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George Russell Hambrecht

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George Russell Hambrecht Obituary
George Russell Hambrecht was one of the great flutists of American orchestras, a teacher of pre-eminent symphony musicians and a popular co-host for "WMKV Goes to the Pops" for WMKV-FM (89.3).

Mr. Hambrecht, who was principal flutist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for more than 28 years, died Oct. 13 at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash. The cause was complications from a broken hip. He was 87.

"He loved to play. He loved going to work every day. To his dying day, he was appreciative of the orchestra," said Ann Hambrecht, his wife and also a flutist. "He felt it was a privilege to play with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra."

Known for his pleasant personality and the warm, golden tone of his flute, Mr. Hambrecht was appointed the CSO's principal flute in 1962. The Syracuse, N.Y., native first studied flute with his father, Henry J. Hambrecht, who played in the Syracuse Symphony.

"He's one of the greats of flute players in the country, of all time," said Richard Porotsky, retired CSO clarinetist. "What a pleasure it was to be associated with such a wonderful player. His phrasing was always so exquisite and his playing so nuanced."

While studying music and engineering at Syracuse University, Mr. Hambrecht was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II, and served from 1943-46. During the war, he played Big Band music with the U.S. Army Band at military bases throughout the South, including playing on tenor sax. While stationed in New York, he studied flute with Julius Baker, the renowned principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic.

After the war, Mr.Hambrecht earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Before coming to Cincinnati, he played in the Rochester Philharmonic under Erich Leinsdorf. From 1955 to 1962, he was second flutist of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell.

He was principal flute of the Buffalo Symphony under Josef Krips for a season before maestro Max Rudolf hired him for the Cincinnati Symphony.

"He's one of the nicest guys we had down there. There was no arrogance or ego. He had a great sense of humor. We laughed a lot together. Musically, I still remember some of his solos," said William Harrod, retired CSO English hornist and oboist. "It was the way he phrased and the musicality of it. That was always first-class. I'm going to miss him very much."

Mr. Hambrecht appeared as soloist several times, performing Mozart's Flute Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto and Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp. In 1963 at the Cincinnati May Festival, he performed J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with pianist Rudolf Serkin and violinist Isaac Stern.

Mr. Hambrecht performed with the CSO on its historic 10-week world tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department in 1966, as well as the orchestra's first European tour in 1969.

"When he went on the world tour, he sent me postcards," said his daughter, Jane Edgar, of Maineville. "We saw him play with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. And we would go to Chautauqua every summer."

Before the Cincinnati Symphony became a year-round orchestra, Mr. Hambrecht played in the Chautauqua Symphony and Opera Orchestra.

During his tenure, Mr. Hambrecht especially enjoyed working with Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, and his flute solos may be heard on many Telarc recordings.

"He'd sound good when he was practicing, but never as good as he sounded on Music Hall's stage," his wife said. "There was something unique that happened in performance. He had this gorgeous sound and it all came together. He never got nervous."

Locally, Mr. Hambrecht was a frequent soloist with many musical organizations. He was a member of the Cincinnati Woodwind Quintet, consisting of CSO principal wind players, which performed at New York's Town Hall. He also appeared with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Linton Chamber Music Series and the CSO's Area Artist Series.

Mr. Hambrecht retired from the orchestra in 1990.

For eight years, he was a volunteer co-host of WMKV-FM's weekly show on 89.3, "WMKV Goes to the Pops," along with legendary WLWT broadcaster Bill Nimmo, Tom Emmert and Ken Hacker. Mr. Hambrecht obtained funding for the show from the Corbett Foundation and arranged for participation by Pops conductor Erich Kunzel.

"To be able to take his musical expertise and bring it to people on the air was just wonderful. They would cover a wonderful gamut on Sundays at noon, and people would schedule their Sundays around the show," said George Zahn, station director. "It really brought his whole career full circle. Even though he wasn't an active musician any longer, he could bring his love of music to people over the air, and that was something people felt. He was loved here, and people loved that show."

Mr. Hambrecht enjoyed teaching, and trained many flutists who went on to join symphony orchestras. He served on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music from 1965 to 1977 and from 1982 to 1995.

He also was an instrument-rated pilot and a member of the Flying Neutrons at Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport. He enjoyed flying with his fellow pilots for what they called "the $100 hamburger" for lunch, his wife said.

Mr. Hambrecht was an avid astrologer who set up astrological charts for more than 1,000 people. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Several years ago, Mr. Hambrecht wrote his own obituary, which read in part, "All things considered, he would rather be playing his flute."

Besides his wife, he is survived by his four children from his first marriage to Marion Garlock Hambrecht of Syracuse, N.Y. They are Jane Edgar of Maineville and sons Lawrence E. Hambrecht of Philadelphia, Robert W. Hambrecht of New York City, and John H. Hambrecht of Port Saint Lucie, Fla. He is also survived by a brother, Robert S. Hambrecht of Sarasota, and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 12 in the Chapel on Main Street at Maple Knoll Village, 11100 Springfield Pike, in Springdale. Mr. Hambrecht was cremated. Memorials may be made to the CSO Musicians Pension Fund, 1241 Elm St., or to WMKV-FM, Maple Knoll Village, 11100 Springfield Pike Cincinnati, OH 45246.

By Janelle Gelfand, [email protected]">[email protected]">[email protected]">[email protected]
Published in The Cincinnati Enquirer from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, 2011
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