Glenn Gould’s conductor has died at 96

Glenn Gould’s conductor has died at 96


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2020

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is mourning the death of its second music director Victor Feldbrill, the youg man whom Glenn Gould entrusted with conducting him in concertos before he took them onto the world stage.

Victor was still conducting in Winnipeg as recently as October 2017.

Here’s an appreciation by WSO artistic director James Manishen:
Mr. Feldbrill led the WSO from 1958 through 1968, succeeding its first music director Walter Kaufman. At the start of his tenure at
age 34, Mr. Feldbrill was the youngest Canadian-born conductor to lead a major Canadian orchestra. Mr. Feldbrill came to the WSO with conditions he felt essential in order to grow an orchestra which would have artistic continuity and build audiences. The musicians were to be employed as a “nucleus orchestra” with a season contract, rather than on a per-service arrangement where each musician had been hired for individual concerts. He insisted that the orchestra undertake an educational committment to introduce orchestral music to young people. The Pops realm also had to be recognized through a series of free matinee programs. And most notably, music by Canadian composers figured prominently in his programs, composers who he knew personally such as John Weinzweig, Harry Somers and others now in the Canadian orchestral mainstream.

Mr. Feldbrill spent his teen years playing the violin, joining the Navy in World War II to play the violin in the Navy Show. After earning his Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory in 1949, he enjoyed a highly successful performing career as first violinist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1949-1956). As a conductor, he appeared as a guest leader with virtually every major symphony orchestra in Canada. Following his tenure with the WSO, he became Resident Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1973-1978) and was the first conductor-in-residence at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music (1968-1982). Mr. Feldbrill founded the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 1974 and was its conductor until 1978 and was a faculty member of Tokyo National University of Art and Music.

Even in his 90s, Victor Feldbrill’s dedication to music was unbridled. He was named an Honourary Fellow by The Royal Conservatory in 2014. His biography Victor Feldbrill: Canadian Conductor Extraordinaire by Walter Pitman(Dundurn Press) was published in 2010. Among his many recordings is a live 1959 WSO performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Glenn Gould as soloist (available from the WSO).

What really set Mr. Feldbrill apart was his limitless enthusiasm and support of Canadian music and young musicians, as well as his
insistence on playing the music of Canadian composers.  His contribution to music in Canada and the development of essential
organisations and individuals stands as a testament to the power of determination and core belief in the value of music and the arts.

The WSO sends its deepest condolences to his immediate family.



  • Straussian says:

    Yes, very sad news indeed. Victor Feldbrill was loved in Toronto, where he did a great deal of his conducting, at the TSO, U of T etc. 96 is a very grand age, and the music world was enriched by his presence for many of those years. Requiescat in pace, Victor Feldbrill…

  • V. Lind says:

    A sad few hours for Canadian music. Feldbrill was a giant.


  • Mark H says:

    I played in the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra under Mr. Feldbrill, and later, played in his farewell concert from the University of Toronto, performing Mahler Symphony No. 2. He was my first conducting teacher….he was a decent person, dedicated to new Canadian music, and he was universally loved. I am sad at this moment, but feel fortunate to have met and worked with him.

  • Edgar Self says:

    FWhat an admirable life and career. He had almost twice as many years as Glenn Gould, who died at 50. Victor Feldbrill used and filled them them well. Canada can be proud of both, and especially of this estimable man so worthy of emulation.

  • Stephen Cera says:

    The first live symphony concerts I ever attended as a young boy were conducted by Victor Feldbrill in the Winnipeg Auditorium. There also were educational concerts that he led. These events left an imprint during formative years. He tirelessly championed Canadian composers and supported young talent.

    When I met Victor a bit later, I found him to be a gracious gentleman, friendly and genuine.

    His was a life well-lived.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Victor Feldbrill came over to my place to talk about his experience of conducting Gould in Brahms Concerto no1 on a Saturday afternoon. Not only was he happy to share his thoughts with me, a 20 years younger than him music lover, but he brought a personal recording of the October 8/1959 concert in Winnipeg. After listening to the tape he said “Would you like to keep it?” What a surprising, generous gesture on his part! I kept the cassette I consider a precious unique document. By the way that was the very first time Gould played the D Minor Concerto, in a much faster tempo than the famous New York one with Bernstein.

  • Fiddlist says:

    So sorry to read about his passing, though he lived a wonderfully long and productive life. Got to play Brahms Concerto with him in 2000, at which point he was already very old, but still full of energy, enthusiasm and a bloody fine full head of hair. Great musician, great humanitarian, great conductor.