The CBSO’s new season has more than a touch of the Proms, says Terry Grimley.
A concert performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin with music director Andris Nelsons and two performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with his predecessor Sir Simon Rattle are two of the highlights of the CBSO’s 2009-10 season.
Other eye-catching events include two joint concerts with Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra combining Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution with Berlioz’s Grande messe des mortes.
The CBSO will return to its old home, the Town Hall, for two small-scale concerts focusing on Haydn, who died 200 years ago this year.
Another innovation is two “Tuned In” concerts featuring illustrated introductions as well as complete performances of two landmark Russian works, Stravinsky’s Firebird and Shostakovich’s Symphony no 4.
The whole season has a Proms-like mixture of special one-off occasions – including a concert with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and another venture into Asian popular music with a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – premieres and music by living composers.
The premieres actually start during the CBSO’s summer concerts on July 24 when Andris Nelsons conducts the world premiere of John Woolrich’s Falling Down, a concerto for the CBSO’s resident contrabassoonist Margaret Cookhorn.
This concert is the CBSO’s contribution to the International Double Reed Society’s conference in Birmingham, which in total will include no fewer than 38 new pieces from composers including Thea Musgrave and Judith Weir.
The main season includes the world premiere of Colin Matthews’ Violin Concerto, written for Leila Josefowicz, in September, while a new work by Luke Bedford is included in the first of two concerts from the CBSO Youth Orchestra in November.
There are two new commissions from notable jazz musicians. American saxophonist Tim Garland joins CBSO principal cellist Eduardo Vassallo in the world premiere of his double concerto, conducted by Kristjan Jarvi in December, while the Hugh Masekela concert next May features the premiere of a new trumpet concerto by British saxophonist Jason Yarde, as well as a new piece by Masekela himself featuring the Town Hall Gospel Choir.
There are also the UK premieres of Rocana by Chinese composer Unsuk Chin, and False Memories by the Finn, Jukka Tiensuu.
The Tiensuu piece was premiered by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and CBSO chief guest conductor Sakari Oramo last year, but surprisingly the CBSO and its former music director have not managed to co-ordinate their diaries for the 2009-10 season, so Oramo is an unexpected absentee from these concerts.
Another recent Finnish work which seems to have acquired instant classic status, Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto, is performed by its original dedicatee Kari Kriikku, in a concert conducted by Andris Nelsons which also includes the Prelude to Parsifal and Bruckner’s Third Symphony.
Other works by living composers included in the season are another trumpet concerto, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s From the Wreckage, performed by Swedish virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger alongside the familiar Haydn concerto in September, and Tango by Latvian composer Artur Maskats.
Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light, heard recently at the Hippodrome as the accompaniment to a performance by Rambert Dance Company, is included in an all-English programme conducted twice by Simon Halsey in March and April which features popular tenor Alfie Boe as soloist in both the Goodall and Finzi’s Dies Natalis.
CBSO resident assistant conductor Michael Seal is kept busy with a wide range of concerts, including one with the Youth Orchestra and the Hugh Masekela and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan events. John Wilson, who has built an enthusiastic following for his concerts of light classics, conducts several programmes including one with more substantial works including Holst’s The Planets.
Another regular visitor, Andrew Litton, well known as a champion of Elgar and Walton, turns to Holst’s friend Vaughan Williams with a performance of the Symphony no 4 in a programme that also includes Chopin’s Piano Concerto no 2 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Polish composer’s birth in February.