Myron Bloom, Revered French Horn Player, Is Dead at 93

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Myron Bloom, one of the most distinguished French horn players of his generation and a force in molding the sound of the Cleveland Orchestra during its golden age under the demanding conductor George Szell, died on Thursday in Bloomington, Ind. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Susan Moses Bloom.

Mr. Bloom was horn royalty. As Szell’s principal horn in Cleveland for more than two decades, he appeared on many of the orchestra’s celebrated recordings, and was the soloist in its classic account of the Horn Concerto No. 1 by Richard Strauss. He later became principal horn of the Orchestre de Paris under the conductor Daniel Barenboim, and an influential teacher.

The Boston Globe called him “easily the most varied, resourceful and artistic horn player before the public now” after the Cleveland Orchestra’s 1964 performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall.

He did not start out wanting to play the horn, though. He initially wanted to be a cellist — but World War II changed his plans.

Mr. Bloom was born on April 18, 1926, in Cleveland, to Benjamin Bloom, a lawyer, and Emma (Elliott) Bloom, a homemaker. He said the idea of becoming a musician had taken root when his parents had made him attend a concert by the cellist Emanuel Feuermann.

“I walked into that concert not knowing anything about music and not giving a damn about it,” he told Sarah Willis, a horn player with the Berlin Philharmonic, in 2012 when she spoke with him for one of her online “Horn Hangouts” interviews. “And I walked out of that concert at the age of 12 and I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

He started learning the cello. But then came the war, and he entered the military.

His parents told him to learn the horn so he could join a military band to avoid being sent to the front. He did, and he spent the war playing in a Navy band in Illinois. His wife said he would later joke that “playing the French horn saved his life.”

After the war he attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, but he left after two years when he won an audition as the principal horn in the New Orleans Symphony, which he joined in 1949. He moved on to the Cleveland Orchestra in 1954 and was appointed principal there soon afterward when the Chicago Symphony tried to poach him.

In his history of the ensemble, “The Cleveland Orchestra Story,” the critic Donald Rosenberg wrote that Mr. Bloom was “a hornist of unusual daring, producing a large sound and employing a pulsating vibrato to bring expressive intensity to lyrical lines.”

Szell was known for being demanding, to the point of being despotic. But even though Szell could sometimes be tough on him, Mr. Bloom in the 2012 interview called him “the biggest hero of my life,” adding, “He got the reputation of being difficult not because he was a tyrannical, impossible person, but for one reason only: The music came first.”

Mr. Bloom may have been the principal horn, he said, but “George Szell ran the horn section.” He recalled once asking a colleague in his section to take care with a particular passage, only to be told, “I don’t take orders from you — I take orders from Szell.”

Mr. Bloom was also a regular at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he played from the 1950s through the 1980s. He made an acclaimed recording of Brahms’s Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano at Marlboro with the violinist Michael Tree and the pianist Rudolf Serkin.

When Lorin Maazel succeeded Szell in Cleveland, Mr. Bloom was unhappy, Mr. Rosenberg wrote, objecting to Mr. Maazel’s idiosyncratic ways of making music and to his penchant for calling him by his first name. (“Mr. Bloom to you,” he was quoted as telling his new maestro.)

So, at Mr. Barenboim’s invitation, he left Cleveland in 1977 for the Orchestre de Paris, where he played until 1985. That year he became a professor at Indiana University’s music conservatory, now called the Jacobs School of Music, where he often told his students to “play between the notes.” His horn students have gone on to win positions with great orchestras around the world.

He also taught at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Institute of Music, among other institutions.

One of his former students, Matthew VanBesien, a horn player who later became president of the New York Philharmonic, said Mr. Bloom was “old school, tough and demanding, and would regularly push each of us to our limits physically and emotionally.” But Mr. VanBesien, who is now president of the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, said that at heart he always pushed his students “to better serve the music.”

Mr. Bloom’s marriages to Josephine Lopez and Julie Hamilton ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, Susan, his survivors include his stepsons Bill Williams and David Amoyal, and a granddaughter.

Although he became known as one of the nation’s great horn players, Mr. Bloom never lost his fondness for the cello. He met Susan Moses, whom he would marry, when he sought her out to take cello lessons in 1994.

“The cello,” Mrs. Bloom said, “was his love.”


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