Obituaries : Leading Oboist Leon Goossens, 90

From Times Wire Services

Leon Goossens, considered one of the most gifted oboists of this century whose talent attracted such composers as Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc and Sir Edward Elgar, has died.

His family announced that he died Friday in a hospital in the southern English town of Tunbridge Wells. He was 90.

Born in Liverpool, Goossens started playing the oboe professionally at the age of 10 with the Liverpool Orchestra for 22 cents a night, an extra 9 cents if he also doubled on the English horn. He then joined the London Symphony Orchestra on tour when he was only 16.


He went on to become the principal oboist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, promoting the instrument to the solo ranks.

He left the orchestra to pursue a career as a soloist but found few works written for his instrument. He persuaded many of Britain’s leading composers to write for him, but even that successful effort still left him without sufficient income so he began playing popular music at such clubs as London’s Kit Kat.

In 1962, when Goossens was still at the height of his career, he was injured in a car accident and his mouth was severely damaged. Surgeons put 160 stitches inside his mouth in an effort to repair his lips.

Although he was deprived of all feeling in his lower lip, Goossens--after two years of therapy and at age 66--once again became among the foremost oboists of his time.