Highlights from the season include:
BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (BBC NOW) today announce their 2017-2018 season, with a celebration of the Orchestra’s 90th anniversary in April. For almost 90 years, BBC NOW has played an integral role in the cultural and classical landscape of Wales, performing to audiences across the UK, abroad and on air. The Orchestra is joined by some of its closest friends for performances throughout the season to celebrate its birthday.
Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang begins a cycle of Beethoven Symphonies which culminates next season; Conductor Laureate Tadaaki Otaka celebrates 30 years with the Orchestra and his 70th birthday with two concerts in December; and Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård bookends the season with Shostakovich symphonies (No. 12 and No. 5).
Composer-in-Association Huw Watkinscurates two concerts exploring the music that shaped him, as both a composer and performer; and the Orchestra look back at some of the works that have been commissioned for them over the years.
Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård
BBC NOW celebrates a key moment in the Orchestra’s history, revisiting the symphony Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård performed in his first concert in post with BBC NOW. Sibelius’ fifth symphony, a celebratory piece written for Sibelius’ 50th birthday, is performed at St David’s Hall [8 February], Brangwyn Hall [9 February] and Cheltenham Town Hall [11 February]. In this concert, Principal Flute Matthew Featherstone moves into the spotlight for Nielsen’s Flute Concerto. Søndergård gives two performances of Brahms first symphony, at Cheltenham Town Hall [8 March] and Brangwyn Hall [9 March], where the Orchestra are joined by pianist Stephen Hough for Mendelssohn’s Italianate Piano Concerto No. 1 and the programme also includes Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel. Opening the new season with Shostakovich 12 at St David’s Hall [12 October], Søndergård returns to close the Cardiff season with the fifth symphony at St David’s Hall [7 June], alongside Baiba Skride’s performance of one of the most technically difficult works for the violin: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang
Following her inaugural season in 2016-2017, Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang returns to conduct six concerts across the season including the start of a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies which culminates next season. Zhang gives her first concert of the season at St David’s Hall [10 November] with a programme of Verdi and Respighi. Following seven years as Music Director at Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Zhang presents music from some of Verdi’s most celebrated operas including II Trovatore and La Traviata, performed by Italian mezzo soprano Chiara Taigi. The concert closes with a celebration of ancient Rome in Respighi’s Pini di Roma. Xian Zhang’s Beethoven symphony cycle will be spread over two tours around Wales, in November with Beethoven’s symphonies No’s 2, 4, 6 and 7 across three concert dates at Aberystwyth Arts Centre [16 November], Prichard Jones Hall, Bangor [17 November] and Venue Cymru, Llandudno [19 November]. Zhang leads a performance of Beethoven’s daring and outlandish Ninth symphony at St David’s Hall [19 January] and Brangwyn Hall [20 January], alongside a new work from Composer-in-Association Huw Watkins commissioned by BBC Radio 3. The Orchestra is joined by mezzo-soprano Clara Mouriz, tenor Allan Clayton and bass Matthew Rosewith BBC National Chorus of Wales.
Composer-in-Association Huw Watkins
Watkins curates two concerts at BBC Hoddinott Hall this season, exploring the music that shaped him both as a composer and a performer. Conducted by Martyn Brabbins [12 January], Huw joins the Orchestra to perform Britten’s Piano Concerto alongside Tippett’s Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles; two composers who have strongly influenced Watkins’s compositional style,concluding with Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. On 31 January, the Orchestra is directed by composer and conductor Ryan Wigglesworth for a programme of music by living composers selected by Huw, including John Woolrich’s Oboe concerto which is performed by Nick Daniel.
As part of the 90th anniversary celebrations at BBC Hoddinott Hall, the Orchestra looks back at works that have been commissioned for BBC NOW over the years. The two concerts [21 February and 28 March], which will each feature a new commission, will also include music by former Composers-in-Association, Michael Berkeley, Simon Holt and B Tommy Andersson, and former Composers-in-Residence, Guto Puw and Mark Bowden.
