Bramwell Tovey

About Bramwell Tovey

Versatile, ubiquitous and tireless are three words that describe the late conductor and composer Bramwell Tovey (1953-2022). During a distinguished career, he led major orchestras in the U.K., Canada, U.S., and Europe; composed award-winning works such as his Requiem for a Charred Skull; made two recordings as a jazz pianist; and even played the tuba with distinction. As a conductor, his repertory spanned both concert and opera fare, from Bach and Mozart to Roussel and Corigliano, but with a slight leaning towards British, American, and Canadian music, especially in the contemporary realm. Among the composers he helped champion were Mark-Anthony Turnage, Gavin Bryars, John Adams and Joan Tower. His recording legacy stretches over several labels, including CBC Records, Naxos, EMI Classics (now Warner Classics) and Chandos. Bramwell Tovey was born in Ilford, East London, on July 11, 1953. From the age of seven he studied piano and later on became a member of various local youth ensembles playing violin and other instruments. Tovey's advanced studies were at London's Royal Academy of Music primarily in piano and composition, but he also studied tuba with John Fletcher. Tovey steadily built his career throughout the 1970s, his big break coming in 1983 when he joined the staff at Covent Garden and led the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet on a tour of Canada. Soon after, he was appointed principal conductor of the ballet troupe and its orchestra. After a season (1988-1989) conducting the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Tovey was made music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, serving from 1989 until 2001. He gave many memorable concerts with the orchestra, including the 1996 performance of Victor Davies' oratorio Revelation, which was broadcast on CBC television. Tovey turned out perhaps his most important works around the turn of the century: his Viola Concerto (1999), Cello Concerto (2000), and the aforementioned Requiem for a Charred Skull (2003), which received the Juno Award for Best Canadian Classical Composition. Tovey became music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 2000, a post he held until 2018 when he returned to the UK to become principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra. While at the BBC Concert Orchestra, Tovey explored a vast range of repertoire, from film scores to Viennese music, as well as a large amount of new music, much written by the then composer-in-residence, Dobrinka Tabakova. He also appeared at a number of BBC Proms with the orchestra, celebrating in 2019 Proms founder Henry Wood’s 150th anniversary, and in 2021, 20th-century British film music.

Ilford, Essex, England
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