It is part of the mission of the University of Manitoba to produce creative work of the highest quality as judged by international standards and to provide an understanding of the creative arts as a part of our heritage in order to contribute to the cultural well-being of Manitoba, Canada and the world. Since 1989, when his tenure as Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra began, Maestro Bramwell Tovey has exemplified the achievement of these goals at the highest level.
Bramwell Toveys conducting career has led him to the podium of major orchestras around the world. In addition to his appointment with the Winnipeg Symphony, he was appointed in 1996 as the Principal Conductor of the English Sinfonia following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Groves and Sir Alexander Gibson. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra where he spends four weeks each season. He has conducted every major orchestra in Britain, including the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic as well as such orchestras as the München Symphoniker, the Israel Sinfonietta, and L’Orchèstre National de Belgique. In Canada, in addition to the Calgary orchestra, he has appeared with the Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Quebec symphonies. Critic Claude Gingras writing in La Presse said of his 1994 return engagement with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra:
"Bramwell Tovey's concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra was a complete success, not only forthe musicians who played magnificently for him, but also for the public whose undivided attention and standing ovation at the end were unequivocal."
The conducting career of Bramwell Tovey also includes opera. Among many performances are Mozart's Die Zauberfläte with the Calgary Opera, Strauss's Die Fledermaus with the Vancouver Opera, Poulenc's Dialogue of the Carmelites with the Manitoba Opera, and Donizetti's Don Pasquale with the Canadian Opera Company. His numerous performances of major choral works include Britten's War Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. He gave the world premiere of Davies' Revelation which was the subject of a CBC-TV documentary for Adrienne Clarkson Presents.
One of Bramwell Tovey's important contributions to the concert audiences is his verbal program annotations. In the WSO's Basically Bramwell series, as well as similar series he has launched in Toronto and London, Ontario, he talks about the music from the podium in a way which is informative, entertaining and humourous when approriate while at the same time teaching about the music in ways which further the understanding and enjoyment of the listeners.
A major achievement of Bramwell Tovey's tenure at the WSO is the creation of the internationally renowned New Music Festival. Founded in 1992, this nine day festival has brought to Winnipeg major composers from around the world.
These composers, whose music has provided the core repertoire for the festivals, have included Canada's R. Murray Schafer, Estonia's Arvo Part, the Netherlands' Louis Andriessen, England's Gavin Bryars, and American composer John Corigliano who called this festival "The greatest music festival in the world." An important part of the festival is the Canadian Composer's Competition which has stimulated the creation of and, even more importantly, the performance of many new Canadian works for orchestra.
Bramwell Tovey has contributed to the Winnipeg Symphony and the Manitoba community in many other important but often unrecognized ways. He is a featured speaker or guest at many community cultural and charitable events. He has made the orchestra accessible to Manitobans living far from Winnipeg through the creation of a northern Manitoba tour. He has made orchestra members available for special project work in the public schools. He himself has worked with educational ensembles both in the public schools and the universities. He has provided opportunities for many of the choirs within the community as well as numerous qualified students to perform with the orchestra. In short, his vision of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is that it is a world class musical organization which is not only an important contributor to, but an important participant within, the community in which it resides.
Bramwell Tovey's musical career has been characterized by musical performances of the highest quality, by creativity in musical interpretation and methods of presentation of the music and the orchestra, and by concern for the place of music and of artistic organizations in the wider community. For this, and for the world-wide recognition which he has achieved and which he shares with Manitoba through his work with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, we honour him today.