Tadaaki Otaka marks 30 years with BBC NOW
Conductor Laureate Tadaaki Otaka marks 30 years with the Orchestra this season, as well as celebrating his 70th birthday in two Elgar focused concerts in December. For the first concert, at St David’s Hall [7 December], the centrepiece is Elgar’s Cello Concerto given by Steven Isserlis. The programme also features Takemitsu’s luminous poem, Twill by Twilight, and Rachmaninov’s second symphony. Otaka returns to conduct an all-Elgar programme with soloist mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers at BBC Hoddinott Hall [11 December]. The concert opens with Cockaigne and Sea Pictures. The programme also includes the composer’s Serenade for Strings andIn the South.
BBC NOW joins forces with arts organisations across Wales for Russia 17, a series marking the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The events capture the social and cultural explosion of the era and explore Wales’ connections with Russia. At St David’s Hall [12 October], Mosolov’s dramatic ballet score, Iron Foundry, gives life to fearsome machines and the indomitable spirit of the workers of the Russian Revolution. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 (The Year 1917) follows suit with an unusually patriotic depiction of Lenin’s life, commissioned by the party to honour the revolution and Igor Levit joins BBC NOW and Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor).
BBC NOW performs Shostakovich’s symphonic poem October, at BBC Hoddinott Hall [20 October] which was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. A work that is at once both patriotic and subversive, in which Shostakovich quotes material from works composed whilst he was condemned by the party. In a programme of symphonic poems also including music by Liszt, Mussorgsky and Scriabin, baritone and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Ashley Riches joins the orchestra with conductor Robert Sparno. The Orchestra collaborates with the National Dance Company Wales for a performance of P.A.R.A.D.E at Wales Millennium Centre [24 & 25 October] and Pontio, Bangor [28 & 29 October]. Erik Satie’s pioneering score for a reimagined version of the Ballets Russes’Parade features a typewriter, foghorn and mop! In a performance that begins with outdoor artistry before the audience is taken through to the stage; dancers, musicians, artists and a renegade aerial robot unite for a revolutionary dance experience.
The Orchestra is joined by trombone player, the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician Competition and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, Peter Moore with conductor Kazuki Yamada in a programme exploring the theme of nature [29 September]. Featuring Franck’s Ce qu'on entend a la montagne, Takemitsu’s Fantasma Cantos II, Milhaud’s Concerto d'hiver, d'Indy’s Jour d'ete a la montagne and Honegger’s Pastorale d'ete.
The Orchestra are conducted by Otto Tausk and joined by BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, soprano Fatma Said [3 November] for a programme including Smetana’s Vltava, the second of six tone poems written by the composer in homage to his homeland, Liszt’s Hungari, Janacek’s The Danube and Song to the Moon, the most popular excerpt from Dvořák’s Rusalka. The programme also features four songs by Strauss: Zueignung; Allerseelen; Morgen and Cäcilie.
The Orchestra and Chorus are joined by award-winning singer, and BBC Radio 2 presenter, Clare Teal and conductor Gavin Sutherland, for Christmas Celebrations at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea [14 December] and St David’s Hall, Cardiff [15 December] with a programme of festive favourites and jazz classics.
BBC NOW welcomes back former Principal Guest Conductors Jac van Steen and Joseph Swensen as part of the celebrations. Debussy’s La Mer forms the centrepiece at St David’s Hall [23 March] conducted by Jac van Steen with Women of BBC National Chorus of Wales and Steven Osborne joins the orchestra for a performance of Mozart’s last Piano Concerto - No. 27. Joseph Swensen leads the Orchestra in a Bach focused programme at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea [4 May] featuring Mahan Esfahani’s arrangement of Concerto for keyboard in D minor performed by the pianist himself, Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.
BBC NOW presents Bernstein's glittering music for the stage at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea [15 June], joining the celebrations for the composer’s centenary, with clarinettist Annelien Van Wauwe led by Eric Stern.