Victor Feldbrill | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Victor Feldbrill

Victor Feldbrill. Conductor, violinist, b Toronto 4 Apr 1924; Artist Diploma (Toronto) 1949, honorary FRHCM 1978, honorary LLD (Brock) 1991.

Victor Feldbrill

Victor Feldbrill. Conductor, violinist, b Toronto 4 Apr 1924; Artist Diploma (Toronto) 1949, honorary FRHCM 1978, honorary LLD (Brock) 1991. The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, he studied violin privately 1936-43 with Sigmund Steinberg, theory in 1939 with John Weinzweig, and conducting 1942-3 with Ettore Mazzoleni at the TCM. He was conductor 1942-3 of the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra and made his TSO conducting debut 30 Mar 1943 in a performance of Strauss' waltz Artist's Life. While serving with the RCN (1943-5, as a violinist in Meet the Navy), he was stationed in London, where, on the recommendation of Sir Adrian Boult, he studied harmony and composition with Herbert Howells at the RCM and conducting with Ernest Read at the RAM. Upon his return to Canada he held the positions of concertmaster and assistant conductor 1945-9 of the RCMT Symphony Orchestra and Opera Company and studied violin 1946-9 with Kathleen Parlow. During these years he also continued conducting studies, at Tanglewood (summer 1947) and with Pierre Monteux in Maine (summers 1949 and 1950). He was a first violin 1949-56 with the TSO and 1952-6 with the CBC Symphony Orchestra, which he also guest-conducted 19 times. He founded the Canadian Chamber Players in 1952 and conducted them for several seasons in Hart House Sunday concerts and elsewhere. During the 1950s he also conducted for Ontario School Broadcasts ('Music for Young Folk' ca 1952-7) and National School Broadcasts ('Music in the Making' 1953) and freelanced as a violinist and as a conductor for many other CBC radio and TV programs.

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra 1958-68

Feldbrill studied conducting with Willem van Otterloo in Hilversum and with Meinhard von Zallinger in Salzburg during the summer of 1956 and was assistant conductor of the TSO 1956-7. In 1958 he conducted the Hart House Orchestra at the Brussels World's Fair and became the conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, a position he retained until 1968. During his years with this orchestra he expanded its series to include pop and youth concerts and initiated visits to Manitoba communities such as Brandon, Dauphin, and Virden and to northern US border towns. In 1964 the orchestra and its conductor received an award from the Concert Artists Guild of the USA for their support and guidance of young musicians.

The BBC and the National Youth Orchestra

Feldbrill conducted at the International Conference of Composers at Stratford in 1960 and at the Vancouver International Festival in 1961. He was the resident conductor for sessions of the NYO in 1960-62 and in 1964, 1969, and 1975. He visited the USSR in 1963 as part of an exchange program and led orchestras in Ukraine - Lvov, Kiev, Odessa, and Zaparozhye. Invited to return during the 1966-7 season he conducted in the Soviet cities of Baku, Minsk, and Tbilisi. Beginning in 1957 he appeared annually as guest conductor for the BBC, and in 1972 he guest-conducted in Italy.

Canadian Positions 1968-81

Feldbrill was on the staff of the University of Toronto 1968-82, assuming duties as conductor of the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1968, special lecturer in 1969, and conductor-in-residence in 1972. He also helped to institute the conductors' workshop there in 1969. He was the TS's director of youth programming 1968-78, that orchestra's resident conductor 1973-7, and the founding conductor and music director of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra 1974-8. (This orchestra offered a scholarship in his name.) He also began working with youth orchestras at the Banff SFA in 1975, conducting the Canadian Chamber Orchestra and regular sessions of the Canadian Festival of Youth Orchestras. He was acting music director 1979-81 of the London Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra London Canada).


Feldbrill spent three months in 1979 as the first Canadian guest conductor at the Tokyo National University of Art and Music, beginning an annual association with that institution that resulted in his appointment as a professor in 1981, and as principal conductor of the university's Geidai Philharmonia in 1982. He was guest conductor of orchestras throughout Japan. In 1987 he was named professor emeritus upon his retirement. Feldbrill was the first Canadian invited to conduct the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in Manila in 1984, and to guest-conduct and lecture in China, in both Peking and Shenyang in 1987. He taught and guest-conducted in the Czech Republic from 1993-2003. In 1990 he was named music director and principal conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic, leaving in 1996.

Feldbrill guest-conducted CBC orchestras in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Montreal, and for CBC TV opera productions such as Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona, Walton's The Bear, and Ridout'sThe Lost Child. He appeared with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec, Regina, Saskatoon, and Vancouver symphony orchestras, and the NACO. He conducted many times for the COC, notable assignments being the premieres of Somers'Louis Riel in 1967 (and subsequent performances) and Wilson'sHeloise and Abelard in 1973. He conducted the University of Toronto Opera Department production of Humphrey Searle's Hamlet in 1969. For Canada's 125th anniversary in 1992, Feldbrill led the NACO on a 32-city tour. For his 50th year of conducting performances of the Toronto Symphony, he led the premiere of Srul Irving Glick's The Reawakening.

