Brendan O’Brien was appointed Leader of the BSO in 1968, aged 32, and first appeared in the role at Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens on Sunday 9 June that year. The concert, given under the baton of guest conductor Louis Frémaux, featured: Berlioz’s Le Carnaval Romain Overture; Saint-Saëns’ Le Rouet d’Omphale; Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony (Italian); and Franck’s Symphony in D minor.
Born in Dublin, Brendan was a pupil of Michael Macnamara, who also taught Hugh Maguire (former leader of the London Symphony and BBC Symphony orchestras). He later studied with Jaroslav Vanecek, the Czech-born violin and viola pedagogue, before moving to London for further study. Brendan joined the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and also performed with the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras, before becoming Leader of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra for two years before his move to Bournemouth.
Brendan led the BSO for almost three decades, from 1968-1997; a pivotal chapter in the Orchestra’s story. He was Leader under six principal conductors, including: Constantin Silvestri; Paavo Berglund; Uri Segal; Rudolf Barshai; Andrew Litton and Yakov Kreizberg. Artistic highlights of the period included numerous landmark recordings, the growth of regional touring in the South West, and several international tours.
Brendan gave his final performance as Leader in August 1997, at the Three Choirs Festival, under the baton of conductor Roy Massey in the Festival’s opening performance. Beyond his retirement, Brendan continued to champion the Orchestra’s work and was an active participant of care home performances and livestreamed concerts. We will miss him deeply.