Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Maestro Bramwell Tovey will become the longest-serving Music Director in the orchestra’s 99-year history.
The VSO announced last week the extension of Tovey’s contract that will see him remain at the artistic helm of the orchestra through August of 2018, marking his 18th year with the organization. Tovey will become the VSO’s Music Director Emeritus, conducting up to two weeks per season starting in 2018/2019, the orchestra’s 100th Anniversary Season.
To celebrate his tenure as Music Director and the orchestra’s anniversary, the Society has commissioned the Juno Award-winning composer to write a Concerto for the orchestra which he will conduct on one of the VSO’s subscription series concerts in the spring of 2019.
In talking about his contract extension, Tovey said, “I am deeply honoured to accept the board’s invitation to extend my tenure as Music Director of the VSO to 2017/18, the orchestra’s 99th season. I have the greatest affection and respect for the musicians of the VSO whose inspirational artistry is at the core of Vancouver’s cultural life. In the summer, I informed the Chair of the board of directors that it was my firm belief that the orchestra’s centenary season in 2018/19 should be led by a new music director who can pilot the orchestra into its second century. At that time I will be honoured to assume the role of Music Director Emeritus.”
Since becoming the VSO’s Music Director in 2000, Tovey has conducted the orchestra in over 600 concerts in over 40 venues. In addition to conducting on each of the VSO’s extensive concert series in the 16 venues in which it performs on a regular basis in Metro Vancouver, Tovey led the ensemble on tour to Korea, Macau and China in 2008, making the VSO the first Canadian symphony orchestra to perform in China in 30 years, and the first Canadian symphony orchestra to perform at the prestigious Beijing Music Festival. In subsequent tours, Tovey took the orchestra to Central Canada in 2009 and the U.S. West Coast in 2013.
Tovey has made five critically-acclaimed recordings with the VSO, including the GRAMMY® and Juno-Award winning disc with Canadian violinist James Ehnes performing the Walton, Korngold and Barber violin concerti. His recordings of the two Chopin piano concerti with Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska, and a disc of works by former VSO Composer-In-Residence Jeffrey Ryan both were nominated for a Juno award. The Ryan recording won Best Classical Recording of the Year at the 2012 Western Canadian Music Awards. A recording of Tovey’s and John Murrell’s full-length opera, The Inventor, commissioned and given the World Premiere by the Calgary Opera, will be released by Naxos in 2014 with the VSO performing and an all-Canadian cast.
Tovey has continuously improved the quality of the VSO on several levels, including the appointment of over half of the current members of the orchestra, and 11 of 17 section Principal players. He is an avid supporter of Canadian music and Canadian composers. In Vancouver he has programmed the works of over 100 living composers to date, including over 30 world premieres. He received the Friends of Canadian Music Award for 2013 from the Canadian Music Centre and the Canadian League of Composers.
A strong proponent of music education, Tovey is an enthusiastic leader of the VSO’s educational activities, regularly conducting concerts for elementary school students and on the orchestra’s Kids Koncerts matinee series, welcoming students to open rehearsals and personally visiting numerous primary and secondary schools annually as part of the orchestra’s VSO Connects program with his Meet the Maestro presentation. In 2003, Tovey envisioned the creation of the VSO School of Music, a state of the art community music school which opened its doors in 2011 and is situated next to the Orpheum Theatre. The school has grown to over 900 students of all ages and abilities. Tovey is the school's artistic advisor.
“Bramwell is a brilliant, devoted and inspirational Music Director," said Jeff Alexander, president and CEO of the Vancouver Symphony Society. "His tenure with the VSO has been transformational. I look forward to continuing our work together as we head toward the orchestra's 100th anniversary season, and to hearing him conduct the orchestra he has shaped so beautifully well into the future.”
Tovey was named to the Order of Canada and was inducted into the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2013, and has received numerous other awards and honours.