2005 British Open Championships - Composer: Bramwell Tovey


4BR looks at the career of the composer of the set work for this year's contest.

Bram ToveyBramwell Tovey, the outstanding British conductor, works internationally with a prestigious list of orchestras - including the New York Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - in addition to his music directorships with the Vancouver Symphony and the  Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

He was appointed Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony in September 2000, and enjoyed great success in his first season with this orchestra in a broad range of programming from the opening night of Mahler Symphony No. 1 to the choral masterpiece by Benjamin Britten, the War Requiem. 

On 18 January 2002, Bramwell Tovey was appointed Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, a post he took up in September 2002.  He has already completed successful tours with the orchestra around Europe (including the Musikverein in Vienna) and in the Far East, and has also made a critically-acclaimed recording of Jean Cras' opera Polypheme.  Recent concert highlights with the Luxembourg Philharmonic included performances of  Mozart: Don Giovanni, Beethoven: Symphonies No. 3, 5 and 7, Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique and Mahler's Fifth Symphony,

On 26 June 2005, at the opening of Luxembourg's new Philharmonic Hall, Bramwell Tovey conducted the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Europa Academie Choir in the world premiere of Penderecki's 8th Symphony, especially composed for the occasion.

Bramwell Tovey conducts a huge range of works across the whole of the musical spectrum.  His strong commitment to new music was demonstrated during his time as a Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Canada where he founded a New Music Festival and was its Artistic Director for 10 years.  During that time the Festival premiered more than 250 new works by a broad range of international and Canadian composers.  Practically all of these concerts were broadcast on the CBC in Canada.  Tovey also has a strong affinity with choral works and has conducted works from Mahler's Symphony No. 8 through to Bach's Mass in B Minor. 

He also has premiered new choral works including the oratorio Resurrection by Canadian Composer Victor Davies.  In the opera house he has conducted operas by Puccini, Strauss, Mozart, Menotti, Poulenc, Britten and most recently Stravinsky, when he conducted The Rake's Progress with the Edmonton Opera.  He premiered a new opera by John Estacio on a joint commission from the Banff Centre and the Calgary Opera in Spring 2004, and will revive this for the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) in Spring 2005.

In recent seasons, Bramwell Tovey made his debuts with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, and has conducted orchestras across Canada including the Toronto Symphony, the Calgary Symphony, the Montreal Symphony and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa).  In the UK, he has performed with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 

He has also performed with orchestras including the Trondheim Symphony, Belgian National Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonietta, the Leipzig Radio Orchestra and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, where he conducted a special concert with Bryn Terfel in September 1999.   

In addition to conducting, Bramwell has a range of interests including composition, where most recently his new Cello Concerto was premiered at the New Music Festival in Winnipeg in January 2001.  He has also composed for brass band and enjoyed great success with his Requiem premiered by the Hannaford Street Silver Band in Toronto in 2000.  This work was recorded in Spring 2001.  Mr Tovey is an accomplished jazz pianist and has enjoyed performing and recording in that idiom over the years.

Bramwell Tovey has a well deserved reputation as an exceptional communicator.  His debut on the renowned Young People's series of the New York Philharmonic in 2002/03 resulted in an invitation to found a new series, Summertime Classics, which he launched to great acclaim in 2004.  He looks forward to continuing this series in 2005 and 2006.

Bramwell Tovey's work for television includes two documentaries with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a special production of Sleeping Beauty for British television.  In Canada, CBC TV recently broadcast a special Adrienne Clarkson presentation Revelation on the world premiere of Victor Davies' Oratorio, premiered by Tovey and the Winnipeg Symphony.

Tovey holds an honorary Associateship of the Royal Academy of Music and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Winnipeg.  He was awarded the Canada 125th Anniversary Medal in recognition of his contribution to Canadian cultural life.   In 1999 Bramwell Tovey received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Manitoba and the Joan Chalmers Award for Artistic Direction, a prestigious Canadian prize worth $25,000 awarded for an outstanding contribution in a professional performing arts organisation.

Bramwell Tovey has a long association with the brass band world. Born into a Salvation Army family in Essex in 1953, he was a fledgling baritone and then tuba player with the Ilford Citadel Band, before progressing to the Royal Academy of Music.

He has conducted many of the movements leading bands in concert and contest performances – many of them memorably, but without success it must be said, including a supreme ‘Les Preludes' at the British Open in 2001 and loquacious ‘Maunsell Forts' in 2002. His single winning performance came in 1988 with the Rigid Containers Band on Wilfred Heaton's masterpiece, ‘Contest Music'.

He is currently the newly appointed Musical Director of the National Youth Band of Great Britian, further cementing his passion for the development of youth players, and he has also been the Principal Conductor of the current British Open Champions, the Fodens Richardson Band since 2000.

His conducting though remains a masterful piece of craftsmanship – elegant and eloquent, detailed yet broad and rich in style. In full flow the music just seeps through his body, and out of his baton like an electricity conductor.

His composition for the Open is a welcome advance, and it is hoped it will be the start of a long and fruitful compositional output for the movement.

4BR wishes to thank IMG Artists for biographical details for this article. For further details on Bramwell Tovey and other artists, go to www.imgartists.com


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