THSH preview


by Christopher Morley

During the week she was an undergraduate at Birmingham Conservatoire (and a student of mine); at weekends she went back home to Nottingham where she worked as a midwife. Now Catherine Foster is one of the world's most sought-after Wagnerian sopranos, frequently performing at the composer's own Bayreuth Festival Theatre.
And she returns to Birmingham next March 21, singing Richard Strauss' gruelling Elektra in a concert-performance of the one-act opera with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (who a couple of years ago gave us a compelling Strauss Salome, under the same conductor, Kirill Karabits).
Other notable returnees coming back to Birmingham during the forthcoming Town Hall Symphony Hall concert season, just announced, include Sir Simon Rattle revisiting the world-renowned hall he virtually built himself, conducting his London Symphony Orchestra in a mouthwatering programme of Berg and Beethoven (January 14), and Sakari Oramo, Rattle's successor at the CBSO, bringing the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with Prokofiev's meltingly gorgeous Second Violin Concerto (Nicola Benedetti the soloist) and Sibelius' Second Symphony (April 25)..
The new season's brochure has the most vibrant cover I've seen for many years, highlighting saxophonist Jess Gillam and the logo of the exciting new Scala Radio, media partners to THSH. At the age of just 17 Jess became the first-ever saxophonist winner of the BBC Young Musician woodwind final, and has since become a vibrant presence on the airwaves as well as onstage. She hits Birmingham Town Hall with a recital on March 12.
Another starry winner of BBC Young Musician is the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who literally wowed the world at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who has become such an advocate of providing musical opportunities for young people, and who performs a recital at Symphony Hall on July 18 next year, accompanied by his sister Isata.
I'm sure the great organist Thomas Trotter will not mind being described as slightly more advanced in years than Jess Gillam and Sheku Kanneh-Mason put together, marking on February 10 his 800th recital when he gives a programme ranging from Bach to his own arrangement of Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice (I can already imagine those wispily mysterious opening sounds), on the Symphony Hall organ which he did so much to bring into the world, partly in his capacity as Birmingham City Organist -- a position he has held since the mists of time (rather like me writing for the Birmingham Post).
Other visiting recitalists include guitarist Milos Karadaglic, spanning Bach to the Beatles at Birmingham Town Hall on January 21, the charismatic harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani at the Town Hall on February 22, accordionist Joao Barradas at Symphony Hall on May 14, and yet another BBC Young Musician winner, Royal Birmingham Junior Conservatoire's own Lauren Zhang, playing piano works by Schubert, Liszt and Ravel at the Town Hall on June 27.
The whole season begins with a concert from the recently-formed Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra, when Jan Latham Konig conducts Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (so saltily redolent of the Aldeburgh seascape), Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (soloist, Pavel Kolesnikov), excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Shostakovich's Hamlet incidental music, and ending spectacularly with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (Symphony Hall, September 17).
Yuri Simonov conducts the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in Shostakovich's painfully self-portraiting Tenth Symphony on October 15, Alexandra Dariescu the soloist in Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto; there is a generously rich programme from the Orchestre National de Lille, Alexandre Bloch conducting, on January 28, when Leeds International Piano Competition winner Eric Lu is the soloist in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, flanked, no less, by the cornucopia of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and La Valse, as well as Debussy's La Mer: and on February 11 Symphony Hall can look forward to a visit from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, with Yan Pascal Tortelier conducting Sibelius' First Symphony and Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet the soloist.
There are many other orchestral concerts to savour, but I'd like to end with a few other nuggets from this promised goldmine.
Classical Opera brings Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte to Birmingham Town Hall on November 8, with the soaring star baritone Benjamin Appl among the soloists; Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducts Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in an all-Varese programme (how refreshing to hear a contemporary composer who has already stood the test of time, and whose works have achieved more than just a one-off premiere) in Birmingham Town Hall on May 4, and Simon Halsey brings his Cor Jove de l'Orfeo Catala together with the University of Birmingham Voices, Thomas Trotter at the organ, for a fascinatingly mixed programme including the Durufle Requiem and Elgar's Give Unto the Lord.
And there is a wonderful offer attached to the entire THSH season: Kids go Free! Any child under the age of 16 gets one free ticket with every adult ticket purchased. That's what I call excellent outreach.
Christopher Morley
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