Remembering Conductor, Violinist and Champion of Canadian Music Victor Feldbrill

News 2020-06-18

Remembering Conductor, Violinist and Champion of Canadian Music Victor Feldbrill

Thank You, Maestro!

I was not fortunate enough to have met Maestro Victor Feldbrill in person or to have heard him perform live, but the news of his passing filled my heart with a sense of profound sadness. At the same time, I feel enormous gratitude towards this extraordinary musician who was an incredible source of inspiration, a visionary and community leader who built such a remarkably solid foundation for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra!

As current Music Director of the WSO, I am enjoying an inspiring musical and human relationship with this world-class orchestra, knowing that all my predecessors have, in their own way, continued building upon a unique legacy left by Maestro Feldbrill. His contribution to what the WSO stands for today cannot be overstated: a vision of a fully professional nucleus symphony orchestra with an extended season, strong educational and outreach programs, broad representation of Canadian composers, soloists, conductors and a really strong overall relationship with the Winnipeg community.

I am truly inspired to continue the great tradition Victor Feldbrill was so instrumental in creating and I feel privileged to be among his younger colleagues. Thank you, Maestro!

Daniel Raiskin,
Music Director


Photo by Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press


Remembering Conductor, Violinist and Champion of Canadian Music Victor Feldbrill

by James Manishen, WSO Artistic Operations Associate

The WSO mourns the death of its second Conductor and Music Director Victor Feldbrill, OC OOnt, who passed away at age 96 on June 17, 2020. One of Canada’s leading conductors, Mr. Feldbrill was born in Toronto and had a long and eminent career on the podium. At age 93, his last conducting appearance with the WSO took place in October 2017 at the opening concert of the orchestra’s 70th season, leading a performance of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3.

Mr. Feldbrill led the WSO from 1958 through 1968, succeeding its first Music Director Walter Kaufman. At the start of his tenure at age 34, Mr. Feldbrill was the youngest Canadian-born conductor to lead a major Canadian orchestra.

Mr. Feldbrill came to the WSO with conditions he felt essential in order to grow an orchestra which would have artistic continuity and build audiences. The musicians were to be employed as a “nucleus orchestra” with a season contract, rather than on a per-service arrangement where each musician had been hired for individual concerts. He insisted the orchestra undertake an educational commitment to introduce orchestral music to young people. The Pops realm also had to be recognized through a series of free matinee programs. Most notably, music by Canadian composers figured prominently in his programs – composers he knew personally such as John Weinzweig, Harry Somers and others now in the Canadian orchestral mainstream.

Mr. Feldbrill spent his teen years playing the violin, joining the Navy in the Second World War to play the violin in the Navy Show. After earning his Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory in 1949, he enjoyed a highly successful performing career as first violinist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1949-1956). As a conductor, he appeared as a guest leader with virtually every major symphony orchestra in Canada. Following his tenure with the WSO, he became Resident Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1973-1978) and was the first Conductor-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (1968-1982).

A champion of music for youth, Mr. Feldbrill founded the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 1974 and was its Conductor until 1978 and was a faculty member of Tokyo National University of Art and Music. Even in his 90s, Victor Feldbrill’s dedication to music was unbridled. He was named an Honorary Fellow by The Royal Conservatory in 2014. His biography Victor Feldbrill: Canadian Conductor Extraordinaire by Walter Pitman (Dundurn Press) was published in 2010. Among his many recordings is a live 1959 WSO performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Glenn Gould as soloist (available from the WSO).

What really set Mr. Feldbrill apart was his limitless enthusiasm and support of Canadian music and young musicians, as well as his insistence on playing the music of Canadian composers. His contribution to music in Canada and the development of essential organizations and individuals stands as a testament to the power of determination and core belief in the value of music and the arts.

The WSO sends its deepest condolences to his immediate family.


James Manishen and Victor Feldbrill, 2017.

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