The BBC's Concert Orchestra has announced Bramwell Tovey, the long-time musical director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), will be its new principal conductor starting January 2018.

"It's a great honour to have been invited to head up this institution at the other end of my career, as it were," said Tovey during CBC's On the Coast.

Tovey started his musical career as a student working on several BBC classical broadcasts. He became VSO's musical director in 2000 and is currently in the middle of his "farewell season."

"We're having a wonderful time, I've still got six months or so to go. Our final concert is mid-June, so at the moment I've got the best of both worlds," said Tovey.

Tovey said the BBC orchestra is different from other orchestras because it's part of a larger institution. He said he looks forward to concentrating on conducting.

 "In the case of the BBC, I'll have to head up the organization as its artistic head and principal conductor, but I won't be involved in any marketing or any public relations," areas for which he is responsible at the VSO.

'Emotional connection'

When it comes to musical quality, Tovey said the BBC's orchestra and VSO are equally exemplary. 

"Professional musicians all over the world are really wonderful," he said. "In London they're amazing and they're amazing in Vancouver."

What sets BBC's orchestra apart for Tovey, however, is its high international profile. Tovey said a milestone in his life was being in its audience as a teenager.

"For me, it's a big deal. It's almost an emotional connection when you become the head of an orchestra like that," he said.

Despite his excitement, Tovey's move to the BBC is bittersweet. He said he's loved every moment of his time with the VSO. From meeting audience members to attending fundraising events, Tovey said it's been thrilling to help build the VSO into what it is today.

Now however, he's ready to focus on the music.

"That's been a very precious part of my life but ... When it comes to music making, it is nice to just focus on that."

Though he will relocate to London, Tovey will retain the VSO's title of music director emeritus.

With files from On the Coast