Bramwell Tovey

Last updated

Bramwell Tovey
Mario Bernardi and Bramwell Tovey.jpg
Mario Bernardi and Bramwell Tovey (2005)
Born (1953-07-11) 11 July 1953 (age 66)
Ilford, Essex (now part of Redbridge)
Alma mater Royal Academy of Music
University of London
Occupation conductor

Bramwell Tovey, OC OM (born 11 July 1953) is a British conductor and composer.


Life and career

Tovey was educated at Ilford County High School, the Royal Academy of Music and the University of London. His formal music education was as a pianist and composer. Whilst at the Royal Academy, he also became a tuba player, studying with John Fletcher. During his student years he conducted several broadcasts on the BBC, and also played in the London Symphony Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival. [1]

Tovey was appointed a staff conductor of London Festival Ballet at the age of 22, working with Massine on a production of Parade , Hynd on Nutcracker and Sanguine Fan and with Nureyev on Romeo and Juliet . In 1978 he became Music Director of Scottish Ballet, conducting Peter Darrell's major ballets including Cheri and Five Rückert Songs (with Janet Baker). [1] From 1984 to 1988 he was Principal Conductor of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. [2] During this period he also conducted several British orchestras and appeared as pianist in Elite Syncopations . [2] Tovey conducted the first season of the revived D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1988. [3] Between 1989 and 2001, he was the music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, [4] and was instrumental in establishing the city's annual New Music Festival, which began in 1992.

Tovey became music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) in September 2000. His initial contract was renewed in December 2004, [5] and extended again in January 2010 to 2015. [6] In November 2013, the VSO announced the further extension of Tovey's contract through the 2017-2018 season, and the scheduled conclusion of his music directorship of the VSO at that time. Tovey is scheduled to take the title of VSO music director emeritus with the 2018-2019 season, the VSO's 100th season. [7]

In December 2009, Tovey and the VSO rejected an invitation to play at the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, after the Vancouver Organizing Committee requested that the orchestra pre-record music that other musicians and a different conductor would mime to at the televised event. Tovey remarked that the plan was "dishonest" and "fraudulent." [8]

Tovey was music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra from 2002 to 2006. [9] during which time he led it on tours to Europe, the Far East and to the eastern United States; in 2005 he conducted them in the world premiere of Penderecki's 8th Symphony. [10] In November 2017, the BBC Concert Orchestra announced the appointment of Tovey as its next principal conductor, effective January 2018, with an initial contract of 5 years. [11]

Tovey conducted the "Summertime Classics" series of concerts with the New York Philharmonic since the inception of the series in the summer of 2004, after his 2001 subscription debut with the orchestra, [12] [13] through the conclusion of the series in 2014. [14] Tovey was appointed Artistic Director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and conducted his first course in April 2006. He has a long-standing affiliation with the Fodens Brass Band and conducted a CD of his compositions with the Foden's Band, released in May 2009. In March 2008, Tovey was named the next principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Hollywood Bowl summer concerts. [15]

Tovey has also become known as a composer. His compositions include a Cello Concerto (premiered in Winnipeg in January 2001), and a work for a large choir and brass band, 'Requiem for a Charred Skull', [16] which in 2003 was awarded a Juno for Classical Composition of the Year. Tovey also composed the film score, recorded by the VSO, for Richard Bell's film Eighteen . [17] The full score was released on iTunes. Tovey was nominated for a Genie Award (Canada's Academy Award), in tandem with Bell, for a song in the film called "In a Heartbeat", which was performed by Thea Gill. On commission from the 2005 British Open Brass Band Championship, Tovey composed 'The Night to Sing' as the test piece, inspired by the celebrations of VE Day, 1945. In 2007, Calgary Opera commissioned a new opera from Tovey, titled The Inventor [16] and premiered by Calgary Opera in January 2011.

Tovey has been involved with numerous television and radio programs related to music. He conducted Cinderella with Scottish Ballet for ITV and Daphnis et Chloé for Channel 4 and two television programmes with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. [1] He has been the recipient of four honorary doctorates - Winnipeg (1994), Manitoba (1999), Kwantlen University College (2004) and the University of British Columbia. He is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto (2006) and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in London, England (2006). In October 2016, Tovey made his stage debut in an opera, taking the speaking role of The Impresario in the City Opera of Vancouver premiere of the comedy 'The Lost Operas of Mozart' at Christ Church Cathedral. In September 2017, Tovey took up the post of Director of Orchestral Activities at the Boston University School of Music. [18] As of September 2019, Tovey is also Artistic Advisor to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, where he will conduct a number of concerts in coming seasons. [19]

Tovey has been married twice. His first marriage, which ended in divorce, produced a son, Ben, former guitarist for the now split-up metal band Rise To Remain. He and his second wife, Lana, have two daughters. [20]


Premiere DateTitleInstrumentationDetails
1979Cinderella (Rossini, arr. Tovey)OrchestraChoreography by Peter Darrell

