Toby Purser is the Alpha and Omega musician: his unique combination of passion and intellect, structure and freedom, poetry and drama have earned him immediate attention and led to praise from critics including Opera (“fine judgement and considerable expertise”), The Telegraph (“galvanising:), and WhatsOnStage (“scintillating precision.).
Founder and Principal Conductor of the ground-breaking Orion Orchestra, his inspirational music-making has prompted guest invitations from English National Opera (where he just completed two seasons as ENO Mackerras Conducting Fellow), Grange Park Opera, Opera National de Paris, St Petersburg Festival Orchestra and many leading British orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which he conducted in Jesús León’s debut CD Bel Canto for Opus Arte CD.
In 2005 Toby Purser founded the Orion Orchestra, a stepping-stone orchestra for the most talented instrumentalists 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, Valeriy Sokolov and Simon Trypceski. Toby Purser also initiated a Composers' Prize, a Young Conductors' Award and a Great Young Soloists series.
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, the UK premiere of Johann Strauss’s operetta Das Spitzentuch der Königin, 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.
During 2016 / 2017, Toby Purser assisted Mark Wigglesworth on Lulu and Ryan Wigglesworth on The Winter’s Tale at ENO, as well as assisting Edward Gardner on Eugene Onegin at the Opéra national de Paris and Anthony Negus on Tristan und Isolde at Longborough Festival Opera.
Current plans include The Turn of the Screw and La traviata for English National Opera, performances of The Daughter of the Regiment at the Buxton International Festival, the Orion Orchestra’s on-going Alpha and Omega series at London’s Cadogan Hall. an orchestral residency at Aberystwyth MusicFest, and concerts with the East Anglia Chamber Orchestra, the City of Southampton Orchestra, the London International Orchestra and for Raymond Gubbay Ltd. Appointed Music Director of New Sussex Opera, he will conduct and record Stanford’s The Travelling Companion in Autumn 2018.
As Artistic Director of the Peace and Prosperity Trust, he has been furthering cultural collaboration between the UK and the Middle East with concerts in Beirut and London, bringing together Western and Middle Eastern opera singers, helping relaunch the Beirut Orpheus Choir, and taking music and musical instruments to Syrian children in the refugee camps on the Lebanese/Syrian border.
Please note that this biography is not to be used for programmes. Current information is available on request.
Britten: The Turn of the Screw / English National Opera
“Toby Purser led a chamber-sized section of ENO Orchestra’s senior players in a pinpoint reading of the score, spot on in tempi and mood.”
Dominic Lowe, Bachtrack
“Toby Purser conducts with authority and sensitivity…”
Guy Holloway, Classical Source
“…excellently conducted by Toby Purser.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
“…Toby Purser’s impassioned conducting of excellent ENO instrumentalists…”
Richard Morrison, The Times
“…a first-night performance of scintillating precision under Toby Pusrer.”
Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage
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
J. Strauss: The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief / Opera Della Luna
“…Toby Purser conducts with vigour and a fine sense of style. Musical values are consistently high.”
George Hall, The Stage
“The evening’s chief pleasure comes from a sparklingly crisp and lively pit band, gracefully conducted by Toby Purser.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
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