Aubrey Brain, French Horn
In 1936 when I was sixteen I saved up my money and went down to London to listen to the BBC Symphony Orchestra play at the old Queen’s Hall which, unfortunately, was completely destroyed in the London Blitzkrieg in WWll. It was a lovely hall, with a pool filled with goldfish and a fountain surrounded by flowers in the promenade area.The conductor was Sir Henry Wood who conducted very ably, I thought, and the orchestra was superb; it had all the most famous players of the day. Amongst them was French Horn player Aubrey Brain, father of Dennis Brain.Although many so called experts laud Dennis, quite rightly,as being one of the greatest of horn players, nobody seems to extol the virtues of Aubrey, but in fact, some of the old sweats in the orchestras who had heard them both play when they were in their prime vowed to me that Aubrey was the better of the two.That night the orchestra played Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade“, and when Aubrey played the solos in it I was enthralled, and even if I was only the tender age of sixteen I knew enough to know that here was a great artist.I didn’t see Aubrey again for some years. I was playing principal bass at Sadlers Wells Opera in 1960 and Aubrey was playing fourth horn. He told me that during the war when the blackout was enforced he was driving his car on the south coast of England and his car plunged over a sea wall and on to the beach. He seriously injured both of his legs and, too, I think it affected his playing. What a pity for someone of his calibre to end up in such a way.