News Story

As our 2022-23 Season comes to an end, we celebrate lots of amazing things – but one very special thing to shout about is the conclusion of our Centenary Commissions. This momentous project took years to plan, and (due to the pandemic) years to complete – but these 40 unique and varied contributions to the canon have all been worth it.

The project included 20 large-scale works by some of the greatest established composers from around the world, as well as 20 shorter works by emerging artists – honouring our commitment to both new music and to the 50/50 Gender Balance. Take a look through each and every one of these performances below.

We are extremely grateful to the John Ellerman Foundation, John Feeney Charitable Trust, The JABBS Foundation and PRS For Music Foundation for their support of our new commissions.

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Photograph of the full orchestra standing on-stage at Symphony Hall and smiling


6 July 2019

Thea Musgrave, Trumpet Concerto

Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto was written specially for Alison Balsom, Cheltenham’s artistic director, whose sole instruction was that she loved to sing with her instrument. Also inspired by paintings of trees by Victoria Crowe, Musgrave seized on the idea of energy reaching up from the tree’s deepest roots and high into the air as a metaphor for life, a notion all the more striking for coming from a composer who, at 91, still brims with her own life force.

The Guardian

12 December 2019

Jörg Widmann, Das heisse Herz

Jörg Widmann’s song-cycle Das heiße Herz (2013), here in its 2018 orchestration co-commissioned by the CBSO, which focusses on affairs of the heart from a frequently youthful, even childlike perspective. Such is evident in the sing-song jejunity of the vocal writing, akin to a cantus firmus that leads a path through some diverse and often dislocated textures.

Classical Source

18 December 2019

Stef Conner, Stella Maris

Stef Conner wrote Stella Maris as a Christmas present for the Selly Oak-based community choir SO Vocal.

Photograph of women singing as part of SO Vocal


30 January 2020

Unsuk Chin, SPIRA - A Concerto for Orchestra

Every time I’ve listened to SPIRA I’m entranced by the way Chin resolves its polarised nature, managing to arrive at a point where energy and stillness, somehow, seem to be articulated simultaneously, as if they had assimilated each other into a complex tremulous quietude.

5 Against 4

Photograph of the Orchestra on-stage.
A woman plays a harp, reading from sheet music.

29 February 2020

Gary Carpenter, Ghost Songs

Gary Carpenter’s Ghost Songs, a CBSO Centenary Commission, was the perfect showcase for the CBSO’s Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus. The six songs, based on poems by Marion Angus, Robert Louis Stevenson and the prolific Anon., explored aspects of dream, nightmare and the uncanny. This was a sparkling performance with Carpenter skilfully balancing a large orchestra with scintillating dabs of colour from the percussion and galumphing humour from the tuba. The chorus gave a whooping “be off!” to Stevenson’s ogres and had great fun with the comic Wee,Wee Man, ending with the delicate shimmer of All Souls’ Eve.

Slipped Disc

16 October 2020

Grace-Evangeline Mason, My thoughts fly in at your window


30 June 2021

Julian Anderson, Litanies

Julian Anderson won the 2023 Grawemeyer Award for Litanies.

Unscheduled drama at Symphony Hall! “Oh no,” cried Julian Anderson, sitting just in front of me, as his new cello concerto, Litanies, came to a shuddering halt minutes after it had begun. The soloist Alban Gerhardt had snapped his A-string. Anderson’s writing for the cello sounds ferocious enough for four strings, let alone three.

The Times

4 August 2021

Thomas Adès, The Exterminating Angel Symphony

this extended and ingeniously organized sequence of fragments from across the opera undeniably evokes a notable precedent in terms of its inexorable motion toward ultimate catastrophe, the animation and sheer panache of the CBSO’s playing brought about a suitably emphatic close.

Arcana FM

30 September 2021

Mark-Anthony Turnage, Go For It

Former CEO Stephen Maddock wrote: "“I asked Mark, ‘Could you do us something? And if you want to reflect on your time in Birmingham, that would be very nice.' He just ran with it. It’s classic Turnage – an absolutely brilliant, condensed version of his language in an eight-minute concert opener. Just a joyful, riotous, fun piece.""

24 October 2021

Debbie Wiseman, Carnival of the Endangered Animals

Debbie Wiseman's companion piece to Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals was premiered at one of our family concerts.

