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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 sixty-nine.

“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 fourteen 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.

Bramwell Tovey speaks about Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in advance of his March 2017 performances

“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

Thomas Hampson and Bramwell Tovey onstage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 10, 2019 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

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.

Irwin Hoffman

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family joins the music world in mourning the death of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970. Hoffman died yesterday at the age of 93.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Kurt Loft of the Florida Orchestra has posted a beautiful tribute here.

Irwin Hoffman

On November 26, 2014, we celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Irwin Hoffman, a titled conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1964 until 1970.

On August 13, 1964, Merrill Shepard, then-president of The Orchestral Association, announced that Hoffman had been engaged as the CSO’s new assistant conductor, beginning with the 1964-65 season. Hoffman was to serve the Orchestra and assist music director Jean Martinon in a variety of capacities, including conducting rehearsals and concerts (including youth concerts), leading the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as new score review.

Hoffman’s debut program with the Orchestra was as follows:

December 17 & 18, 1964
VILLA-LOBOS Uirapurú
BARTÓK Violin Concerto No. 1
Victor Aitay, violin
MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D Major

Program book announcement from January 1968

Program book announcement from January 1968

Martinon promoted Hoffman to associate conductor the following year. He would serve in that capacity for three seasons, and in January 1968, Association president Louis Sudler announced that Hoffman would be acting music director for the 1968-69 season. (On December 17, 1968, the Association announced that Georg Solti would become the Orchestra’s eighth music director, beginning with the 1969-70 season.)

For the 1969-70 season, Hoffman’s title was conductor and he led several weeks of subscription and popular concerts. In subsequent seasons, he returned as a guest conductor and most recently led the Orchestra in January 1977 with the following program:

January 12, 13, 14 & 15, 1977
January 17, 1977 (Uihlein Hall, Milwaukee)
KAY Of New Horizons
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Esther Glazer, violin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100

Irwin Hoffman with score

Hoffman made his conducting debut at the age of seventeen with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Robin Hood Dell. He also studied at the Juilliard School and later with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Hoffman has held titled positions with several orchestras, including the Grant Park Music Festival; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; Martha Graham Dance Company; Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, later the Florida Orchestra; Bogotá Philharmonic in Colombia; Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra; and the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra in Chile.

Happy birthday, maestro!

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Theodore Thomas

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The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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