Thank you Wibb

Wibb Bennett was surely one of the greatest British instrumentalists and his loss will be felt deeply by so many who knew and worked with him. I was lucky to experience his amazing playing as a member of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields where so many wonderful flute solos come to mind. I remember especially his Domine Deus in Bach’s B minor Mass as well as so many classical symphonies and, of course, Mozart piano concerti, as well his performances of the Mozart flute concerti and flute and harp concerto. The sound, the phrasing, his abiltiy to blend with other instruments (Celia Nicklin, Andrew Marriner, Graham Sheen and all ASM wind players) and to create endless tonal variety, his commitment to finding something new to say with the music – Wibb was simply inspirational.

This inspiration was also the hallmark of his teaching and I was lucky to work closely with Wibb at the Royal Academy of Music in the 1980s and early 1990s. With Sebastian Bell, Michie Bennett and Keith Bragg, Wibb led a flute department of incomparable strength and inventiveness. Wibb’s reputation and quality as a teacher drew the most outstanding young flute players to the RAM and in these years we were privileged to work with Wibb’s students including Anna Pyne, Daniel Pailthorpe, Eline van Esch, Emily Beynon, Halit Turgay, Hallfrídur Ólafsdóttir, Janne Thomsen, Jeffrey Zook, Joel Tse, Lorna McGhee, Mary-Anne Blades, Mireya Royo, Rachel Brazier, Sarah de Bats, Shu-Chun Chiang, Sinead O’Carroll, Siobhan Grealy, Susan McCarthy, Susan Torke and Susan Thomas. I was present at the entrance auditions when all these players were admitted to the RAM and was always impressed by the way in which Wibb selected his students, hearing and spotting those qualities that go to make a fine, interesting player with their own sound and ideas, and with whom he could work.

Wibb continued to teach at the RAM long after my time as Head of Department and he also taught and gave masterclasses in many other instituions around the world. I was so happy to welcome him to Codarts, Rotterdam during my time there (2011 – 2016); his classes with the brilliant students of Juliette Hurel were, as ever, great – and I so enjoyed connecting with him again.

So thank you Wibb, for everything – your playing, your teaching, your inventiveness and your humour. You will be missed and thought about for many years to come.

William Bennett (7 February 1936 – 11 May 2022)