Artistic Director and Founder of the Orion Orchestra, he began his musical studies as a chorister and a music scholar at Winchester College and studied piano for a year in Vienna before returning to read music at Oxford, where he founded the Oxford Philomusica and conducted the Oxford Sinfonietta. Having begun his conducting studies with George Hurst, he spent two years at the St. Petersburg State Conservatoire studying with Ilya Musin, and then a further three years at the Royal Academy of Music with Colin Metters.
Toby Purser first came to prominence when he won second prize at the Leeds Conducting Competition in 2002, and was appointed Assistant Conductor of L'Ensemble Orchestral de Paris for 2007 following his participation in the Vendome Academy with Janos Furst and John Nelson.
Orchestras he has conducted include the English Chamber Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Concert Orchestra, L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Kotorart Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of Opera North, the Orpheus Sinfonia, Oxford University Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the St Petersburg Camerata and the St Petersburg Festival Orchestra. He conducted the London Concert Orchestra in Love Classics for Raymond Gubbay Ltd at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and working with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the tenor Jesús León, his most recent CD, Bel Canto, has just been released on Opus Arte.
In 2005 Toby Purser founded the Orion Orchestra, a stepping-stone orchestra for the most talented musicians leaving music college, and has developed it into one of London's great orchestral successes, receiving glowing reviews and recognised as a leading organisation for young musicians. Now performing over a dozen concerts per year in all of London’s most prestigious venues, he recently toured with them to Singapore as part of the Shaw Foundation’s ‘Ones to Watch’ Series at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatoire. Together, they have worked with soloists including Nicola Benedetti, Susan Gritton, Tasmin Little, Joanna MacGregor, Alwyn Mellor, Dame Ann Murray, Teo Gheorghiu, Martin Grubinger, Guy Johnston, Jack Liebeck, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Dennis O’Neill and Valeriy Sokolov. Toby Purser initiated a Composers' Prize, a Young Conductors' Award and a Great Young Soloists series. His debut CD with the orchestra was released in 2010, with critical acclaim praising his “passionate but finely nuanced” conducting.
For English National Opera, he has conducted The Marriage of Figaro. At Grange Park Opera, he has conducted Madama Butterfly, Eugene Onegin, Rigoletto and Fortunio, which was also performed at the Buxton Festival and with Opera Della Luna The Daughter of the Regiment, Orpheus in the Underworld and Tales of Offenbach. Other operatic performances have included Bailey’s The Black Monk for The Sirius Ensemble, Haydn's The Apothecary and La Canterina for Bampton Classical Opera, Hänsel und Gretel and Die Entführung aus dem Serail for British Youth Opera and Le Comte Ory for Chelsea Opera Group.For Pimlico Opera, he has conducted productions in various prisons, with a cast of inmates performing alongside professionals in repertoire include Carmen the Musical, Les Misérables, Sugar, Sister Act, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story.
Toby Purser holds an ENO Mackerras Fellowship. This season at ENO he will assist Mark Wigglesworth on Lulu and Ryan Wigglesworth on The Winter’s Tale. He will also assist Edward Gardner on Eugene Onegin at the Opéra national de Paris and Anthony Neguson Tristan und Isolde at Longborough Festival Opera, as well as undertaking concerts with the East Anglia Chamber Orchestra, the London International Orchestra, the Orion Orchestra and for Raymond Gubbay Ltd.
Please note that this biography is not to be used for programmes. Current information is available on request.
Donizetti: The Daughter of the Regiment / Opera Della Luna at Iford Arts
“The Orchestra of Opera Della Luna, conducted with poise and focus by Toby Purser, make a rich, lyrical, engaging sound which fills the cloister.”
Charlotte Valori, Bachtrack
“The orchestra, conducted by Toby Purser, brings all the rhythm and humour of the music.”
Fine Times Recorder
“Toby Purser conducted tightly and Donizetti’s cleverly pitched creations came off well.”
Robert Thicknesse, Opera
“Director Jeff Clarke and his designers Nigel Howard & Graham Wynne and conductor Toby Purser simply threw away the rule book for this English-language version and solved the production “problems” with panache, wit, imagination and, well, plenty of va-va-vroom.”
Sue Loder, Opera Today
Haydn: The Apothecary / Bampton Classical Opera
"Toby Purser conducted the performance with fine judgement and considerable expertise."
George Hall, Opera
Messager: Fortunio / Grange Park Opera
“Conductor Toby Purser highlights the score’s entrancing subtleties while keeping the pacing brisk.”
George Hall, The Guardian
"The conductor Toby Purser, who worked with Grange Park Opera's Rising Stars with memorable results in their Yevgeny Onegin at Nevill Holt last year, really had the measure of the music. He kept a precise hold on its sentimentality and comedy, generally flattered the direction and designs, and drew a Gallic sheen from the 'Orchestre de Maître André."
Peter Reed, Opera
“But the best characterisations by far lay in in the orchestral pit, where Toby Purser’s baton slashed through the air, keeping Messager’s elegant score rippling along.”
Geoff Brown, The Times
Offenbach: Orpheus in the Underworld / Opera Della Luna at Iford Arts
“It was Toby Purser's briskly energetic conducting that carried the evening.”
Rian Evans, The Guardian
"It’s all good clean fun, underpinned by the vivacious playing of a sprightly band ably conducted by Toby Purser."
