CBSO to mark Shakespeare anniversary

Orchestra will present the most ambitious series of concerts inspired by the Bard.

Music features prominently in Shakespeare’s plays, and ever since they were written his works have provided inspiration for many composers. In 2016 the CBSO will celebrate the playwright’s impact on the musical world – and honour his Midlands roots – with Our Shakespeare, commemorating the 400th anniversary of his death.

Over 22 orchestral concerts and 4 chamber performances, the orchestra and its ensembles will perform music spanning four centuries inspired by over half of Shakespeare’s plays.

The CBSO’s journey through the music of Shakespeare will open with Henry V (7th January) and an unmissable performance of Walton’s iconic composition that was created for Lawrence Olivier’s 1944 film adaptation. Starring actor Samuel West, conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Edward Gardner and featuring the voices of the CBSO Chorus, the concert also features Strauss’ Symphonic Poem Macbeth, Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs and ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth.

Having opened the season, it only seems fitting that Edward Gardner takes to the stage with the final Shakespearean concert in July – Verdi’s Falstaff. This operatic reimagining of Shakespeare’s hilarious play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, has an all-star cast including Ambrogio Maestri, one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world.

Other highlights in the season will include music from Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music (the text of which is adapted from The Merchant of Venice) performed by 16 outstanding young singers currently studying at British conservatoires, Elgar’s Falstaff, Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet and The Tempest, Dvorak’s Othello and two special concerts for schoolchildren aged 7–11.

On 23rf April, Shakespeare’s birthday and also the day he died, the young Israeli conductor Lahav Shani will conduct Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Shakespeare’s presence on the silver screen will also be celebrated that weekend with a Friday Night Classic concert of music from great Shakespearean movies – including Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar and Shakespeare in Love, conducted by Robert Zeigler.

Shakespeare inspired music will also feature in CBSO Centre’s series of Centre Stage chamber concerts devised and performed by CBSO musicians including a baroque performance with Nicolas McGegan on harpsicord.

CBSO chief executive Stephen Maddock said: “Shakespeare is in the lifeblood of the Midlands, it is where he grew up and where he is buried. We have the privilege of being the only symphony orchestra within the region and as such are thrilled to be celebrating his life with Our Shakespeare, which we believe is the world’s largest scale concert series celebrating the music inspired by the playwright’s work.

“Within this range of concerts, we will be working with our hugely talented team, Michael Seal, Edward Gardner and Simon Halsey as well as our choruses. We’ll also be bringing to the Midlands some of the world’s most talented artists, and we look forward to sharing those musical events with our audiences across the Midlands.”

The CBSO’s programme of concerts is part of a wider Our Shakespeare celebration in partnership with leading arts organisations in the region; Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Library of Birmingham, Ex Cathedra, Barber Institute, Shakespeare Institute and University of Birmingham. This partnership will celebrate the world-class creativity of the region where Shakespeare was born, educated and buried, and will engage wide audiences for work inspired by the Bard.

To find out more about Our Shakespeare go to: