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IN MEMORIAM | Simon Streatfeild, Influential British-Canadian Conductor Has Died

By Michael Vincent on December 11, 2019

Conductor Simon Streatfeild
Conductor Simon Streatfeild

The classical music community is in mourning today as the news of the death of violist and conductor Simon Streatfeild, aged 90.

Over his nearly seven-decade long career, Streatfeild made a significant impact on the classical music scene in Canada and beyond. His engagements included guest conducting positions with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Danish Radio Symphony, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra of Norwegian Radio, the Belgian Radio Symphony and the Seoul Philharmonic of Korea.

Born in Windsor, England, in 1929, Simon Streatfeild first made his mark as a violist with the London Philharmonic, the Wells Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

After moving to Canada, in 1965, he rose to prominence as principal viola of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He moved into conducting roles for the VSO between 1965-77. During the same period, he served as conductor and director of the Vancouver Bach Choir (1969-81), and was founder of the influential Purcell String Quartet, which disbanded in 1991.

Making his way east, Streatfeild began dividing his time between leading the Regina Symphony Orchestra (1981-84), and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra as conductor and director. He stayed with the Quebec SOs until 1991.

Streatfeild became an essential figure for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, helping the orchestra recover from organizational and financial struggles that would have seen them declare bankruptcy in 2006. He served the KWS as Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor of between 2004-2007.

“Simon was universally loved by the entire orchestra, and he brought us back together musically,” said Larry Larson, Principal Trumpet, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. “Many of the concerts that we performed with him during that time will live with me forever — most notably a performance of Paul Hindemith’s “Mathis der Maler” in February 2004. I last spoke with him on his 90th Birthday this past October, and am very sad that was to be the last time I had to share with my friend. His legacy to music worldwide will be a lasting one, but perhaps no more so anywhere than here with his KWS family. Rest well, my friend.”

Streatfeild was awarded the Canadian Music Council Medal in 1987.

News of his passing first announced on Norman Lebrecht’s Slippedisc has prompted a number of comments from notable Canadian musicians who had worked with Streatfeild:

“Simon was the kindest and sweetest man, true and honest in his music making as in life. He was an inspiration and a wonderful mentor during my early years in Québec as an apprentice conductor and chorus master with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec. My condolences to Elizabeth and the whole family. May his gentle soul rest in peace.” — Bernard Labadie, Founding conductor of Les Violons du Roy. Music director of La Chapelle de Québec choir.

“Mr Streatfield was one of our conductors at the National Youth orchestra of Canada in 1985. I have the fondest memories of a kind, respectful and humble musician whom I had the privilege of working with. He conducted Rachmaninov’s second symphony and I will always fondly remember. My condolences to the family.” — Marc Béliveau , First Violin, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

“…He was an integrity-first musician… happy memories of performing concerti with him in the past. Rest well, Simon. We will all miss you.” — Mark Fewer, Violinist and Artistic Director of the Stratford Summer Music Festival.


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Michael Vincent
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