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Clarinettist

Jack Brymer : 1915 - 2003

John (Jack) Alexander Brymer OBE (27 January 1915 – 15 September 2003), was a British clarinettist, born in South Shields. The son of a builder, Jack Brymer started his working life as teacher. In 1947, on the recommendation of professional musicians who had played with Brymer during wartime military service, Sir Thomas Beecham invited him to audition as principal clarinetist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to succeed Reginald Kell. Brymer held the post until 1963 and, together with Gwydion Brooke (bassoon), Gerald Jackson (flute) and Terence MacDonagh (oboe), became part of the celebrated "Royal Family" of principal woodwind players with the RPO.[1] When he left the RPO, he become a co-principal in the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1963-1971) and principal in the London Symphony Orchestra (1971-1986).

Brymer made a number of commercial recordings, including three of Mozart's clarinet concerto. He founded and led the London Wind Soloists with whom he recorded the complete set of Mozart's music for wind bands. He also made some recordings on other instruments, such as the saxophone.

He played many concertos and solo pieces with orchestra, including the concertos by Weber and Gerald Finzi (which he never recorded commercially), and also chamber music including the quintets by Mozart and Brahms, though he did not make recordings of all his repertoire. Some recordings may exist of broadcast performances which were not issued on commercial labels. He also played in many different ensembles, and recorded music by Graham Fitkin with the John Harle Band, as well as on the Beatles track A Day in the Life. He learned everything he knew about the Saxophone by having to play it next to Walter Lear (the doyenne of Classical Saxophone of those days), who supplied him with a mouthpiece for the Alto Saxophone (which he played for the rest of his life).

He was an important session musician. He played Bass Clarinet on the sound-tracks of the Hammer horror movies featuring actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. He took over leadership of the London Saxophone Quartet after the death of its founder Michael Krein, playing Soprano Saxophone (which he considered the most 'Classical' of the Saxophone family).

During his military service in the RAF, he was a Fitness Instructor and Unarmed Combat Instructor. His extreme fitness may have contributed significantly to his exceptional tone-quality. He was virtually alone in being the complete master of both the 'Classical' and the Jazz styles. He could play Benny Goodman's style almost indistinguishably from Benny Goodman himself. He was a personal friend of Benny Goodman. In earlier years, he played Saxophone and Clarinet in Dance Bands.

A significant feature of his style of playing was his use of vibrato, and he is considered to be one of the first clarinet players to use this systematically. Brymer taught music worldwide and was a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Military School of Music.

He was appointed an Officer (OBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 1960. Alan Paul and Guy Woolfenden both wrote concertos for him, and Armstrong Gibbs wrote a clarinet quintet.

He wrote several books, including From where I sit (1979), and In the orchestra, (1987). He was also well known for a long while as a presenter of radio programmes. He was president of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain.


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