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December 13, 2006 at 1:38 am #88386Delmar WilliamsParticipant
Thanks to Merrill Greenberg for alerting me to this one.
Ralph Gomberg, 85, Oboist With the Boston Symphony, Dies
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: December 12, 2006
Ralph Gomberg, the former principal oboist who held sway at the Boston Symphony while his brother Harold did the same, on the same instrument, at the New York Philharmonic, died on Saturday. He was 85 and lived in Concord, Mass.
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His death, at a hospice in Whelan, Mass., resulted from primary lateral sclerosis, a rare neuromuscular disease similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, said his wife, Sydelle Gomberg.
Mr. Gomberg joined the Boston Symphony in 1950 and held the principal chair for 37 years, until his retirement. For much of that time, his brother Harold had the same job with the New York Philharmonic.
They were part of a remarkably talented group of seven siblings. One brother was a violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra; another played principal trumpet for Leonard Bernstein’s New York City Center Symphony; a sister was a violin soloist; and another sister played cello.
“It was a question of who would get what room to practice in,” Ralph Gomberg told BSO, the orchestra’s newsletter, on his retirement. “Being the youngest, I got the bathroom. It gradually dawned on my mother that some of us were pretty talented.”
The family moved from Boston to Philadelphia so that Robert, the violinist, could study at the Curtis Institute of Music. Harold began studying oboe with Marcel Tabuteau, a legendary oboe teacher. “When it came time for Ralph, they decided he could study with Harold in the beginning to save money,” Ms. Gomberg said.
Ralph began studying with Mr. Tabuteau at 14 and was said to be one of his youngest pupils ever. “He opened my eyes to what music was all about,” he said of his teacher. Five Gombergs eventually graduated from Curtis.
All Mr. Gomberg’s siblings predeceased him. In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children, Stephanie Chiha of Concord; Jamie Balint of Hudson, N.H.; David Gomberg of Framingham, Mass; Debra Diamond of Mansfield, Mass.; and seven grandchildren.
Of the two fraternal kings of the oboe, Ralph was said to have a heavier sound than Harold. Doriot Anthony Dwyer, who sat next to Mr. Gomberg for 35 years as principal flutist in Boston, said she eventually acquired a platinum flute, which has a weightier tone, to match him.
“He’d always lean over and say, ‘You’re a little aggressive today, Doriot,’ ” Ms. Dwyer recalled. “He was warning me that if I kept it up he was going to play louder than me yet.”
Seiji Ozawa, a former music director of the Boston Symphony, noted the imaginative playing of both the flutist and oboist. “Ralph had a kind of crazy fantasy,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1993. “They were very dangerous but very interesting.”
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