.

John Sherwood de Lancie (July 26, 1921 – May 17, 2002) was an American musician who served as the principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra for many years.


John Sherwood de Lancie was born in 1921 in Berkeley, California. Before he enlisted in World War II, he was principal oboist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner.[1] He met Richard Strauss during his tour of duty as a soldier in Europe at the end of World War II. In April 1945, at the war's end, Strauss was apprehended by American soldiers at his Garmisch estate. As he descended the staircase, he announced to Lt. Milton Weiss of the U.S. Army, "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome." Lt. Weiss, who, as it happened, was also a musician, nodded in recognition. An 'Off Limits' sign was subsequently placed on the lawn to protect Strauss.[2]

De Lancie was among those in the unit. He knew Strauss's orchestral writing for oboe thoroughly and asked the composer if he had ever considered writing an oboe concerto. The composer answered simply "No", and the topic was dropped. Six months later, de Lancie was astonished to see that Strauss had changed his mind and was indeed publishing an Oboe Concerto. Strauss saw to it that the rights to the U.S. premiere were assigned to de Lancie. But de Lancie had switched to the Philadelphia Orchestra and was only a junior member there. When orchestral protocol made it impossible for him to premiere the piece since Philadelphia's principal oboist had seniority, de Lancie gave the rights to perform the premiere to a young oboist friend at the CBS Symphony in New York, Mitch Miller, who later became famous as a music producer and host of a sing-along TV show.[3][4][5]

De Lancie also commissioned a piece for oboe and orchestra, L'horloge de flore (The Flower Clock), by the composer Jean Françaix. He taught at Curtis Institute of Music, and served as its director from 1977 to 1985. At his death, de Lancie was one of the few remaining students of the legendary Marcel Tabuteau of Curtis. De Lancie's playing, marked by an extraordinary intensity that replaced the traditional vibrato of the European school, was marked by a dramatic character and an expressive use of color, as he always aimed for what he called the "bottom" of the sound.[citation needed] One of his own students, Richard Woodhams, eventually succeeded him as principal oboe in the Philadelphia Orchestra. His former student of the same time, Peter Bloom, aided by de Lancie, published in detail the history of the Strauss Oboe Concerto and de Lancie's role in its creation (The Pendragon Review, 2001).[citation needed]


He died in Walnut Creek, California in 2002, aged 80. His son is actor John de Lancie.



  1. ^ Kenneth Morgan (2005). Fritz Reiner, maestro and martinet. University of Illinois Press. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-0-252-02935-6. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Ross, Alex. "The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century" (published by Fourth Estate)
  3. ^ The Double Reed. International Double Reed Society. 2005. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  4. ^ Sir Compton Mackenzie; Christopher Stone (2004). Gramophone. General Gramophone Publications Limited. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. "How Strauss Came to Write His Oboe Concerto". Retrieved 2013-05-22.