Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11 Announced By Town Hall & Symphony Hall

– Major UK premiere of Philharmonia’s Tristan und Isolde with video art by Bill Viola
– The Planets: An HD Odyssey (European premiere) – NASA’s latest images projected on a giant screen
– 3D glasses for the audience in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
– Thomas Adès conducts In Seven Days with visuals from Tal Rosner
– James MacMillan Day includes new Oboe Concerto (world premiere)
– Birmingham Mahler Cycle – a joint series with the CBSO includes Simon Rattle conducting Das Lied von der Erde on Symphony Hall’s 20th birthday
– Opera North begins four year Ring Cycle with Das Rheingold
– Purcell Perspectives mini-series
– Recitals by Cecilia Bartoli, Andreas Scholl, Mitsuko Uchida, Freddy Kempf and the Takács Quartet
– Superb international orchestras and soloists

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Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham have announced the 2010/11 Birmingham International Concert Season, the UK’s largest international classical music series outside London. The flagship series welcomes some of the world’s greatest musicians, conductors, orchestras and recitalists to the stages of the city’s two premier venues.

Commenting on the Season, Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall said, “We have a terrific classical music series to look forward to in 2010/11, one which is very varied in content and features a wide range of internationally-renowned orchestras and artists. The Season includes several particularly exciting concerts with film, photographic images and digital technology all enhancing the music-making experience in a traditional concert hall setting.”

The Season opens on Thursday 23 September at Symphony Hall with a major UK premiere and one of the highlights of the cultural calendar when Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to visuals by the celebrated film artist Bill Viola. Esa-Pekka Salonen has described the project as “one of the greatest experiences of my artistic life”.

NASA’s latest spectacular images form the backdrop to The Planets: An HD Odyssey with the Houston Symphony, receiving its European premiere at Symphony Hall. And in a season which includes several concerts offering new perspectives on music through thought-provoking visual elements, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is surely the most astonishing: with the aid of 3D glasses, the magic of real-time digital technology transforms a single dancer’s performance into an extraordinary audience experience.

Eminent British composers James MacMillan and Thomas Adès both conduct their own works in two concerts. James MacMillan includes the world premiere of his Oboe Concerto and Thomas Adès conducts his In Seven Days, a multi-media piece for piano, orchestra and six video screens with visuals by award-winning film-maker Tal Rosner.

The Birmingham Mahler Cycle (a joint project with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) sees visits from the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome with Antonio Pappano, London Symphony Orchestra with Valery Gergiev, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski, and the CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle (in a special concert to mark Symphony Hall’s 20th anniversary).

A stellar line-up of recitalists and chamber musicians includes singers Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl, pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Piotr Anderszewski and Freddy Kempf, and the Takács and Pavel Haas Quartets, while concerto soloists include violinist Joshua Bell with cellist Steven Isserlis, pianists Boris Berezovsky and Howard Shelley. There are visits from the Staatskapelle Dresden with Christoph Eschenbach, the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Lazarev, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and period performance ensembles Il Giardino Armonico, the Academy of Ancient Music (performing all of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos in one evening) and the New London Consort.

Closing the Season as it began – with epic Wagner – Opera North embarks on its first Ring cycle, beginning with Das Rheingold. Under Music Director Richard Farnes, and with Artistic Consultant John Tomlinson, the project aims to blend experienced singers in this repertoire with the best of new talent. The remaining three operas will be performed in successive years.


Seeing Music
The Season’s opening night on Thursday 23 September sees the first of four unique events matching music with visuals: the UK premiere of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is a major collaboration between conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, film artist Bill Viola and artistic collaborator Peter Sellars. Esa-Pekka Salonen has described the project as “one of the greatest experiences of my artistic life”. Set against Viola’s evocative visuals, the Philharmonia Orchestra is joined by soloists Gary Lehman and Violeta Urmana (in the title roles), Anne Sofie von Otter and John Relyea. The work was premiered in Los Angeles in 2004 and revived in Paris and New York. The 2010 run takes in Lucerne and Dortmund before coming to Birmingham and London. Esa-Pekka Salonen considers Bill Viola to be “the most important video artist in the world today. His language is perfect for Wagner … the images are hauntingly beautiful, and once you have seen them you never forget them.”

The latest high definition images from NASA form a breathtaking backdrop to Holst’s The Planets, performed by the Houston Symphony under their new music director Hans Graf. This European premiere of The Planets: An HD Odyssey features images from rovers and satellites, radar images and computer generated graphics combined with commentary from leading planetary scientists, all projected on a giant screen above the orchestra to give a unique cosmic insight. The programme also includes Stravinsky’s Fireworks and John Adams Dr Atomic Symphony and forms part of Sounds of Space – a weekend of galactic-themed events (further details to be announced).

More ground-breaking technology features in an extraordinary performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Audience members will be given 3D glasses to experience dancer Julia Mach’s performance as it interacts, through the magic of digital wizardry, with real-time, computer-generated stereoscopic projections. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performs Stravinsky’s highly-charged score, itself ground-breaking in its day.

The Composer Conducts
The fourth of the Season’s concerts featuring visual arts is also one in which the composer conducts his own work. Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days – Piano Concerto with Moving Image is a multi-media piece for piano, orchestra and six video screens, based on the Creation. It is a collaboration with award-winning artist and film-maker Tal Rosner, who won a BAFTA for his title sequence for Channel 4’s series Skins. Conducting the London Sinfonietta, Adès also includes Steve Reich’s seminal work Music for 18 Musicians in the programme.

