• Largest International Season outside London
  • Royal Opera?s only regional appearance
  • World class visitors include Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Libor Pesek, Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia, St Petersburg Philharmonic
  • Mendelssohn, Handel, Purcell and Messiaen anniversaries marked
  • Ultimate Romantics – a two-part mini-series
  • Bach – A Beautiful Mind weekend
  • £5 tickets for every concert

Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham have unveiled the 2008/09 Birmingham International Concert Season, the largest international classical music series in the UK, outside London. With over 30 concerts at the two iconic venues, the flagship series welcomes a host of internationally-renowned artists including The Royal Opera and Antonio Pappano, conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Libor Pesek, soloists Mitsuko Uchida and Leif Ove Andsnes, and recitalists and chamber musicians Murray Perahia and the Tokyo Quartet. Visiting orchestras include the St Petersburg Philharmonic and Prague Symphony orchestras.

The centrepiece of the season, in which operatic and choral music features strongly, is a weekend residency by The Royal Opera with music director Antonio Pappano. They are joined by all-star casts for Britten’s War Requiem and Verdi?s Requiem. A mini-series entitled ?Ultimate Romantics? sees the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski perform Wagner?s Tristan and Isolde Act II, and Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder.

The season opens with Mahler?s epic Third Symphony conducted by Iván Fischer with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Birgit Remmert, and concludes with a three-part homage to Bach. In between, the important musical anniversaries of Handel, Purcell, Messiaen and Mendelssohn are all marked, the latter with an exploration of the original version of Elijah.

[full listing in notes to editors]

Opening Concert and Orchestral concerts
The Season opens on 7 October with Mahler?s Third Symphony whose gargantuan proportions make performances of this work a rarity. The noted Mahler conductor, Iván Fischer, conducts the Budapest Festival Orchestra, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus and mezzo soprano Birgit Remmert.

Two conductors making welcome returns to Symphony Hall are Sir Simon Rattle and Libor Pesek. Sir Simon conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Schumann?s Spring and Rhenish symphonies, and there is a distinctly nationalistic flavour from Libor Pesek and the Prague Symphony Orchestra in an all-Dvořák programme, joined by Nina Kotova as soloist in the Cello Concerto.

There are visits by two venerable Russian orchestras: the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Yuri Temirkanov include Elgar?s Cello Concerto in their programme, with former ECHO Rising Star Quirine Viersen as soloist, while the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra play music by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, including the composer?s seldom-performed original version of the Rococo Variations with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

Star soloists include Mitsuko Uchida who directs the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from the piano in two of Mozart?s piano concertos, and Leif Ove Andsnes who does likewise with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra in concertos by Mozart and Beethoven.

Operatic and choral concerts
Operatic and choral concerts form the backbone of the Season, with a two-night residency by The Royal Opera and music director Antonio Pappano at the centre. In their only performances outside London this season, they make a welcome return to Symphony Hall (having last appeared in 1998 with Bernard Haitink) with Britten?s War Requiem – written for the re-consecration of nearby Coventry Cathedral – and Verdi?s Requiem. Olga Borodina, Emma Bell, Ian Bostridge and Simon Keenlyside are among the star soloists.

A two-part mini-series Ultimate Romantics includes a rare performance of Schoenberg?s lavish Gurrelieder. Soloists Stig Andersen, Anthony Dean Griffey, Soile Isokoski and Monica Groop join the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus under Esa-Pekka Salonen. In the second of the two concerts, Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform Act II of Wagner?s Tristan and Isolde with soloists Anja Kampe, Robert Dean Smith, Sarah Connolly, Laszlo Polgar and Stephen Gadd.

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn, a composer with a strong affiliation to Birmingham, notably through his participation in the Birmingham Triennial Festivals. Heralding the anniversary, Ex Cathedra explore the original version of his great choral work Elijah, which was premiered in Town Hall Birmingham in 1846. In addition, The Nash Ensemble performs one of his masterpieces, the Octet, to mark the occasion.

Leading Handel authority, Christopher Hogwood celebrates the 250th anniversary of Handel?s death with an opera from his later years, Arianna in Creta. This is the final opera in Christopher Hogwood?s three-year project and follows Amadigi di Gaula in 2007 and Flavio, Re de?Langobardi in 2008. The Academy of Ancient Music is joined by Lisa Milne, Angelika Kirchschlager, Sonia Prina, Alice Coote and Antonio Abete.

Another anniversary – the 350th of Purcell?s birth (1659) – is marked by Philip Pickett and the New London Consort who have again joined forces with director Jonathan Miller to present a fully-staged performance of Dido and Aeneas. This will be a colourful reconstruction of the Lincoln?s Inn Theatre revival of the opera (1700) with additional scenes and long-lost music. Cast includes Julia Gooding, Michael George and Joanne Lunn.

Steven Osborne (piano), Alban Gerhardt (cello), Viviane Hagner (violin) and Kari Kriikku (clarinet) combine to perform Messiaen?s Quartet for the End of Time in celebration of the composer?s 100th anniversary. Messiaen was well known for ?seeing music in colour? and artist Kathy Hinde will offer her own interpretation in a series of specially commissioned visuals.

