At the age of 69, Bramwell Tovey, the famous British conductor and composer whom he loved for years working with Canadian orchestras and opera companies, has died.
The news was announced by the Sarasota Orchestra, of which Tovey has been music director since 2021. “An international music leader and global citizen, Maestro Tovey has influenced multiple generations on many continents through his music, conducting and teaching,” the statement said. , which specified the cause of death as cancer, originally diagnosed in 2019.
In addition to his position with the Sarasota Orchestra, Tovey has also been artistic director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Orchester symphonique de Québec and the BBC Concert Orchestra.
“The BBC Concert Orchestra family is deeply saddened by the loss of Bramwell Tovey, our principal conductor for the past four years and our dear friend for many years to come,” director Bill Chandler said in a statement. “He was a musical conductor whose warmth, sense of humor and artistic direction will be sorely missed.”
In Canada, Tovey was best known for his prolific tenure as music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) from 2000 to 2018. Their CBC Records album of violin concertos by Samuel Barber, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and William Walton with soloist James Ehnes received the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Solo Performance with Orchestra.
With the VSO, Tovey conducted complete cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler symphonies. He also headed the VSO School of Music and served as its artistic advisor.
In January 2019, Tovey became artistic director of Calgary Opera, where he planned two seasons with the company before leaving the position due to health reasons. On TwitterCalgary Opera described Tovey as “a true trailblazer in the performing arts industry.”
From 1989 to 2000, Tovey was music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, where a major achievement was the founding of the renowned WSO New Music Festival with Glenn Buhr, the orchestra’s first composer-in-residence, and his successor, Randolph Peters.
Tovey was also a composer. His Requiem for a burnt skull won the 2003 Juno Award for Best Classical Composition. The Calgary Opera commissioned his opera Inventor, written with playwright John Murrell. He also wrote a trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloonfor the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and John McCandless.
Tovey was a frequent guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic and from 2004 to 2012 conducted and hosted its annual Summertime Classics Festival at Avery Fisher Hall. On the West Coast, in 2007 Tovey was named Principal Guest Conductor at the Hollywood Bowl, where he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Summer Classical Music Subscription Series.
Awards include the 2015 Oskar Morawetz Award for Outstanding Musical Performance and the Prix d’or Academie Lyrique Française for a recording of Jean Cras’s 1922 opera, Polyphemus. In 2013, he was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada.
CBC Music will pay tribute to Tovey on a special edition of About Time with Tom Allen on Thursday, July 14 from noon (12:30 NT). Paolo Pietropaolo will honor Tovey’s memory at In Concert on Sunday 17 July.
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