Boris Brott

Conductor, violinist, producer, b Montreal 14 Mar 1944; première prix (CMM), honorary LLD (McMaster) 1988.

Boris Brott

Boris Brott. Conductor, violinist, producer, b Montreal 14 Mar 1944; première prix (CMM), honorary LLD (McMaster) 1988. He studied violin with his father, Alexander Brott, and performed at the age of five with the orchestra of the Les Concerts symphoniques de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra) (MSO) at a young people's matinee. He took courses at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal and the McGill Conservatory (McGill University), and 1956 studied conducting at the summer school of Pierre Monteux. The latter engaged him as assistant for concerts in Europe. He next studied with Igor Markevitch by means of a grant from the Mexican government and six months later won first prize at the 1958 Pan-American conducting competition. In 1959 he founded the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra of Montreal and led it in his conducting debut in that city. His first international success came in June 1962, when he won third prize at the Liverpool Competition. He served 1963-5 as the assistant conductor of Walter Susskind with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and then embarked on a career in England as the first conductor 1964-8 of the Northern Sinfonia at Newcastle-on-Tyne. He made several tours with this chamber orchestra, among which was one in Canada, which included concerts at Expo 67. Concurrently, 1964-7, Brott was principal conductor for the touring company of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden. During the 1965-6 season at Covent Garden he conducted the Royal Ballet's first production at that theatre of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale (1966) and toured the production in Britain. He won first prize and a gold medal at the sixth Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition in 1968 and served 1968-9 as assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Brott was named one of Canada's Outstanding Young Men in 1969 and 1973 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Activities 1970s-80s

Brott was the first music co-ordinator at Lakehead University (1968); he also directed the Lakehead Symphony Orchestra (Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra) 1967-72 and the Regina Symphony Orchestra 1971-3. In Thunder Bay he was music consultant for the four school councils for the region. From 1969 to 1990 he was artistic director and conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra; under his leadership the orchestra grew from an amateur ensemble to a professional one with a 42-week season and 16,000 subscribers. The orchestra also gave birth to the Canadian Brass.

In 1972 Brott was appointed conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra, and in 1975 he assumed directorship of the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra. Appointed in 1981 as interim director of the Atlantic Symphony, from 1982 to 1985 he was artistic director and conductor of Symphony Nova Scotia. He led the Ontario Place Pops Orchestra 1983-1991, and was national president of the Youth and Music Canada (Jeunesses musicales du Canada) 1987-9. In 1988, together with his wife Ardyth, he founded the Boris Brott Summer Music Festival in Hamilton, Ont. In 1989 he was appointed associate director of Alexander Brott's McGill Chamber Orchestra, and founded the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, a mentor-apprentice program.

Guest Conductor

In addition to being invited to conduct the major Canadian orchestras, Brott guest-conducted in England (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Northern Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, etc), France (Orchestre des Concerts Colonne), Italy, and Central and South America, as well as orchestras in Holland, Israel, Vatican City, Scandinavia, Japan, and Korea. He also guest-conducted in the US, eg, at Chautauqua, NY; Greensboro, North Carolina; and with the Dallas Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Seattle Symphony.

Opera

In November 1977 he conducted works by Kenins, Symonds, and Weinzweig with the orchestra of the Beethovenhalle in Bonn. A few weeks earlier he had made his opera debut, conducting Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment for the COC. Brott later directed Opera Hamilton and guest-conducted with the Canadian Opera Company and Sadler's Wells Opera.

Activities 1990-Present

He studied law at the University of Western Ontario 1992-5, and in 1995 began giving motivational seminars to Fortune 500 companies using symphonic music as a metaphor. Brott became music director of the New West Symphony, California, in 1995; concurrently, in 2002, he took over leadership of the McGill Chamber Orchestra. In 2004, he was appointed principal conductor of youth and education concerts for the National Arts Centre.

Broadcasts, Recordings, and Honours

Brott produced, conducted, or hosted a large number of television and radio programs for the CBC, and the BBC and ITV in the UK, and recorded with various orchestras for CBC, Mercury, Pro-Arte and Sony Classical. In 1986 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, and received an American Music Award. He was named Knight of Malta (1990), International Man of the Year (Cambridge, England, 1992), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of Great Britain (1996). In 2000, he conducted the Vatican premiere of Leonard Bernstein's controversial Mass before Pope John Paul II.

See also Lotte Brott (his mother), and Denis Brott (his brother).

