Innovative programming and exceptional artists are hallmarks of 2012/13 Birmingham International Concert Season

• Season opener: Rebellion & Resistance includes Battleship Potemkin screening with Michael Nyman film score (UK première)
• Digital installation, film and concerts in Universe of Sound weekend
• A Boy Was Born – a week-long Britten Centenary focus
• Complete cycle of Beethoven Piano Concertos and Symphonies in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
• Season finale – The Royal Opera in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra
• Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite (second performance) in composer’s presence
• Visits from Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra and Budapest Festival Orchestra
• International stars include Riccardo Chailly, Neeme Järvi, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Leif Ove Andsnes, Joshua Bell, Danielle de Niese, Steve Reich, Nicola Benedetti to name just a few
• Exceptional value – tickets from just £9.50 for every concert


The 2012/13 Birmingham International Concert Season, one of the UK’s largest international classical music series, has been announced by Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham. The Season has been at the heart of Birmingham’s classical music programming since Symphony Hall opened in 1991, connecting people to music by bringing to the city some of the world’s most revered orchestras and musicians in concerts and recitals. More recently, the Season has also developed a reputation for innovative programming and large scale events with accompanying visuals.

Highlights of the coming season are two major events incorporating film screenings with live soundtracks alongside concerts. The first – Rebellion & Resistance – opens the new Season with the silent film Battleship Potemkin set to a new score by Michael Nyman (receiving its UK première). Later on, a weekend event Universe of Sound includes the film 2001: A Space Odyssey with live orchestral accompaniment, a concert featuring Holst’s The Planets and an exciting digital installation allowing the audience to ‘see inside’ a virtual Philharmonia Orchestra. An important week-long series of events in January marks the centenary of the composer Benjamin Britten with key contributions from Britten specialists including tenor Ian Bostridge.

A joint project with the CBSO gives Birmingham the chance to hear a complete cycle of Beethoven Piano Concertos and Symphonies with visiting orchestras and soloists in the Birmingham International Concert Season contributing the Piano Concertos and the CBSO performing the symphonies. An associated chamber music series ‘Beethoven Plus …’ adds some of the quartets and piano works alongside music by other composers.

Town Hall and Symphony Hall welcomes an impressive roster of internationally-renowned artists including the soprano Danielle de Niese, pianists Leif Ove Andnes (who takes a central role in the Beethoven Piano Concertos Cycle), Evgeny Kissin and Stephen Kovacevich, conductors Riccardo Chailly, Neeme Järvi and Vladmir Ashkenazy, and violinists Nicola Benedetti and Joshua Bell. Visiting orchestras include the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and there are choral contributions from Ex Cathedra, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

Operas in concert include Handel’s Radamisto and Purcell’s King Arthur before the Season’s grand finale – a return visit from The Royal Opera under Antonio Pappano for a concert performance of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

Commenting on the Season, Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall said, “Innovative programming, large scale events and a gallery of international artists are the hallmarks of the Birmingham International Concert Season. Our mission is to connect people to music, inspiring and enlightening concert-goers with the range and quality of our offer. The Birmingham International Concert Season has a proud reputation as one of the UK’s most important seasons of visiting musicians and one which helps position the City as a vibrant cultural centre in the UK and Europe. Continuing to present such an array of world class talent is an increasing challenge in these economically insecure times. Birmingham City Council, our sponsors, supporters and audiences are more vital than ever and we take this opportunity to thank them sincerely for their continued loyalty.”


Rebellion and Resistance
Opening the 2012/13 Birmingham International Concert Season are two concerts marking significant events in Russian history. The first is a performance by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Dmitriev of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, 70 years after its Leningrad première which was relayed via loudspeakers to its starving inhabitants besieged by the Nazis. The second is a screening of the 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin – a story of rebellion and massacre – with a newly commissioned score by Michael Nyman, receiving its UK première. Peter Donohoe performs Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto in the former, and the latter has the addition of some of Nyman’s famous scores for Peter Greenaway films.

Universe of Sound weekend
Another major weekend event sees a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey with the film’s incidental music provided live the Philharmonia Orchestra, organ and Ex Cathedra chorus who then go on to give a post-concert performance of Alec Roth’s Earthrise. Then Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts the orchestra in two great English classics, Holst’s The Planets and Elgar’s Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes. Running alongside Universe of Sound is an extraordinary interactive digital installation: using touch screens, movement-based interaction and planetarium-style, full-dome projections, it is possible to conduct, play and step inside a virtual Philharmonia Orchestra playing The Planets.

