harold gomberg revisited

17 03 2007

Engelbert Brenner and Harold GombergFor over 30 years (1943 to 1977), Harold Gomberg sat in the principal oboe chair of the New York Philharmonic. For my generation of oboists, he was the standard. A New York Times article written in 1977 stated;

“Part of the Gomberg legend is in his instrumental expertise. He can produce a fatter tone than any of his colleagues, or a thinner one when he wants to; or he can make his oboe sound like an English horn, a clarinet, a saxophone. His breath control indicates that he was born with a bellows in his chest rather than lungs. His rhythm is infallible, he never makes a false entry, he has the entire repertory at his disposal.

That is part of the Gomberg legend. The other is his reputation as a musician who eats conductors for breakfast. “Who, me?” says the stocky Gomberg demurely, looking innocent. Never Harold Gomberg. Except from the green rooms of concert halls throughout the world come stories of the incorrigible Mr. Gomberg, who has never hesitated to tell man or devil what he thinks. He has told conductors to pack it in. “I can’t play it this way!” And he won’t. To one conductor who tried to correct him: “If you think you can play it better play it yourself!” To another, who has a reputation as a cold fish, Gomberg said good-bye at the end of the season with a parting injunction: “I hope you meet Venus during the summer.” Conductors put up with this. They have to. There are many conductors, but there is only one Harold Gomberg.”

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

Mr. Gomberg was also a painter, and his works were exhibited publicly for over 30 years. After he retired from the orchestra, the Gombergs moved to Italy, where he died in 1985. He sent a hand-painted card to Mr. Brenner from Italy one year – It is now one of my rare treasures. Enjoy!


Gomberg Art




6 responses

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

[…] CDs of Bernstein/New 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 […]

21 03 2011
Bob Hubbard

Hi, David –

I’ve enjoyed your blog for some years – first found it by way of Patty Mitchell’s oboeinsight – and have enjoyed your coffee insights as well. What is it about musicians and food?

I came across this blog entry today while trying to locate a discography for Harold Gomberg.

Like you said, Harold Gomberg shaped much of my idea of oboe playing. I was looking today to find a reference to a recording of his chamber works which I used to own 50 years ago but can’t find anymore. It opens with the Telemann e minor sonata. It’s not the ‘The Baroque Oboe’ album, but I’d swear it had the same or a very similar name.

Any ideas about that or a complete discography I’d sure like to hear from you.


– Bob Hubbard

29 05 2011
Merrill Greenberg

David Hi… My name is Merrill Greenberg. For the last 38 years I have been the English Horn player of the Israel Philharmonic. I was a student of Harold from 1969- 1973 at Juillard. I had the additional honor of knowing Bert and I even had a few lessons with him. Both of those men were major influences on my life as well. I thank you for your tributes to them. I salute you!!

9 01 2012
Bruce Weinstein

Having studied with both Gomberg brothers I can tell you that they were unique in the world of oboe and music. I’m happy to see this and other sites keeping their memory alive today. Bruce Weinstein principal oboe Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

1 09 2016
Anthony Ricci

Hi David,
I found your blog about Harold. I met him in Perugia, Italy, on November 19, 1978. We became friends, had espresso together, strolled along Corso Vannucci, and listened to his recordings during dinner at his home. His wife, Margaret, loved her canary and his daughter, Andrea, loved her little dog. Andrea is a painter and, I believe, lived in Rome and/or Capri. I have been trying to contact her for years. Do you have any knowledge of Andrea? Perhaps one of your followers has some information. I will be returning to Rome in the fall and would like to see her again. Thank you.

1 09 2016
David Mankin


I do not have any knowledge of Mr. Gomberg’s family at this point. Hopefully someone will see this and let us know if they have any information. My best,

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