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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra announces its 2023-2024 season

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) today reveals its 2023-24 Season – CBSO Remastered - presenting a broad programme of life-enriching musical experiences for audiences at its home in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and beyond.

With a new Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor – Kazuki Yamada – at the helm and the arrival of Emma Stenning as the orchestra’s new Chief Executive, the new Season welcomes a host of starry guest soloists and conductors and marks 50 years of the celebrated CBSO Chorus with a programme of much-loved choral works. 150 years since the birthday of Rachmaninoff, the composer’s genius is explored, while new music is spotlighted throughout the programme. And, as always, the Orchestra strengthens its mission to reach new audiences across the West Midlands and beyond, with a celebration of the music of the movies and a collaboration with the Orchestral Qawwali Project.

Kazuki Yamada leads 12 concerts across the 23/24 programme. He presents three major choral works with the CBSO Chorus, launching and closing the season with Verdi’s thrilling Requiem and Puccini’s tragic opera, Madam Butterfly respectively, as well as leading Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. Further highlights of Kazuki’s season include Elgar’s Enigma Variations, two performances of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and his first ever CBSO Family Concert, featuring former Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey Bailey as his right-hand man as they venture into a world of classic fairy tales set to music by Ravel, Grieg and Holly Harrison.

Kazuki Yamada, Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor, CBSO, says: “I am thrilled to be able to share the 23/24 season with our audiences today – a jam-packed programme of concerts which celebrate our wonderful musicians, choruses and youth ensembles, alongside a whole host of bright and brilliant soloists and conductors. This season is extra special to me as I embark on my first full season as Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the CBSO and I’m thrilled that it is a season full of surprises, incredible music and human connection – I cannot wait to share it with our audiences in Birmingham and beyond.”

Emma Stenning, Chief Executive, CBSO, says: I can’t wait to dive into this season. For me, the chance to see Kazuki’s relationship with our players grow over time will be a real treat. There is clearly such a bond between our new Chief Conductor and the orchestra, which will surely flourish in the months ahead, delivering some magnificent concerts along the way. I’m particularly excited for the couple of opportunities to listen to Shostakovich, which is a personal favourite, and love that this programme offers something for all, whether you are classically adventurous, or in search of a more popular choice. Either way, I look forward to welcoming you to a CBSO concert in the months ahead.”

Starry guests, debuts and returning CBSO Conductors

The CBSO’s 2023/24 Season sees a host of close musical friends and collaborators take to the Symphony Hall stage, including two of the orchestra’s celebrated former Music Directors. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla joins the orchestra for a concert celebrating the music of Eastern Europe, and Sakari Oramo leads the orchestra in two concerts, the first a programme of Sibelius and Strauss alongside his wife, renowned soprano Anu Komsi, and the second for the CBSO’s Benevolent Fund Concert, starring violinist Daishin Kashimoto in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5.

Close musical friend Sheku Kanneh-Mason joins Kazuki Yamada for Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 and genre-defying cellist Abel Selaocoe joins forces with conductor Fiona Monbet for a performance of his new concerto Four Spirits, while Featured Artist, tenor Pene Pati stars in Verdi’s Requiem and Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, as well as a special up-close recital and conversation at the CBSO Centre with Kazuki.

Internationally renowned artists making their CBSO debuts this season include pianists Alice Sara Ott and Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, as well as cellist Laura van de Heijden and violinist María Dueñas, while visiting conductors include Tabita Berglund, Maxim Emelyanychev and Oksana Lyniv - also making their debuts – as well as Kevin John Edusei, Daniele Rustioni and Joshua Weilerstein.

The CBSO Chorus at 50

The world-renowned CBSO Chorus celebrates its 50th anniversary throughout the season, while its beloved Chorus Director, Simon Halsey CBE, marks 40 years at the helm of the organisation. As part of the season the Chorus presents the work they performed in their very first concert back in 1974 - Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust – this time conducted by Kazuki Yamada with soloists Pene Pati, Grace Durham, Nahuel di Perro and Jonathan Lemalu.

The Chorus open and close the season with major choral works – Verdi’s Requiem and Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, while further highlights include Fauré’s haunting Requiem, conducted by Alexandre Bloch and the UK premieres of Caroline Shaw’s Music in Common Time and John Luther Adams’s Vespers of the Blessed Earth, a CBSO Commission. They also present their annual Choral Christmas performance, joined by the CBSO Youth Chorus, CBSO Children’s Chorus and SO Vocal, with presenter and organist Anna Lapwood.

Simon Halsey’s anniversary is marked with a concert of the music he loves best, including Parry’s I Was Glad, Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Jonathan Dove’s There Was a Child, with soloists Jennifer France and Allan Clayton alongside the CBSO Chorus, CBSO Youth Chorus and CBSO Children’s Chorus.

Rachmaninoff at 150

The CBSO marks the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birth with a series of concerts exploring his works. Highlights include his soaring Third Symphony, conducted by Kevin John Edusei; a performance of his Piano Concerto No.2 with conductor Andrew Gourlay and soloist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason; Symphonic Dances led by Kazuki Yamada; and the glittering Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini performed by pianist Boris Giltburg.

