LONDON -- Leon Goossens, 90, a pioneering British oboist who in a career that spanned 70 years redefined the instrument's potential and inspired composers to write music to showcase it, died Feb. 12 at a hospital in Tunbridge Wells, England. The cause of death was not reported.
His playing inspired many original works for the oboe. Among the composers who dedicated works to him were Benjamin Britten, Francis Poulenc and Sir Edward Elgar, whose 1934 "Soliloquy for Oboe and Strings," one of his last works, was composed in honor of his friend.
Mr. Goossens was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1950, and received the Cobbett Medal for services to chamber music in 1954. He toured the world until 1962, when a serious car crash temporarily halted his career.
"He was the finest woodwind instrumentalist this country has ever produced," James Brown, 58, oboist with the English Chamber Orchestra, said of Mr. Goossens. Celebrated clarinetist Jack Brymer, 73, said he "did more for the development of woodwind playing throughout the world than any other person."
Mr. Goossens was a native of Liverpool. The son of conductor Eugene Goossens, he began studying the oboe when he was 10 years old. At the age of 16, he was offered a place with the Queens Hall Orchestra by Sir Henry Wood. By the next year he was principal oboist and had already begun to redefine the oboe's role as an orchestral instrument.
He joined the Liverpool Orchestra, which paid him 22 cents a night. He played and recorded for many top orchestras and bands, including Jack Hylton's jazz orchestra at London's plush Kit Kat Club.
Mr. Goossens' wife of 52 years, the former Leslie Burrows, died in 1985. His survivors include two sisters, both harpists, Marie, 93, and Sidonie, 87, who was principal harpist with the British Broadcasting Corp. Symphony Orchestra for 50 years.