Issued: 27 April 2009

  • Series of concerts celebrates Town Hall?s 175TH anniversary
  • Three unique collaborations with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  • Mariinsky Theatre and CBSO join forces for Berlioz Requiem
  • Beethoven from Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti
  • Star soloists include Renee Fleming, Ian Bostridge, Murray Perahia, Hugh Masekela and Joshua Bell
  • Superb international orchestras, soloists and recitals

Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham have unveiled the 2009/10 Birmingham International Concert Season, the largest international classical music series in the UK, outside London. The flagship series presents over 30 concerts at the city?s two premier venues and opens with the first of four concerts celebrating the heritage of the Town Hall to mark its 175th anniversary in October.

Over the course of the season, Birmingham welcomes a host of internationally renowned musicians including the combined forces of the Mariinsky Theatre and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, the Staatskapelle Berlin with Daniel Barenboim, and Riccardo Muti conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Concerto soloists include pianists Murray Perahia and Simon Trpčeski, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and violinists Joshua Bell and Nicola Benedetti. An impressive line-up of celebrity recitalists and chamber musicians includes the soprano Renée Fleming, baritone Sir Willard White, tenor Ian Bostridge, pianists Lang Lang and Emanuel Ax, City Organist Thomas Trotter and Sir James Galway. There are visits by the Czech Philharmonic, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra and period performance ensembles Amsterdam Baroque Soloists, the Academy of Ancient Music and Ex Cathedra.

Town Hall 175TH
The 2009/10 Birmingham International Concert Season opens on Saturday 3 October with the Town Hall 175TH Birthday Concert: Handel?s Messiah, performed by The Sixteen under Harry Christophers. The concert marks the start of a wider series of events (to be announced in June) and celebrates the building?s importance in Britain?s musical history. Messiah was performed at each Birmingham Triennial Festival and has been at the heart of Town Hall?s programming throughout its existence.

City Organist, Thomas Trotter, gives the Town Hall 175TH Birthday Organ Concert, programming works by some of the famous musicians who have played the historic 1834 William Hill organ, from Felix Mendelssohn to George Thalben-Ball.

Ex Cathedra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment give two performances of one of Town Hall?s most significant premieres – Elgar?s The Dream of Gerontius – commissioned for the 1900 Birmingham Triennial Festival. This period instrument rendition aims to return to the score as Elgar conceived it.

Paul Robeson visited Town Hall at least four times, as a singer and civil rights activist. Sir Willard White has been re-exploring Robeson?s life story and his concert, which also features the Town Hall Gospel Choir, will include some of the songs he made immortal.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – a special relationship
Cementing Town Hall & Symphony Hall?s special relationship with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), are three unique concerts. The first features the combined forces of the CBSO and Chorus and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre under the highly-charged baton of Valery Gergiev in two giant works – Berlioz?s Grande Messe des morts, and a rare performance of Prokofiev?s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, complete with accordion orchestra, alarm bells and a speaker with megaphone who is the voice of Lenin.

Later in the Season, the legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela joins the CBSO, Town Hall Gospel Choir and City of Birmingham Young Voices to perform a work Masekela has written specially for them. Also included is Jason Yarde?s Trumpet Concerto.

The 2009/10 Season concludes in spectacular fashion on 12 June – the 19th anniversary of Symphony Hall?s official opening by HM The Queen. Coming just weeks before his Bayreuth debut, CBSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leads the Orchestra and Chorus in a one-off preview of Wagner?s Lohengrin.

Beethoven concerts
Two particular Season highlights are concerts with two of the world?s leading Beethoven interpreters. Daniel Barenboim returns to Symphony Hall after five years to play and direct the composer?s Emperor Concerto with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Riccardo Muti makes his long-awaited first appearance at Symphony Hall in an all-Beethoven concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra, featuring the Eroica Symphony and Violin Concerto with soloist Joshua Bell.

Orchestral concerts
Forming the backbone of the Season are concerts by internationally acclaimed orchestras, conductors and soloists.

Music of a nationalistic flavour is presented by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Dmitriev, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra perform Janáček and Dvořák, and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra programmes Borodin and Tchaikovsky.

There are welcome returns for some star soloists. Violinist Joshua Bell joins Riccardo Muti and the Philharmonia for Beethoven?s Violin Concerto, Nicola Benedetti plays Tchaikovsky?s Violin Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and Chloë Hanslip performs Philip Glass?s Violin Concerto with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Pianist Simon Trpčeski is the soloist in Prokofiev?s Third Piano Concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Jean-Yves Thibaudet joins the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra for an all-time favourite, Grieg?s Piano Concerto.

Mozart & Bach
Mozart and Bach feature in a number of concerts by ensembles specialising in period performance beginning with soloists of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman who give an all-Bach concert and, developing Symphony Hall?s traditional Good Friday Passion, Ex Cathedra turns attention to Bach?s St John Passion. The Academy of Ancient Music include Mozart?s Requiem in their all-Mozart programme while Murray Perahia gives a contemporary interpretation of music by Bach and Mozart, playing and directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

Recitals and chamber music
This season?s recital programme is particularly strong in singers and pianists. Making a welcome return to Symphony Hall after six years is soprano Renée Fleming who appears with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Dutoit to perform favourite Italian and Russian Opera Arias. The tenor Ian Bostridge (who made such an impression in Britten?s War Requiem at Symphony Hall in March) returns with Antonio Pappano as pianist for a recital of Schubert, a composer with whose music he is particularly identified.

