Engelbert Brenner (1904-1986); My Mentor

4 07 2006

In 1974, I had the great fortune to meet Engelbert Brenner, the recently retired oboist & English hornist of the New York Philharmonic. He became my teacher & friend. More than 20 years after his death, I still find inspiration from his words and music.

Engelbert BrennerMr. Brenner was an oboist and English horn player in the New York Philharmonic for 42 years – from Toscanini to Boulez. Brenner moved to New York City in 1908, and attended the High School for the Performing Arts. He played saxophone with the Keats Boy’s Band, where he was handed an oboe to try. He played on ocean liners and show orchestras, even playing the grand opening of New York’s famed Roxy Theater.

Brenner returned to Vienna to study oboe. His parents, sensing the direction of the political climate of the German/Austrian governments, called Engelbert back to the States, claiming his mother was on her death bed. It was, in fact, a trick to get him back home – Brenner was half Jewish, and would have perhaps not “weathered the storm” in Europe. (his mother was apparently on the pier, waving enthusiastically to welcome her son back to NYC safely).

While on tour in New York, the Cleveland Orchestra performed both the Franck and La Mer on the same concert. Someone heard Brenner’s playing, found him backstage, and suggested he take a train down to Philadelphia the next day. Maestro Toscanini would be interested in hearing him play. Brenner played for Toscanini in a hotel room, and was offered a contract with the New York Philharmonic.

Despite auditioning on English horn, Mr. Brenner played 2nd oboe for many years – Michel Nazzi stayed as the orchestra’s E.H. player until the late 50s (or early 60s). He became the orchestra’s permanent E.H. player after Mr. Nazzi retired. During this period, the NYPO recorded continuously. Nearly all of the Bernstein NYPO recordings have Brenner on the English horn.

Engelbert Brenner retired from the NYPO in 1972. He continued to play in semi-professional ensembles in New Jersey until his death in 1986.

To me, Engelbert Brenner was an oboe teacher, a role model, and a friend. With a musical career that stretched over more than 50 years, perhaps many of you have fond memories or stories about Mr. Brenner.

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24 responses

4 07 2006
Mary

Hi Dave…Welcome to the world of blogging. Looking forward to reading your thoughts. Mare

17 07 2006
Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad » a rare oboe gouging machine

[…] When Engelbert Brenner passed away in 1986, his family made me the recipient of his entire “musical estate”. I own and cherish Mr Brenner’s Loree oboe & English horn which he played daily in the New York Philharmonic. These instruments are probably about 50 years old, but still play beautifully – especially the English horn. It is truly magical. […]

10 08 2006
Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad » a unique oboe reed knife

[…] Here’s another rare and unique piece of oboe reed-making equipment that I inherited from Engelbert Brenner when he passed away in 1986. It is a reed knife that has a discarded oboe top joint as its handle. I do not know who made this for him, and in my recollection of oboe lessons gone-by, I don’t think I ever remember him using it. I do, however, clearly remember seeing this knife among the multitude of tools he used, and always thought it was cool! Click here to see a unique oboe gouging machine, and here to read about Engelbert Brenner. […]

17 03 2007
harold gomberg revisited « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] was Gomberg’s artistry, along with his colleague Engelbert Brenner that formulated my idea of what an oboe was and how it should […]

24 04 2007
oboe shapers everywhere! « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] Opera Orchestra) learned how to fashion shaper tips. This is how I acquired my first shaper. Engelbert Brenner loaned me a backup shaper tip to send to Bhosys. The resulting copy was a decent shaper which I […]

7 05 2007
Chris Brenner

David,

Chris Brenner here, (Bert’s Grandson) Thanks for posting such a great site, and keeping his memory alive via music. Your notes about the reed making tools are linked to the old roll top desk from his “3rd floor” studio in NJ, which now proudly sits in my living room, complete with the slide-out panel, deeply worn out from all the gouging. It’s a great connection to him that I share with my kids!

CB

8 07 2007
cjwrightoboe

Hi Mr. Mankin, could you tell me what kind of EH Mr. Brenner played on and the serial number? I’m just curious. Thank you!

9 07 2007
David Mankin

Cooper,

Brenner’s English horn is a Loree – BE series. Except for no left F & 3rd octave key, it’s a very ‘modern’ instrument. It plays like no other EH I have ever come across. It is beyond even, top to bottom, and does not ask for wacky fingerings – pure fingerings right off an oboe fingering chart. The sound is huge & focused. It is the Rolls Royce of English horns. I’ll try to email you a sound file later.

