Gervase de Peyer had no trouble launching himself into cyberspace when the Internet era began, despite the fact that by then he had already been performing almost half a century. No slouch at self-promotion, he set up a lavish website where it is claimed that he is "the world's most recorded clarinetist." He certainly has created a vast discography, as diverse as it is extensive, and receiving praise way beyond his own cyber-hype. It is hard to conceive of a classical music collection that lacks his recordings and a case could be made that his work with the Melos Ensemble for EMI between 1960 and 1973 could constitute a reasonable start to a classical collection in itself.
He was born into a musical family of Swiss descent. The only real break in his dedication to the clarinet came during 1944 and 1945, when he performed British national service. In the late 1940s he began to work professionally with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Thomas Beecham and the Philharmonia Orchestra under such conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Guido Cantelli, and Otto Klemperer. He was engaged as principal clarinetist with the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Chamber Orchestra and the London Mozart Players, his repertoire including Finzi, Busoni, Nielsen, Seiber, Weber, and Mozart. In 1949 he was supported by The Arts Council of Great Britain on national solo tours, improving the climate for establishing the Melos Ensemble. This group comprised some dozen players including pianist Viola Tunnard, and was dedicated to performing the often neglected repertoire for extended chamber groups. Melos became closely involved with the contemporary composers of the day, especially Benjamin Britten, but this was just one aspect of the group's extensive activity.
In 1956, the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra selected Gervase de Peyer as his principal clarinetist, an appointment that lasted for 17 years and helped de Peyer acquire a formidable reputation throughout Britain and Europe. In 1964 de Peyer gave the London premiere of Francis Poulenc's Clarinet Sonata. Both Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland, conducting their own clarinet concertos, chose him as soloist for their tours. De Peyer also toured extensively, performing many other standard concertos, and, with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Pierre Boulez, recorded Debussy's Rhapsody for saxophone and orchestra. This project was released on Columbia Records. He was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. He toured the United States and appeared several times on the Live from Lincoln Center national television series with this group.
De Peyer has premiered many compositions as a soloist, usually working in close collaboration with the composers. This includes concertos by Arnold Cooke, Berthold Goldschmidt, Joseph Horovitz, Alun Hoddinott, William Mathias, Edwin Roxburgh, and Thea Musgrave's so-called Peripatetic Concerto, in which the soloist is required to move around among various sections of the orchestra during performances. In 1992 he founded the Melos Sinfonia of Washington which follows in the tradition of the Melos Ensemble.