New musical director Andris Nelsons intends to jump in with both feet in his bid to win over the CBSO audiences.


CBSO audiences will be seeing plenty of the orchestra's new music director Andris Nelsons in his first season, during which he will conduct no fewer than 23 concerts.

Writing in the newly-released prospectus for the new season, he writes: "I want to introduce myself to you by showcasing some of the composers I feel closest to."

Three of them fire in the opening concert, when Nelsons conducts youthful works by three of the most influential composers in music history: Wagner (the Rienzi Overture), Bartok (Miraculous Mandarin Suite) and Berlioz (the Symphonie Fantastique), coincidentally one of the first works with which Nelsons' predecessor, Sakari Oramo, introduced himself to Birmingham).

Wagner appears again later in the season, with Nelsons conducting a mouthwatering programme of excerpts from Tannhauser, Tristan und Isolde and Gotterdammerung, Irene Theorin the soprano soloist.

In fact Andris Nelsons' operatic interests (he is also music director of Latvian State Opera in his home city of Riga) figure highly in the season's offerings, including a concert-performance of Puccini's heart-piercing La Boheme Andris' partner, the soprano Kristine Opolais, sings Mimi, and the CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus also take part.

The CBS Chorus also participates in Nelsons' interpretation of what has become one of the CBSO's signature-tunes since the Rattle years, Mahler's Resurrection Symphony.

On slightly smaller scales, we can look forward to Andris conducting, among many other things, Haydn's Nelson Mass (perhaps reflecting the conductor's own background as a chorister), Rachmaninov's Second Symphony (in a programme where the CBSO is joined by the exciting young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski in Saint-Saens' Second Piano Concerto, another work the orchestra has made its own), and Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht.

He also conducts the highly-acclaimed CBSO Youth Orchestra in a Ravel-dominated programme: Daphnis and Chloe Suite no.2, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, with mezzo Christine Rice, and Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

The Youth Orchestra also takes on the challenge of Mahler's Symphony no. 7, Jac van Steen conducting, and the recently-launched CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy provides a pre-season taster under Michael Seal with a programme of Arvo Part, Ligeti, Beethoven and Rodrigo (Morgan Szymanski the soloist in the famous Guitar Concerto).

The Academy and Seal reappear later in the year in "Birmingham's Brightest", a Symphony Hall gala concert together with clarinettist Julian Bliss, City of Birmingham Young Voices, Birmingham Schools'Azaad Dhol Ensemble and Sing for All Massed Choir.

Other visitors to the podium of the CBSO itself will include Sakari Oramo, making a speedy return in his new guise as principal guest conductor after ten distinguished years as music director.

He conducts half of a complete Nielsen symphony cycle, with Mark Elder, a former CBSO principal guest conductor bringing his rejuvenated Halle Orchestra to supply the remainder, in a joint collaboration which will also be repeated in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.

Oramo will also be ending the four-year "IgorFest", which was largely his brainchild. with the bang which is The Rite of Spring, and, affirming his rewarding relationship with the great composer, he conducts Elgar's First Symphony, as well as the UK premiere of centenarian Elliott Carter's Horn Concerto, the CBSO's own Elspeth Dutch the soloist. The same concert, celebrating important events of 1908 (the Elgar was premiered then), also features Messiaen's L'Ascension, the great French composer born just one day before Carter.

Other welcome returnee conductors number among their ranks Walter Weller, bringing his expertise in core-reper-toire Central European music , the affable Nicholas McGegan directing Handel's last oratorio Jephtha in Birmingham Town Hall, and the much-loved John Wilson, bringing his insights into British light music music and into the showbiz of ballroom dancing to concerts which will very quickly sell out.

It will be a special pleasure to welcome the veteran Vernon Handley (now principal conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra) in a programme of Bantock (a composer he regards very highly indeed, and one indelibly linked with the development of music in Birmingham), Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and the equally veteran Sir Charles Mackerras in an all-Viennese programme of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Ilan Volkov is the conductor for a largely all-French programme, the "foreign" work being the Piano Concerto of the Jordanian composer Saed Haddad. Saleem Abboud Ashkar is the soloist, also performing Ravel's probing Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. Debussy's La Mer completes an evening which begins with one of the most erotic scores I know, Dukas' intoxicating ballet La Peri.

Chinese conductor Xian Zhang returns for her third visit to Birmingham, bringing a programme of Ravel, Mozart (Michael Collins the soloist in the incomparable Clarinet Concerto) and Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony, another CBSO signature work, and here with Birmingham Conservatoire's David Saint, also organist of St Chad's Cathedral, as soloist.

Several blockbuster works have already been mentioned, but there are more to come. Bruckner's Sixth Symphony is conducted by James Gaffigan, Ludovic Morlot conducts Berlioz' Damnation of Faust, and Andris Nelsons' final concert of his inaugural season concludes with Richard Strauss' epic self-portrait Ein Heldenleben complete with its scattergun dismissal of carping music critics.

A very special evening comes on November 26, when Andris Nelsons conducts an all-Tchaikovsky programme (if one of his predecessors, Sir Simon Rattle, had a grave he'd be spinning in it), including the Violin Concerto, with Nelson's colleague from student days, Baiba Skride, as soloist. Their recording of the work, made at Symphony Hall during the heady weekend when Nelsons and the CBSO first fell in love with each other, has just been released hot off the Sony BMG presses.