Obituary: Robert Bonnevie, former principal horn of Seattle Symphony
Robert Bonnevie died May 29, 2012, at age 77 after a battle with frontotemporal dementia. A former principal horn with the U.S. Army Band, he was principal horn with Seattle Symphony from 1967 through 1998.
Special to The Seattle Times
Robert Bonnevie, a French horn player beloved of Seattle Symphony audiences and music students, died May 29 after a battle with frontotemporal dementia in Seattle — the city where he had grown up before going on to a career that spanned several continents.
He was 77.
He played a major role in Seattle's arts community as principal horn in the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and taught generations of talented youngsters.
"Bob was an extraordinary horn player. His contribution to the musical life in Seattle cannot be overstated," said conductor laureate Gerard Schwarz, who as Seattle Symphony music director worked closely with Mr. Bonnevie for nearly 17 years.
If you heard the Seattle Symphony anytime over the course of more than three decades, from 1967 through 1998, you probably heard Mr. Bonnevie in the principal's chair, performing the challenging high-wire balancing act required of one of the toughest jobs in the orchestra. Mr. Bonnevie's distinctive sound was a staple element of the orchestra.
Born in 1934, Mr. Bonnevie began his music career with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra program. He graduated from Garfield High School and, after studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he became principal horn in the U.S. Army Band, going on to the same post in the New Orleans Philharmonic. His love of teaching brought him to the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, then directed by the legendary Pablo Casals; he also played principal horn in the Puerto Rico Symphony and was a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra — alongside the young trumpeter who would later become his conductor in Seattle, Gerard Schwarz.
Mr. Bonnevie also played in the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and in Wyoming's Grand Teton Music Festival.
At the Seattle Symphony, Mr. Bonnevie worked with three music directors: the late Milton Katims and Rainer Miedel, and Schwarz. In 1998, Mr. Bonnevie became principal emeritus of the horn section, retiring in 2000. He also taught young musicians and coached them in youth-orchestra programs and at Garfield High School.
"Bob came from a great tradition of horn playing brought over from Germany and Austria. He also was a wonderful musician, very thoughtful and caring about details and phrasing," Schwarz said.
Mr. Bonnevie played first horn on the orchestra's commended 1989 recording of Schumann's "Konzertstück," with Schwarz conducting. Mr. Bonnevie's successor at the Symphony, John Cerminaro, called this recording "among Bob's most memorable solos."
"I know I speak for the entire orchestra and for horn players and horn students everywhere when I say how dearly Bob will be missed," Cerminaro added.
Mr. Bonnevie is survived by his wife of 42 years, Karen Bonnevie, a longtime member of the Seattle Symphony's first violin section; son Karl C. Bonnevie, daughter-in-law Cheryl Allendoerfer and granddaughter Elise Bonnevie, of Seattle; brother Roger VanValey, of Gig Harbor; and stepdaughter Stephanie Wilson and her husband, Scott Wilson, and their children (Claire Raskind, Gemma Wilson and Andrew Wilson), of Seattle.
A memorial gathering for family and friends will be June 17 in Seattle; email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Remembrances may be sent to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra or the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Melinda Bargreen: email@example.com