Discography

As Conductor
British Music of the 20th Century: Rawsthorne - Arnold - Britten. Northern Sinfonia O. (1967). Mace MCS-9068

Canadian Music in London, Paris and Bonn: Norman Symonds Impulse - Kenins Beatae voces tenebrae - Weinzweig Dummiyah/Silence. Beethovenhalle O of Bonn. 1977. 2-RCI 477/(Kenins) 4-ACM 33 (CD)

Christmas Brott to You. CTL 477 5153

Corelli Concerto Grosso No. 1, Opus 6 - Vivaldi Concerto Grosso No. 8, Opus 3. CBC Toronto string orch, Zafer violin, Benac violin. 1966. CBC SM-3

Dances and Variations: Wallace. London SO. (1990). Campion RRCD-1307

Davies The Mennonite Piano Concerto. I. Baerg piano, London SO. Dueck Films PSC-101/Water Lily WLCD-5995/Campion RRCD-1304

- Good Times. Members of the London SO. (1989). Water Lily WLCD-5995/Campion RRCD-1304

Early Works of Three Masters: Mozart - Rossini - Mendelssohn. (1967). Mace MCS-9067

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Haydn - Debussy - Wiren. CBC SM 284

Fiala Montréal. CBC Montreal orch. 1970. RCI 291/5-ACM 27

A Fifth of Broadway. Hamilton Phil Orch. CBC SM 5077

The German Dances of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. Northern Sinfonia O. (1967). Mace MCS-9070

Gounod Petite Symphonie - Beethoven Rondino for winds. CBC Toronto chamber ensemble. 1966. CBC SM-2

The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra: Poulenc - McCauley. CBC SM 264

- Sibelius - Ravel - Stravinsky. CBC SM 200

The Hamilton Philharmonic Virtuosi: Bizet - Gellman - Fauré - Delius. CBC SM 295

Handel Opera Suites. Northern Sinfonia O. (1967). Mace MCS-9066

Hooray for Hollywood. Toronto Festival Pops. 1988. Pro-Arte CDD-422

Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, K219 - Giardini Violin Concerto in A. Lefkowitz violin, English Chamb O. (1986). Sequence SEQ-11104

Orchestral Music from the Mannheim School: Cannabich - Holzbauer - Richter. Northern Sinfonia O. (1967). Mace MCS-9069

Serenades for Wind Instruments: Dvořák - Gounod. Northern Sinfonia O. (1967). Mace MCS-9065

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Poulenc - Prokofieff. CH 001

With Glowing Hearts. Symphony Nova Scotia. Lockett - Drigo - Gagnon - Branneiss Jr. CBC SM 5062

See also Symphony Nova Scotia and Discographies for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra; Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra; Toronto Symphony


Further Reading

  • 'Concert in Carnegie Hall, NY, great for Canadian composers,' Montreal Gazette, Oct 1953

    Bisbrouck, Noël. 'Un jeune chef de 18 ans dirige l'orchestre de "concert" à la télévision,' SemRC, vol 13, Jan 1963

    'Pour sa dernière émission de la saison "L'Heure du concert" présente trois jeunes musiciens canadiens,' ibid, vol 16, Mar-Apr 1966

    Heller, Zelda. 'The Brott family,' Jmc, Aug 1966; repr as 'The Alexander Brott family: music, rare instruments and the sound of the telephone,' Canadian Composer, 12, Nov 1966

    'My most successful work,' Canadian Composer, 24 Dec 1967

    Graham, June. 'Boris Brott,' Canadian Composer, 51, Jun 1970

    Littler, William. 'Canada's mobile music man,' En route, Mar 1973

    'CBC Winnipeg Orchestra appoints Boris Brott,' PfAC, Summer 1975

    Schulman, Michael. 'The Montreal family Brott and its musical ramifications," PfAC, vol 13, Winter 1976

    Waller, Adrian. 'Bravo for the musical Brotts,' Reader's Digest, vol 42, Jan 1978

    Schulman, Michael. 'The arts have always been an easy political football to bounce, both pro and con...' Canadian Composer, 142, Jun 1979

    Bailey, Bruce. 'First family of music,' Montreal Gazette, 15 Sep 1979

    'Boris Brott comments,' OCSM Newsletter, vol 4, Dec 1980

    Breault, Roger. 'Boris Brott,' Canadian Association of Youth Orchestras News and Views, 5, 6, Sep 1982, Apr 1983

    Silverstein, Barbara. 'Conductor teaches working in harmony,' Toronto Star, 5 Nov 1995

    Fraser, Hugh. 'Brott's orchestra leads funds race,' Hamilton Spectator, 6 Apr 1996

    Hampson, Sarah. 'Boris Brott: The nerd behind the baton,' Globe and Mail, 6 Jul 2002

    Creative Canada, vol 1

    King, Betty Nygaard, Alexander Brott: My Lives in Music (Oakville, Ont 2005)