Also appearing on Town Hall and Symphony Hall?s stages this season are pianists Imogen Cooper for a recital of Schubert and Lang Lang in a wide-ranging programme. Emanuel Ax plays the music of Chopin and Schumann, marking both composers? bi-centennial years, and Sir James Galway celebrates his own 70th birthday. There are organ recitals by Thomas Trotter and Ben van Oosten on the Town Hall and Symphony Hall organs respectively.

Steve Reich?s Drumming, an iconic masterpiece of the last fifty years, is coupled with other Reich classics in a performance led by percussionist Colin Currie.

Outstanding young ensemble, the Elias Quartet, are joined by rising star and keen Mozartean, Jonathan Biss for works by Mozart and Brahms and the feted young British quartet, the Belcea Quartet, play two of the most popular pieces in the chamber music repertoire, Beethoven?s Op 59 No 1 Rasumovsky and Schubert?s Death and the Maiden quartets.

Finally, having retired as a pianist in 2008, Alfred Brendel returns to the concert platform as a speaker, discussing the ideas and inspiration that, for fifty years, have made him one of the world?s leading pianists and illustrating his thoughts at the piano.

Funding and sponsorship
Funding from Birmingham City Council enables Town Hall and Symphony Hall to continue to attract the highest calibre of artist to appear on Birmingham?s prestigious stages. The City?s funding also allows tickets to be offered from just £5 for every concert in the season for the 18th consecutive year, as well as a very wide range of further discounts. Town Hall & Symphony Hall also gratefully acknowledges the contributions of sponsors and Corporate Friends as well as many other companies, trusts, foundations and individuals, for their financial support.


Note to Editors

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General booking opens on Thursday 18 June.
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Online booking:

Town Hall 175TH
Sat 3 Oct, TH – Handel?s Messiah, The Sixteen Choir & Orchestra/Harry Christophers (Opening Night of the 2009/10 Birmingham International Season and Town Hall 175TH series)
Mon 5 Oct, TH – 175TH Birthday Organ Concert: Thomas Trotter
Sat 28 & Sun 29 Nov, TH – Elgar?s The Dream of Gerontius, Ex Cathedra/Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jeffrey Skidmore
Wed 9 Dec, TH – Sir Willard White: Paul Robeson Re-Explored

CBSO collaborations
Wed 14 & Thu 15 Oct, SH – Berlioz Grande Messe des morts, Orchestra & Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Valery Gergiev/Sergei Semishkur
Fri 7 May, SH – Hugh Masekela & the CBSO
Sat 12 Jun, SH – Wagner?s Lohengrin, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons

Wed 7 Oct, SH – Russian Romantics, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Dmitriev/Barry Douglas
Thu 29 Oct, SH – Tchaikovsky & Dvorak, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jakub Hrusa/Nicola Benedetti
Fri 13 Nov, SH – Murray Perahia Plays Bach & Mozart, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Sat 30 Jan, SH – Barenboim Plays Beethoven, Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
Tues 2 Mar, SH – Rachmaninov From Dallas, Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden/Simon Trpceski
Tues 23 Mar, SH – Muti Conducts Beethoven, Philharmonia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti/Joshua Bell
Thu 15 Apr, SH – Berlioz?s Symphonie Fantastique, Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/Emmanuel Krivine/Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Sat 24 Apr, TH – Bach?s Musical Offering, Soloists of Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
Wed 5 May, SH – Tchaikovsky & Glass, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra/Pavel Kogan/Chloe Hanslip

Recitals and chamber music
Mon 5 Oct, TH – TH 175TH Birthday Organ Concert: Thomas Trotter
Sun 18 Oct, TH – Celebrity Piano Recital: Imogen Cooper
Mon 2 Nov, SH – In Love…With Renee Fleming, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Wed 9 Dec, TH – Th 175TH Sir Willard White: Paul Robeson Re-explored
Mon 11 Jan, TH – Belcea Quartet
Fri 22 Jan, TH – Schubert From Bostridge & Pappano, Ian Bostridge/Antonio Pappano
Thu 4 Feb, SH – Celebrity Piano Recital: Lang Lang
Tues 9 Feb, SH – Master of French Romantic Organ Music, Ben van Oosten
Sat 20 Feb, TH – Steve Reich?s Drumming
Sun 28 Feb, TH – Celebrity Piano Recital: Emanuel Ax
Fri 7 May, SH – Hugh Masekela & the CBSO
Sun 9 May, TH – Brahms?s Piano Quintet, Jonathan Biss/Elias Quartet
Sat 22 May, SH – Sir James Galway 70th Birthday Recital
Mon 7 Jun, TH – Alfred Brendel Talk: The Light and Shade of Interpretation

Opera & Choral
Sat 3 Oct, TH – TH 175TH Handel?s Messiah, The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
Wed 14 & Thu 15 Oct, SH – Berlioz Grande Messe des morts, Orchestra & Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Valery Gergiev/Sergei Semishkur
Sat 28 & Sun 29 Nov, TH – Elgar?s The Dream of Gerontius, Ex Cathedra/Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jeffrey Skidmore
Fri 2 Apr, SH – Good Friday St John Passion, Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore
Fri 16 Apr, SH – Mozart?s Requiem, Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr
Sat 12 Jun, SH – Wagner?s Lohengrin, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons

Town Hall and Symphony Hall are managed together by Performances Birmingham Limited, a registered charity. 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/community department reaches a further 20,000 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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