Obituary: George Goslee

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Home Forums Announcements Double Reeds in the News Obituary: George Goslee

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    Paul Barrett


    George Goslee, 89, principal bassoon in Cleveland Orchestra, music teacher
    Sunday, October 22, 2006
    Donald Rosenberg
    Plain Dealer Reporter
    Chagrin Falls- George Goslee, who played principal bassoon in the Cleveland Orchestra under four music directors, died Thursday at age 89. He had suffered a stroke Oct. 14.

    A musician of enormous sophistication and tonal beauty, Goslee was appointed principal bassoon of the orchestra in 1943 by Erich Leinsdorf, who was just about to arrive as the ensemble’s boss. After two seasons, Goslee left to become principal bassoon of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    He was lured back to Cleveland in 1946 by George Szell, who had admired Goslee’s playing while making his debut as a guest conductor in 1944. Szell stipulated in his first contract as musical director that Goslee and several other players be invited to return to the Cleveland Orchestra.

    Goslee served as principal bassoon throughout the Szell era. His elegant artistry can be heard on dozens of revered Szell recordings, including all of the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. Goslee went on to play under music directors Lorin Maazel and Christoph von Dohnanyi.

    “He was really a consummate musician in a very refined way, as well as having this gorgeous sound,” said Ronald Phillips, a Goslee student who played in the orchestra’s bassoon section for four decades. “He got on well with Szell, which was wonderful to see. Szell could be so darned cantankerous. George was really a giant in a very quiet way.”

    Goslee was born on Dec. 31, 1916, in Celina, Ohio, and moved to Cleveland as a child. He began playing the bassoon at the age of 12 and studied with Charles Kayser, a member of the Cleveland Orchestra. While attending the Eastman School of Music, Goslee played in the Rochester Philharmonic and the Rochester Civic Orchestra.

    Upon graduation from Eastman in 1939, he went to New York to play with the National Orchestral Association. He performed with the NBC Summer Symphony and served as principal bassoon of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for two seasons before moving to Cleveland in 1943.

    Phillip Austin, the Cleveland Orchestra’s second bassoon, sat next to him from 1981 until Goslee retired in 1988.

    “What a legend,” Austin said. “George was always prepared, always early, always knew his part and never really complained.”

    Goslee also was esteemed as a teacher. In 1962, he was appointed chairman of bassoon studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and he served on the faculty of the Blossom Festival School from its inception in 1968. He appeared many times as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the last time in July 1988, a month before his retirement.

    When not playing or teaching, Goslee enjoyed boating, fishing and reading. He was an avid photographer whose work was exhibited in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s May Show, at which he won an honorable mention in 1958, and in special exhibits in Severance Hall.

    Goslee even pursued this hobby during rehearsals under Szell, with whom he had a warm relationship.

    “He somehow got away with taking photographs from the center of the orchestra,” said his wife, Nancy.

    But his greatest satisfaction, she said, was musical: “Nothing made George happier than Mozart with Szell.”

    To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

    drosenberg@plaind.com; 216-999-4269.

    George Goslee


    Survivors: wife, Nancy; son, George Jr. of San Francisco; daughters, Kimberly Kaye of Dallas, Noelle Goslee Smith of Grand Junction, Colo., and Sarah Goslee Reed of Mount Vernon, Ohio; and seven grandchildren.

    Services: Private services were held.

    Contributions: Arthritis Foundation, 4630 Richmond Road, Suite 240, Cleveland 44128.

    Arrangements: Stroud-Lawrence Funeral Home in Chagrin Falls.

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