Remembering Bramwell Tovey

Bramwell Tovey leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on January 10, 2019

Todd Rosenberg Photography

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the loss of the eminent British conductor and pianist Bramwell Tovey, who died yesterday, July 12, 2022, following a long illness. He was 69.

"The music world has lost a true renaissance man with the passing of Bramwell Tovey, and I have lost a dear, dear friend," wrote CSOA President Jeff Alexander. "We began our tenures at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the same week in September 2000. For the subsequent 14 years, we were joined at the hip in our daily quest to advance all artistic and administrative aspects of the organization, and many advancements we indeed made. Bramwell's concerts were always extremely enjoyable. His many compositions, about which he was so humble, were intricate, thoughtful, meaningful additions to the repertoire. His piano playing a joy to listen to. His unyielding support of my work and the well-being of the institution forever appreciated. In the eight years that have passed since I left the VSO for the CSO, we were simply friends. And he was a wonderful friend. He will be missed by the tens of thousands of people who benefited from experiencing his great talent each concert season. Even more so by his family and his friends, who were very much a part of his family."

A frequent guest to the Chicago Symphony podium in recent years, Tovey also appeared with the Orchestra as a pianist, most notably leading Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue from the keyboard in all-Gershwin concerts in March 2017.

"Elgar’s Enigma Variations does not lack for concert performances, but Tovey’s stood out," wrote Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, following Tovey's most recent appearances with the Orchestra in January 2019. "From the statement of the main theme, which the conductor delivered with unusual care and deliberation, it was clear that this was going to be a singular interpretation. Sure enough, Tovey turned these vignettes—each depicting someone in Elgar’s circle of friends—into vividly imagined portraits."

A complete list of his appearances with the Orchestra is below.

August 10, 2014, Ravinia Festival
BRAHMS/Juon Hungarian Dance No. 4 in F Minor, WoO 1, No. 4
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 10 in E Major, WoO 1, No. 10
BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
Miriam Fried, violin
LEHÁR Gold and Silver Waltz
J. STRAUSS, Jr. On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
R. STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

August 20, 2016, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Itzhak Perlman, violin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

February 3 and 4, 2017, Orchestra Hall
WALTON Orb and Sceptre
BRITTEN The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
TCHAIKOVSKY Act 2 from Sleeping Beauty

March 24 and 25, 2017, Orchestra Hall
GERSHWIN/Rose Overture to Strike Up the Band
GERSHWIN/Tovey A Foggy Day
GERSHWIN Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess
GERSHWIN/Grofé Rhapsody in Blue
Bramwell Tovey, piano
GERSHWIN An American in Paris

January 10, 11, and 12, 2019, Orchestra Hall
IVES/Schuman Variations on "America"
IVES/Adams At the River
COPLAND Selections from Old American Songs
STILL In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy
DAMROSCH Danny Deever
DAUGHERTY Letter to Mrs. Bixby from Letters from Lincoln
CORIGLIANO One Sweet Morning from One Sweet Morning
Thomas Hampson, baritone
ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma)

Most recently, Tovey had accepted the position of music director of Sarasota Orchestra, continued artistic leadership positions with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and BBC Concert Orchestra, and was appointed as principal guest conductor with Orchestre Symphonique de Québec.

This article also appears here.

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