Saturday 29 September 2018 - Friday 24 May 2019
Opening the season with a big bang, the BBC SO joins forces with Professor Brian Cox and conductor Ben Gernon to take a fresh musical and visual look at Holst’s The Planets, 100 years since the celebrated work received its premiere. A number of key centenaries are marked, including the end of the First World War, the 1918 Representation of the People Act, the 100th anniversary of Polish Independence, and the 100th anniversary of the death of Debussy.
The BBC SO’s Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo leads the orchestra in performances of major works from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 to Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, and Dvořák’s Symphony No.7.
Total Immersion days explore the musical life and works of György Ligeti and the Boulanger sisters; and another marks the centenary of the end of the First World War
Continuing its commitment to new music, the BBC SO presents four world premieres, four UK premieres, as well as giving performances of recently composed works and spotlighting seldom performed works.
The BBC Symphony Chorus celebrate their 90th birthday throughout the 18/19 season with works including Ethel Smyth’s rarely performed Mass in D, J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor, and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ.
The BBC SO gave Ben Gernon – the recently appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic – his Barbican debut in its 17/18 season and the young conductor returns for a performance of Holst’s The Planets 100 years to the day since its premiere, in the opening concert of the season, presented by physicist, Professor Brian Cox (29 Sept). Music meets science in a fascinating visual and aural exploration of this much loved work.
In his sixth season as Chief Conductor, Sakari Oramo continues his acclaimed relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Last year saw Oramo lead an exceptional Sibelius cycle with the BBC SO, programmed to mark the centenary of Finnish Independence. This season sees him lead the orchestra in performances of key symphonic works including Shostakovich’s 9th symphony, Brahms’s 3rd symphony, and Dvořák’s 7th symphony. The season culminates on 24 May at the Barbican Hall with Oramo conducting Mahler’s 7th symphony and a new work by Thomas Larcher, a composer who will be championed throughout the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s 18/19 season with performances of three of his works, two of which receive their UK premieres.
BBC SO Conductor Laureate, Sir Andrew Davis conducts the UK premiere of Alain Altinoglu’s arrangement of a suite from Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, marking 100 years since Debussy’s death, alongside Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Tippett’s The Rose Lake (17 Apr); Davis remains one of the key Tippett interpreters of our time. As part of a mini series of Shostakovich symphonies, the BBC SO Günter Wand Conducting Chair, Semyon Bychkov returns to the orchestra with the composer’s 11th symphony (10 Apr), and former Principal Guest Conductor, David Robertson conducts his 1st (15 May); across the season symphonies No. 1, 4, and 5 will also be performed.
Other conductors to join the BBC SO in 18/19 include: Cristian Măcelaru for a concert of Beethoven and Bates (5 Oct); Michał Nesterowicz for a programme entirely devoted to the centenary of Polish Independence (2 Nov); Ryan Wigglesworth for a concert to conclude Total Immersion: In Remembrance World War I (10 Nov); Alexander Vedernikov with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4 (13 Feb); Joana Carneiro with Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana (UK premiere) and John Adams’ Naïve and Sentimental Music (11 May); and James Gaffigan for Total Immersion: Lili and Nadia Boulanger (6 Apr). Elsewhere, Lothar Koenigs (18 Jan) makes his second appearance with the BBC SO and - following her BBC SO debut at the BBC Proms last year - Karina Canellakis also returns for a second time, this year bringing her acclaimed interpretations of Beethoven to the 18/19 season with the composer’s 7th symphony (8 Feb).
Paul Hughes, General Manager, BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers, said: “Opening with Professor Brian Cox and Ben Gernon presenting Holst’s The Planets on the centenary of the work’s premiere and closing with Sakari Oramo conducting Mahler’s monumental Seventh symphony, by way of the world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Last Man Standing - commissioned by the BBC as part of our wider look at the centenary of the end of the First World War - to Mark Anthony Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie with an outstanding all-British cast, this season is punctuated with many ground-breaking projects and commissions that have become the hallmark of our work. The BBCSO and Sakari are proud to present a season of different, distinctive, unexpected and unforgettable journeys through music and we look forward to you joining us and sharing the experience”.
Total Immersion days
The BBC SO’s critically acclaimed series of Total Immersion days return with concerts, films and events exploring the musical life and works of some of the greatest composers of our time. The 18/19 season will see an examination of the music of György Ligeti (2 Mar) and Lili and Nadia Boulanger (6 Apr) in two composer-based Total Immersion days. The third, and a first for the BBC SO, will take a major cultural and political moment in history as its focus; Total Immersion: In Remembrance World War I (10 Nov).
As the BBC SO embarks on a day-long exploration of the cultural legacy of the ‘Great War’ and how it is understood and interpreted today, the first Total Immersion day of the 18/19 season, ‘In Remembrance World War 1’ (10 Nov) will feature a performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie – based on a play about the First World War written by Seán O’Casey – and David Lang’s Memorial Ground, performed in the Barbican foyers with members of the BBC Symphony Chorus and community choirs. Conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, this concluding concert will see an array of distinguished soloists including Sally Matthews and Sir John Tomlinson; young people from Finchley Children’s Music Group will lend their voices.
In the second Total Immersion day of the season (2 Mar), the BBC SO will celebrate the works of György Ligeti, a Hungarian-Austrian composer who had an instrumental role in shaping contemporary classic music in the latter half of the twenty-first century. The day will see Chief Conductor Sofi Jeannin lead the BBC Singers in an exploration of Ligeti’s choral music including Lux Aeterna (1996), a piece for 16-part mixed choir; and Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo will join the BBC SO on stage to re-examine Ligeti’s orchestral pieces.