New music

Continuing the CBSO’s commitment to championing the music of living composers, the Orchestra showcases five premieres in the 2023/24 Season. In a nod to the US, there are premieres of two major CBSO commissions - American composer John Luther Adams’s new choral epic, Vespers of the Blessed Earth, receives its UK premiere by the CBSO Chorus conducted by Ludovic Morlot, and UK-born, America-based composer Anna Clyne’s Piano Concerto, receives its UK premiere from the musician it was created for - American pianist Jeremy Denk. Also in the season is American composer Caroline Shaw’s Music in Common Time, which receives its UK premiere conducted by Joshua Weilerstein. Australian Holly Harrison takes inspiration from the world of Alice in Wonderland in her work Frumious, which sees its UK premiere as part of a Family Concert based on classic fairy tales, and a CBSO Commission by Dai Fujikura, Wavering World, shows a dazzling vision of a newly-made earth, receiving its UK premiere with Kazuki Yamada.

Beyond the Classics

The CBSO is committed to inspiring new audiences and to creating concert programmes designed to engage people who may never have seen a full orchestra before.

The Orchestral Qawwali Project has captivated audiences through its unique combination of Sufi poetry, Indian Classical dance and orchestral arrangements. Written and directed by composer Rushil Ranjan, the CBSO’s collaboration with the Project will feature the soaring vocals of Abi Sampa in effortless combination with rich orchestral arrangements performed by the orchestra and the dynamic grace of Parkash Pal’s table.

Following the huge success of the CBSO’s first exploration into the music of video games in the 22-23 Season, pianist Mischa Cheung returns for a second foray into the world of Final Fantasy, with Final Symphony II, a showcase of the tense, atmospheric and emotionally-charged soundtracks.

The orchestra presents a touching tribute to music legend Burt Bacharach, in association with GRB Concerts. Richard Balcombe conducts the CBSO and an all-star cast in a concert of his best-loved hits including What the World Needs Now, Magic Moments and Alfie.

A strand of concerts showcases music of the movies: conductor Stephen Bell presents a night of Classics at the Movies, with music by Elgar, Puccini, and Mahler; Christmas at the Movies with conductor Michael England features classics from Home Alone, Love Actually, Elf and The Snowman; the orchestra celebrates Star Wars Day on Saturday 4 May with special presenter Anthony Daniels (AKA the original C-3PO), in a concert of John Williams’s thrilling scores – from ThePhantom Menace to The Rise of Skywalker and everything in between; marking the 40th anniversary of the release of Amadeus, the CBSO and conductor Benjamin Pope are joined by the University of Birmingham Voices for a screening of the film with Mozart’s soundtrack performed live; the CBSO celebrate a giant among film composers - Hans Zimmer - with music from Interstellar, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman and Gladiator and more, hosted by Andrew Pogson and Dan Golding, presenters of the Art of the score podcast and conducted by Nicholas Buc.

This Season, the CBSO joins forces with favourite vocalists to present two West End collaborations: conductor Alfonso Casado Trigo presents a tribute to the legendary crooners of the 1950s in Symphonic Rat Pack as top West End singers perform songs including Luck Be a Lady, The Lady is a Tramp and Mr Bojangles; and conductor Michael England and vocalists Sophie Evans, Alice Fearn and Scott Davies take audiences to Broadway, with hits from Cabaret, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls and Chicago. Also in the Season, Michael Seal conducts two incredible soloists – soprano Danielle de Niese and trumpeter Niall O’Sullivan - as they present a journey through time from the Opera Houses of Europe to the dance floors of South America with iconic compositions from Handel, Jerome Kern and Astor Piazzolla, alongside movie themes and Broadway classics.

Children and Families

The CBSO is passionate about bringing music to audiences of all ages; the 2023-24 Season features more than 20 concerts for children and young people, including three Family Concerts designed to bring music alive to audiences young and old and inspire the next generation of musicians and audiences. Entertaining and informal, the CBSO Family Concerts are suitable for ages 5-11, and include Fairy Tales conducted by Kazuki Yamada as well as two performances led by previous CBSO Assistant Conductors - Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra conducted by Bertie Baigent and Cartoon Classics conducted by Olivia Clarke; and three Notelets mini-concerts, giving toddlers the chance to express themselves through singing and dancing inspired by travelling across the globe, percussion and the magic of Christmas!

The CBSO continues its ambition to make its performances as accessible as possible. The orchestra’s relaxed concerts are specially designed for SEND pupils and Special Schools, while the Schools’ Concerts are designed to inspire children to explore the world of live music. All schools’ and family concerts are BSL interpreted. The range of activities for older people and those in care settings includes Cuppa Concerts, a series of relaxed, small-ensemble concerts.

BBC Radio 3 in Concert

The CBSO’s long-standing association with BBC Radio 3 continues throughout the 2022-23 season, with selected concerts being broadcast on Radio 3 in Concert.

Further details to be announced.

Classic FM’s Orchestra in the Midlands

The CBSO is proud to continue its partnership with Classic FM, the UK’s most popular classical music station, as its Orchestra in the Midlands. Classic FM recommends a series of concerts throughout the season, including Eternal Romance, Beethoven 5, Elgar’s Enigma Variations,Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and Classic FM Hall of Fame 2023, a definitive countdown of Britain’s favourite classical music, from Nimrod to The Lark Ascending, conducted by Michael Seal and presented by John Suchet.

Centre Stage, concerts at CBSO Centre

Centre Stageconcerts at the CBSO Centre present an opportunity to see CBSO musicians in an informal setting across 15 concerts, featuring works ranging from baroque to the 21st century with links to the main CBSO programme. The concerts are programmed by the CBSO musicians themselves and the 2022-23 series includes performances from the CBSO Youth Orchestra, Woodwind Ensemble, Cello Ensemble, Symphonic Six, and Career Accelerator Ensemble.

The CBSO’s chamber music programme is generously supported by John Osborn CBE.