Birmingham Beethoven Cycle
The Birmingham International Concert Season and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra join forces to present a complete cycle of Beethoven Piano Concertos and Symphonies. The piano concertos will be played by visiting musicians with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes taking a central role, appearing with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in Concertos Nos 1 & 3 and with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester for the Fourth Concerto. Hélène Grimaud plays the Emperor concerto and Angela Hewitt performs the Second. The symphonies will be performed by the CBSO under Music Director Andris Nelsons. An associated chamber music series ‘Beethoven Plus …’ couples some of the quartets and piano works with those of other composers and features the Belcea Quartet, pianists Steven Osborne and Stephen Kovacevich amongst others.

A Boy Was Born – Britten centenary
An early tribute to one of Britain’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten, takes place in January 2013, the year of the composer’s centenary. Over the course of a week, the series A Boy Was Born will include a choral concert by Ex Cathedra, chamber orchestra works from Britten Sinfonia, and the composer’s Spring Symphony from the CBSO and Edward Gardner. The renowned Britten interpreter, Ian Bostridge, couples Britten’s Winter Words with songs from Schubert’s Wintereisse. Finally, a Discovery Day explores the composer’s life and music through a day-long series of talks, live music and discussion.

Orchestral and opera
Highlights from a star line-up of international orchestras and musicians include the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Riccardo Chailly who perform Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No 2 with soloist Lynn Harrell. In his first season as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Joshua Bell plays the Brahms Violin Concerto with them and directs Mozart’s Symphony No 40. After a gap of several years, conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy makes a very welcome return to Symphony Hall, performing Holst’s The Planets with the Philharmonia Orchestra as part of the Universe of Sound weekend. There are visits from The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Dmitriev (part of the Rebellion & Resistance weekend) and Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer for Brahms’s Fourth Symphony coupled with a comparative rarity, Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. Neeme Järvi conducts the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony and Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Boris Berezovsky. Steve Reich gives the second performance of his new work Radio Rewrite as well as some Reich classics with the London Sinfonietta. The Czech Philharmonic, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and Gustav Mahler Chamber Orchestra all take part in the Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle.

Early operas include Handel’s Radamisto from The English Concert, conducted by Harry Bicket with highly acclaimed countertenor David Daniels in the title role. Purcell’s King Arthur sees actor Oliver Cotton takes the role of Merlin in a performance by the New London Consort and Philip Pickett. Opera North’s four-year Wagner Ring cycle reaches the third opera, Siegfried, again coupling visual impact with the music, and The Royal Opera and Antonio Pappano bring the season to a grand finale with Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

Recitals and chamber music
The Belcea Quartet are the lynchpin within the ‘Beethoven Plus …’ series performing not only two late and an early Beethoven quartet, but also quartets by Shostakovich and Haydn, and a separate concert with pianist Till Fellner of Schubert, Britten and Dvořák’s Piano Quintet. The Capuçon brothers make an early return from their highly praised Town Hall concert last year, this time joined by pianist Michel Dalberto for piano trios by Fauré, Brahms and Ravel. 40 years old this year, the innovative Brodsky Quartet’s concert Wheel of 4Tunes gives the audience the chance to pick the programme by spinning a wheel with 40 of the quartet’s favourite works on offer. The season also sees a fabulous line-up of recitalists from soprano-of-the-moment Danielle de Niese to pianist Evgeny Kissin and organist Dame Gillian Weir in her farewell recital tour.

A celebration of young talent includes a two-part ‘Bright Futures’ series featuring former First Night of the Proms soloist, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and 2011 Brant Piano Competition winner and Chopin Competition semi-finalist, Jayson Gillham. There are six recitals in the ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) Rising Stars series featuring musicians nominated by member concert halls who are on the verge of an international career, and the Season also includes the final of the Brant Piano Competition whose former winners have included Mark Bebbington and Di Xiao.

Early music
Choral music includes a Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Symphony Hall’s traditional Good Friday Bach St Matthew Passion from one of the UK’s finest choirs, the Birmingham-based Ex Cathedra. Handel’s opera Radamisto is performed by The English Concert with Harry Bicket and features the acclaimed countertenor David Daniels and, following their superb Fairy Queen in 2011, Philip Pickett’s New London Consort returns to Town Hall with Purcell’s King Arthur with actor Oliver Cotton as Merlin. Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore are joined by soprano Carolyn Sampson in a survey of the career of Marie Fel: Rameau’s Muse with specially-commissioned narration and music by Lalande, Lully and Rameau.

A delightful selection of seasonal baroque repertoire features in Nicola Benedetti plays Concertos for Christmas with the European Union Chamber Orchestra, and there’s Vivaldi and Bach from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

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, connecting people to classical music and helping to secure Birmingham’s reputation on the international cultural map. Tickets prices start at just £9.50 for every concert in the Birmingham International Season 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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