Thursday, August 12, 2004

Leonard Sharrow, classical musician

Bassoonist taught at Indiana University

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

HARTWELL - Leonard Sharrow, one of the best bassoonists of his generation, died Monday at Wellspring Health Center. He was 89.

Mr. Sharrow played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Arturo Toscanini), the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, the Detroit Symphony, the Chicago Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony (conducted by Andre Previn).

In 1985, he performed a solo while playing in Stockholm, Sweden, at the world premiere of the World Philharmonic Orchestra, which is composed of the top musicians from orchestras around the world.

In addition to playing with orchestras and touring with the American Woodwind Quartet, he made several solo recordings. His solo performance of Mozart's Bassoon Concerto with Toscanini, recorded under the RCA label in 1948, "still stands as one of the finest performances of the piece and continues to inspire young bassoonists," said his son Neil of Pleasant Ridge.

Mr. Sharrow taught music at Indiana University in Bloomington for 13 years. He also taught at the Juilliard School in New York, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Born in New York City in 1915, Mr. Sharrow was the son of Saul Sharrow, violinist with the New York Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Sharrow also started out playing violin, but discovered a love of the bassoon while a student at DeWitt Clinton High School.

He graduated from DeWitt Clinton in 1933 and Juilliard in 1935.

His first professional position was as principal bassoon with the National Symphony in Washington.

In 1937, he joined the NBC Symphony. Formed and owned by the National Broadcasting Corp., it played for radio drama, quiz and kids shows - and, later, TV concerts. Mr. Sharrow - whose father also played with the orchestra - was among its youngest members.

In 1941, Mr. Sharrow was drafted into the Army, where he desired to continue playing. When he heard that the Signal Corps Band at Fort Monmouth, N.J., needed a bassoonist, he asked Toscanini to write a letter of recommendation.

He was accepted and spent the war playing bassoon and violin - mostly touring the United States in a production of Irving Berlin's Broadway play This is the Army, which boosted morale and raised money for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. At the end of the tour, the entire cast, including Mr. Sharrow, appeared in the 1943 movie version that included Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Sharrow played with the Detroit Symphony for a season after World War II, then was invited to return to the NBC Symphony as principal bassoonist. He stayed there until 1951, when he joined the Chicago Symphony under the direction of Rafael Kubelik and Fritz Reiner.

Mr. Sharrow joined the faculty at IU in 1964.

In 1977, he was invited to join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where he was principal bassoonist until 1987.

He moved to Cincinnati from Bloomington in 1999 to be near his son.

His wife of 58 years, Emily Kass Sharrow, died in 2001.

In addition to his son, survivors include: a sister, Frances Nelson of North Hollywood, Calif.; and two granddaughters.

The funeral is 1 p.m. Friday at Allen Funeral Home, 3000 E. Third St., Bloomington. Burial will be at Valhalla Cemetery in Bloomington.


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