CBC Radio Orchestra | The Canadian Encyclopedia


CBC Radio Orchestra

CBC Radio Orchestra (CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra 1938-80; CBC Vancouver Orchestra 1980-2000). Longest-lived regularly performing Canadian radio orchestra, and last remaining radio orchestra in North America.

CBC Radio Orchestra

CBC Radio Orchestra (CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra 1938-80; CBC Vancouver Orchestra 1980-2000). Longest-lived regularly performing Canadian radio orchestra, and last remaining radio orchestra in North America. Other CBC radio orchestras included the CBC Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg orchestras, all of which were eliminated by the early 1990s by federal budget cuts.

The CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1938 by Ira Dilworth, who appointed John Avison conductor. Similar orchestras in Vancouver had antedated the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra: the CNRV Concert Orchestra (pre-1934) under Percy Harvey; another, heard around 1935 on CRCV's 'Jewels of the Madonna,' with Jean de Rimanoczy as conductor; and the CBR Concert Orchestra. The CBR Symphony Orchestra, founded also by Dilworth and conducted by Arthur Benjamin, flourished in the early 1940s. The CBC Radio Orchestra originally comprised 25 musicians and was increased to 35 in 1952.

Their concerts are still regularly broadcast on CBC Radio Two, and also on occasion on Radio One and CBC TV's arts program "Opening Night." The musicians, who play together only 70 days a year, are among the best sight-readers in North America.

Conductors and Producers
John Eliot Gardiner (b Dorset, England 20 Apr 1943) was named Avison's successor in 1980, and was replaced in 1983 by Mario Bernardi. Bernardi was succeeded by trombonist and conductor Alain Trudel in 2006.

The CBC Radio Orchestra's broadcasts were produced by Ernest Morgan 1938-42, David S. Catton 1942-3, James Finlay 1943-4, John Barnes 1944-8, Robert Allen 1948-52, Robert Turner 1952-66, Don Campbell 1967-8, Norman Newton 1968-79, George Laverock 1979-89, and by Karen Wilson since 1989.

Repertoire, Commissions, Premieres

The CBC Radio Orchestra's repertoire encompasses the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, but it has gained most recognition for its support of contemporary music. International composers whose works it has performed include John Cage (whose 1976 CBC commission resulted in Lectures on Weather), and Peter Maxwell Davies (who wrote the oratorio Job for the opening of Vancouver's Chan Centre in May 1997). Others include Berio, Britten, Carter, Copland, Dallapiccola, Fernyhough, Fricker, Hartmann, Henze, Maderna, Nono, Piston, Schoenberg, Sowande, and Stravinsky.From 1963 to 1988, the CBC Radio Orchestra premiered more than 200 works by some 80 Canadians: Murray Adaskin, Michael Conway Baker, Gerald Bales, John Beckwith, Peter Berring, Lorne Betts, Stephen Chatman, Jean Coulthard, Maurice Dela, Brenton Dutton, Malcolm Forsyth, Srul Irving Glick, Theo Goldberg, Derek Healey, Jacques Hétu, Ka Nin Chan, Udo Kasemets, Talivaldis Kenins, Peter Paul Koprowski, Ian McDougall, Bruce Mather, Phil Nimmons, Jean Papineau-Couture, Barbara Pentland, Godfrey Ridout, Paul Ruhland, R. Murray Schafer, Frederick Schipizky, Norman Symonds, Robert Turner, John Weinzweig, Elliot Weisgarber, and Gerard Wuensch. Notable later commissions include works by John Estacio, Christos Hatzis, and Gary Kulesha. The CBC Radio Orchestra has also recorded Nikolai Korndorf's The Smile of Maud Lewis.

Guest Conductors and Soloists

Over the years guest conductors of the CBC Radio Orchestra have included Raffi Armenian, Kees Bakels, Michel Corboz, Victor Feldbrill, Serge Garant, Monica Huggett, Milton Katims, Gary Kulesha, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Ettore Mazzoleni, Geoffrey Moull, Harry Newstone, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Jaap Schroeder, Georg Tintner, Owen Underhill, Heinz Unger, and Jon Washburn. Most of Canada's leading concert artists have appeared as soloists.

Since many of the orchestra's players have been members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), public concerts and tours have been difficult to schedule. (In fact, there is ongoing rivalry between the organizations, the VSO protesting market saturation and unfair competition from their subsidized counterpart.) Nevertheless, the CBC Radio Orchestra appeared annually 1958-60 at the Vancouver International Festivals, gave five concerts in 1961 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, toured Saskatchewan in 1967, and performed in communities in northern Vancouver Island 1967-8.

In 1969 a 26-member ensemble, drawn from the orchestra and governed by a separate board, began to tour as the Vancouver Radio Orchestra. Under Avison the smaller ensemble performed until 1980 in western Canada, the Arctic, Alaska, and Montana, and as far east as Ottawa.

