In memory of Walter Homburger, CM (1924–2019)

A portrait of the late Walter Homburger, former TSO managing director, who passed away on July 25, 2019.

b. Karlsruhe, Germany, 22 Jan 1924, naturalized Canadian ca. 1942, d. Toronto, Canada, 25 July 2019

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is deeply saddened to share that Walter Homburger, former Managing Director of the TSO for 25 years, passed away recently at the age of 95. We offer our deepest condolences to Walter’s wife, Emmy, his family, and all those whose lives he touched. 

TSO Chief Executive Officer Matthew Loden reflects:

Walter represented a rare mix in one man: He was a brilliant impresario, a strategic leader, and a kind inspiration to all who knew him. This is a huge loss for the TSO family and for all those fortunate enough to have worked with him, but we are comforted in knowing Walter’s legacy survives in our collective memories and in the music we make every day.

In 1962, the redoubtable Walter Homburger began an unparalleled tenure of 25 years as the Managing Director of the TSO, and was responsible for bringing to the Orchestra Seiji Ozawa, Karel Ančerl, and Sir Andrew Davis as Music Directors, and naming Victor Feldbrill as Resident Conductor. Walter was one of the most revered artistic administrators in Canadian musical history. He brought international attention to the TSO, hiring the finest soloists in the world, and taking the Orchestra on tours, including the famous tour to China in 1978. Walter’s sustained vision and tireless efforts helped mold the TSO into a globally esteemed ensemble.

Walter always had a special eye for talent, and fostered the career of the iconic Glenn Gould, as well as those of Victor Braun, Jan Rubes, and James Ehnes. As a manager, he often took bold steps, like facilitating Glenn Gould’s legendary visit to the USSR in 1957. As an impresario, he was responsible for presenting an astonishing array of great artists to Toronto, including Vladimir Horowitz, Louis Armstrong, Victor Borge, and Luciano Pavarotti, among many others.

Walter Homburger was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1984, and, in 2010, he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Walter and his wife, Emmy, attended TSO concerts regularly and remained close to the many artists Walter encouraged and the artistic administrators he mentored, all of whom valued his friendship and encouragement.

Sir Andrew Davis worked closely with Walter, both as a friend and a colleague, since being named Music Director of the TSO in 1974. He shares the following message:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Walter Homburger. Though he had been failing recently, the loss of such a friend and mentor is still a shock.

He was the inspired leader of the Toronto Symphony for a very long and vital chapter in its history, overseeing its development as an orchestra of international stature but, more significantly, ensuring its place in the hearts of Torontonians as the pride of the city. The fact that the greatest stars of the classical music firmament appeared regularly (and eagerly!) with the Orchestra speaks volumes for the respect and affection he commanded. Even more important was his nurturing of Canadian artists; Glenn Gould, Louis Lortie, and James Ehnes were all “discovered” by him, and countless others owe their success to his support and counsel.

Personally, I will always be immensely grateful for the confidence that he showed in me when he invited me to become the Music Director of the TSO in 1974, and the guidance he gave over the years. We had a lot of laughs along the way, too!

View Walter’s obituary here.

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