Victor Feldbrill, Canadian conductor and violinist, was born on April 4, 1924 and died June 17, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. He was a champion for new compositions by Canadian composers, conducting numerous premieres throughout his long and distinguished career.
Feldbrill studied with various violinists, conductors, music theorists, and composers, including: Sigmund Steinberg (violin, 1936-1943); John Weinzweig (1939, theory); and, Ettore Mazzoleni at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (TCM) (conducting, 1942-1943). During World War One, he served with the Royal Canadian Navy (1943-1945) and played violin in Meet the Navy. While stationed in London, England, he studied continued his studies with Herbert Howells (harmony and composition) at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Ernest Read at the Royal Academy of Music (conducting). After returning to Canada, he continued his studies with Kathleen Parlow (violin, 1946-1949), at Tanglewood (conducting, summer 1947), with Pierre Monteux (conducting, summers 1949 and 1950), with Willem van Otterloo (conducting, summer 1956), and with Meinhard von Zallinger (conducting, summer 1956).
As a violinist, he appeared as concertmaster with the Royal Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra and Opera Company (1945-1949); first violin with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) (1949-1956); first violin with the CBC Symphony Orchestra (1952-1956). He also appeared as a guest conductor with the CBC Symphony Orchestra during this time.
His conducting career began in 1942, when he conducted the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSYO) (1942-1943). He made his conducting debut with the TSO on March 30, 1943. From 1945 to 1949, he was assistant conductor of the Royal Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra and Opera Company (where he was also concertmaster). In the 1950s, he founded and conducted the Canadian Chamber Players (1952), appeared as a conductor and violinist for various CBC radio and TV programs, was assistant conductor of TSO (1956-1957), and conducted the Hart House Orchestra at Brussels World's Fair (1958).
Feldbrill then became conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1958-1968). In 1968, he returned to Toronto to join the staff at the University of Toronto (1968-1982), where he conducted the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and became a special lecturer (1969) and conductor-in-residence (1972). During this time, he was also the TSO's director of youth programming (1968-1978) and resident conductor of the TSO (1973-1977). In 1974, he founded the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, which he conducted until 1978.
Feldbrill also conducted and guest-conducted various other Canadian symphony orchestras and events throughout his career, including: the International Conference of Composers at Stratford (1960); the Vancouver International Festival (1961); the National Youth Orchestra (1960-1962, 1964, 1969, 1975); youth orchestras at the Banff Summer Festival for the Arts (starting in 1975); the London Symphony Orchestra (music director, 1979-1981); the Hamilton Philharmonic (1990-1996); CBC orchestras in Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal; various CBC TV productions; the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra; Calgary Philharmonic; Edmonton Symphony Orchestra; Montreal Symphony Orchestra; Quebec Symphony Orchestra; Regina Symphony Orchestra; Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO); the University of Toronto Opera Department; and the Canadian Opera Company (COC). Notably, he conducted the premiere performances by the COC of Louis Riel by Harry Somers (1967) and Heloise and Abelard by Charles Wilson (1973).
Outside of Canada, he guest conducted various orchestras in the USSR (1963, 1966-1967); United Kingdom (annual appearances as a guest conductor for the BBC starting in 1957); and the Czech Republic (1993-2003). He was the first Canadian guest conductor at the Tokyo National University of Art and Music in 1979, where became a professor (1981-1987) and principal conductor of the Geidai Philharmonia. He was also the first Canadian to guest conduct the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (1984) and to guest conduct and lecture in China (Peking and Shenyang, 1987).
His contributions to music have been recognized by various awards, including the first Canada Music Citation from the Canadian League of Composers (1967), City of Tokyo medal (1978), first recipient of the Roy Thomson Hall award (1985), Officer of the Order of Canada (1985), Order of Ontario (1999), University of Toronto's Distinguished Visitor Award (1999), and ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre (2009).