In 1980 the CBC Radio Orchestra began to offer more public concerts, and Gardiner began to verse the ensemble in Baroque performance practice, introduce period bows and tuning, and concentrate on 17th- and 18th-century works. Later, under Bernardi, the orchestra returned to a more broadly based repertoire, but with special emphasis on contemporary music, especially by Canadian composers.

In the fall of 1988 the orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary by inaugurating the Avison Series, a set of annual public concerts.

Due to the doubling of players with the VSO and to the expansion and refinement of regular orchestras in Canada, the CBC Radio Orchestra's mandate has become greatly reduced. During its heyday under Avison, the orchestra was heard weekly on CBC Radio, but by 1985 broadcasts had been reduced to 18 concerts per year. By 2006 the orchestra was giving two concert series, named Spring and Fall, in addition to its broadcast engagements; each series comprises three public concerts, usually performed at the Chan Centre.

Awards; Recordings
In 1960, for service to contemporary music, Avison and the orchestra received a commendation from the International Society for Contemporary Music. The CBC Radio Orchestra remains among the most recorded orchestras in Canada and North America. It won a Juno award in 1998 for its recording of the Mozart horn concertos with James Sommerville.


Arnold - Felton - Mozart - Brixi. McLean organ, Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-129

Bach Brandenburg Concertos. Bernardi conductor. 1983. 2-CBC SM-5028-2/(No. 2) CBC BHS-CD-300

- Piano Concerti BWV 1056, 1052, 1053. Hewitt piano, Bernardi conductor. 1986. CBC SM-5065

- Cantatas No. 4, 140. Landry soprano, Heppner tenor, Pedrotti baritone, Wedd organ, Tudor Singers, Riddell conductor. 1984. CBC SM-5029/(No. 140) CBC BHS-CD-300

Baker Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra. Silverman piano, Avison conductor. private recorder

- Fanfare to Expo 86; Suite from 'Planet for the Taking'; Four Songs for Ann (Mortifee voice); Counterplay for Viola & String Orchestra (Dann viola); Concerto for Flute & Strings (Piccinini fl); Concerto for Piano & Chamber Orchestra (Silverman piano). 1988. CBC SMCD-5107

Baroquefest: Purcell - Handel - Bach. Vancouver Chamber Choir, Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne, Washburn conductor. 1986. CBC SM-5075

Beckwith Music for Dancing - Ives Symphony No. 3. Avison conductor. 1966. CBC SM-47/(Beckwith) 5-ACM 26

Bryars I have heard it said that a spirit enters. . . Holly Cole voice, Gwen Hoebig violin, Gavin Bryars double bass, Owen Underhill conductor. 2002. CBC 5223

Clarinet Concerti: Cardy - Thrower - McDougall. Rapson, Valdepeñas, McCartney clarinet, Bernardi conductor. 1988. CBC SMCD-5094

Contemporary Canadian Compositions for Orchestra: Turner Eidolons - Healey Arctic Images. Avison conductor. 1974. CBC SM-265/(Turner) 7-ACM 15

Copland Concerto (clarinet, strings) - Weinzweig Divertimento No. 3 (bsn, strings). de Kant clarinet, Zukerman bassoon, Avison conductor. 1976. CBC SM-317

Coulthard Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Silverman piano, Bennett conductor. (1982). 6-ACM 10

Dittersdorf Four Ovid Symphonies. Avison conductor. 1972. CBC SM-198

Dvorák Legends, Opus 59. Avison conductor. 1974. CBC SM-283

Entre Amis: Willan - Ridout - McDougall - Coulthard - Komorous - Prévost - et al. McCartney clarinet, Trowsdale violin, Gerbrecht trumpet, Cole english horn, Rudolph fl, Bernardi conductor. 1985. 2-CBC SM-5050-2/6-ACM 28

Fauré Orchestral Music. Avison conductor. (1977). CBC SM-298

Geminiani The Enchanted Forest - Vivaldi Concerto in D. Ritchie, Wilcock baroque violin, Gardiner conductor. 1982. CBC SM-5017/Mus H Soc MHS-512137Z (CD)

Handel Coronation Anthems. Vancouver Chamb Choir, Bernardi conductor. 1983. CBC SM-5031/(Zadok the Priest) CBC BHS-CD-300

- Four Organ Concertos. McLean organ, Bernardi conductor. 1984. CBC SM-5041/(Opus 4,No. 6) CBC BHS-CD-300

- Water Music. Bernardi conductor. 1984. CBC SM-5032/(Suite No. 2) CBC BHS-CD-300

- 'The King Shall Rejoice' - Haydn Te Deum. Vancouver Bach Choir, Streatfeild conductor. 1971. CBC SM-365

Haydn Orlando Paladino Overture; Symphonies No. 67 and 68. Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-126

