This morning the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) announced with sadness the death of Principal Oboist William Bennett. Bennett was hospitalized this past Saturday, February 23, when he collapsed on stage during his performance as soloist in Richard Strauss’ oboe concerto. He was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage from which he did not recover.
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas released the following statement:
I am heartbroken by the tragic death of Bill Bennett, which has left a terrible, sad emptiness in the hearts of the whole San Francisco Symphony family. Bill was a great artist, an original thinker, and a wonderful man. He was very generous with his attention and affection for his friends, colleagues, students, and audience members. We all experienced his sunny enthusiasm for music and life. I am saddened to have lost such a true friend.
SFS Executive Director added the following:
How fortunate we all were that Bill Bennett was our Principal Oboe. His artistry transported us. He touched audiences around the world with his music and the warmth of his personality. We are all stunned at his sudden passing. His legacy will continue to be felt through his countless students and in the performances of the San Francisco Symphony for many years to come. While all of us here, the musicians, board and staff of the San Francisco Symphony, grieve with the entire Bay Area community, we also extend our love and support to Bill’s family.
To this I can only add that Bennett was one of the great delights of attending SFS concerts. He solo work, even when not featured in a concerto, involved a broad spectrum of the symphonic repertoire; and he always found the right “voice” to perform any composer he encountered, past or present. He also played a key role in maintaining just the right level of blend both within the wind section and between the winds and the rest of the orchestra. My only regret is that I never had an opportunity to see him teach.
The entire SFS family offers their deep condolences to the Bennett family. Condolences may be mailed to SFS on behalf of the Bennett family at 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California 94102. Messages may be posted directly to a memorial page maintained by Caring Bridge.