by José Zarzo
Vicente Zarzo passed away on September 14, 2021, at the age of 83. He was not only a great father, but he was also one of the greatest Spanish hornists of all time and one of the great horn players of the 20th Century.
He started his musical education at the academy of the local Wind Symphony Band, Unión Musical de Benaguacil, in his village in Valencia. Afterwards, he studied under Miguel Falomir at the Conservatory of Music in Valencia. Falomir was principal horn with the Valencia Orchestra, and he invited my father whenever he needed an extra. My father remembered especially well the first performance in Spain of Mahler's 3rd Symphony with the Valencia Orchestra.
He studied one year with Hans Noeth in Munich. Noeth was principal hornist with the Residenz Theater, now the Bavarian State Opera.
My father started his professional career as hornist with the Barcelona Opera Orchestra for two seasons, followed by one season with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (1960/61), then a three-month tour with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, based in Pittsburgh, USA.
From 1961-1968, he was co-principal horn with Gerald Thatcher (uncle of James Thatcher) in the National Symphony Orchestra of México. During this time, whenever the late Fred Fox came to play as an extra, my father took lessons from him. He considered Fred his greatest teacher, and they became great friends.
From 1968-1998, he was principal with The Hague Philharmonic, Het Residentie Orkest. With this orchestra, he played many concerts as a soloist (Mozart concertos 1, 3, and 4; Strauss concerto 1; Haydn concerto 2; the Britten Serenade, etc.) under eminent principal conductors Willem van Otterloo, Jean Martinon, Ferdinand Leitner, Hans Vonk, and Evgeny Svetlanov. During his years in The Netherlands, he served as guest principal with The Concertgebouw Orchestra under Carlo María Giulini, and he was professor at the Conservatories of Amsterdam and The Hague.
Some of my dad’s solo recordings can be found on the YouTube channel of my brother and colleague, Carlos Zarzo:
Many distinguished composers wrote concertos for him, including Eduardo Mata, Jan van Vlijmen, Amando Blanquer, Wim Laman, Paul de Roo, etc. He was named honorary member of the International Horn Society in August, 2020, and he considered this honor the crowning achievement of his career.
As his son and student, I enjoyed solfeggio lessons every morning from age 6, and from age 10 his exquisite horn instruction—and above all, free masterclasses every day just hearing him practice!
Now, I know in Heaven, he is enjoying the company of all deceased honorary members of the IHS, presided by Giovanni Punto, Dennis Brain and all the other great masters of our beloved instrument.
Rest in peace, dear Dad!