Pamela Weston: Clarinettist, music historian and inspirational teacher
Friday 23 October 2009
Pamela Weston, who has died aged 87, was one of the most distinguished clarinettists of her generation. Performer, teacher, editor, writer, lecturer and undoubted enthusiast: throughout the course of her long career, the breadth of her intellect made her an inspirational guide for many generations of aspiring musicians.
Born in London, the only daughter of a medical practitioner, Pamela Weston was educated at Priors Field School. Following two years at the Royal Academy of Music she won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music before studying the clarinet privately with her great hero, Frederick Thurston.
Later returning to the Guildhall as Professor of Clarinet in 1951, she stayed until 1969. Thereafter, much in demand, she established a large and popular teaching practice based at her South London home.
As a performer, like Thurston, combining a solid and stylish elegance, she became noted for her wide range of tone and particularly sensitive interpretations. Amid extensive orchestral, concerto and recital work, it was undoubtedly chamber music that became her particular métier. She was a member of the Klarion Trio, the ensemble's authoritative advocacy of new music undoubtedly adding to her already burgeoning reputation.
As a teacher, always uncompromising in her principles and demanding in her standards, nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Initially frustrated by a lack of well-edited repertoire for her pupils, in typical style she filled the gaps herself. While her early publications, technical exercises, solo pieces and duet albums, initially focussed on performers of more moderate ability, her later efforts encompassed more demanding repertoire, major works by Weber, Crusell, Mozart, Stanford and Somervell.
As a writer, a regular contributor to a wide range of music journals, she proved to be a most consummate chronicler of the clarinet's rich history and development. Her first book, Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past, published in 1971, was followed by More Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past (1977), Clarinet Virtuosi of Today (1989) and finally, Yesterday's Clarinettists: A Sequel (2002). Her sleeve notes, literate, eloquent and stylish, increasingly graced the catalogues of all the major record companies, while further distinctive examples of her art can also be found in The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In 1976, she distilled her extensive knowledge and experience into what has become a seminal text, The Clarinet Teacher's Companion.
In recent years she increasingly inhabited a much more international landscape, her scholastic credentials fniding a ready outlet as a keynote speaker at musical conferences and seminars worldwide. In 1984 she hosted the first International Clarinet Association Congress held in Britain. Sadly, the onset of myalgic en-cephalomyelitis gradually forced her to withdraw from all musical activities.
Finding life increasingly intolerable, earlier this year, she took the decision to travel to Switzerland to undertake an assisted suicide. Her final article, published after her death, now serves as a most poignant and fitting memorial to her work and achievements.
Pamela Theodora Weston, clarinettist, teacher, editor and writer: born London 17 October 1921; died Zurich, Switzerland 9 September 2009.
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