Recitals and chamber music
A glittering line-up of world class recitalists appear on Town Hall and Symphony Hall?s stages this season including pianists Murray Perahia, Peter Donohoe and Paul Lewis, guitarist John Williams, and violin and piano duo Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt.

Chamber groups include the Tokyo Quartet and Nash Ensemble (who both select works by Mendelssohn in his 200th anniversary year for their programmes) and the Brodsky Quartet.

Bach ? A Beautiful Mind
Concluding the season is a series of three recitals illustrating the genius of Bach. Birmingham City Organist, Thomas Trotter begins the weekend with the fiendishly difficult Trio Sonatas. Angela Hewitt takes up the reins to play the Goldberg Variations and finally, cellist Natalie Clein and violinist Alina Ibragimova play solo Bach to round off the season.

Funding from Birmingham City Council enables Town Hall & Symphony Hall to continue to attract the highest calibre of artists to appear in the prestigious Birmingham International Concert Season. As a result ticket prices begin at just £5 for every concert in the Season, for the 17th consecutive year, and a wide range of further discounts is available. Town Hall & Symphony Hall also gratefully acknowledges the contributions of concert sponsors Williams de Broë and Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies as well as the many companies, trusts, foundations and individuals for their financial support.

Note to Editors

Booking information

Subscription booking now open
Priority booking for Friends of Town Hall & Symphony Hall opens 12 June
General booking opens 19 June

Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office 0121 780 3333
On-line booking:

To join the [public] mailing list, e-mail your contact details to or write to Mailing List Dept, Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EA


Opera & choral
Mendelssohn Elijah (1846), Ex Cathedra/Skidmore (Town Hall, 18 October)
Ultimate Romantics I: Mahler & Wagner [Act II, Tristan and Isolde] London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski (Symphony Hall, 10 December)
King?s College Choir at Christmas (Town Hall, 20 December)
Ultimate Romantics II: Schoenberg Gurrelieder, Philharmonia/Salonen (Symphony Hall, 27 February)
The Royal Opera/Pappano: Verdi Requiem (Symphony Hall, 20 March)
The Royal Opera/Pappano: Britten War Requiem (Symphony Hall, 21 March)
Bach St Matthew Passion, Ex Cathedra/Skidmore (Symphony Hall, 10 April)
Purcell Dido and Aeneas, New London Consort/Pickett (Town Hall, 18 April)
Handel Arianna, Academy of Ancient Music/Hogwood (Town Hall, 13 May)

Mahler?s Third Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer (Symphony Hall, 7 October ? Opening Concert of the season)
Tchaikovsky from St Petersburg, St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Temirkanov (Symphony Hall, 14 October)
Strauss?s Four Last Songs, Orchester der KlangVerwaltung Munich/Guttenberg (Symphony Hall, 14 November)
Uchida plays Mozart, Chamber Orchestra of Europe (Symphony Hall, 23 November)
Rattle conducts Schumann, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Symphony Hall, 19 December)
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (Symphony Hall, 6 January)
Tchaikovsky & Shostakovich, Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra/Poliansky (Symphony Hall, 13 February)
Dvorak from the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Pesek (Symphony Hall, 8 May)
Andsnes plays Mozart and Beethoven, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Town Hall, 17 May)
Rodrigo?s Guitar Concerto, Orquesta Nacional de España/Pons (Symphony Hall, 20 May)

Recitals & Chamber Music
Paul Lewis, piano (Town Hall, 30 October)
John Williams, guitar (Symphony Hall, 6 November)
Brodsky Quartet (Town Hall, 14 November)
Quartet for the End of Time (Town Hall, 9 December)
Murray Perahia, piano (Symphony Hall, 31 January)
Nash Ensemble (Town Hall, 10 February)
Peter Donohoe (Town Hall, 5 March)
Tokyo Quartet (Town Hall, 29 March)
Christian Tetzlaff, violin & Lars Vogt, piano (Town Hall, 24 April)
Bach ? A Beautiful Mind: Thomas Trotter/Trio Sonatas, organ (Symphony Hall, 29 May)
Bach ? A Beautiful Mind: Angela Hewitt/Goldberg Variations, piano (Town Hall, 30 May)
Bach ? A Beautiful Mind: Natalie Clein, cello & Alina Ibragimova, violin/Solo Bach (Town Hall, 31 May)

Performances Birmingham
Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham are managed together, creating synergy across the two venues and ensuring they are run on a complementary basis. Together, they host an exciting and varied programme of over 600 concerts and events every year, designed to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. The registered charity, Symphony Hall Birmingham Limited, which managed Symphony Hall for 16 years, has been re-named Performances Birmingham Limited to reflect its new remit of managing both venues. Birmingham City Council has always generously supported Symphony Hall and has pledged its continuing commitment to support both venues.

Town Hall Birmingham re-opened in October 2007 following a £35m restoration funded by Birmingham City Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and European Regional Development Fund.

Town Hall press comments
?The refurbished Town Hall in Birmingham ? sounds as sumptuous as it looks.? (The Times, Oct 2007)

??this acoustic, so spectacularly improved, affords the orchestra a full, expansive, neat and clear sound? (Birmingham Post, Oct 2007)

?The new interior is stunningly decked out in grey and white, to offset the turquoise and gold of the organ?? (Independent, Oct 2007)

?a fantastic venue for chamber music? (Birmingham Post, November 2007)

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28 April 2008