The BBC Philharmonic announces its 2017/18 season at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, presenting a powerful blend of important, established repertoire and new music from leading creative visionaries.
“This season brings powerful extremes – juxtaposing celebrations of nature, creation and love with explorations of turbulent political times, oppression and the anguish of death and loss. Together, this presents us with a rich palette of contrasts that reflects the vital complexity of our existence.” Juanjo Mena, Chief Conductor, BBC Philharmonic
Alongside celebrated repertoire by Mahler, Beethoven, Janáček, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams, the orchestra will perform two new commissions. On 21 April Leonard Elschenbroich gives the world premiere of BBC Philharmonic Composer in Association Mark Simpson’s Cello Concerto, three years after Simpson’s critically acclaimed The Immortal. A new symphony by Arlene Sierra is premiered on 25 November. The season includes the UK premieres of Rodion Shchedrin’s Dialogues with Shostakovich, George Walker’s Lilacs, Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour and Wolfgang Rihm’s Horn Concerto. Programmes will also explore repertoire by Schuller, Antheil, Simon Holt, Sally Beamish, Ginastera, Albeniz and Falla.
Reinforcing the BBC Philharmonic’s commitment to new music, almost half of the concerts contain a world or UK premiere. The orchestra brings this spirit of adventure to audiences in the unrivalled acoustic of Bridgewater Hall and across the BBC, worldwide, as a broadcasting orchestra. Across the season the orchestra welcomes some of today’s most established and exciting musicians, from conductors, Nicholas Collon, Sir Andrew Davis, Edward Gardner, Vassily Sinaisky, John Wilson and Simone Young, to international soloists including Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Renaud Capuçon, Colin Currie, Peter Donohoe, James Ehnes, Alban Gerhardt, Richard Goode, Soile Isokoski, Tasmin Little, and Kathryn Stott. It is the first season with John Storgårds as Chief Guest Conductor and Ben Gernon as Principal Guest Conductor.
Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic open the season on Sunday 24 September with Mahler’s immense Third Symphony, for which the orchestra is joined by the ladies of BBC National Chorus of Wales and choristers from Gloucester Cathedral.
John Storgårds appears as both conductor and violinist on 6 October, when Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14. Both works are on an intimate scale - stark, devastating explorations of death that also serve as reminders of the beauty of life. Nicholas Collon conducts Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on 21 October in a programme including Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. American-born composer Arlene Sierra draws inspiration from subjects as diverse as game theory and Darwinian evolution and her Nature Symphony receives its world premiere under Ludovic Morlot on 25 November. Dialogues with Shostakovich by Rodion Shchedrin was premiered in 2001, and receives its UK premiere on 9 December under Juanjo Mena in a programme including Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 and Symphony No 15. The work is the result of the friendship that began in 1941, between the nine-year-old Shchedrin and the composer he admired, and continued until Shostakovich’s death in 1975. An exploration of America through the lens of the familiar and the new is led by John Storgårds on 10 February. Pivoting around the familiar sound-world of Gershwin are Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, Ives’s Central Park in the Dark and Antheil’s mechanistic and irreverently-ragtime Sixth Symphony. This concert includes the long-overdue UK premiere of George Walker’s Lilacs, setting Walt Whitman’s elegy to President Lincoln. Walker became the first African-American winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music with this piece in 1996.
Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour is another UK premiere, performed under the baton of Ben Gernon in his first Bridgewater Hall concert in his new official role with the BBC Philharmonic. The nocturnal miniature is performed with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 20, with soloist Richard Goode, and Mahler’s Symphony No 1. Gernon returns on 12 May to conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 and the UK premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Horn Concerto, performed by Berlin Philharmonic Principal Horn, Stefan Dohr.
The season includes a number of significant contemporary concertos. On 4 November two Beethoven-inspired works by living composers are conducted by Simone Young. Soloist Jonathan Biss commissioned Sally Beamish to write her Piano Concerto No. 3 ‘City Stanzas’, premiered in January 2017, as part of his Beethoven/5 project and it is performed alongside Brett Dean’s Testament, re-imagining Beethoven’s frustration with deafness. Colin Currie performs Simon Holt’s kinetic percussion concerto a table of noises on 17 February in a programme with Mahler’s Symphony No 7. Juanjo Mena conducts Ginastera’s ballet Panambi, which the orchestra has recorded for Chandos, on 14 April with another rarity in the concert hall, Tchaikovsky’s The Voyevoda, and Alban Gerhardt performs Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No 2. On 9 June, for his final Bridgewater Hall concert as Chief Conductor, Mena brings an all-Spanish programme of Albeniz and another rare treat, a concert performance of Falla’s one-hour opera La Vida Breve.
Simon Webb, General Manager of the BBC Philharmonic says: “This is a particularly personal and significant season for us as we say goodbye to Juanjo Mena after seven exciting seasons together and welcome John Storgårds and Ben Gernon in their new roles. In January, we announced Ben as our Principal Guest Conductor, a decision based on the unanimously positive reaction of both the orchestra and our audiences. A unique and brilliant young British talent, his brilliance as a conductor make him the perfect match for the BBC Philharmonic’s bold and adventurous music-making. John Storgårds continues his eclectic programming, exploring repertoire often less well-known including the music of George Walker and George Antheil. We are very excited to launch our new Bridgewater Hall season and to be bringing such remarkable musicians to play with us for Manchester audiences.”