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George Russell Hambrecht

Editor | December 2011

   One of the premier American orchestral flutists died on October 13 from complications of a broken hip. Hambrecht served as principal flutist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1962-1990 and recorded extensively with the Cincinnati Pops with conductor Erich Kunzel for the Telarc label. 
   Hambrecht was born in Syracuse, New York and studied flute with his father Henry, who was a flutist in the Syracuse Symphony. While studying music and engineering at Syracuse University, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII. While stationed in New York City, he studied flute with Julius Baker, who would later become principal flute of the New York Philharmonic. 
   After the war, Hambrecht studied with Joseph Mariano at the Eastman School of Music where he earned B.M. and M.M. degrees. After graduation he played second flute in the Rochester Philharmonic under Erich Leinsdorf, second flute in the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, and principal flute in the Buffalo Philharmonic under Josef Krips. In 1962, he was hired by Max Rudolf as principal flute in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Before the CSO became a year-round orchestra, he played in the Chautauqua Symphony and Opera Orchestra during the summers.
   Retired Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra clarinetist Richard Porotsky said: “He was one of the greatest flute players in the country, of all time. What a pleasure it was to be associated with such a wonderful player. His phrasing was always so exquisite and his playing so nuanced.”
   Through the years, Hambrecht appeared as soloist several times with the CSO, performing Mozart Flute Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, Jacques Ibert Flute Concerto, and Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp. In 1963 at the Cincinnati May Festival, he performed J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with pianist Rudolf Serkin and violinist Isaac Stern. He also 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.
   As a flute professor at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music  he trained many flutists who went on to join symphony orchestras. Chatta-nooga Symphony flutist Nora Setliffe Kile relates: “There wasn’t a kinder more patient teacher and mentor than George. I cherish the years I studied with this sweet, gentle giant of the flute world.”
   For eight years, he was a volunteer co-host of a weekly radio show, “WMKV Goes to the Pops.” Hambrecht was also an instrument-rated pilot and a member of the Flying Neutrons at the Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport and a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. He leaves three sons, a daughter, and his second wife, Ann who is also a flutist.