Christopher Morley previews an exciting year for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
As in previous years, the CBSO’s recently-announced forthcoming season (2011-12) kicks off with a momentous blockbuster. This time it is the Verdi Requiem, full of drama, emotion, and almost operatic sound-spectacle, with music director Andris Nelsons conducting the CBSO, the expert CBSO Chorus, and an all-star cast of soloists headed by charismatic soprano Kristine Opolais (September 22 and 24).
After Italy’s greatest choral masterpiece, Andris turns his attention to probably England’s greatest example, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (April 12). Like his predecessor Sakari Oramo, Nelsons will bring a Baltic perception to the work instead of one from the English cathedral tradition, and the result should be electrifying. A dream team of soloists (Sarah Connolly, Toby Spence and James Rutherford) joins the CBSO Chorus.
CBSO Chorus director Simon Halsey presides over an all-French concert with choral music at its core on February 22. Instrumental goodies by Ravel, Satie and Debussy are interspersed between Faure’s ravishing Cantique de Jean Racine, and the consolatory Durufle Requiem. The CBSO Youth Chorus takes centre stage here.
Halsey is also at the helm for Elgar’s The Music Makers with the CBSO Chorus and mezzo Christine Rice for the first half of Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary concerts on June 12 and 13 (2012). Andris Nelsons takes over the baton for the second half, including a selection of operatic arias sung by the great bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, including the tremendous closing scene from Act One of Puccini’s Tosca.
And just a week after that CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner conducts the UK premiere of Sutton Coldfield-born Jonathan Harvey’s Weltethos. This epic 90-minute work is founded on texts from six of the world’s great religions (Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity), and will deploy the strengths of the CBSO Chorus, Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus (June 21).
As we progress towards the CBSO’s centenary in 2020, each year features works from exactly a century ago in the programming line-up (such as the Music Makers, premiered in Birmingham Town Hall in 1912). In October (20 and 22) we will hear Elgar’s elegiac Symphony no.2, premiered in 1911, and conducted here by the Bolshoi Theatre music director Vassily Sinaisky.
Other centenary celebrations include Sibelius’s Symphony no.4 (together with works by Grieg and Nielsen, Robert Spano conducting, on December 1), Debussy’s Images (in a programme on February 9 also featuring the rising young pianist Ingrid Fliter in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no.3, Edward Gardner conducting), Dukas’ ravishing ballet-score La Peri (Gardner again conducting, February 15 and 18).