OBITUARY : Terence Weil

William Waterhouse
Sunday 23 October 2011 00:49

Terence Weil was one of the best-known professional cellists in London of his generation. While spending much of his time working with the chamber orchestras that proliferated from the 1950s onwards, it was as a chamber-music player that he really excelled.

He trained as a cellist under Herbert Walenn at the Royal Academy of Music. His war service, after an initial spell with the RASC, was from 1944 to 1946 spent as a member of the best orchestra that could be mustered by the British Army: as one of the "Stars in Battle Dress" he toured the European stations of war playing and broadcasting to the troops. After demobilisation he joined the string quartet formed by the violinist Emanuel Hurwitz, a friend and colleague with whom he had already played both before and during the Second World War. He was soon working as principal cellist with chamber orchestras such as the Goldsbrough and its successor, the English Chamber Orchestra, and busy as a freelance. His subtlety of bow technique made him the most sought-after of continuo cellists, equally at home in music of all periods on a so- called "modern" cello - he played on a superb Amati, and later on a Gofriller formerly belonging to Casals.

His close association with Benjamin Britten began in 1946, when he played in the premiere of The Rape of Lucretia, at the first post-war season of Glyndebourne. He took part in one capacity or another in every one of the early Aldeburgh Festivals, playing at the premieres of the operas Albert Herring and Noye's Fludde, as well as in the War Requiem in Coventry in 1962.

However it was in chamber music that he was in his true element. A born chamber-music player, he had an instinctive feel for phrasing and ensemble that obviated the need for lengthy discussions in rehearsal. Together with the clarinettist Gervase de Peyer and the violist the late Cecil Aronowitz he had helped in 1950 to found the Melos Ensemble, planned as a group flexible enough to perform a wide repertory of pieces. It was the remarkable rapport between this pair of lower strings, which remained constant throughout a succession of distinguished leaders, that gave a special distinction to this outstanding ensemble.

In 1974 Weil was engaged by Sir John Manduell to become the first Professor of Chamber Music at the newly opened RNCM in Manchester (then the Northern College of Music). Among the student groups that he coached here were the Brodsky Quartet. In 1985, in the face of problems induced by diabetes and heavy smoking, he retired, going to live in Cadaques, on the Costa Brava, a place that had taken his fancy while playing at a festival there. The loss of one leg in 1986 was followed by that of the other some three years later. In spite of this handicap he cheerfully managed to adjust to life as a double amputee.

His long discography includes many notable recordings with the Melos Ensemble, including such classics as Schubert's Trout Quintet and Octet and the Clarinet Quintets of Mozart and Brahms. He also recorded trios and quartets by Schumann and Faur with the Pro Arte Piano Quartet and string quartets with the Cremona Quartet.

William Waterhouse

Terence Weil, cellist and teacher: born London 9 December 1921; married (one son); died Figueras, Spain 25 February 1995.

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