Vancouver Symphony Orchestra maestro Bramwell Tovey is set to become the longest-serving music director in the organization's history.
The VSO has just extended Tovey's contract right through the 2017-18 season, when he'll mark 18 years with the orchestra.
But all good things must come to an end: Tovey will step down and become music director emeritus starting in the 2018-19 season.
The move has all the symmetry of a fine Bach concerto. The new contract means the acclaimed maestro will see the organization right through its 99th anniversary season. Then he'll pass the baton to a new conductor who will start the VSO's next century.
"Both Bramwell and the [Vancouver] Sympony Society are thrilled," Alan Gove, the VSO's vice-president of marketing and sales, told the Straight today. "It gives us an extension and allows us to continue in the direction that Bramwell has been taking us for many years and it really allows us to finish the work that we started. We have four more calendar years to work with him, but it's also important to have an endpoint. Bramwell is fully supportive that handing of the baton in time for the centenary is an elegant and perfect thing to do."
To celebrate both Tovey’s tenure as music director and the orchestra’s centenary, the society has commissioned the Juno Award-winning composer to write a Concerto for Orchestra. Tovey is set to conduct it on one of the VSO’s subscription series concerts in the spring of 2019.
Since becoming the VSO's music director in 2000, Tovey has conducted the orchestra in more than 600 concerts. Among his biggest accomplishments were taking the VSO on a tour of Korea, Macau and China in 2008-making it the first Canadian symphony to visit the region in 30 years; leading the VSO in the Grammy- and Juno award-winning disc with Canadian violinist James Ehnes; and seeing his opera The Inventor debut at the Calgary Opera (with its disc released by Naxos in 2014 with the VSO playing the score). He's also seen the opening of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music in 2011. Along the way, Tovey has been awarded an Order of Canada and has been inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame, while flying around the world for conducting gigs in hubs from Boston to Melbourne to Luxembourg.
'Those are big accomplishments," Gove said, "but the work he wants to continue to do is build and complete an artistic vision. He's not done with [Gustav] Mahler, so you'll be seeing more of that from the orchestra. and he's starting a new-music festival in the [new year], and to have four years to get that up and running to international standards is something very near and dear to Bramwell's heart." Gove adds Tovey can use the next four years to see through the new Spring Festival, as well, an event that focuses on a composer or era for two concentrated weeks.
Tovey has also appointed more than half the members of the VSO, and he'll have the next few years to work with the newer players. Said Nadia Kyne, assistant principal flute and chair of the orchestra committee in a press statement: “Maestro Tovey has always been a great collaborator, and a Music Director who has encouraged and facilitated our best playing. It is remarkable to think that he has appointed eleven of the orchestra's seventeen Principal players, and over half of all the full-time musicians in the orchestra. That is the impact he has had on this orchestra, and the incredible legacy that he has built, and will continue to build into the future.”
“Bramwell is a brilliant, devoted and inspirational Music Director," added 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.”