Players' Season Highlights

With a host of Season concerts to pick from between January to July, we know it can be hard to choose which ones to see, so we asked some of our musicians to share their top picks and musical highlights with us.

Jeremy Bushell, Principal Fourth Horn

Trying to write highlights of the coming Season is hard, because when I look at our schedule I am like a kid in a sweet shop. Having just looked through it, I see we will be playing Bruckner’s Symphony No.6 (Wed 11 May), which is now playing at full volume in my room and now it’s started I just can’t bring myself to turn it off! Anyway, here goes, this could take a while, Bruckner 6 is nearly an hour long!!

Having joined the CBSO five years ago it didn’t take me long to start to enjoy the different and varied programming that is always on offer, and one highlight that quickly became a favourite of mine is the Friday Night Classics.

It’s so much fun to play great music of a different genre with artists who we would not usually work with in our regular Season, and the Sondheim: Broadway Baby (Fri 14 Jan) concert is going to be a standout highlight for me.


Having been involved with the CBSO Youth Ambassadors and experienced first-hand their enthusiasm and knowledge of music, I’m looking forward to their concert (Sat 12 Mar) and what will be another really interesting programme. As part of the project, they put together every aspect of the concert, from planning the music and grappling with constraints of concert length and budget, to advertising and media, and actually being part of presenting the concert. An amazing opportunity to be involved in and learn about the many aspects of putting on a concert and just how difficult it can be to get it right! Hats off to our management who do this on a daily basis!!

Anything conducted by Yamada. Honestly if we were going to record an album called “Now That’s What I Call Muzak” with Kazuki that would be just fine by me. He can make music out of the simplest, smallest, most unassuming phrase. In rehearsals he’ll ask the strangest combination of instruments to play alone and totally transform what they just played with the smallest, simplest instruction. He makes the process of rehearsing very exciting and satisfying.

As a horn player, Mahler offers a perfect combination of amazing music which is hugely satisfying to play. Anything by him on the schedule is always a week to look forward to. So to play Mahler’s Fifth (Thu 21 & Sat 23 Apr) and his Second (Wed 22 and Sat 25 Jun) symphonies will be great fun, especially the Second, which is scored for 10 horns!

Despite the fact that whenever we get to play in concert halls around the world which serves as a reminder just how very very good our own Symphony Hall is to play in (and with the best audience!) touring remains a real perk of our job. And we have quite an extensive European tour next year with Mirga, which I’m sure will be exhausting but fun. She always brings a fresh approach to music-making which I find surprising and energising.

Katherine Thomas, Principal Harp

The great works of Strauss, Berlioz and Mahler, to name but three composers, often provide harpists with technically challenging parts. Once mastered though, they are amongst the most rewarding works to play and I revel sitting in the centre of a great symphony orchestra and being able to experience these sounds. However, I have a guilty pleasure… I really love a good tune! I’m probably a frustrated singer at heart.

Being Welsh, I never need an excuse to start singing and to belt out a great melody. One of the attractions for me of joining the CBSO, was the variety of music that the Orchestra offers its audiences.

Highlights of the Friday Night Concert Series over the forthcoming Season include an evening of Sondheim: Broadway Baby (Fri 14 Jan), a 100 Years of Movie Magic (25 Feb) and an Opera Gala (Fri 29 Apr). You’ll definitely find me there: whether swishing around the harp playing glissandi or underpinning the harmonies and wonderful melodies of truly remarkable film scores. These concerts provide a platform for the whole orchestra to shine and hopefully our audiences will feel our enthusiasm and enjoyment too. Look forward to seeing you there!

Kath 2.

Oliver Janes, Section Leader Clarinet

There are so many exciting concerts coming up between now and the summer, it’s so hard to select only a few highlights! In mid-January, Strauss’ Don Juan with Kazuki Yamada (Wed 19 & Thu 20 Jan) will be really exciting! Strauss is one of, if not my absolute, favourite composers, his music is so descriptive, incredible melodies and he always writes really epic horn parts which are my guilty pleasure! All that paired with the amazing Kazuki and I don’t think I could think of a better start to a concert!!

There’s a nerdy clarinet favourite of mine which is the Dances of Galánta by Kodály (Thu 17 Feb). It’s a brilliant piece, full of Hungarian melodies and it really gets going to an explosive finish when the fast dances start! From a clarinettist’s point of view, it’s a piece we learn a lot as a student, it has two clarinet cadenzas, one at the start and one towards the end and (hopefully) is a showcase for the instrument. It’s also not performed often, so I’m really looking forward to an opportunity to play it!

Then in March, Mirga is back and I’m so excited to play Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4 (Wed 2 & Thu 3 Mar) again with her. It was the first piece we played with her as Music Director and at the Proms and I remember there being so much excitement and anticipation – I’m sure there will be this time again as we experience this piece with her. It’s also just a great piece!


