Obituary: Bramwell Tovey, Principal Conductor & Artistic Director of Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, Dies at 69

By Operawire Staff

Principal conductor and artistic director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra (RIPO), Bramwell Tovey, died at 69 on July 12, 2022, a day after his birthday.

In May 2019, Bramwell was diagnosed with cancer—a rare type of sarcoma, and after surgery in June 2021, he was declared cancer free. Unfortunately, it returned in January 2022.

Tovey’s tenure with Rhode Island began in 2018 after 18 years as the artistic director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra—a record for that organization. Prior to joining VSO, Tovey did stints at the Winnipeg Symphony and as the music director of the Sarasota Orchestra in Florida.

Born in East London on July 11, 1953, Tovey’s music training began as a member of Salvation Army Bands as a tuba player, and thus began a life of music that saw the maestro win Grammy and Juno Awards. Though his tenure at RIPO was sadly cut short, Tovey brought renowned artists Olga Kern, Yefim Bronfman, James Ehnes, Pinchas Zukerman, Amanda Forsythe, and Emanuel Ax to RIPO.

“We are all heartbroken,” orchestra Executive Director David Beauchesne said on Rhode Island Philharmonic website. “Bramwell Tovey was a dear friend and colleague, and a person of uncommon ability, warmth, humor, sincerity and kindness. The youngest student and most revered guest artist received the same level of his care and attention.”

The conductor/composer died in his home, surrounded by his family, listening to brass band music. His daughter Jess was at the piano while Emma sang.

Tovey is survived by his partner Verena De Neovel, children Ben, Jessica, Emmeline, and grandchildren.