Exciting and Varied Programme Announced for Birmingham International Concert Series 2014/15

Exciting and Varied Programme Announced for Birmingham International Concert Series 2014/15

Town Hall and Symphony Hall has announced details of the 2014/15 Birmingham International Concert Season.  I may be wrong but I have the impression that by comparison with previous years there are rather fewer large-scale symphony concerts by visiting orchestras. Several orchestral concerts are included but there appears to be a greater emphasis on recitals and on pre-Classical music for 2014/15. If so, that may be a cost-driven decision or it may indicate a deliberate choice not to duplicate excessively the orchestral fare that’s served up with distinction in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s concert season. Between the CBSO and the International Concert Series music-lovers in Birmingham and the West Midlands will be very well served indeed in the coming season.

Though there may be fewer visiting orchestras than previously there are still several enticing concerts in prospect. The Hong Kong Philharmonic makes its Symphony Hall debut under its Music Director Jaap van Zweden, The orchestraincludes a piece by the Chinese-American composer Conrad Tao in its programme and Chinese violinist Ning Feng will play  Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (3 March, 2015, Symphony Hall).  The Czech Philharmonic under their Chief Conductor, Jiři Bělohlávek brings Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and Josef Špaček is soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 (24 April, SH).  The St Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov offer an all-Russian concert (31 October, 2014, SH) while Michael Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic perform an all-German programme which features the young German violinist Arabella Steinbacher in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (21 June SH).

On a smaller scale, several chamber orchestras will also appear.  Steven Osborne joins the Australian Chamber Orchestra as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27 (5 October, SH). There’s another Mozart concerto when violinist Nicola Benedetti plays Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5, Turkish with the Camerata Salzburg (12 March, SH).  A fascinating programme from the Britten Sinfonia and soprano Barbara Hannigan contrasts Mozart and Stravinsky (5 May, Town Hall).  There are two more Mozart piano concertos when Robert Levin plays Piano Concertos 24 and 25 with The Academy of Ancient Music directed by Christopher Hogwood (29 January, SH).

There will be two highly contrasting opera performances. Harry Bickett and the English Concert give a concert performance of Handel’s Hercules with Lucy Crowe, Alice Coote and James Gilchrist among the soloists (1 March, TH). For the last four seasons Opera North’s acclaimed productions of the Ring Cycle have been a highlight of these concerts. That cycle is now complete but for 2014/15 they return with The Flying Dutchman. Once again Richard Farnes will conduct (3 July, SH).

Taking an evening off from their Ring cycle at Birmingham Hippodrome, Valery Gergiev and the celebrated string section of the Mariinsky Orchestra – the Mariinsky StradivariusEnsemble – perform Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Strauss’s Metamorphosen at Town Hall (7 November). The following evening, the spotlight falls on the Mariinsky Chorus in Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (‘Vespers’) (8 November, TH).

There are two important premieres of works by James MacMillan. The composer himself conducts the CBSO Chorus and the CBSO in the UK premiere of his St Luke Passion, a large-scale choral work (4 December, SH). Just a few weeks later Birmingham’s other crack choir, Ex Cathedra, and their conductor, Jeffrey Skidmore will give the world premiere of MacMillan’s Seven Angels in a concert which also includes the first performance of Roxanna Panufnik’s Since We Parted (31 January, TH).

Among notable pianists, the young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov opens the season, making his Birmingham debut in a recital that includes Bach, Beethoven and Liszt’s Transcendental Études.(1 October, TH.) Another Birmingham debutant is the Chinese pianist Yundi,who became the youngest winner of the Chopin Piano Competition in 2000 when he was just 18.  He plays Chopin’s Four Ballades and 24 Preludes in his Town Hall recital programme (15 April).   Hélène Grimaud also makes her Birmingham recital debut when she offers a wide-ranging programme including Albéniz, Janáček and Debussy (14 May, TH).  Canadian Marc-André Hamelin includes his own variations on Paganini’s famous theme in his recital (25 October, TH), and Benjamin Grosvenor plays Bach, Franck and Granados (21 January, TH). Another leading pianist, Paul Lewis, will partner tenor Mark Padmore in Schubert’s great song cycle Winterreise (23 November, TH).

Other appetising events include appearances by the Tallis Scholars (4 June, SH); the Borodin Quartetas part of their 70th Anniversary World Tour (21 April, TH); and the Takács Quartet (19 May, TH). There will be two concerts from the Fisk Jubilee Singers,a legendary name in the African-American Spiritual tradition (23 & 24 May, TH) and a long-awaited Birmingham debut for theMaria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, last heard in the UK in 2008 (27 February, SH).

Subscription packages are on sale from 2 May and General booking and online subscriptions opens Friday 23 May. Bookings can be made either on 0121 780 3333 or at www.thsh.co.uk

Further information is available from www.thsh.co.uk/bics-2014-15

John Quinn

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