Mayer, Uri

Uri Mayer. Conductor, violist, born Tîrgu-Mures, Rumania, 4 Aug 1946, naturalized Canadian 1976; post-graduate diploma (Juilliard) 1970, Hon D MUS (Western Ontario) 2009.

Background

Mayer studied 1958-64 at the Conservatory of Music of Tel-Aviv, and 1964-8 with Oedoen Partos and Gary Bertini at the Rubin Academy of Music at the University of Tel-Aviv. His career as a conductor began in 1964 at the high school for gifted children in Tel-Aviv, and with the National Youth Orchestra of Israel, of which he was assistant conductor 1964-70. He also played 1967-8 with the Israel Philharmonic. In 1968 he won the Damrosch conducting scholarship for study with Jean Morel at the Juilliard School, where he undertook 1968-70 a double major in conducting and viola under Walter Trampler. Concurrently he was assistant conductor of the New York Youth Symphony, played with the New York Philharmonic, and was principal violist with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, who invited him in 1970 to become assistant conductor of that orchestra. He declined the invitation and became in 1970 assistant principal violist of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

Awards

Mayer won a second prize at the 1971 International Viola Competition in Munich, and the Swiss prize at the 1972 International Music Competition in Geneva. He served 1972-4 as the music director of the Canada Symphony in Montreal. On leave from the OSM, he was music director 1974-6 of the University Philharmonia and the Contemporary Directions Ensemble at the University of Michigan, where he conducted for several recordings, including one with the Ensemble and one with the University of Michigan Tuba Ensemble.

He again played as principal violist and conducted 1976-81 with the OSM, becoming its associate conductor in 1980. He taught conducting 1976-81 at McGill University and conducted the McGill Symphony Orchestra, with which he recorded works by Donald Steven, Brian Cherney, and John Rea (1981, McGill University Records). Mayer was awarded the audience prize at the International Conducting Competition in Budapest in 1977 and the Silver Prize at the Fitelberg International Conducting Competition in Poland in 1979.

Conducting

From 1981 to 1995, Mayer was the music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (with whom he made many recordings, including works by Malcolm Forsyth, Harry Freedman, and Oskar Morawetz); and he was principal conductor of Orchestra London Canada 1988-94. He was also music director 1986-8 of the Rice University Orchestra at the Shepherd School of Music in Houston. In 1988 he was on the jury (Strings) for the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. He has guest-conducted the major Canadian orchestras and a number of US, European, South American, Israeli and Japanese orchestras. In 1991 he became artistic adviser of the Israel Sinfonietta, remaining in that post for eight years. He was principal conductor of Japan's Kansai Philharmonic 1994-2000, and has regularly guest-conducted for the National Ballet of Canada. Mayer has conducted opera productions in North America and Europe, and is committed to programming contemporary music.

Artistic Collaborations

Among international soloists with whom Mayer has worked have been Kathleen Battle, Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma and Andras Schiff. Canadian soloists have included Maureen Forrester, Michael Schade, Louis Quilico, and Shauna Rolston.

In 2009 Mayer joined the Royal Conservatory of Music faculty as director of the orchestral program at the Glenn Gould School and resident conductor of the orchestra. In 2011, he was named artistic director and principal conductor of the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra.