Barry Tuckwell AC OBE, the horn player, conductor, teacher and author, has died at the age of 88.
He was born on 5 March 1931 in Melbourne to Charles Tuckwell, an organist, and his wife Elizabeth. The young Tuckwell played the piano, violin and organ growing up. When his family relocated to Sydney, he sang with the choir at St Andrew’s Cathedral School where he also served as an organist.
Tuckwell began playing the French horn at the age of 13, studying with Alan Mann at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He made rapid progress – at just 15, he became third horn with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. A year later he joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as principal horn. During his three-and-a-half-year stint with the SSO, Tuckwell played every major horn concerto in the standard repertoire.
Tuckwell moved to London in 1950, becoming Assistant First Horn with the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli in 1951. He became principal horn of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1955 and continued there for 13 years. During this period that Tuckwell became an internationally recognised soloist and recording artist. In 1968 he resigned from the LSO in 1968 to pursue a career as a soloist and conductor. This led to him moving between the UK and US over the subsequent three decades.
Many composers wrote works for him, including Oliver Knussen and Richard Rodney Bennett. In 1980, he returned to Australia to take up the position of Chief Conductor of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. This one-year appointment was eventually extended to four.
Tuckwell taught at London’s Royal Academy of Music for a decade and was made a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. He authored several important texts that were taught in institutions and was first president of the International Horn Society from 1970 to 1976 and again from 1992 to 1994. He helped found the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in 1982 and established the International Horn Society’s Barry Tuckwell Scholarship in 1997.
His accolades include a University of Sydney honorary doctorate, the JC Williamson Award for performing excellence and the Bernard Heinze Award for outstanding contribution to music in Australia. He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia and Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Thrice Grammy-nominated, Tuckwell leaves behind over 50 recordings and is recognised as the world’s most-recorded horn player.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra said they were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Barry Tuckwell, fondly remembered by TSO alumni and longstanding audience members. “Barry had a unique wit, describing the French Horn in 1979 as ’21 feet of coiled brass, valves, crooks, sockets, slides, keys – in short, booby traps’,” said Samuel Cairnduff, TSO Director Marketing and Communication. “We join the community of orchestras around the world in sending our condolences to his wife Jenny, and children David, Jane and Tom.”