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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
29 January 2023
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.
26 February 2023
Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Striations
Seam-like streaks, like thin slivers of light, occasionally being marshalled into pulsing waves
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.
8 June 2023
Bobbie-Jane Gardiner, New work for string quartet
14 June 2023