Premiered at His Majesty's Theatre, (Aberdeen, Scotland) Over 200 performances

1981The Three GracesPiano trioPremiered at the Dumfries and Galloway Festival, Scotland
1986The Snow Queen (ballet arranged from songs, piano works and The Fair at Sorochyntsi by Modest Mussorgsky as well as fragments from Mussorgsky's sketchbooks) [21] Orchestra, solo sopranoChoreography by David Bintley

Premiered by Sadler's wells Royal Ballet with Tovey conducting Over 300 performances to date

1986Coventry Variations (based on "The Coventry Carol")BrassPremiered at Derngate Theatre (Northampton, England) with Tovey conducting
1992Party Pieces12-piece ensemblePremiered at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival
1995The Bardfield AyreBrass bandCommissioned and premiered by the Hannaford Band, with Tovey conducting
1997A Fistful of GildersNarrator, children's chorus & orchestraPremiered by the Assiniboine South Youth Choir and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, with Tovey conducting
1999Concerto for viola & orchestraViola and orchestraPremiered by Dan Scholz (viola) and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, with Tovey conducting.
2000Concerto for cello and orchestraCello & orchestraCommissioned by Bill and Shirley Loewen

Premiered at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival by Paul Marleyn (cello) and the WSO, with Tovey conducting

2003Requiem for a Charred SkullLarge choir & brass brandRecorded by the Amadeus Choir and the Hannaford Band in Toronto
2003MagnificatSoprano, chorus, children's chorus, brass & percussionCommissioned by the Hannaford Band with the assistance of the Laidlaw Foundation

Premiered by Laura Whalen (soprano), Canadian Children's Opera Chorus and the Hannaford Band, with Richard Bradshaw conducting

2004Santa Barbara SonataBrass quintetCommissioned by Music Academy of the West for Canadian Brass

Premiered by Canadian Brass

2004Manhattan MusicBrass quintet & orchestraPremiered by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Brass, with Tovey conducting
2005 Eighteen

(film soundtrack)

Voice & orchestraRecorded by Vancouver Symphony and Chor Leoni with Tovey conducting

Song "In a Heartbeat" nominated for 2007 Genie Award for "Best Achievement in Music - Original Song"

2005The Night to SingBrass bandCommissioned by the British Open Brass Band Championship as the test-piece
April 2006Urban Cabaret

(renamed The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret)

Solo trombone, brass & percussionCommissioned for and premiered by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Joe Alessi, principal trombone of the New York Philharmonic, with Tovey conducting

Recording released in 2007

January 2007Pictures in the SmokePiano, brass band & percussion

(Also version for piano, orchestral brass and percussion - see below)

Premiered at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, England), with Tovey playing piano and conducting
May 2007Nine Daies WonderBrass band & violinCommissioned and premiered by the Hannaford Band with Mark Fewer (violin) and Tovey conducting
September 2007Fugitive Voices2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano & string septetCommissioned by Sweetwater Festival, Ontario
September 2007Manhattan Music (revised version)Brass quintet & wind orchestraCommissioned by Canadian Brass and premiered at the Eastman School of Music with Mark Scatterday conducting
October 2007Echoes of Jericho4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion & timpaniComposed for and premiered at the 10th Anniversary of the Chan Centre of the Performing Arts in British Columbia

Premiere by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra brass section and the University of British Columbia Orchestra, with Tovey conducting.

January 2008Pictures in the Smoke (revised version)Orchestral brass, percussion & solo pianoNorth American premiere took place in January 2008 as part of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's new music series, with Tovey playing and conducting
July 2008Urban RunwayStrings, harps, piano/celesta, percussion, & timpaniLos Angeles Philharmonic co-commission with the New York Philharmonic. First performed 4 July 2008 with New York Philharmonic, Tovey conducting. LA premiere a week later at Hollywood Bowl
January 2011The InventorFull-length opera with voices & instrumentationCalgary Opera Commission. World premiere Calgary Opera with Calgary Philharmonic 29 January 2011

Recorded live with Vancouver Symphony, UBC Opera and original cast, June 2012

See also

Related Research Articles

Charles Mackerras Australian conductor

Sir Alan Charles Maclaurin Mackerras was an Australian conductor. He was an authority on the operas of Janáček and Mozart, and the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. He was long associated with the English National Opera and Welsh National Opera and was the first Australian chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Edo de Waart Dutch musician

Edo de Waart is a Dutch conductor. He is music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, an Artistic Partner with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Christoph von Dohnányi is a German conductor.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The VSO performs at the Orpheum, which has been the orchestra's permanent home since 1977. With an annual operating budget of $16 million, it is the third largest symphony orchestra in Canada and the largest performing arts organization in Western Canada. It performs 140 concerts per season. The VSO broadcasts annually on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The orchestra is affiliated with the VSO School of Music, which was established in September 2011. Chamber music concerts by VSO musicians take place at Pyatt Hall on the VSO School of Music campus.

Rosemary Thomson is a Canadian conductor and chorus master. As of 2018, she is the Music Director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, chorus master of the Calgary Philharmonic, and Assistant Conductor for the Canadian Opera Company.

