“The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
knows it struck gold when it signed up Andris Nelsons as music director when
it did. More or less unknown in western Europe then, Nelsons is now one of the
hottest properties in the conducting world.”
The Guardian – September 2011
Made in Birmingham
Sir Edward Elgar conducted the inaugural concert of the City of Birmingham Orchestra in November 1920. Over the nine decades since, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has grown into a 90-piece ensemble with a worldwide reputation - but one rooted firmly in the City of Birmingham.
Under the direction of such conductors as Adrian Boult, Andrzej Panufnik and Louis Frémaux, the Orchestra's reputation grew steadily. But it was the 18-year leadership of Sir Simon Rattle that truly put the CBSO - and Birmingham - on the international musical map. Since his departure in 1998, the CBSO has continued to flourish and grow, first under the baton of Sakari Oramo and since September 2008 under the charismatic young Latvian Andris Nelsons. Nelsons now leads an outstanding artistic team which includes principal guest conductor Edward Gardner, associate conductor Michael Seal, and chorus director Simon Halsey.
As the resident orchestra of Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the CBSO has a wide reaching programme of music ranging from Beethoven to Bollywood, symphonic and contemporary classical, as well as a lighter series of Friday Night classics, and concerts that the whole family can enjoy. It works with some of the best artists such as Jonas Kaufmann, Mitsuko Uchida and Ian Bostridge, alongside up-and-coming talents and even personalities such as Sue Perkins and Alan Titchmarsh.
A Worldwide Reputation
In recent seasons, the Orchestra has given performances in many of the most prestigious European concert halls and festivals. The Orchestra toured Germany and Switzerland in the Summer of 2013, and has just returned from a prestigious seven-concert tour of Japan and Taiwan with music director Andris Nelsons, and soloists Hilary Hahn and Hélène Grimaud.
The Orchestra also continues to extend its sizeable discography, working with several leading record labels. Under Sir Simon Rattle and Sakari Oramo, the Orchestra made numerous award-winning recordings: its disc of Saint-Saëns' Piano Concertos with soloist Stephen Hough won both the 2002 Gramophone Record of the Year award, and Gramophone's prestigious Gold Disc 2008 for most popular recording of the past 30 years. In June 2009 the CBSO's first CD with music director Andris Nelsons was released, heralding the start of an ongoing relationship with the German label Orfeo. Several discs have been released so far, featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Richard Strauss and several more are due for release this year.
In the Community
The CBSO's learning and participation work reaches over 35,000 people each year in diverse communities across the West Midlands, and ranges from projects bringing music to nurseries in disadvantaged areas of the city, to work developing the next generation of talented young musicians.
The CBSO family also includes the CBSO Chorus; two auditioned choirs for young people, the CBSO Children's and Youth Choruses; three unauditioned community choirs,two adult choirs CBSO SO Vocal in Selly Oak and Handsworth Community Choir, and CBSO Young Voices in partnership with Birmingham Music Service. All are regularly in demand to perform with the CBSO and other leading orchestras and musical groups both in the UK and beyond.
CBSO Centre, situated on Berkley Street, doubles as the administrative and rehearsal base for the Orchestra and Choruses and is also a friendly and adaptable performance space. The bustling Centre often hosts relaxed concerts by CBSO musicians and invited guest artists as part of CBSO Centre Stage and also as part of the CBSO's 'toddler friendly' Notelets.
The Centre is also the administrative home of Ex Cathedra and for the internationally-renowned Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) which is based and performs there. Also hosting regular concerts by Jazzlines, the Centre is adaptable for performance-led or everyday events such as weddings, conferences and fashion shows.