Ben Gernon will be announced as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, during a live broadcast on BBC Radio 3 from MediaCity UK on 31 January. He will formally take up the position in Autumn 2017.
The announcement is no surprise to those who have witnessed the rapport that the young British conductor, aged 27, has built up with the orchestra over recent seasons, conducting core repertoire as well as The Red Brick Sessions, an innovative collaboration between the BBC Philharmonic, University of Salford, BBC North and BBC Research and Development. Gernon has already appeared twice at the BBC Proms, most recently in 2014, to mark the 80th birthday of former BBC Philharmonic Composer/Conductor Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. In 2013 Gernon won the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductor’s Award and in the same year became a Dudamel Fellow with the LA Philharmonic leading to several important and ongoing engagements with US orchestras including the LAPO and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He is a regular guest conductor of UK orchestras, and is working increasingly across Europe, and in opera.
Praised for his effortless authority on the podium Gernon started his musical life as a tuba player in his local brass band conducted by his father. He went on to study tuba and conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Patrick Harrild and Sian Edwards respectively, and also cites Sir Colin Davis as a profoundly important figure in his musical development.
Simon Webb, General Manager of the BBC Philharmonic says: “The decision to appoint Ben Gernon is based on the unanimously positive reaction of the orchestra to his style of conducting, his spontaneity, and his natural communication with both the orchestra and our audiences. Ben has already performed a wide range of repertoire with the BBC Philharmonic, ranging from core classical works to the UK premiere of Thomas Larcher’s Ouroboros and has delighted audiences in many of our regular venues across the North of England over the last two years. His passion for new music, for reaching new audiences, and for exploring the new technologies being developed by the BBC coupled with his brilliance as a conductor make him the perfect match for the BBC Philharmonic’s bold and adventurous music making.”
Ben Gernon says: “Over the last two years of working with this extraordinary orchestra, we have built an exhilarating and rewarding artistic partnership. A combination of the orchestra's world class musicians and their contagious passion and love of music, makes for an electrifying live experience of the BBC Philharmonic. It is a real privilege for me to take my first titled position as the BBC Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, and it is with admiration that I look forward to our future seasons together.” Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms and BBC Orchestras & Choirs, says: “Ben Gernon is an exciting conductor who has been making waves both in the UK and internationally and his musical connection with the BBC Philharmonic has been clear to see through their concerts together. I’m looking forward to watching their relationship continue to grow as Ben takes up this important new role and hope that audiences enjoy this first run of concerts together, whether in person in Manchester or Nottingham or through our live Radio 3 broadcasts.”
The announcement comes as Gernon embarks on a series of three concerts: in the studio, at The Bridgewater Hall and at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, with repertoire including Debussy La mer and Beethoven Symphony No 3 Eroica. In addition to his concerts with the BBC Philharmonic at its Salford base, Gernon will work with the orchestra in concerts in venues from Nottingham to Carlisle, as part of BBC North’s commitment to audiences across the North of England. Deeply committed to education work, Gernon has already presented a BBC Philharmonic ‘Meet the Phil’ event for local school children and brings to this his experience in the UK with LSO Discovery and LPO, and in the US with YOLA at LA Phil and Sistema at Ravinia.
John Storgårds remains with the orchestra with the new title of Chief Guest Conductor.
Juanjo Mena will remain at the heart of the BBC Philharmonic’s music-making as Chief Conductor until Summer 2018.