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Marcel Tabuteau

Everybody learned from Tabuteau-

                                 John Minsker-

                                 English Horn, Philadelphia Orchestra

                                 1936 to 1959

Marcel Tabuteau was born in Compiègne, in Picardy in the north of France on July 2, 1887.  As a youth, he began his musical studies playing the violin and later began studies on the oboe. Tabuteau played oboe in the local band, and in about 1900, gained admission to the Paris Conservatoire.  He studied under the legendary oboist Georges Gillet (1854-1920).  Marcel Tabuteau won the Premier prix for oboe at the Paris Conservatoire in 1904 Concour.  He was Principal oboe of the New York Symphony 1906-1908.  Marcel Tabuteau then became Principal oboe of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra under Toscanini beginning in the 1908-1909 season.  Tabuteau was Principal oboe of the Metropolitan Opera for seven seasons, 1908-1915.  Marcel Tabuteau joined the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski in the 1915-1916 season. Tabuteau's knowledge of the violin and string playing, bowing and phrasing, carried over into his ideas about oboe and woodwind technique. His aim was to create woodwind playing that was as expressive as the finest string playing and singing.  

​Handel Oboe Concerto in G Mvt 1
Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormand​y

​Handel Oboe Concerto in G Mvt 2
Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormand​y

​Handel Oboe Concerto in G Mvt 3
Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormand​y

​Handel Oboe Concerto in G Mvt 4
Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormand​y

Much has been written about Marcel Tabuteau’s way of performing and teaching. Three books, in particular, “Marcel Tabuteau” by Liala Storch, “Note Grouping” by James Morgan Thurmond, and “Sound In Motion” by David McGill are beautifully written and informative books that cover Tabuteau's life and teaching. There are two CD’s, as well, that are a series of lessons in Tabuteau’s own words on CD, through Boston Records and the CD that is included with the book by Laila Storch. These books and CD’s are so complete in their information that little more needs to be said here except for a short overview and some personal observations on how Tabuteau’s ideas can be of enormous musical value if one applies what is said and unsaid. I urge anyone who is truly interested in making music, “from the heart”, to know this material.


Tabuteau began his musical training on the violin, just as Richard Muelfeld had a generation earlier. 

As a result of his early training on a string instrument, Tabuteau heard and understood the sounds that were being made by the great European violinists and singers of his day. Sounds that were filled with all the colors that the strings can produce through “distribution” of the bow (wind), all the different speeds of vibrato and of the bow as well as portimento. Listen to Ysaye, Kreisler, Elman (young), Sarasate, Thibaud. If you make a little study of listening to these old, great, string players you will get an idea of the sounds and phrasing that Tabuteau was familiar with and what he wished to produce on his instrument, the oboe. Tabuteau was so respected as an all around musician at Curtis, that he was entrusted with conducting string classes and string orchestra.

His understanding of sound and phrasing led him to discover new ways to produce musical effects on the oboe and any other wind instrument.


There is much to be discovered through a study of the material that has been passed down to us. The key is to have the freedom to listen and experiment with ideas and the sounds we hear. We will know what we have achieved when our playing sounds right, feels right and gives the impression of ease and a singing quality.



Marcel Tabuteau

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