William Bennett, the San Francisco Symphony principal who collapsed while playing the Richard Strauss concerto on Saturday night, died today in hospital. He was 56 years old and had been in the orchestra for 33 years, 25 of them as principal. An outstanding musician, he had friends in every major orchestra. The world of music mourns tonight.
The orchestra made the following comments in a press release:
“I am heartbroken by the tragic death of Bill Bennett, which has left a terrible, sad emptiness in the hearts of the whole San Francisco Symphony family,” said Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. “Bill was a great artist, an original thinker, and a wonderful man. He was very generous with his attention and affection for his friends, colleagues, students, and audience members. We all experienced his sunny enthusiasm for music and life. I am saddened to have lost such a true friend.”
SF Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink added: “How fortunate we all were that Bill Bennett was our Principal Oboe. His artistry transported us. He touched audiences around the world with his music and the warmth of his personality. We are all stunned at his sudden passing. His legacy will continue to be felt through his countless students and in the performances of the San Francisco Symphony for many years to come. While all of us here, the musicians, board and staff of the San Francisco Symphony, grieve with the entire Bay Area community, we also extend our love and support to Bill’s family. “
Bennett was born in 1956 in New Haven, Connecticut. He joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1979 and became Principal Oboist in 1987. During his many years as a mainstay of the Orchestra, he attracted the esteem and admiration not just of colleagues, but of listeners.
The entire San Francisco Symphony family offers their deep condolences to the Bennett family. The San Francisco Symphony is accepting condolences on behalf of the Bennett family at 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102. Messages can be posted athttp://www.caringbridge.org/
He is survived by his wife, Peggy, and two sons.