Sheryl & David Kerr Principal Bassoon Chair
Michael Sweeney has served as Principal Bassoonist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1989. Over the years, critics have consistently praised his orchestral solos, describing them as “soulful” (Globe and Mail), and “full of imagination and character” (National Post).
As a soloist, Michael is most interested in Baroque, Classical and Postmodern/Postminimalist work. In 2003, with The Seiler Strings/Via Salzburg, he premièred three new works for bassoon and ensemble and subsequently recorded them along with Mozart’s Concerto. The CD, mozart and well beyond, was praised by Gramophone magazine for its “vitality,” sensitivity and, in particular, for Michael’s “excellent interpretation” of Mozart’s Concerto, through which he “glides … with stunning suppleness.”
As a chamber musician, Michael has collaborated with pianists Emmanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Ingrid Fliter, Angela Hewitt, Serouj Kradjian, James Parker, Patricia Parr, and with Amici Chamber Ensemble and Via Salzburg.
In addition to performing, Michael is also interested in the field of Mozart studies. He is currently at work on the commentary which will accompany his recent critical/performing edition of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto.
Michael is on the faculty of the Glenn Gould School of Music, and has performed and taught as guest faculty at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Michael plays exclusively on a custom-made instrument manufactured by the world-renown bassoon maker Wilhelm Heckel (est. 1831, Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Germany) featuring many mechanical and ergonomic innovations of his own conception and design.
Prior to joining the TSO, Michael studied at state universities in California and New York, Yale School of Music, and University of Southern California with Kay Brightman, Norman Herzberg, and Arthur Weisberg. He also studied musicianship with Joan Panetti at Yale, and was a fellow at The Tanglewood Festival.
Michael is married to Peter Eliot Weiss, who is a writer, and professor-emeritus of communication in the Engineering Faculty of the University of Toronto.