Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12 - In Detail



  • First events announced within six month festival celebrating Symphony Hall?s 21st anniversary in 2012
  • Wagnerfest – four great Wagner operas with The Royal Opera, Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus, CBSO and Opera North
  • 21st anniversary includes concerts by CBSO with Andris Nelsons and Vienna Philharmonic with Sir Simon Rattle
  • Scott of the Antarctic Centenary Concert with expedition photos and world premiere by Cecilia McDowall
  • Screenings of Dracula with original music by Philip Glass, and The Wizard of Oz with live soundtrack
  • John Malkovich stars in The Infernal Comedy
  • Duke Bluebeard?s Castle with ground-breaking video installation – world premiere production
  • Bach: A Beautiful Mind weekend returns
  • Recitals by Lang Lang (Opening Concert of the 2011/12 Season), Andr�s Schiff, Andreas Scholl, Juilliard String Quartet, Leif Ove Andsnes
  • Superb international orchestras and soloists including Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomanerchor, Lahti Symphony Orchestra and St Petersburg Philharmonic, Sir John Tomlinson, Bryn Terfel and Simon Trpčeski


Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham have announced the 2011/12 Birmingham International Concert Season, one of the largest international classical music series in the UK.

The flagship classical season includes the first concerts to be announced within a six-month Festival celebrating Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary (the wider Festival programme will be announced in due course). The Festival begins in January 2012 with the start of a ?Wagnerfest?: The Royal Opera and Antonio Pappano perform Die Meistersinger, the first of four great Wagner operas to be heard during the Festival. Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal and Die Walk�re are played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons, Mariinsky Theatre company with Valery Gergiev, and Opera North under Richard Farnes respectively. A series of special anniversary projects includes a Centenary tribute to Captain Scott with photographs from the ill-fated Antarctic expedition, film screenings of The Wizard of Oz with live orchestral score, and Dracula with original music performed by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet, and The Infernal Comedy, a stage play for baroque orchestra, singer and actor starring John Malkovich. The Festival culminates in June 2012 with a week of concerts in which the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey, with soloist Bryn Terfel, mark the actual anniversary. Thomas Trotter gives a Celebrity Organ Concert and, 21 years since he conducted the opening concerts, Sir Simon Rattle returns to the hall he helped create, this time with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Earlier in the Season, the Philharmonia Orchestra brings another extraordinary event with visuals to Symphony Hall – the world premiere production of a ground-breaking video installation of Duke Bluebeard?s Castle starring Measha Brueggergosman and Sir John Tomlinson. Another major project is the return of the popular mini-series Bach: A Beautiful Mind which includes visits from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomanerchor (celebrating its own 800th anniversary) and a recital by Angela Hewitt.

The Opening Concert of the Season is a celebrity recital by the pianist Lang Lang who leads the customary procession of the world?s most eminent musicians, outstanding orchestras and celebrated recitalists to Birmingham?s two outstanding venues. Other highlights, among a season of highlights, are international visiting orchestras, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (whose first UK appearance was at Symphony Hall), St Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse with Tugan Sokhiev. Soloists and recitalists include pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Freddy Kempf, John Lill, Steven Osborne, Andr�s Schiff and Simon Trpčeski, countertenor Andreas Scholl and two appearances each from singers Bryn Terfel and Sir John Tomlinson, to name but a few.

Commenting on the Season, Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall said, ?2011/12 is lining up to be a great season artistically and a very special one forSymphony Hall as we celebrate its 21st anniversary with an extraordinary line-up ofworld class artists, innovative projects and large scale events. It is also a very specialyear for me, looking back on the 23 years I have been at the helm of thisextraordinary concert hall and, more recently, the wonderfully refurbished Town Hall.The Birmingham International Concert Season has a proud reputation as one of theUK?s most important seasons of visiting musicians – where else in Britain could you seefour major Wagner operas in a single season, for example! Continuing to present suchan array of world class talent is an increasing challenge in these economically insecuretimes and facing a significant reduction in our sole source of public funding.Birmingham City Council, our sponsors, supporters and audiences are more vital thanever and we take this opportunity to thank them sincerely for their continued loyalty.I remain immensely proud that 21 years on, Symphony Hall – declared acousticallyperfect at its opening – is still at the top of the list of the world?s greatest concert hallsand is still cherished by the people of Birmingham. We intend to continue to play ourpart in maintaining Birmingham?s reputation as a great cultural city on the internationalstage.?



For the six months from January-June 2012 Symphony Hall will celebrate its 21st anniversary with a Festival of events including those in the 2011/12 Birmingham International Concert Season (the wider programme of events will be announced in due course).

Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary – Wagnerfest

The Festival launch on 11 January is also the start of a four-part ?Wagnerfest?; Antonio Pappano brings The Royal Opera to Birmingham for Die Meistersinger with a star-studded cast featuring Bryn Terfel (in the first of two appearances this season) and Emma Bell as principal soloists. Fresh from his huge success in Birmingham and Bayreuth with Lohengrin in 2010, Andris Nelsons conducts the CBSO in Tristan und Isolde with Torsten Kerl and Lioba Braun in the title roles. In August 1991, Valery Gergiev and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre (then called the Kirov) were the first opera company to appear in Symphony Hall so it is fitting that they should return in a landmark performance of Parsifal appropriately on Good Friday. Finally, Opera North, under the baton of Richard Farnes, performs Die Walk�re, the second instalment in the company?s first Ring cycle.

Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary – Special projects

The Anniversary Festival includes four special projects. The Scott of the Antarctic: Centenary Concert combines Herbert Ponting?s evocative photographs of the ill-fated 1910 Antarctic expedition with Vaughan Williams?s Sinfonia Antartica, played by the City of London Sinfonia under Stephen Layton. The concert is interspersed with poignant readings from Scott?s diary and the world premiere of Seventy Degrees Below Zero by Cecilia McDowall, setting words from his final letter ?To my widow?.

Adventure of a different kind comes from The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 movie classic will be shown on a big screen in Symphony Hall while the lavish orchestral score ? originally recorded as a separate soundtrack – is played live by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and John Wilson.

Original music by Philip Glass accompanies a screening of the 1931 film Dracula featuring Bela Lugosi in the title role. The score, for keyboards and strings, will be played by Glass himself with the renowned Kronos Quartet.

John Malkovich stars in The Infernal Comedy a stage play for baroque orchestra, singers and actor based on the chilling, true story of serial killer-turned-author, Jack Unterweger, who Malkovich describes as a ?bad, bad guy?. The work takes the form of a series of monologues illustrated with music by Vivaldi, Weber, Mozart and others, performed by the Wiener Akademie with sopranos Bernarda Bobro and Marie Arnet who themselves become drawn into the drama.

Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary – anniversary concerts

The culmination of Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary Festival comes in June with a pair concerts by the CBSO and Chorus conducted by Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey marking the official royal opening of the hall by HM The Queen on 12 June 1991. The concerts (on 12 & 13 June) include a centenary performance of Elgar?s The Music Makers – premiered in Birmingham?s Town Hall – and Ravel?s Daphnis and Chlo� suite, performed at the very first Symphony Hall concert. Bryn Terfel returns for the second time in the Season to join the orchestra for a selection of operatic arias.

Twenty one years after conducting the opening concerts of Symphony Hall, Sir Simon Rattle returns, this time with the Vienna Philharmonic, in a programme that features the third symphonies of Brahms and Schumann together with Webern?s Six Pieces for Orchestra.

Inaugurated ten years after Symphony Hall opened, and following a �1.5m fundraising appeal, the Symphony Organ is an integral part of the hall?s programme and education work. City Organist Thomas Trotter gives a concert celebrating the Klais instrument and its role at the heart of the Symphony Hall story.


The Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen follow last Season?s Tristan und Isolde with a world premiere production, featuring ground-breaking video installation, of Bart�k?s Duke Bluebeard?s Castle. Measha Brueggergosman and Sir John Tomlinson star in this semi-staged performance. Jan�ček?s Sinfonietta and Debussy?s Pr�lude � l?apr�s-midi d?un faune make a sunny contrast to the concert?s main work.

An evening of grandeur is assured by The Academy of Ancient Music in their concert to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the coronation of HM The Queen. The programme includes all four of Handel?s Coronation Anthems together with the Water Music Suite and Musick for the Royal Fireworks.

Works by Beethoven feature in several of the Season?s symphonic concerts, piano recitals and chamber music concerts and include some of the composer?s best-loved works from the Archduke Trio to the Choral Symphony. In the first orchestral concert, Beethoven?s Emperor Concerto, with pianist Lars Vogt, is coupled with Schubert?s Great C major by Yannick N�zet-S�guin and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Then Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the London Symphony Orchestra and Monteverdi Choir in Beethoven?s First and Ninth Symphonies.

Other orchestral highlights during the season include visits from some great international names. As well as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomanerchor [see Bach – A Beautiful Mind, below], both part of Symphony Hall?s 21st anniversary Festival, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra returns to play Russian masterworks by Prokofiev and Shostakovich under Yuri Temirkanov and is joined by Simon Trpčeski for Rachmaninov?s Second Piano Concerto. Tugan Sokhiev conducts the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse in music by Berlioz, Rachmaninov and Saint-Sa�ns?s Organ Symphony with Thomas Trotter. Finland?s Lahti Symphony Orchestra are always popular visitors to Birmingham where they gave their first UK performance in 1999. They bring an all-Sibelius concert including the Fifth Symphony and Violin Concerto with soloist Elina V�h�l�. From the other side of the globe, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Freddy Kempf and Tine Thing Helseth play Shostakovich?s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings under director/violinist Richard Tognetti. Mozart Symphonies Nos 29 & 40 and Tchaikovsky?s Serenade for Strings make up the programme.