Photograph of Catherine Arldige presenting a family concert.
Photograph of a young boy sitting in the concert hall with his mother, father, and sister

9 December 2021

Jonathan Dove, In Exile

The two soloists — a brooding Simon Keenlyside and an eloquent Raphael Wallfisch — reveal different aspects of the narrator: outer and inner voices; thoughts and feelings; intellect and instinct.

The Times

Photograph of Raphael Wallfisch and Simon Keenleyside performing with Gergely Madaras and the CBSO at Symphony Hall.


28 April 2022

Bent Sørensen, Sei anime

The concerto itself seems to hide a free-floating melancholy beneath an exterior of refined and sometimes brilliant colour.

The Arts Desk

16 June 2022

Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, CATAMORPHOSIS

Each new section grows inevitably from what precedes it, with her technique of building upon long-held bass pedal notes producing strikingly varied results – dense string clusters, woodwind ripples or shreds of consoling melody, and, about two-thirds of the way through, a repeated falling figure that is utterly simple, yet inexpressibly sad.

The Guardian

Photograph of Anna Thorvaldsdottir receiving applause with the CBSO.

24 September 2022

Brett Dean, In this brief moment

Brett Dean’s new work is quite a mind-blowing affair: an evolution cantata, viewed from the perspective of this present brief moment in time

The Guardian

Photograph of composer Brett Dean giving a pre-performance talk.
Photograph of the CBSO chorus performing Brett Dean's In this brief moment
Photograph of members of the CBSO Chorus playing "whirligiggs", an unusual form of percussion.
Photograph of Jennifer France and Patrick Terry performing with the CBSO.


12 January 2023

Thomas Larcher, Symphony No. 3 'A Line Above the Sky'

The work is both an evocation of the exhilaration of life in the mountains (Larcher was born in Innsbruck, in the Austrian Tyrol) and a memorial to [Tom] Ballard – the first movement a tumultuous, multi-faceted celebration, the second more introspective funeral music.

The Guardian

Photograph of a tuba player using his mute as a percussion instrument.

29 January 2023

Sounds New

We shone a spotlight on 20 diverse, creative voices from across the country, who each wrote a 4-minute work for full orchestra. These short works were given their World Premieres in a celebration of new music by the CBSO, conducted by Clark Rundell.

Anna Appleby Sonnet 43

Kristina Arakelyan Prelude and Allegro

Tyriq Baker The Radiance of the Spirit

Stephane Crayton Encore

Nathan James Dearden Anthem

Ben Graves Fanfare

Millicent B James Come show them the river

Joel Järventausta Bourrée

Chloe Knibbs Strings Bilateral

Ryan Latimer Bellwether

Florence Anna MaundersIn the Land Of Hypocrisy

Bethan Morgan-Williams Parti Di-ffiniau

Ben Nobuto Egress

Laurence Osborn The Biggest Thing I've Ever Squashed

Simmy Singh Lament for the Earth

Angela Slater Unravelling the crimson sky

Aileen Sweeney Glisk

Liam Taylor-West Turning Points

Héloïse Werner Crossings

Yfat Soul Zisso A Standing-stone

22 February 2023

Freya Waley-Cohen, Demons

We all have our demons, hidden away, lurking in darkness, ready to pounce. Freya Waley-Cohen sets them free in a new ten-minute orchestral work blending restless energy, incantatory magic and distorted jaunty folk influences.

The Times

26 February 2023

Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Striations

Seam-like streaks, like thin slivers of light, occasionally being marshalled into pulsing waves

5 Against 4

Photograph of composer Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir taking a bow with the CBSO Youth Orchestra.

8 March 2023

Roxanna Panufnik, Five Polish Folk Songs

Songs celebrating the ups-and-down, loves and losses of peasant life performed with vibrancy, spirit and exuberance by these talented youngsters. I especially enjoyed ‘Too Many Daughters’ where the line about the Lord of Manor drawing his sword had the singers unsheathing imaginary weapons. They got a thumbs up from Associate Chorus Director Julian Wilkins, showers of blown kisses from the composer and huge hurrahs from the audience.

Midlands Classic Music Reviews

Photograph of Roxanna Panufnik in rehearsals with the CBSO Children's and Youth Chorus.
Photograph of children rehearsing at CBSO Centre.

8 June 2023

Bobbie-Jane Gardiner, New work for string quartet

Photograph of Bobbie-Jane Gardiner receiving applause.

14 June 2023

Dani Howard, The Butterfly Effect

Photograph of Kazuki Yamada accepting applause after the Season Finale.