To conclude the season, Total Immersion: Lili and Nadia Boulanger (6 Apr) includes a concert of chamber music by Nadia and Lili Boulanger delivered by Guildhall School of Music and Drama musicians at Milton Court before a choral programme from the BBC Singers provides the perfect prelude to a concert conducted by James Gaffigan in the Barbican Hall. Here, a number of the two women’s orchestral works will be placed side-by-side and pianist Alexandra Dariescu will make her BBC SO debut. Through this day of film, concerts and conversation, the characters of these two sibling composers will be revealed.
Remembering World War 1
Alongside the dedicated Total Immersion day on 10 November to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, a number of other projects throughout the 18/19 season will continue to mark this anniversary.
On 11 November, the BBC Singers and their new Chief Conductor Sofi Jeannin perform two new contemplative works: a Barbican and RIAS Kammerchor co-commission by baritone-turned-composer, Roderick Williams, this year’s Milton Court Artist-in-Residence; and, to coincide with the centenary of Wilfred Owen’s death, Bob Chilcott’s setting Move him into the sun.
On 30 November, Martyn Brabbins joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra to lead an all-English programme including the BBC commission and world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s new work Last Man Standing, a piece based on WW1 texts. Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor that completes this programme comes as part of an ongoing cycle of his symphonies recorded and performed by the BBC SO with Brabbins; and Arnold Bax’s November Woods will be heard - a piece suitably timed not only for the month for which its programmed, but the month the ‘Great War’ came to an end.
Mass settings & Choral Works
In the year that marks 100 years since the successful Parliamentary appeal for universal suffrage, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D (15 Nov), commemorating a composer who was herself a key member of the women’s suffrage movement. Alongside this, the BBC SC joins the BBC SO for performances of Osvlado Golijov’s Oceana conducted by Joana Carneiro and featuring Nora Fischer (11 May), Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ conducted by Edward Gardner with a cast including Karen Cargill (17 Dec), and J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor (2 Feb). Conducted by John Butt and featuring Sophie and Mary Bevan, Bach’s B minor Mass was last performed by the BBC SC during their 50th anniversary celebrations; it seems fitting to revive this pioneering choral work 40 years later in this, their 90th birthday year.
The BBC Singers return to Milton Court for a series of four concerts, two of which include partnerships with the Academy of Ancient Music. The first, a programme of works by Lully and Rameau (19 Oct), will be conducted by Sofi Jeannin and supported by the Aakash Odera Company as music is matched to dance in a unique interpretation of these choral works. The second, a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt (10 May), will feature vocal group Arcangelo and their director, Jonathan Cohen alongside the BBC Singers. Elsewhere, the BBC Singers continue the underlying strand of Mass settings programmed for the BBC SC’s 90th birthday celebrations with a performance of Stravinsky’s Mass, as part of a concert which comprises one in three events in an early-evening series, ‘Singers at Six’, hosted by St Giles’, Cripplegate to complement the BBC SO’s programme that follows in the Barbican Hall.
The voice plays an important role elsewhere in the BBC SO’s season with performances of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Stuart Skelton and Elisabeth Kulman (22 Feb), and Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs featuring soprano Dorothea Röschmann (7 Dec).
The BBC SO is delighted to welcome a number of well-known and admired voices this season including Ashley Riches, Marcus Farnsworth, Louise Alder, Claire Booth, Charles Rice, Susan Bickley, Mark Le Brocq, Anthony Gregory, Lucy Crowe, Catriona Morison, Alex Potter, Ben Johnson, Duncan Rock, Robert Murray, Laurent Naouri, Samuel Boden and Edward Grint.
New Music & little know works
Alongside four world and four UK premieres this season, including Richard Causton’s Ik Zeg Nu, Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Last Man Standing, Thomas Larcher’s Alle Tage, and a new work by Pawel Szymanski, the BBC SO will also perform works by living composers including Peteris Vasks, Raymond Yiu and John Adams. They will champion seldom performed symphonies and concertos such as Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande, Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 1, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, while Stravinsky’s recently discovered Funeral Song, Op. 5 will be performed (3 May) following its world premiere earlier this year.
Joining the BBC SO
A world-class array of soloists will join the BBC SO on stage this season to perform a rich and varied selection of repertoire. In a season punctuated by some of the best-loved violin and piano concerti, Barbican audiences will hear James Ehnes perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (18 Jan), Augustin Hadelich with Ligeti’s Violin Concerto (2 Mar), Lisa Batiashvili with Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (17 Apr), Nicola Benedetti performing Elgar’s Concerto for Violin (26 Apr), and Igor Yuzefovich with Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (3 May). Paderewski’s Piano Concerto Op. 17 will be performed by Janina Fialkowska in all all-Polish programme to commemorate the centenary of Polish Independence (2 Nov) and the original version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 will be brought to life by BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist alumni, Pavel Kolesnikov (15 Nov).
Elsewhere, three Principal members of the BBC SO step forward as instrumental soloists, including a concert featuring the world premiere of Gavin Higgins’ Trombone Concerto performed by BBC SO Principal Trombonist Helen Vollam and Britten’s Serenade for Tenor and Horn performed by BBC SO Principal Hornist Martin Owen.