Fernand Gillet, Principal Oboe, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Dear Sherman,
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences in working with Fernand Gillet. He was a fine teacher and player who not many clarinetists – or oboists for that matter – have heard of today. He was legendary in his technique and methodical approach to wind playing. It would be great if you could detail some of his teaching methods and thoughts on practicing. We could all still learn from Maestro Gillet. Thanks for your great site and have a wonderful day! Best regards,

Thank you so much for your question concerning M. Gillet.
He was the most encouraging and impressive teacher anyone could have and many of his precepts of teaching were adopted by Mazzeo.
I can almost tell you about him in an anecdotal way for so many things happened while he was teaching us. I took both Solfeggio at which he was a master, and chamber music where he was the most observant teacher any of us had. He would but look at a player playing a passage and would say…”hold this finger longer”, or “accent this place in the run” and it simply always worked.
Once he told me in the Beethoven Quintet, “I like zat staccato”, and I have never forgotten that comment as well as many he made to me and others.
We had an occasion when the composer Carlos Chavez came to the NEC and four of us played his work, which Mr. Gillet had coached.
Chavez actually used a podium to stand on while he conducted this quartet. Gillet sat in the hall. At one point thay had a heated argument concerning the execution of a dotted eight and a sixteenth note. I thought it would turn into an international incident, for it was quite a heated dialog. M. Gillet was of course correct. There was nobody who had better time than he and he was absolutely adamant about rhythm and frankly everything upon which I insist, was gleaned directly from Fernand Gillet.
He told us about his career mentioning quite proudly that he was receiving two lifetime pensions, one eachfor playing solo oboe in the Lamoureux orchestra of Paris, and of course , the Boston Symphony.
Of course you know he never made a reed in his life. He told us this, mentioning that he would send a friend a suit or some clothing every now and again and would receive reeds in exchange.
Of course there were those who said in fact his sound suffered however I will always remember him as the definitive orchestral player.
When retiring and commenting upon the sound of Ralph Gomberg, his successor, he said, “well, he has the embouchure of a chickens ass, however he is not without talent.”
How can anyone forget that statement, that man, or that wonderful extraordinary musician
Sherman Friedland October 21, 2005


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