b. 1926, d. --
clarinetist; founding member, Melos Ensemble
Gervase de Peyer was born in London to parents whom both were singers. At the age of 12 he took up the clarinet at the coeducational Bedales School. A few years later the BBC came to the school and broadcasted a concert at which de Peyer played the Mozart Concerto.
Having learned the piano years before, he entered the Royal College of Music on scholarship in 1944, still a pianist at heart. After receiving his ARCM diploma there for piano, in 1946 he was drafted to Columbo in a Marine band where he played clarinet. Performing for regular radio broadcasts with a close violinist friend, he began to grow fonder of the clarinet. He was also expanding his concept of clarinet style at this time, which undoubtedly contributed to his enthusiasm. After serving in the military, he returned to his old college for two more years, winning many prizes including the Worshipful Company of Musician’s Gold Medal. While there he made several trips to Paris to study with Louis Cahuzac, and during his first year back at school, he played the Mozart Trio with William Glock and Cecil Aronowitz at the original Bryanstone Summer School, now known as the Dartington Summer School.
Having studed many years before with Frederick Thurston, his sound still resembled that of his old teacher and was easily recognizable. He soon, however, began to develop a more flexible tone, and enhanced it with a good deal of vibrato. He toured with a group called Music in Miniature, and was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble in 1950 with whom he played for 24 years. In the 1970’s he played with Peter Wallfisch and William Pleeth in a trio, for whom Kenneth Leighton, John McCabe, and Robert Simpson wrote works. He also developed a strong friendship with Joseph Horowitz with whom he went to school at the Royal College of Music. Horowitz made mention that after their meeting, all his clarinet pieces were written with de Peyer’s tone and style in mind.
Gervase premiered many pieces through his years, including pieces by Alun Hoddinott, Thea Musgrave, Berthold Goldschmidt and William Mathias, among many others. In 1968 he was invited to become the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society in New York, and during the 70’s he began trying his hand with various orchestras and ensembles as a conductor. His first recording was in 1950 with Frederick Thurston and Dennis Brain, and in more recent years he has recorded with the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Melos Ensemble, and the Amadeus Quartet with whom he was with for 30 years.
He still plays to packed halls in Europe and the States with his pianist since 1971, Gwenneth Pryor.