James Sommerville retired as Principal Horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in December of 2022, after a glittering 25 year tenure, capping an orchestral career that included seasons with the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and as acting solo horn of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The winner of the highest prizes at the Munich, Toulon and CBC solo competitions, Mr. Sommerville also pursued a career as a French Horn soloist that spanned over 35 years, and has brought immensely successful appearances with major orchestras throughout North America and Europe. His disc of the Mozart Horn Concertos with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra won the JUNO Award for Best Classical Recording in Canada. Other award-winning CBC recordings include the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, and Britten’s Canticle. Mr. Sommerville has recorded chamber music for the Deutsche Gramophon, Telarc, CBC, Summit, and Marquis labels. He toured and recorded regularly as a member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. He is heard regularly on the CBC network and has recorded all of the standard solo horn repertoire for broadcast.
As an educator, Mr. Sommerville has been a long-standing member of the New England Conservatory faculty. He has also taught at The Longy School, University of Toronto, Oberlin College, McGill University, the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Montréal, and Dalhousie University. He has presented master classes worldwide, including at: CNSM de Paris, Karajan-Akademie Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhausakademie, The Juilliard School, The Curtis Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New World Symphony (Miami), Norwegian Academy of Music (Oslo), Shanghai Conservatory, and throughout Canada and the USA. He has been a recitalist and master teacher at several IHS conventions and regional meetings. Mr. Sommerville brings a profound understanding of, and experience with, pedagogical approaches and techniques of the American, German, and French schools. Former students are pursuing successful orchestral careers throughout the USA, Canada and Europe, including first chair players in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony (Washington), Atlanta, Kansas City, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Columbus, etc.; and in Shanghai, Lisbon, Singapore, Winterthur, among others.
In the role of conductor, Mr. Sommerville has led many first-rate professional orchestras and ensembles throughout Canada and the USA. He led the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra to great critical acclaim in his seven seasons as Music Director. Recent engagements include appearances with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Edmonton, London (Ontario) and Québec Symphony Orchestras. Internationally, Mr Sommerville has been conductor of the US National Brass Ensemble in concert and on their award-winning CD of music of Gabrieli and Williams, as well as a variety of ensembles throughout the USA, Europe and Asia.
As a guest artist and faculty member, Mr. Sommerville has performed at many chamber music festivals throughout Canada, the USA, Europe, Oceania and Asia. Solo performances of note include the world premiere of Christos Hatzis’ Winter Solstice in Yellowknife, NWT; the North American premiere of Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto with the BSO; and the John Williams Horn Concerto. In 2007, he performed the world premiere of Elliot Carter’s Horn Concerto, commissioned for him by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has commissioned solo and chamber works from many young Canadian and international composers, including Kati Agócs, Vivian Fung, Nicole Lizée, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Slavic Popovic, Abigail Richardson, Jocelyn Morlock, Roger Bergs, and many more. In recent seasons, Mr. Sommerville has appeared as a soloist in London (with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields), and in Costa Rica, Holland, Quebec, Ottawa and Italy.