CBSO announces 2013/14 Birmingham concert season

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra announced its 2013-14 Birmingham concert season yesterday, with an ambitious and wide ranging series, and a host of internationally acclaimed performers and artists taking centre stage.

  • Sixth season with acclaimed music director Andris Nelsons
  • Mendelssohn symphony cycle in Birmingham’s Town Hall with principal guest conductor Edward Gardner
  • Three complete concert operas: Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury
  • Five premieres from Charlotte Bray, Brett Dean, Gerald Barry, Francisco Coll and Hans Abrahamsen
  • Strauss and Britten anniversaries, plus CBSO 20:20 – continuing the countdown to the CBSO’s centenary with a focus on 1913 and 1914
  • Guest appearances by Anne-Sophie Mutter, Håkan Hardenberger and Thomas Adès, plus debuts by Benjamin Grosvenor and Rafael Payare
  • Broadest ever programme, featuring music for audiences of all ages and musical tastes

Andris and the CBSO

As Andris Nelsons enters his sixth season at the CBSO, one of the world’s most electric musical partnerships continues to flourish. Andris opens the Birmingham season with a centenary performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and other highlights include the culmination of their Tchaikovsky cycle, with the Manfred Symphony, as well as a celebration of Strauss’ 150th birthday featuring  Symphonia Domestica, Don Juan, the sublime Four Last Songs with soprano Erin Wall, and a concert performance of his Viennese comedy Der Rosenkavalier.

Edward Gardner

Edward Gardner’s Mendelssohn symphony cycle will be one of the hottest tickets in the UK’s second city as the CBSO’s principal guest conductor brings Victorian Britain’s favourite composer back to Birmingham’s Town Hall where he regularly performed. He also conducts Elgar’s Symphony No 1, and for the first time with the CBSO he brings his operatic flair to Symphony Hall, with a concert performance of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.

New music

New music features strongly throughout the CBSO’s season. Andris Nelsons will conduct the UK premieres of two works inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Hans Abrahamsen’s Let me tell you written for soprano Barbara Hannigan and Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae, a CBSO co-commission featuring trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, always a firm favourite with Birmingham audiences. The acclaimed CBSO Youth Orchestra will give the world premiere of a new work by Charlotte Bray, commissioned by the CBSO and the Feeney Trust, and Thomas Adès returns to Birmingham with his orchestral tour de force Tevot (composed for the Berlin Philharmonic). This will be performed alongside two fascinating premieres with pianist Nicolas Hodges: the exuberant Concertino by young Spanish composer Francisco Coll and a new Piano Concerto by musical maverick and all round entertainer Gerald Barry.

World-class guests in Birmingham

The CBSO continues to attract the very best musicians to Birmingham, both those with global reputations and others that are fast catching them up. The extraordinary violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter opens the season and there are welcome returns from violinist Christian Tetzlaff, pianists Steven Osborne and Lars Vogt, cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, and conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada.

CBSO regulars are also bringing some exciting programmes to Birmingham. Jac Van Steen leads the CBSO Youth Orchestra in Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, and Andrew Manze will conduct the CBSO in an all Vaughan Williams concert featuring the rarely performed Job, A Masque for Dancing.  Another firm Birmingham favourite, Vassily Sinaisky, will take the Orchestra, Chorus and audience on the journey of life with a performance of Rachmaninov’s The Bells, featuring soloists from the Bolshoi Theatre.

CBSO debuts this season include the brightest new star of British piano playing, Benjamin Grosvenor, with Saint-Saëns’s outrageously entertaining Second Piano Concerto. El Sistema’s latest graduate conductor, Rafael Payare, will take to the stage with music that is both familiar and inspiring in a concert featuring pianist Jonathan Bliss, and Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto will also make his directing debut with the CBSO with a vibrant and colourful array of music by American minimalists, John Adams and Steve Reich. Meanwhile soprano Sophie Bevan will join the CBSO three times during the season for Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise, Der Rosenkavalier, and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in a collaboration with Ex Cathedra.

CBSO Family

As ever, the CBSO family features heavily throughout the season. Chorus Director Simon Halsey will lead a 100th birthday choral tribute to Britten with the CBSO’s celebrated Choruses; Associate Conductor Michael Seal conducts Shostakovich’s powerful Symphony No 5; and CBSO leader Laurence Jackson directs a summer concert of Grieg and Tchaikovsky. Andris’s section leaders and principal players also join him as soloists for performances of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn, Vaughan William’s Tuba Concerto, and John Woolrich’s Falling down written for CBSO principal contrabassoon Margaret Cookhorn.

Music for All

And finally, the CBSO’s season is broader than ever with its popular Friday nights featuring music by Abba and Gilbert and Sullivan, alongside one of the masters of silent cinema – Buster Keaton – with one of his greatest silent cinema hits, The General. For younger audiences, the CBSO’s concerts for families and pre-school children bring to life the stories and characters we know. Marking the opening of the new Library of Birmingham, Michael Rosen of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt fame will join the CBSO for a performance of his new work: The Great Enormo – A Kerfuffle in B flat for Orchestra, Wasps and Soprano, which is set to be great fun for all the family. There will also be a new, hilarious addition to the annual Christmas concerts as Harry Potter and The Fast Show star Mark Williams leads the orchestra and choruses in the CBSO’s legendary Festive Favourites.

Stephen Maddock, CBSO chief executive, said: “Everyone at the CBSO is proud of the fantastic range of music that we perform for our audiences – 75 concerts in our wonderful home at Symphony Hall, plus 30 international concerts with Andris Nelsons, more than in any previous year. Whilst these are testing financial times, the CBSO still attracts packed halls at home and abroad, and currently has the highest ticket income level of any UK orchestra. We’re looking forward to another great season of outstanding orchestral music.”

Booking Information

To experience the CBSO’s season in full go to Members priority booking begins on 6 May. Public booking begins 30 May. Tickets are available from Symphony Hall or Town Hall box offices in person, by phone: 0121 345 0603, or online: (Note a £2.50 transaction fee is charged by THSH Box Office on all bookings except those made in person)