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.
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). From 1984 to 1988 he was Principal Conductor of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. During this period he also conducted several British orchestras and appeared as pianist in Elite Syncopations. Tovey conducted the first season of the revived D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1988. Between 1989 and 2001, he was the music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, 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, and extended again in January 2010 to 2015. 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.
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."
Tovey was music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra from 2002 to 2006. 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. 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.
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, through the conclusion of the series in 2014. 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.
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', 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. 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 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. 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.
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.