Made in Birmingham: Sir Edward Elgar conducted the inaugural concert of the City of Birmingham Orchestra in November 1920. Over the nine decades since, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has grown into a 90-piece ensemble with a worldwide reputation – but one rooted firmly in the City of Birmingham.
Under the direction of such conductors as Adrian Boult, Andrzej Panufnik and Louis Frémaux, the Orchestra’s reputation grew steadily. But it was the 18-year leadership of Sir Simon Rattle that truly put the CBSO – and Birmingham – on the
International musical map. Since his departure in 1998, the CBSO has continued to flourish, first under the baton of Sakari Oramo and since September 2008 under the charismatic young Latvian Andris Nelsons. In autumn 2010 Edward Gardner was appointed principal guest conductor, and former assistant conductor Michael Seal was appointed associate conductor, combining this with a performing career in the CBSO’s violin section.
The heart of the CBSO’s work is in Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Here, the CBSO plays the broadest possible range of music to the widest possible audience, including symphonic and contemporary classical repertoire, and also lighter music – from Johann Strauss to James Bond – on Friday nights, plus Matinée, Schools and Family concerts.
A Worldwide Reputation: In recent seasons, the Orchestra has also given performances in many of the most prestigious European concert halls and festivals. Plans for 2012 include performances of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris, two concerts at the Musikverein in Vienna, and a residency at the Lucerne Festival. It was recently shortlisted for best ensemble in the UK’s most prestigious awards for classical music, the 2011 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards.
The Orchestra also continues to extend its sizeable discography, working with several leading record labels. Under Sir Simon Rattle and Sakari Oramo, the Orchestra made numerous award-winning recordings: our disc of Saint- Saëns’ Piano Concertos with soloist Stephen Hough won both the 2002 Gramophone Record of the Year award, and Gramophone’s prestigious Gold Disc 2008 for most popular recording of the past 30 years. In June 2009 the CBSO’s first CD with music director Andris Nelsons – an all-Tchaikovsky disc – was released, heralding the start of an ongoing relationship with the German label Orfeo. Four discs have been released so far, featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Richard Strauss, and further recordings are due to be released this season.
In the Community: CBSO Centre, the Orchestra’s administrative and rehearsal base on Berkley Street, Birmingham, doubles as a small-scale performance venue. It is the base for CBSO Centre Stage, a series of informal chamber music concerts devised and performed by CBSO musicians, and also hosts regular concerts by our internationally-renowned partner organisations Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Jazzlines. Meanwhile, our programme for community engagement co-ordinates an extensive
schedule of work with schools and the local community across the Midlands, reaching upwards of 35,000 young people each year.
Singing Loud: The CBSO’s family of four “unpaid professional” choruses play a leading role in amateur music in the Midlands. All are regularly in demand to perform with the CBSO and other leading orchestras and musical groups. The CBSO aims to offer the very best in musical performance and education, flying the flag for the people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and the UK, and performing the world’s greatest music to the widest possible audience. To find out more, explore the season in video and audio, or book tickets online, visit our website: www.cbso.co.uk. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter.