After the stop-start nature of the CBSO’s concerts – and indeed all our lives - in 2020-21, it feels great to be looking ahead to a full Autumn Season rich in variety and musical excitement. From symphonic blockbusters by Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky and Brahms, to new works by some of today’s most exciting composers, by way of Elton John and the Classic FM Hall of Fame. As you look through this brochure, I really do hope that once again, you will find something to inspire you, uplift you and remind you of just how powerful the live music experience is. As regular CBSO attenders will know, for 30 years Symphony Hall has been the best-sounding and most comfortable place to enjoy great orchestral music in the UK. But what you might not yet know is that it now also has fantastic new foyers, bars and public spaces where you can enjoy a drink and a chat with other concert-goers, a pre-concert talk or even a post-concert informal session with CBSO musicians. With its excellent ventilation and experienced, friendly front of house team, you can also be sure that your safety and comfort are in the best possible hands. Furthermore, for this first Autumn Season we will be offering a choice of standard and socially distanced seats at different levels in the auditorium which we hope that you, our hugely valued audience, will find reassuring. So take your pick and join us this autumn as we celebrate being back together for great music with your CBSO – 101 years young.
Stephen Maddock OBE
We'll be returning to our full strength and range of activities this autumn, sharing the talents and ambition of the entire CBSO family of ensembles with audiences here in Birmingham and beyond. From large-scale symphonies at Symphony Hall and unplugged gigs in Hockley Social Club, to workshops in schools, we'll be offering communities throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands the crucial opportunity to re-engage with live music and culture this autumn.
The season opens on Thursday 16 September with Principal Guest Conductor Kazuki Yamada leading the CBSO Chorus and CBSO Youth Chorus – reunited with the orchestra for the first time since early 2020 – in a French-inspired programme including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Poulenc’s Gloria. They will be joined by organist Anna Lapwood for Saint-Saëns’ ‘Organ Symphony’ in the French composer’s centenary year. But that's not all there is for us to shout about.
Three CBSO Centenary Commissions – part of the orchestra’s most ambitious commissioning programme to date – receive their premieres: Mark Anthony Turnage’s Go For It, Debbie Wiseman’s Carnival of the Endangered Animals and Jonathan Dove’s In Exile. Putting the spotlight on species at risk of extinction, Wiseman’s work places a modern and topical spin on Saint-Saëns’ iconic The Carnival of the Animals suite in a family-friendly performance whilst Dove’s piece for baritone, cello and orchestra to a text by Alasdair Middleton is performed by Sir Simon Keenlyside and Raphael Wallfisch, and paired with Dvořák’s New World Symphony. They will also give UK premieres of two pieces by living Canadian composers new to the CBSO’s repertoire: Cassandra Miller’s La Donna and Sammy Moussa’s Nocturne.
Organist Anna Lapwood and saxophonist Jess Gillam are among the star instrumentalists making their CBSO debuts this autumn. Gillam’s concert takes audiences on a pan-American road trip from the dancehalls of Cuba to Copland’s leafy Appalachian mountains, whilst Lapwood joins for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ epic Organ Symphony in the Season’s opening concerts. Returning guest artists include singers Carolyn Sampson and Dame Sarah Connolly, violinists James Ehnes, Baiba Skride, Ning Feng and Jennifer Pike as well as pianists Steven Osborne, Kirill Gerstein and Benjamin Grosvenor.
Conductors joining the Orchestra for the first time include winner of the Mahler Competition 2020, Finnegan Downie Dear, Kevin John Edusei and Gergely Madaras. Returning to the Symphony Hall podium are François Leleux, Gustavo Gimeno, Christian Măcelaru, Richard Balcombe, former CBSO Assistant Conductor Jaume Santonja Espinós, CBSO Associate Conductor Michael Seal and John Wilson. In her last season as Music Director of the CBSO, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla leads the orchestra in a performance of Fauré’s Requiem, and a concert performance of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (16 December) featuring Soprano Elena Tsallagova (Vixen Sharp Ears), Mezzo-Soprano Angela Brower (The Fox) and Baritone Roland Wood (The Forester) before taking it on tour to Dortmund, Hamburg and Paris.
Find all of our newly announced events on our season homepage.