The great English clarinettist, conductor and founding member of the Melos Ensemble, has passed away aged 90.

Gervase de Peyer, one of the great clarinettists of the modern age, has died at the age of 90. A founder of ensembles, a respected teacher and a prolific recording artist, he premiered works by many contemporary composers and leaves a rich discography.

Born in London in 1926, De Peyer studied with Frederick Thurston at the Royal College of Music and with Louis Cahuzac in Paris. A founding member of the Melos Ensemble, with which he played from 1950 to 1974, he was first clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1955 to 1972. He also played with the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center in New York from 1969 to 1980.

Fellow clarinettist Pamela Weston described de Peyer’s playing: “His style is suave and confident, and incorporates a judicial use of vibrato, enhancing a warmth of tone inherited from the Draper/Thurston school of playing.”

De Peyer gave the premiere performances of concertos by Arnold Cooke, Sebastian Forbes, Alun Hoddinott, Joseph Horovitz, Thea Musgrave, Elizabeth Maconchy, William Mathias and Edwin Roxburgh and made numerous award-winning recordings with labels such as Decca, L’Oiseau-Lyre and EMI.

As a conductor, De Peyer conducted the English Chamber Opera, the LSO and the Melos Sinfonia. He was also associate conductor of the Haydn Orchestra.

“He was revered as one of the most beautiful musical players of the instrument, and maintained a busy career as a soloist and chamber musician alongside his LSO job,” the LSO wrote in a statement on their Facebook Page. “He will be very much missed and fondly remembered by colleagues from around the world.”