Bramwell Tovey, who has died aged 69, enjoyed major careers on both sides of the Atlantic, holding a string of chief conductor posts, most recently at the BBC Concert and Rhode Island Philharmonic orchestras.


Also a composer, he was firmly committed to bringing classical music to a wide audience, contributing to TV broadcasts and naming similarly minded conductors such as Leonard Bernstein and André Previn among his major influences.

Born in Ilford, Essex, Tovey played various instruments in local brass bands before winning a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His first posts as a professional conductor saw him work at London Festival Ballet before taking the reins at Scottish Ballet and Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as, respectively, music director and principal conductor.

It was in 1989 that Tovey began his long association with Canada, when he was appointed music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 2001. This just overlapped with his long and successful spell at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, where he was music director from 2000-18. He was also music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic from 2002-06.

Tovey’s appointment as principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra at the beginning of 2018 enabled him to specialise in some of the lighter side of classical music alongside the core repertoire. With the BBC CO, he conducted BBC Proms including 2019’s Henry Wood Tribute, marking the 150th anniversary of the festival founder’s birth.

As a composer, Tovey’s work included The Inventor, premiered by Calgary Opera in 2011, and the score for the 2005 movie Eighteen, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Alan Cumming. He was a major fan of fellow composer Harrison Birtwistle, championing his music and conducting it on regular occasions.


Image credit: Getty Images


Jeremy PoundDeputy Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Jeremy Pound is currently BBC Music Magazine’s Deputy Editor, a role he has held since 2004. Before that, he was the features editor of Classic CD magazine, and has written for a colourful array of publications ranging from Music Teacher to History Revealed, Total Football and Environment Action; in 2018, he edited and co-wrote The King’s Singers: Gold 50th anniversary book.