CBSO 2012/13 Season Promises Much

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The centrepiece of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2012/13 season is a Beethoven symphony cycle to be conducted by the orchestra’s Music Director, Andris Nelsons. The cycle starts at the send, so to speak, with the Ninth Symphony (23 August) and that symphony, paired with the Eighth, concludes the series in June 2013 (27 & 29 June). In between come the first two symphonies and the Violin Concerto with Baiba Skride (19 & 20 September); the ‘Eroica; (13 & 15 December); the Fourth and Fifth (9 & 10 January); and the ‘Pastoral’ and Seventh symphonies (20 & 21 March).

Nelsons’ Beethoven cycle will surely be a “hot ticket” but there’s plenty more to look forward to. He opens the season proper with Mahler’s mighty ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (15 September). Just before Christmas Nelsons directs another large-scale symphony, Bruckner’s Eighth (6 December) and he’ll be offering another exciting concert performance of a Wagner opera, The Flying Dutchman, with James Rutherford in the title role (16 March). Not long ago Nelsons conducted a magnificent performance of Britten’s War Requiem (review). That was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the work’s première in Coventry Cathedral. He’ll reprise the work with largely the same soloists to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth (28 May).

The CBSO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner, also offers some exciting programmes. His contribution to the Britten centenary will be a programme including Spring Symphony as well as music by Elgar and by Britten’s teacher, Frank Bridge (17 & 19 January). Among his other programmes will be a fascinating juxtaposition of works by Sibelius and Lutoslawski (20 June) and one which will include a performance of the Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Cédric Tiberghien (10 & 11 April).

Other guest conductors include Jac van Steen, making a welcome return in Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (14 November) and Andrew Litton, conducting Elgar (Falstaff), Prokofiev and Respighi’s vibrantly colourful Pines of Rome (20 February). Making her Birmingham debut will be the exciting Australian conductor, Simone Young, who brings with her a programme including the Sibelius Violin Concerto – with James Ehnes – and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (14 & 16 February).

John Wilson is justly renowned for his programmes of music from the Musicals and the Movies. In that guise he’ll be directing ‘A Celebration of Lerner and Loewe’ (1 February) and the celebrated vocalist Kim Criswell will join him for a programme entitled ‘Can’t Help Singing – Hollywood’s Leading Ladies’ (19 April). However, Wilson is also an enthusiastic advocate of English music and he’ll conduct an afternoon concert of British Classics, including music by Walton, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Grainger and Eric Coates (24 April).

Celebrity soloists include Elisabeth Leonskaja (1 & 3 November); Nicola Benedetti (28 November); the Labèque Sisters (30 January); and Dame Mitsuko Uchida (2 & 4 May). One programme that caught my eye in particular is entitled ‘Variations on America’. Matthew Coorey conducts music by Ives – the work that gives the concert its title – Copland, Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann (the Suite from Psycho). There’s also the intriguing prospect of that fine British baritone, Roderick Williams, in John Adams’ The Wound Dresser (15 May). Like so much else in this CBSO season, that’s not to be missed.

Full details of these and all the other programmes are available online at All concerts are in Symphony Hall. Bookings can be made on line through the orchestra’s website. Telephone bookings at 0121 345 0603. Bookings can also be made by post or in person at the Symphony Hall booking office – details on the orchestra’s website.

John Quinn