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
Offenbach: The Tales of Offenbach / Opera Della Luna
"...the two scores turn out to be top-drawer Offenbach, each one a succession of clever and attractive numbers expertly delivered by the cast and given sharpness and vivacity by conductor Toby Purser."
George Hall – The Stage
“Purser kept things whipping along, but judiciously allowed the cast to make the comic moments tell.”
Claire Seymour, Opera Today
“Purser is the galvanising conductor of a small but sprightly pit band."
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
Puccini: Madama Butterfly / Grange Park Opera at Nevill Holt
“The richness of the fabrics on view has its parallel in he glorious sound encouraged from players and singers by conductor Toby Purser.”
Christopher Gray, The Oxford Times
Rossini: Le Comte Ory / Chelsea Opera Group
"…attacked the score with plenty of braggadocio, Italian swagger and French farce combining to raise some much needed laughs this weekend."
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack
"Toby Purser conducted a fine account of the score."
Alexander Campbell, Classical Source
“Conductor Toby Purser kept things bubbling along.”
Claire Seymour, Opera
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin / Grange Park Opera
“Toby Purser’s excellent conducting and the overall balance he achieved made you realize how much of the detail of Pushkin’s atmosphere, character and story is conveyed by Tchaikovsky’s music.”
Peter Reed, Classical Source
“The conductor Toby Purser, on the far left of his forces, kept them in firm control while affectionately unfolding Tchaikovsky’s score…”
Margaret Davies, Opera
Verdi: Rigoletto / Grange Park Opera
“Such is the musical energy under the baton of young Toby Purser, that this Rigoletto makes its own distinctive mark.”
Hilary Finch, The Times
“The ensembles are well-balanced, the English Chamber Orchestra's performance under Toby Purser as vivid and precise as its Wagner was not. Purser can colour a moment without losing propulsion or line.”
Anna Picard, The Independent
“Most impressive of all was the vivid conducting of another rising young talent, Toby Purser.”
David Mellor, Mail on Sunday
“Purser kept tempi brisk and flowing, got the rhythms and accents into the music in all the right places, and kept the balance between stage and pit well-judged at all times: he was considerate to his singers, and they followed his beat well.”
Mike Reynolds, Musical Criticism
“...excellent chorus and English Chamber Orchestra were incisively conducted by Toby Purser.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
“...the clear beat of conductor Toby Purser, whose keen understanding of Verdi’s score is demonstrated in every single bar.”
George Hall, Opera
“…excellent conductor Toby Purser keeps the score neat, clean, and transparent: there’s none of the lush, self-indulgent wallowing that sometimes overcooks Verdi performances. I’ve never heard the English Chamber Orchestra play better — the poignant woodwind writing, in particular, shines through.”
Giles Woodforde, The Oxford Times
Verdi: Rigoletto / Grange Park Opera at Nevill Holt
“Conductor Toby Purser and the Orchestra of Nevill Holt provided well-disciplined accompaniment. Purser allowed the music to flow and breathe, displaying a real feel for the ebb and flow of Verdi’s lines. He gave the singers time to breathe and shape their lines.”
Robert Hugill, Music & Vision
Orion Orchestra / Elgar In the South, Vaughan Williams, Elkington, Howell
“The real star of the evening was Toby Purser, who directed the whole show with a mastery and understanding of the music. His careful preparation of the orchestra, and his interpretations, were eagerly welcomed by a very enthusiastic audience.”
Bob Briggs, Seen and Heard International
Orion Orchestra / Shostakovich Symphony No.9, Britten, Tippett, Vaughan Williams
“If you want to learn the secret of classical music’s perennial good health, look no further. The programme was stunning...the sound had at times a burnished perfection.... The way Purser and his players negotiated the sinister muted waltz in the second movement [of Shostakovich Symphony No.9], and the grotesquery of the last, was masterly.”
Michael Church, The Independent
“[Orion]...played with enormous ebullience and abandon...This intense and energetic performance [of Shostakovich Symphony No. 9] was a welcome outing for this under-rated and seldom-performed work, ending a hugely enjoyable evening of contrasting moods.”
Simon Thomas, Music OMH
Orion Orchestra / Brahms Symphony No.2, Wagner, Strauss, Reger
“ Toby Purser led his equally young musicians assuredly through the potential minefield of this mainly Romantic music. The Tristan Prelude had an apposite yearning quality to it but there was also a youthful eagerness to press on with the chromatic melodies.”
Jim Prichard, MusicWeb International
Orion Orchestra / Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Smith, Purcell
“The concert included Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, in which Purser coaxed a most touching pianissimo from the orchestra, and Vaughan Williams’ great Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, in which Purser aimed, and succeeded, in giving us ‘a glimpse of something of eternal beauty’.”
Penelope Cave, British Harpsichord Society
“ [Purser] ...raised the performance to the level of the truly ethereal…an incredible performance.”
Sam Smith, Music OMH
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Opus Arte CD OACD 9035D
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3
Panos Karan - piano
Orion Orchestra / Toby Purser
Solo Artiste CD SA01
British Composers Premiere Collections Vol.4
Dorothy Howell Piano Concerto
Lilian Elkington Out of the Mists
Orion Orchestra / Toby Purser
Cameo Classics CD CC9041CD