Boris Brott Canadian conductor

Boris Brott, is a Canadian conductor and motivational speaker. He is one of the most internationally recognized Canadian conductors, having conducted on stages around the world, including Carnegie Hall and Covent Garden. He is known for his innovative methods of introducing classical music to new audiences. Over his career, he has commissioned, performed and recorded a wide variety of Canadian works.

Anthony Inglis (conductor) British conductor

Anthony Inglis is a British conductor.

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra canadian orchestra

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Its primary concert venue is the Centennial Concert Hall, and the orchestra also performs throughout the province of Manitoba. The WSO presents an average of 80 concerts per year. The WSO also provides orchestral accompaniment to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Opera. The orchestra's current executive director is Trudy Schroeder, since July 2008.

Andrey Boreyko is a Polish-Russian conductor. He has Polish ancestry on his father's side and Russian ancestry on his mother's side.

Hugo Rignold British conductor

Hugo Henry Rignold was an English conductor and violinist, who is best remembered as Musical Director of the Royal Ballet (1957–1960) and conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1960–1968).

Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra

The Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, abbreviated to OPL, is a symphony orchestra based in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The orchestra formerly performed at the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg and the Conservatoire de Luxembourg. Its current home is the Philharmonie Luxembourg, a large concert hall opened in 2005 in the Kirchberg quarter in the northeast of the city.

George Daugherty is an American conductor, director, producer, and writer.

Victor Albert Davies is an award winning Canadian composer, pianist, and conductor, best known for his opera Transit of Venus and The Mennonite Piano Concerto.

Rory Macdonald is a Scottish conductor.

Jonathan Philip Darlington is a British conductor, Music Director Emeritus of the Vancouver Opera and the former Music Director of the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra. He is known for his broad repertoire of both opera and symphonic music and appears regularly with major orchestras and opera houses, most notably the Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, Frankfurt Oper, Orchestre National de France, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica del San Carlo di Napoli, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the National Orchestra of Taiwan, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, English National Opera and Opera Australia.

James Meena Music conductor and opera manager

James Meena is an American conductor and opera administrator. Formerly the General Director and Principal Conductor of Toledo Opera in Ohio, since 2000 he has been the General Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Carolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

John Hollingsworth was a British orchestral conductor prominent in the concert hall, the ballet and opera theatre, and the film studio. He was Sir Malcolm Sargent's assistant conductor at The Proms, where he conducted over 60 times including some world and British premieres. He also conducted at the Royal Opera and Sadlers Wells, and became associated with music for British horror films of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Jonathan Girard (Conductor) is an American-born conductor based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Otto Tausk is a Dutch conductor.


  1. 1 2 3 Artist Biographies, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Gala Programme Book, Sadler's Wells Theatre, 30 April 1985, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, no page numbers.
  2. 1 2 Artist Biographies, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Season Programme Booklet, Sadler's Wells Theatre, December 1988.
  3. Lisle, Nicola. "When the wheels came off the Carte", Classical Music, 17 February 2007, p. 12
  4. "Winter Poems: Music of Glenn Buhr". AllMusic Review by Joseph Stevenson
  5. "In Brief: Vancouver Symphony re-signs music director". CBC (on-line). 20 December 2004. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  6. David Gordon Duke (28 January 2010). "Bramwell Tovey signs on for five more years". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 30 January 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  7. David Gordon Duke (30 November 2013). "VSO transition: Music director Bramwell Tovey to step down after 2018 season". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  8. "Vancouver Symphony says no to Olympic opening". CBC News. 19 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  9. Ben Mattison (20 December 2004). "Conductor Bramwell Tovey Extends Vancouver Symphony Tenure, Steps Down From Luxembourg Post". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  10. Biography from Boston Symphony Orchestra website. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
  11. Martin Cullingford (21 November 2017). "BBC Concert Orchestra names new Principal Conductor". Gramophone. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  12. Lawrence van Gelder (8 April 2004). "Arts, Briefly". New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  13. Peter W. Goodman (3 July 2007). "Philharmonic Summer: The Ins and Outs". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  14. James R Oestreich (28 December 2014). "Review: New York Philharmonic's Summer Host Beats the Cold". New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  15. Yvonne Zacharias (18 March 2008). "VSO conductor Tovey works double time in L.A." Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  16. 1 2 Vivien Schweitzer (25 May 2007). "Conductor Bramwell Tovey to Write Opera". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  17. "A Maestro Scores in the Indies". Globe and Mail. 6 November 2004.
  18. "GRAMMY Award-Winning Conductor Bramwell Tovey Appointed Director of Orchestral Activities" (Press release). Boston University College of Fine Arts. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  19. "R.I. Philharmonic names Bramwell Tovey new conductor" (Press release). Providence Journal. 8 September 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  20. Morley Walker (19 February 2004). "Tovey says WSO in good hands". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
  21. Bramwell Tovey. Music note for The Snow Queen, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Season Programme Booklet, Sadler's Wells Theatre, December 1986 - January 1987.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Sergiu Comissiona
Music Director, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Otto Tausk
Preceded by
David Shallon
Music Director, Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Emmanuel Krivine
Preceded by
Keith Lockhart
Principal Conductor, BBC Concert Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Larry Rachleff
Artistic Advisor, Rhode Island Philharmonic
Succeeded by