Finally, Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (Wed 22 & Sat 25 Jun) is just one of the best pieces ever! There is nothing like witnessing this piece live and really feeling the full force of a big orchestra and chorus, just totally epic!

Amy Thomas, Tutti Viola

Strauss and Mahler (Wed 19 Jan & Thu 20 Jan) is going to be a great concert to banish any January blues; my favourite conductor, two of my favourite composers and an unbelievably exciting programme. If you haven’t yet witnessed Kazuki’s incredible connection with the CBSO, you need to come to this concert!

I love Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, it’s virtuosic for the entire orchestra, high energy, fun, and a beautifully told story of Don Juan desperately trying to find his ideal woman... unfortunately for him it doesn’t end well!

In the second half is Mahler’s Symphony No.4, another composer who we haven’t been able to play so muchof over the past couple of years but having full forces back with our next Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor Kazuki is going to make this performance of this symphony something not to miss!

Seeing little children hear live music for the first time is one of the great joys of being a musician. Notelets are designed to captivate, amaze, and give children a love for music from an early age. Interactive performances with pictures, stories, dancing, games and music from CBSO musicians - sometimes we’re not sure who has more fun, the children, the parents or the musicians! This Notelets (Fri 11 Mar) is something a bit different as we have been incredibly lucky to be able to collaborate with the unbelievably talented local author and composer Joey Walter, and illustrator Ning Ning Li. We’ll take you on an exciting journey from the Jungle, to the Opera and beyond... Along the way you’ll meet our jungle jazz band, Oscar the Ocelot and friends, dance, travel, imagine, join in with the musicians and maybe even have a party!


And how can you not look forward to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (Thu 21 Apr)? It’s one of those symphonies that never gets old. From the lone trumpet opening the funeral March, to the beautiful string Adagietto, and ending with an epic frenzied finale that will definitely give you goosebumps.

Margaret Cookhorn, Principal Contrabassoon

Don Juan by Richard Strauss (19 Jan) is a fantastic example of brilliant music making. It’s physically challenging for everyone, but I love the energy and excitement! The fact that the work begins a split second after the down beat, can make this a challenge for some conductors… it has been known for one or two to begin while the audience are still clapping! What I really find interesting in the music is how Strauss creates the excitement (violins playing in the high register for example) and builds tension which then leads to disappointment.

You certainly won’t be disappointed in hearing this great work!


Bryony Morrison, Tutti Second Violin

I still can’t quite believe how amazing it is that we get to play music with and for other people again. Vast Mahler symphonies seem like the biggest treat these days, so I’m really happy that we’ll be performing his ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (Wed 22 & Sat 25 Jun) with Mirga, as well as the Fourth (Wed 19 Jan & Thu 20 Jan) with Kazuki, because it features the most beautiful moment for the second violins and holds special memories for us as a section. I also love Sibelius symphonies, so I’m excited that we’ll be welcoming back Ryan Bancroft to conduct the Second Symphony just after Christmas (Thu 13 Jan), and that the Fifth will feature in our Race Through Space concerts for schools (Fri 11 & Mon 14 Feb). These shows for KS1 schools will explore music through activity and movement as we head to the moon to take part in the 2022 ‘Comoonwealth’ Games. Most of the music will be space themed, but we’ve thrown in the Sibelius too because it’s just such a brilliant piece and lends itself well to some athletic strength training! 

There’s so much more to look forward to, including an evening curated by our Youth Ambassadors (Sat 12 Mar) – a real ‘watch this space’ event, repertoire still TBC, but sure to be worth writing home about!


Anthony Howe, Principal Second Trombone

I can’t wait to see our designate Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor Kazuki Yamada again for a stunning programme of two fabulous big romantic works, paired with two Mozart arias (19 and 20 January). Kazuki sprinkles magic dust on everything he conducts and I’m anticipating something very special.

Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (Wed 2 Feb) is one of the most genuinely revolutionary pieces of all time. It seems so fresh and original, and it will really come to life under Fabien Gabel, one of the CBSO’s favourite conductors and Beethoven’s extraordinary violin concerto is in the first half.

The all-American programme (Wed 23 Feb) looks great. I love discovering new music – I had never heard of the composer Robert Nathaniel Dett, so I’m very interested to hear his piece from 1925, The Ordering of Moses.

When I was a teenager, hearing Mahler's Fifth (Thu 21 & Sat 23 Apr) was probably the single biggest thing that made me fall in love with orchestral music. I wore out my cassette tape of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the piece, conducted by Georg Soti. Don’t miss this stunning piece! The amazing Paul Lewis plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.27 in the first half.