- La Fedeltà Premiata Overture; L'Infedeltà Delusa Overture; Symphony No. 49. Bernardi conductor. 1986. CBC SM-5057

Haydn - Galuppi - Boccherini - Moeran. Avison conductor. ca 1966. CBC SM-20

Haydn - Méhul - Mozart. Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-191

Haydn - Somers Five Songs for Dark Voice (Mailing mezzo) - Mozart. Avison conductor (?). 1968. CBC SM-73


Martin y Soler Una Cosa Rara. Newstone conductor. 1973. CBC SM-217

McDougall Three Canadian Folksongs. Gannon guitar, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Washburn conductor. 1988. CBC SMCD-5097

McPhee - Morawetz - Buczynski. Avison conductor. 1975. CBC SM-308

Milhaud, Maurice, Forsyth, Sowande. Bernardi conductor. 1994. SMCD 5131

Mozart Serenade K320; Two Marches K408. Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-128

- Piano Concerti No. 9, 16. Cheng piano, Bernardi conductor. 1991. CBC SMCD-5104

-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Concertos. John Kimura Parker, James Parker, Ian Parker piano, Bernardi conductor. 2006. CBC 5240

Mozetich Affairs of the Heart. Juliette Kang violin, Julia Shaw and Nora Bumanis harp, Bernardi conductor. 2000. CBC 5200

Music and Musicians of Canada II: Turner Symphony for Strings. Avison conductor. (1967). RCI 214/RCA CCS-1008/(Turner) 7-ACM 15

Music by Talivaldis Kenins: Violin Concerto; Fourth Symphony. Staryk violin, Avison conductor. 1975. CBC SM-293/4-ACM 33 (CD)

Music by the Sons of Bach: C.P.E. Bach - J. C. Bach - W. F. Bach. Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-164

Music from Spain: Arriaga Symphony in D Major - Falla Three Cornered Hat. Avison conductor. 1973. CBC SM-232

Ravel - Milhaud - Roussel. Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-127

Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances. Bernardi conductor. 1985. CBC SM-5051

Revueltas - Respighi - Mendelssohn. Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-166

Ridout Frivolités canadiennes - Archer Sinfonietta. Avison conductor. 1974. CBC SM-226/(Archer) 7-ACM 17/(Ridout)4-RCI 513

Rossini - Grétry - Cherubini - Cimarosa. Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-165

Schafer Hymn to Night. Turofsky soprano, Bennett conductor. 1979. CBC SM-364

Schubert Symphony No. 3 - Dvorák Czech Suite. Avison conductor. 1974. CBC SM-266

Six Orchestral Overtures: Mozart - Schumann - Mendelssohn - Schubert - Weber - Cherubini. Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-190

Souvenirs of Scandinavia: Grieg - Sibelius - Nielsen. Bernardi conductor. 1986. CBC SM-5064

Strauss - Chabrier-Francaix - Purcell - Champagne - Holst. Avison conductor. 1972. CBC SM-214/(Champagne) 4-ACM 30

Stravinsky and Somers. Bernardi conductor. 1996. CBC 5161

Tableau: Forsyth - Ridout - Freedman - Coulthard - Nimmons. Forst mezzo, Bernardi conductor. 1987. CBC SM-5081

Theatre Music: Purcell - Handel. Argenta soprano, M. Huggett conductor. 1988. CBC SMCD-5091

Tippett - Schoeck - Elgar. CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra strings, Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-124

Three Modern Romantics: Nielsen - Moeran - Delius. Aitken fl, Avison conductor. 1971. CBC SM-189

Turner Variations on the Prairie Settler's Song - Healey Primrose in Paradise - Mather Musique pour Rouen. Avison conductor. 1976. CBC SM-331/(Mather) 4-ACM 9/(Turner) 7-ACM 15

- Children's Overture; Nocturne - C.P.E. Bach - J.C. Bach - Mozart. Avison conductor. (1969). RCI 334/AofD SDD-2121/(Turner) 7-ACM 15

Vaughan Williams - Brott Ritual - Elgar - Mercure Divertissement. Orford String Quartet, Streatfeild conductor. 1984. CBC SM-5044/(Mercure) 4-ACM 35

Weinzweig Divertimento No. 3 for Bassoon and Strings - Schafer Partita for String Orchestra. Zukerman bassoon, Avison conductor. Ca 1965. CBC SM-15

Willan - Adaskin - Mather - Healey. Healey organ, Zukerman bassoon, Avison conductor. 1970. CBC SM-143/(Mather) 4-ACM 9/(Willan) 5-ACM 11/(Adaskin) 5-ACM 23

Willan Concerto in C Minor - Schumann Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Opus 52. Henig piano, Avison conductor. 1973. CBC SM-205/(Willan) 5-ACM 11

Cameron Wilson Stuart McLean's Canada. McLean narrator. 2006. CBC 5242

Further Reading