James MacMillan not only conducts the world premiere of his Oboe Concerto (soloist Nicholas Daniel) but also conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 and Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony with the Britten Sinfonia. In a day devoted to the composer, the Britten Sinfonia also give a lunchtime concert which sets short works by MacMillan against Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet and a new work by Peter Maxwell Davies.

The Birmingham Mahler Cycle
As in previous seasons, Symphony Hall joins forces with its resident orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, to mount a large-scale project: this year it is the Birmingham Mahler Cycle, marking the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death. Symphonies Nos 1, 4 and 7 will be performed by international visitors (Antonio Pappano/Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Rome, Vladimir Jurowski/London Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev/London Symphony Orchestra, respectively), while the CBSO will complete the cycle throughout the season. At the final concert, making a grand climax on 12 June 2011 – a day that marks the royal opening of Symphony Hall 20 years ago – Sir Simon Rattle returns to conduct Das Lied von Erde with the CBSO.

Wagner’s Ring: Das Rheingold
The final concert of the 2010/11 Birmingham International Concert Season is the start of an epic venture. Under Music Director Richard Farnes, Opera North begins its first Ring Cycle with Das Rheingold. A key part of the Ring project is to establish new talent in this demanding repertoire and, under the guidance of Artistic Consultant John Tomlinson, the company will mix experienced singers in this repertoire with the best new talent, extending coaching to singers and conducting public masterclasses in Leeds, Gateshead and London as well as in Birmingham.

Two orchestras of historical significance visit Symphony Hall during the Season. The Staatskapelle Dresden is one of the world’s oldest orchestras, its unbroken history stretching back to 1548. On this visit to Symphony Hall, under Christoph Eschenbach, the orchestra plays Brahms’s First Symphony, and is joined by the young cellist Leonard Elschenbroich for Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations. The Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra meanwhile, is Russia’s oldest orchestra dating back to 1776 and with a proud record of premiering many important Russian ballet and opera scores. They perform music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and Ivan Rudin is the soloist in Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.

Howard Shelley and the English Chamber Orchestra team up in Town Hall for a classical-romantic programme of symphonies by Haydn and Beethoven (No 8) and piano concertos by Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns. Both Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns appeared at the historic Birmingham venue, the former playing his piano concertos and the latter directing a choral work.

Brahms Double Concerto for violin and cello receives a much-deserved revival with soloists Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. The two players also take turns to direct the orchestra in Haydn’s Symphony No 13 and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. There are welcome returns for Steven Osborne, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, and Boris Berezovsky who plays Liszt with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome and Antonio Pappano.

Early Music
The Season presents a strong offering for Early Music enthusiasts with visits from several distinguished ensembles and artists, and a particular focus on the music of Henry Purcell.

A three-part mini-series Purcell Perspectives features the sought-after countertenor Andreas Scholl in a recital devoted to the composer’s works, with the Accademia Bizantina and Stefano Montanari. Purcell is coupled with Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings and music by Tippett and Woolrich in a concert by the Britten Sinfonia. A new production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with the New London Consort conducted by Philip Pickett uses innovative stage direction and circus performers to recreate something of the colourful, fantastical spirit of the original performance over 300 years ago.

The much-praised Italian baroque ensemble, Il Giardino Armonico, under director Giovanni Antonini perform Concerti Grossi by Handel and Geminiani, and all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos will be heard in a concert by the Academy of Ancient Music with Richard Egarr. The authentic sound of ancient Russia is evoked by the Russian Patriarchate Choir of Moscow whose repertoire of music from the Russian Orthodox Church and traditional folk songs was suppressed by the Soviet regime. The one of the UK’s finest choirs, the Birmingham-based Ex Cathedra presents an evening of Monteverdi’s Vespers and returns later in the Season to give Symphony Hall’s traditional Good Friday St Matthew Passion.

Recitals and chamber music
A stellar line-up of recitalists this season sees return visits from two uniquely different pianists – Mitsuko Uchida and Freddy Kempf – and Piotr Anderszewski gives his first Town Hall recital. Cellist Natalie Clein follows up her much-praised Bach performance of two seasons ago with a mixed recital programme which includes sonatas by Shostakovich and Rachmaninov. Shostakovich also features, alongside Haydn and Schubert, in the programme of the Takács Quartet, arguably Europe’s pre-eminent string quartet. Outstanding young ensemble, the Pavel Haas Quartet play two great works in the chamber music repertoire, Dvořák’s much-loved American quartet and Ravel’s glorious quartet. John Scott, currently organist at New York’s St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, gives a recital featuring Bach and Widor toccatas.

A major season highlight is a recital by mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, her first in Symphony Hall for four years. Accompanied by the Kammerorchester Basel, she journeys through the world of the eighteenth-century castrato, the most celebrated artists of their day, singing music from her latest album Sacrificium.

Andreas Scholl’s recital of music by Purcell forms part of the Purcell Perspectives mini series and includes some of the composer’s most attractive music, including Sweeter than Roses, Music for a While, Evening Hymn and Airs and Dances from King Arthur¸accompanied by the Accademia Bizantina.

Funding and sponsorship
Funding from Birmingham City Council enables Town Hall and Symphony Hall to continue to attract the highest calibre of artist to appear on Birmingham’s prestigious stages. The City’s funding also allows tickets to be offered from just £5 for every concert in the season for the 19th consecutive year, as well as a very wide range of further discounts. Town Hall & Symphony Hall also gratefully acknowledges the financial support of sponsors and Corporate Friends as well as many other companies, trusts, foundations and individuals.


  1. Autumn Salano says

    this is what the internet is about. Awesome post.

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