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John Mack, 78; Oboist Had a Long Career as a Performer and Teacher

July 29, 2006|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Mack, 78, the longtime principal oboist with the Cleveland Orchestra who was regarded as the dean of American oboists for several decades, died Sunday at a Cleveland hospital of complications from brain cancer.

Mack became the principal oboist in Cleveland in 1965. He toured and recorded with the orchestra under a series of demanding conductors, including George Szell, Lorin Maazel and Christoph von Dohnanyi. He retired in 1981 because of failing health.

Mack was born in Somerville, N.J., where his father was a Presbyterian minister. He played violin and piano before switching to oboe in the sixth grade.

After graduating from the Juilliard School in New York and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Mack was first oboist with the New Orleans Symphony for 11 years, followed by a four-year stint with the National Symphony in Washington. He was recruited for the Cleveland Orchestra by Szell.

"A lot of people didn't like working with him because he was tough," Mack had said of Szell. "I loved him. As demanding as he was, it seemed to me always for the sake of the music. It was never for self-aggrandizement."

As a teacher, Mack gave master classes throughout the country. In 1976, he started a long-running oboe camp in Little Switzerland, N.C., from which many students went on to careers with major U.S. orchestras.

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