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Remembering Bramwell Tovey

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We are incredibly saddened to learn about the passing of former Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey.

The profound sadness fills my heart. Former Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and founding father of the iconic Winnipeg New Music Festival, Maestro Tovey represented a rare type of artists who could galvanize and excite both musicians and audiences, composers and music critics, artistic administrators and fundraisers… Truly in love with music, with impeccable style and unique, infectious sense of humor he was a born communicator and for many years a much loved member of the Winnipeg community. The immeasurable impact of his time at the helm of the WSO is still being profoundly felt today and his passionate and selfless approach to music making will serve as an inspiration to many of us for years to come. We lost the best of the best. My condolences go out to Bramwell’s family and loved ones. Rest In Peace, dear Maestro…  


Daniel Raiskin, Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

“Bramwell Tovey was a much beloved maestro who made an indelible impact on the symphonic community in Canada, especially during his wonderfully memorable years with the WSO before he joined Vancouver Symphony,” says Angela Birdsell, Executive Director of the WSO.

“He was noted for bringing the same level of commitment and enthusiasm to outreach and education concerts as he did to the great symphonic masterworks; bringing to each a human touch and a profound love of music. He will be deeply missed by audiences and musicians alike.”

Tovey most recently served as the Principal Conductor of the B.B.C. Concert Orchestra, based in London, U.K., while also working as the Artistic Advisor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic.

During his time here at the WSO (1989-2001) Tovey established the New Music Festival with Glenn Buhr, the orchestra’s first composer-in-residence, and his successor, Randolph Peters. During successive festivals, Bramwell led more than 200 contemporary works, including many Canadian and world premieres, all broadcast on the CBC Radio network. Visiting composers to the festival included Louis Andriessen, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, Mark Anthony Turnage, Joan Tower, Arvo Pärt, Aaron Jay Kernis, R.Murray Schafer, Bright Sheng and Gavin Bryars.

In 2000, Tovey accepted the position of music director for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He retained his post with the WSO until the end of the 2000/2001 season. Tovey’s farewell gala took place May 13, 2001. In an interview back-stage with the Winnipeg Free Press he said, “The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is a lion and it’s a great, great big strong animal and I’ve been lucky enough to be the roar of the lion and that’s been a great privilege. Anything Bramwell Tovey’s meant to the city is insignificant [compared] to what the WSO means to the city.”

Based on the outpouring of messages of condolences we’ve received, we know that maestro Tovey meant a great deal to the city, the WSO and the musicians. He will be greatly missed, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues.

The British conductor and composer was 69 when he passed.