I think Bruckner’s Symphony No.6 (Wed 11 May) is the most dramatic and tautly structured of his symphonies and I’m excited about playing it. This is a rare chance to hear it, along with the pianist Gabriela Montero, a huge musical personality, playing Tchaikovsky’s First concerto, just before the CBSO embarks on a European tour with this programme.

Mahler’s Symphony No.2 (Wed 22 & Sat 26 Jun) – need I say more? Any performance of this piece is a special event. Early ticket purchasing is recommended!

Friday night concerts: there are some very enticing Friday concerts on the menu. Firstly, a large selection of music by, in my opinion, the greatest composer of theatre music, Stephen Sondheim (Fri 14 Jan). Then, the music of ABBA (Fri 28 Jan) – their music made a huge impression on me as a child and I still love it; 100 Years of Movie Magic (Fri 25 Feb) – we’ll play some of the best music of the 20th Century, including a few of the top soundtracks from John Williams, who has won more Oscars than anyone ever.

Jonathan Holland, Section Leader Trumpet

The standout concert for me is the Mahler’s Fifth (Thu 21 April). It’s definitely a piece all trumpet students at music college would give anything to play first trumpet in. It’s a great test of technique, stamina and of course a mental test too! From the totally isolated first solo opening of the piece to virtually every other soloistic entry it’s a great feeling to reach the triumphant ending with all that behind you and the drink(s) afterwards taste very satisfying!


Sally Morgan, Tutti Double Bass

One of the concerts that stands out for me next season are two repeat concerts that are happening on Thu 21 and Sat 23 April. The reasons for my choice - repertoire, the conductor and the soloist, so this concert is all going to be highly exciting. Austrian in flavour – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat leads us into the concert played by the exemplary pianist Paul Lewis, coupled with Mahler’s Symphony No.5 – conducted by Christoph Koenig. Christoph came to the Orchestra to conduct the Brahms’ Symphony No.3 two years ago (having stepped into Mirga’s shoes at the last minute when she was indisposed). There was an instant rapport with the orchestra, and we played an amazingly electric concert for his debut in December 2019. He “brought the house down” wrote Richard Bratby.

The Mahler Symphony No.5 is probably the most powerful of all the Symphonies. We toured this piece around many countries and continents with Sir Simon Rattle in the 1990s, including playing this work in the Musikverein in Vienna. Mahler’s Fifth contains one of the greatest movements ever written in my opinion, showcasing strings in the slow movement – the Adagietto. It features the harp which opens the movement with violins playing the most mournful passage and contemplative in atmosphere. The Adagietto movement contrasts with the drama of the preceding movements which are highly charged. The double basses accompany the texture along with harp playing pizzicato accompanying the first violins and the rest of the strings – hugely emotional.


The Mozart piano concerto was the last of Mozart piano concertos composed in 1791, 110 years before Mahler’s Fifth. Paul Lewis is one of the UK’s finest soloists and it is usually quite hard to catch him – another reason to book if you have never heard him play.

Helen Edgar, Tutti Cello

It’s still such a thrill to be playing to audiences in person again and looking through the programmes the CBSO will be performing in the next few months, I still can’t quite believe we can now have the larger orchestra needed for Mahler and Tchaikovsky Symphonies. 

The first Mahler is his Symphony No.4 (Wed 19 Jan) with the fantastic Kazuki Yamada conducting. Strauss’ Don Juan is on the same programme, an exciting storytelling piece that demands challenging Olympian-level technical excellence from every player on stage and we anticipate Kazuki will bring his extra levels of energy to us.

As a cellist, I’m of course looking forward to playing with Sheku Kanneh-Mason again, when he performs Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto (Wed 16 Mar) with Mirga conducting. This was the energetic dramatic piece with which he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year, and soon after we performed and recorded it with him, along with some cello ensemble pieces, of which we’re very proud!


I love all the different aspects of the CBSO programme, including the Schools’ Concerts where it’s incredible to watch young people experience live music being performed, often for the first time. This is clearly never more needed than right now and judging by the response I’ve had performing in schools in recent months, after months of life on screen, their reaction will be extraordinary.

The Family Concert Myths and Legends (Sun 20 Feb) is presented by Tom Redmond and guides us through more musical storytelling, with Stravinsky’s Firebird and film music too.

The Friday night series often see the Orchestra letting our hair down and digging out our best themed dressing up. Highlights for me will be the music of Stephen Sondheim (Fri 14 Jan), Guy Barker’s History of Soul (Fri 27 May) and I especially can’t wait for the ABBA night (Fri 28 Jan) where you may catch me attempting to sing all those classic songs (don’t worry, the proper singers will be the only ones you’ll hear!).

Finally, back to cello ensembles, our CBSO Cello sextet will be performing in the Centre Stage series (Fri 24 Jun) and I’m really thrilled to play Schubert’s Cello Quintet (Thu 10 Feb) with Miguel, Kate, Bryony and Amy. Exciting times ahead!