Tuckwell takes final bow

November 18, 1996


Staff Writer

Maestro Barry Tuckwell played the instrument he loves with the symphony orchestra he founded and directs in its historic home, the Maryland Theatre, for the last time Sunday.

Tuckwell, a master of the French horn, is capping an extraordinary 50-year performance career with a farewell tour that began in June in Dallas, Texas, and has included concerts in Dublin, Switzerland, London, Helsinki and, this past weekend, in Hagerstown with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

The final leg of that final tour will take Tuckwell to South Africa next week, then Fairfax, Va., and finally Baltimore for his last public solo performances Jan. 23, 24 and 25 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.


Tuckwell originally had envisioned ending his solo career here in March with a major fund-raiser for the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. But those plans fell through when some members of the MSO's board withdrew support for the idea, he said last July after announcing his resignation as music director at the end of the 1997-98 concert season.

He is the founding conductor of the 15-year-old orchestra.

Tuckwell denied feeling especially sentimental after Sunday's performance of Mozart's "Horn Concerto in E-flat Major."

"To me it was just the next concert," Tuckwell said as audience members and musicians lined up to shake his hand backstage. "I was just as nervous as I am before every concert."

Tuckwell said of his upcoming last performance in Baltimore, "I want to enjoy it."

MSO trumpet player Robert W. Grab said he felt "nostalgic" about playing with Tuckwell for the last time.

"I think he sounded great. I think he's in the top of his form. I think it's a real celebration that he's ending in the top of his form," MSO Principal Cellist Denise Setny said.

About 1,000 people attended Sunday's MSO concert and about 1,150 were on hand for Saturday night's performance, MSO Managing Director Marc D. Levy said. The Maryland Theatre holds about 1,300.

Tuckwell, 65, said he started playing the French horn in his native Australia when he was 13.

"It chose me. I was handed it one day and told try this," he said.

The convoluted brass horn has 199 inches of shiny coils, valves, crooks, slides and keys, according to a description in Sunday's MSO program.

Tuckwell did double duty during the Mozart concerto immediately before the intermission, conducting with his right hand while holding the French horn at his side in his left hand in between playing from memory the French horn parts.

When the concerto ended, Tuckwell received a standing ovation and two bouquets of flowers - one from the MSO board and guild and one from the orchestra.

"I'll play you one more piece," he told the audience and launched into the English folk song "Blow the Wind Southerly."

Then he took a final bow.

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