The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is the flagship of musical life in Birmingham and the West Midlands – and one of the world’s great orchestras.
Based in Symphony Hall, it gives over 130 concerts each year in Birmingham, the UK and around the world, playing music that ranges from classics to contemporary, film music and even symphonic disco. With a far-reaching community programme and a family of choruses and ensembles, it’s involved in every aspect of music-making in the Midlands. But at its centre is a team of 90 superb professional musicians, and a 95-year tradition of making the world’s greatest music in the heart of Birmingham.
That local tradition started with the orchestra’s very first symphonic concert in 1920 – conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. Ever since then, through war, recessions, social change and civic renewal, the CBSO has been proud to be Birmingham’s orchestra. Under principal conductors including Adrian Boult, George Weldon, Andrzej Panufnik and Louis Frémaux, the CBSO won an artistic reputation that spread far beyond the Midlands. But it was when it discovered the young British conductor Simon Rattle in 1980 that the CBSO became internationally famous – and showed how the arts can help give a new sense of direction to a whole city.
Rattle’s successors Sakari Oramo (1998-2008) and Andris Nelsons (2008-2015) helped cement that global reputation, and continued to build on the CBSO’s tradition of flying the flag for Birmingham. As the only professional symphony orchestra based between Bournemouth and Manchester, the orchestra tours regularly in Britain – but it doesn’t stop there! A CBSO concert in Tokyo was voted as Japan’s best orchestral performance in 2013 in a poll of music critics. And its recordings continue to win acclaim. In 2008, the CBSO’s recording of Saint-Saëns’ complete piano concertos was named the best classical recording of the last 30 years by Gramophone.
Meanwhile, under the artistic leadership of principal guest conductor Edward Gardner, associate conductor Michael Seal and assistant conductor Alpesh Chauhan, the CBSO continued doing what it does best – playing great music for the people of Birmingham and the Midlands. The 2015-16 season ranges from Handel, Beethoven, Elgar and Mahler to opera and contemporary classical music - while popular Friday night shows and lively family concerts offer world-class music making for all tastes and all ages.
On 4 February 2016, the CBSO announced the appointment of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as its Music Director, with effect from September 2016. Her artistic plans with the CBSO will range widely from Mozart and Haydn to 20th century classics and works by living composers. Coming from the strong choral traditions of the Baltic states (her father is a choir conductor in Lithuania), and following her role as Music Director of the Salzburg Landestheater, she will also lead opera projects in Birmingham and will work closely with Simon Halsey CBE on projects with the CBSO’s internationally renowned choruses.
Critically acclaimed Canadian violinist James Ehnes joined the tour to perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. Other repertoire included Dvorák, Saraste and Elgar Enigma Variations. Sir Edward Elgar is an important figure in the CBSO’s history - he conducted the orchestra in 1920 for their very first symphonic concert in Birmingham Town Hall.
30 December - Guangzhou Opera House
31 December - Guangzhou Opera House
1 January - Changsha Concert Hall
3 January - Shanghai Grand Theatre
5 January - NCPA, Beijing