David

1 10 2007
casimer’s machine « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] oboe cane was not compatible with my unique style of reed making. The gouge used by my mentor, Engelbert Brenner was significantly thicker than anything commercially available. Brenner suggested I get my own […]

2 11 2007
paul hindemith - oboe sonata « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] hindemith – oboe sonata 2 11 2007 Among the many musical treasures left to me by Engelbert Brenner, I have a wall in my music studio lined with autographed photos of famous musicians, conductors […]

30 12 2007
famous oboists sell stuff! « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] for oboists to do, apparently. Check out this magazine ad that was sent to me by the late oboist Engelbert Brenner’s grandson. […]

2 01 2008
oboe and english horn reed cases - heckel style « Oboerista - thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] the little tab on the mandrel’s base. I have several of these older cases, left to me by Engelbert Brenner. The above picture shows 3 of his Heckel reed cases, and a more modern rendition (wooden) which […]

16 05 2008
C. Crow

You probably have seen this but your readers might like to follow this link for a film of the Vivaldi group concerto conducted by Leonard Bernstein that includes your teacher playing the bass oboe. Best wishes!

7 04 2009
Mark Heter

I had the privilege of working with Bert on the Asbury Park Concert Band – he was “recruited” to the band after his retirement from the Philharmonic.

We played lots of transcriptions – overtures, etc. Whenever there was an oboe solo we all received a master class in the proper interpretation of the piece – whatever it was.

Bert used to send me his students to play in my band. They all adored him – and they all seemed to have been instilled with that beautiful full tone of his.

Nice to find this site! It brings back fond memories.

7 04 2009
David Mankin

Mark,

How very nice to get your note regarding my dear friend & mentor Engelbert Brenner. I was, in fact, one of those students that played for you back in the late ’70s . I grew up in Lakewood & played for you and Frank Bryant (is that the right name?) at the various pavilions along the Jersey shore! Wasn’t it “Mark Heter’s Thundering Brass”? I left NJ in 1976 for the New England Conservatory, and took the position of principal oboe in the Wash. DC Navy Band. I continued to study with Mr. Brenner until he became very ill in the mid ’80s. I was honored by his family to play at his funeral in 1986, and inherited his musical estate – including his magnificent instruments.

My very best,

David Mankin

14 11 2009
Gary Press

I had the pleasure and honor to study with Mr. Brenner at Kean University from 1973 – 1978. He and I also performed several times together with the Suburban Symphony Orchestra, Cranbury, NJ. I have fond memories of his third floor studio and trying to keep up with him as he puffed on those huge cigars in my early days studying with him.
I still own and perform on the Gordet oboe that he and I picked out from Ben Storch. I perform mainly with wind ensembles and pit orchestras today, but as I play, or prepare a reed, his words and anecdotes still ring in my ear.

12 05 2010
toscanini rarities « Oboerista – thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] 2010 From 1926 to 1936, Arturo Toscanini was at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.  In 1931, Englebert Brenner became the 2nd oboist of that orchestra.  Toscanini was fiery and feared, yet revered as the best […]

23 11 2010
Therese DeMouy

David,

My daughter just bought an oboe and English horn on eBay. Labels on the double instrument case and reed case have the name “Mrs. Joel Rome” and an address in Natick, MA.

The oboe is a Loree, and the EH is a Chauvet. We were told by the seller that they were sold in an estate sale, and that the original owner was an oboe/EH player in the NY Philharmonic for many years. The EH is supposedly 1941 vintage. Both instruments suffer from disuse, need a bit of work, but my daughter did play the EH in All-State band last weekend and it was fine.

Do you have any idea who the original owner might be? I searched the NYP website for oboe/EH players of that time period, and came up with Mr. Brenner’s name, but obviously, you have his oboe and EH.

Thanks!

19 12 2010
Bernstein Symphony Recordings Resurface « Oboerista – thoughts from an oboist / coffeeist / dad

[…] York Philharmonic recordings.  As an oboist who grew up in the New York area, Harold Gomberg and Engelbert Brenner’s sound and playing styles were my earliest memories of the instruments, and are still the gold […]

9 06 2012
Larry Valetutto

Engelbert Brenner was my neighbor. I lived across the street and had the pleasure to hear him practice constantly. When he was not practicing he was giving lessons or entertaining musical celebrities such as Leonard Bernstein. He was a kind and compassionate man that introduced me to music at a very young age. In fact he assisted me in getting a Bach Stradivarius Mt. Vernon trumpet from lead trumpeter in NY Philharmonic that I still have today. I will never forget him and will always appreciate what he did for me.

17 08 2012
Bird Jensen

Engelbert Brenner was my grandfather. I would very much appreciate getting some photocopies or copies of any photos you may have. Thank you.

18 08 2012
Larry Valetutto

unfortunately while I was out to college in texas my father’s house on east highland caught on fire and I lost everything I had except what I had with me and in the garage. The only images I have are what’s imprinted in my brain. You may want to reach out to Sue and see if she has something you have not seen. Ps. one of those images includes smoking his cigars.

5 06 2013
Charles Ghisalberti

Bless you for your vitality and courage in the face of such trials.

18 06 2013
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