CBSO 2013/14 Season: An Enticing Prospect

United KingdomUnited Kingdom CBSO 2013/14 Season: An Enticing Prospect

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra had scarcely released details of their 2013/14 season than it was announced that their charismatic Music Director, Andris Nelsons, has been appointed Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He’ll take up that role in the 2014/15 season and the CBSO has stressed that Nelsons is committed to them until the end of the 2014/15 season. Until then it’s business as usual in Birmingham though presumably the orchestra is now on the look-out for a replacement for Nelsons. That will mean that over the next two seasons the performances of guest conductors – and their interactions with the audience – will be scrutinised with even more interest than usual.

Leaving aside any speculations about the orchestra’s future leadership the coming season promises much, with Andris Nelsons featured as prominently as ever.

Nelsons and the CBSO have been exploring the music of Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss in recent years. Their Tchaikovsky symphony cycle reaches what should be a thrilling conclusion with the Manfred Symphony. This is vintage Tchaikovsky and performances are disappointingly rare; it should suit Nelsons down to the ground (25 & 27 September). Strauss is represented by the radiant Four Last Songs, which will be sung by the Canadian soprano, Erin Wall who made a strong impression in War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral in 2012 (review) and on DVD (review). Don Juan will also be on that Nelsons-conducted programme together with a selection from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (15 & 16 January). The Strauss ‘Big Event’ comes towards the end of the season, however, when Nelsons leads a concert performance of Der Rosenkavalier. Three wonderful female soloists lead the cast: Soile Isokowski as the Marschallin. Alice Coote as Octavian and Sophie Bevan as Sophie; it should be quite an evening (24 May).

Nelsons marks the centenary of the first performance of Le Sacre du Printemps, which he includes in the season opener. The Wagner bicentenary is represented on that programme too with Nelson’s wife, Kristine Opolais, singing the Wesendonck Lieder (19 September). When the programme is repeated the Wagner songs will be replaced by the Dvořák Violin Concerto, played by Anne-Sophie Mutter (21 September). Elsewhere in the season, Nelsons offers Brahms’ Fourth Symphony (6 & 7 November) and the Third (5 December). After his Beethoven symphony cycle in the 2012/13 season there’ll be keen interest when Nelsons leads the ‘Emperor’ Concerto, especially as the soloist is to be Paul Lewis. More Strauss completes that programme in the shape of the Sinfonia Domestica (19 June).

The CBSO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner will be heavily involved too. He’s to conduct a Mendelssohn symphony cycle – it’s not often that all of them are played – in Birmingham’s Town Hall, famously the venue for the première of Elijah. The Fourth and Fifth symphonies can be heard together (19 October) followed closely by the First and Third (24 October). You’ll have to wait a little longer for the Second Symphony, ‘Hymn of Praise’ (13 February). Gardner will also be conducting the orchestra in Symphony Hall: Elgar’s First Symphony will be an attractive proposition (19 & 20 February). Right at the end of the season Gardner is back with a thrilling proposition: Janáček’s exciting Sinfonietta and a concert performance of Bartók’s searing opera, Bluebeard’s Castle.

Other concerts that particularly catch the eye include violinist-turned-conductor Nikolaij Znaider conducting Mahler’s First Symphony (3 October); Vassily Sinaisky in an all-Russian programme that includes Rachmaninov’s The Bells (31 October); Benjamin Grosvenor playing the Second Piano Concerto by Saint-Saëns (11 & 14 December); and Andrew Manze leading a Vaughan Williams programme that includes the masterly Job (5 February). British music will be well served in the season, but especially exciting is the prospect of hearing in the same programme Holst’s Hymn of Jesus and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast as well as Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. That concert, to be conducted by John Storgårds, is one of several in which the CBSO will be joined by the splendid CBSO Chorus (26 April).

Full details of these and all the other programmes are available online at All concerts, except the Mendelssohn cycle, are in Symphony Hall. Booking opens on 28 May and 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. More information about these concerts and about the CBSO can be found on the orchestra’s website.

John Quinn