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Musical World

Bramwell Tovey

  • Composer
  • Conductor
  • Pianist


An esteemed guest conductor internationally, Tovey has made guest appearances with the orchestras of Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, Montreal, San Francisco as well as regular visits to Toronto Symphony and he will make his debut with Cleveland in 2012/13 season. Recent successes in Europe and the UK, include concerts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Helsingborg and Bournemouth orchestras, all of which he returns to regularly.In Asia, Tovey returns to the KBS Symphony every two seasons since making his debut in 2008 and to Shanghai Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony.Having made a successful debut with Melbourne Symphony also in 2008 he returns each season to the orchestra and in 2009/10 he was appointed as curate for their contemporary music Festival – Metropolis. In 2011/12, he will make his debut with the Sydney Symphony.

During his time as Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Tovey has taken the orchestra on tour to China – the first Canadian orchestra to perform in China in 30 years.Highlights of the upcoming seasons in Vancouver include Verdi’s Requiem, the Canadian premiere of Adam’s Dr. Atomic Symphony and a ‘Bach and Beyond’ series that will feature the music of Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and Mendelssohn topped with a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

With a profound commitment to new music, Tovey has established himself as a formidable composer and is the first artist to win a Juno Award in both conducting and composing. He has been commissioned by the Calgary Opera to compose the company’s third original full-length opera. Written with librettist John Murrell, this work is based on the extraordinary life of Alexander “Sandy” Keith, a notorious 19th century con artist and criminal from Halifax, Nova Scotia. An immense undertaking, the piece will premiere in Calgary in January 2011. Tovey’s other successes as composer include the well-received Urban Runway, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008 and his Requiem for a Charred Skull, performed and recorded by the Amadeus Choir and the Hannaford Band in Toronto which received the Best Canadian Classical Composition 2003 Juno Award.

Previous positions held include Music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic (2002 - 2006) and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1989 - 2000).Notable successes in Luxembourg include three tours in Europe, the Far East and the eastern United States, traveling to China, Korea, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Holland and Belgium; being awarded the “Orphée d’Or” of the Academie Lyrique Francaise, for their critically praised recording of Jean Cras’s opera, Polyphème in 2004 and in 2005 celebrating the opening of the new Philharmonic Hall (Luxembourg Philharmonie), with the world premiere of Penderecki’s 8th Symphony, composed especially for the occasion. In Winnipeg, he founded the highly regarded New Music Festival. A significant milestone in the ensemble’s exploration of new music, the festival premiered more than 250 works by diverse international and Canadian composers under Tovey’s leadership, with every performance broadcast on Canada’s CBC Radio.

In opera, Tovey’s repertoire includes works by Puccini, Strauss, Mozart, Menotti, Poulenc, Britten and Stravinsky. In 2004, he premiered a new opera by John Estacio, jointly commissioned by the Banff Centre and the Calgary Opera, which he reprised for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2005.

Tovey has also built a strong reputation as an accomplished jazz pianist with two recordings to his name and has made memorable appearances on television, including two documentaries with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a 1996 CBC TV broadcast of Victor Davies’ Revelation, a full-length oratorio based on the Book of Revelation, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded several DVDs, of works including Holst’s The Planets Suite with distinguished guests such as percussionist Evelyn Glennie, amongst many others.

Tovey has an extensive back catalogue including recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, Halle and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. As mentioned above, his most recent recording gained a Grammy for the Barber / Korngold / Walton: Violin concertos with James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on the CBC Records label. Current recording projects include the orchestral works of Edward Gregson with the BBC Concert Orchestra on the Chandos label.

Awarded numerous honorary degrees, Tovey has received a Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, honorary Doctorates of Law from the University of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba and Kwantlen University College, as well as a Fellowship from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1999, he received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction, a prestigious Canadian prize awarded to premier artists for outstanding contributions in professional performing arts organizations.