The 2011/12 Season closes with a Summer Prom by the immense and talented forces of the National Youth Orchestra, this time undertaking Messiaen?s uplifting testament to time and love, his Turangalila-Symphonie, under the baton of Vasily Petrenko.

The music of J S Bach

The music of Bach runs throughout the Season and is particularly concentrated in a second Bach: A Beautiful Mind weekend, devoted to the works of this most universal of composers. The mini-series includes a piano recital by celebrated Bach specialist Angela Hewitt, a concert of orchestral music with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Motets and Cello Suites performed by Ex Cathedra. Of special significance is a rare visit by the legendary Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomanerchor to sing Bach?s St Matthew Passion in a concert which also forms part of Symphony Hall?s 21st Anniversary Festival. Bach wrote his St Matthew Passion for the Thomanerchor when he was its Cantor and now, 14 Cantors later, the choir has reached the venerable age of 800.

Two further concerts of Bach?s choral music are Symphony Hall?s traditional Easter Bach Passion – this Season Ex Cathedra undertakes St John Passion on Maundy Thursday – and a recital by countertenor Andreas Scholl with the Kammerorchester Basel for two of the composer?s most profound Cantatas.

Chamber music & recitals

The Opening Concert in the 2011/12 Birmingham International Season is a recital by pianist Lang Lang, sponsored by Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, including Bach, Chopin?s Op 25 Etudes and Schubert?s B flat Piano Sonata D960. Andr�s Schiff programmes a recital on the theme of variations and features those of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Haydn and Schumann before concluding with Beethoven?s 32 Diabelli Variations. John Lill takes up the Beethoven mantle with two Sonatas Nos 7 and 21 (Waldstein) alongside the Two Rhapsodies and Handel Variations by Brahms. Angela Hewitt?s contribution to the Bach: A Beautiful Mind weekend is a recital of French and English Suites and Two-Part Inventions. Leif Ove Andsnes includes Chopin?s Four Ballades and Debussy?s Images Book 1 in his recital programme, and Steven Osborne contributes to an unusual coupling of Rachmaninov?s Preludes and Vespers in a candlelit concert with Ex Cathedra.

?Spring Chamber Music Focus? contrasts performances from one of today?s most venerated quartets – the Juilliard String Quartet – with The Jerusalem String Quartet, a rising star early in its career. The Juilliards play Beethoven?s Op 95 quartet alongside Jan�ček?s first quartet entitled Kreutzer Sonata while the Jerusalem Quartet and Alexander Melnikov focus on the glorious chamber music Schumann wrote for piano and strings including his piano quartet and piano quintet.

The charismatic and talented Capu�on brothers – Renaud (violin) and Gautier (cello) – each perform a solo sonata by Beethoven before joining with pianist Frank Braley for Beethoven?s famous Archduke Trio.


One of the UK?s finest choirs, the Birmingham-based Ex Cathedra, gives a candle-lit rendition of Rachmaninov?s Vespers. Unusually, these are interspersed with a selection of the composer?s much-loved piano preludes, performed by Steven Osborne. The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers, offers a festive mix of carols from medieval times to the present day, from Palestrina to Rutter via Howells and Birmingham?s own John Joubert.

Funding and sponsorship

Funding from Birmingham City Council enables Town Hall and Symphony Hall to continue to attract the world?s greatest musicians to appear on Birmingham?s prestigious stages. Ticket prices for Birmingham International Season Concerts start at just �9.50 and a wide range of discounts is available. Town Hall & Symphony Hall also gratefully acknowledges the financial support of sponsors as well as the many companies, trusts, foundations and individuals.

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Symphony Hall?s Opening Concerts

Mon 15 April 1991
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle conductor
7.30pm – Stravinsky: The Firebird
9.15pm – Ravel: Daphnis et Chlo�

Wed 12 June 1991
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle conductor, Arleen Auger soprano, Alfreda Hodgson contralto
Mark-Anthony Turnage: Momentum
Mahler: Symphony No 2 Resurrection

Concert to commemorate the official opening of the International Convention Centre and Symphony Hall in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal

Town Hall and Symphony Hall are managed together by Performances Birmingham Limited, a Registered Charity No 1053937. Between them, the two halls present an exciting and varied programme of over 600 concerts and events a year, designed to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. Over 500,000 people visit Town Hall and Symphony Hall annually, and a thriving Education and Community department reaches a further 10,000 people of all ages.

Town Hall Birmingham re-opened in October 2007 following a �35m renovation funded by Birmingham City Council (�18.3m), Heritage Lottery Fund (�13.7m), European Regional Development Fund (�3m).

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Issued 28 April 2011