Honours and Assessment

Recognized as a champion of Canadian music, throughout his career Feldbrill made a point of including at least one Canadian work whenever possible in every concert he conducted. William Littler, in the Toronto Star, 12 Mar 1973, wrote: 'If Victor Feldbrill didn't exist, it is entirely possible that Toronto's musical community would have to invent him ... He has made himself an indispensable cog in the city's musical machinery, and it's time we recognized that without him, the machine would run much less efficiently'. In 1967 the CLComp awarded him the first Canada Music Citation, and in 1978 the City of Tokyo presented him with a medal in recognition of his services to music and to youth. He was the first recipient of the Roy Thomson Hall award in 1985, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada the same year. In 1999, he was named to the Order of Ontario, and received the University of Toronto's Distinguished Visitor Award. In recognition of his contributions to Canadian music, Feldbrill was named an ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre in 2009.


By composer A-K
Selected Canadian works first conducted by Victor Feldbrill:

Adaskin Grant, Warden of the Plains 1967

Archer Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra 1958

Bales Concerto for organ and orchestra 1959

Beckwith Music for Dancing (orchestral version) 1950

- All the Bees and All the Keys 1973

Davies Variations 1967

- From Harmony 1968

Dolin Drakkar 1973

- Concerto for piano and orchestra 1975

Eckhardt-Gramatté Concerto for Orchestra 1961

Fiala Eulogy 1966

Freedman 5 Pieces for String Quartet 1949 (Feldbrill 2nd violin)

- Divertimento for oboe and strings 1949

- Tableau 1952 (English premiere 1960)

- 5 Pieces for String Orchestra 1953

- Chaconne 1964

- March? 1971

- Preludes for Orchestra 1971

Glick The Reawakening 1992

Greenberg, Lionel Prelude and Fugue 1965

Henninger, Richard Catena (1st Canadian performance) 1971

HétuFlute Concerto 1992

Karam Poem for Strings 1949

Klein Fanfares for Orchestra 1978


'The Widow's irresistable [sic] appeal,' OpCan, Fall 1973

'Victor Feldbrill at the Tokyo University of the Arts,' University of Toronto News, vol 16, Fall 1979

'Commissions and composers,' TS (program), Sep-Oct 1982.


Heritage: Canadian Folk-Inspired Compositions: Jones - Champagne - Chotem - MacMillan - Cable - Adaskin. Toronto Philharmonia. 1967. Dom S-1372/Dom LPS-21024/(selections) Citadel CT-6011

Somers Symphony for winds, brass, and percussion. CBC Wind Symphony. 1967. CBC SM-134

Spohr Overture to 'Faust' - Bruch Concerto, Opus 58. Pratz violin, CBC Festival O. 1976. CBC SM-329

Straughan Enfilony. Luxembourg Radio O. 1977. Sun-Owl Productions SN-001

See also Discographies for CBC SO; The Fool; Louis Riel, TS; Winnipeg SO.

By composer L-Z

Selected Canadian works first conducted by Victor Feldbrill:

Morawetz Concerto for brass quintet and orchestra 1968

- A Child's Garden of Verses 1973

Naylor Variations for Small Orchestra 1961

Pentland Concerto for piano and orchestra 1958

- Symphony No. 4 1960

- Ciné-Scene I 1974

Pépin Nombres for two pianos and orchestra 1963

Prévost Chorégraphie I 1975

Ridout The Ascension (Cantiones mysticae No. 2) 1962

- In Memoriam Anne Frank 1965

- Suite from La Prima Ballerina 1971

- The Lost Child 1975

Schafer Canzoni for Prisoners 1963

- No Longer than 10 Minutes 1971

- Divan i Shams i Tabriz 1972

Sherman, Norman Sinfonia Concertante for bassoon and strings 1961

Somers Symphony No. 1 1953

- The Homeless Ones 1956

- Second Piano Concerto 1956 (also first concert performance 1978)

- Faces of Canada 1956

- The Fool 1956

- Symphony for woodwinds, brass, and percussion 1967

- Louis Riel 1967

- Improvisation 1968

- Enkidu 1977

- The Garden and the Cage 1979

- Serinette 1990

Surdin Eine kleine Hammer-Klapper-Musik 1976

Symonds Concerto Grosso for jazz quintet and symphony orchestra 1957

- Nameless Hour 1966

- Democratic Concerto 1967

Weinzweig Rhapsody for Orchestra 1957

- Concerto for piano and orchestra 1966

- Dummiyah/Silence 1969

- Divertimento No. 8 for tuba and orchestra 1983

- Divertimento No. 9 for orchestra 1982

Wilson Heloise and Abelard 1973

Further Reading