Barry Tuckwell, one of Australia’s greatest musicians, has died in Melbourne aged 88 from complications associated with heart disease. Tuckwell, widely revered as the greatest French horn player of the 20th century, was as well-known to classical music lovers as Joan Sutherland and Nellie Melba.
Late last year, at 88, he married for the fourth time (to literary agent Jenny Darling). Always immaculately groomed, wearing a Mephistopheles goatee and moustache which he grew to protect his lip, Tuckwell was a distinguished conductor, teacher and author. He was the brother of the late Patricia Harewood, a violinist and model who married the Earl of Harewood, first cousin to Queen Elizabeth.
Born in Melbourne in 1931, Tuckwell took up the horn at 13 after a casual conversation in a cafe, and by 15 was third horn for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, joining the Sydney Symphony the next year. In 1950, he left to forge a career in Britain and within four years was principal horn player for the London Symphony Orchestra. He was soon elected a director of the player-run orchestra, and for six years was chairman of the board.
At 36, in 1967, he resigned to try an unprecedented career as French horn soloist, touring the world and playing 200 concerts and recitals a year and making at least 50 recordings remarkable for their brilliance and breadth. Many of them – such as his 1967 account of Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the composer and Peter Pears – are still regarded as definitive today.