• Kazuki Yamada given new title of Music Director to reflect his ever-deepening relationship with the CBSO
  • Guest artists include Jamie Barton, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isabelle Faust, Edward Gardner, Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla, Jonathan Heyward, Sir Stephen Hough, Leila Josefowicz, Miloš, Soweto Kinch, and Nicky Spence
  • CBSO strengthens its role as Birmingham’s orchestra with a new Community Board and free week-long festival: CBSO in the City
  • Five premieres including the world premiere of Héloïse Werner’s work for orchestra and soprano, performed by the composer herself
  • A new series presents performances that push the boundaries of concert presentation: CBSO Explores
  • Former Principal Guest Conductor, Sir Mark Elder, makes a welcome return after more than 20 years
  • Two new Creative Associates bring new thinking and approaches to the orchestra’s work

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) today reveals its 2024-25 Season, continuing its commitment to presenting exceptional musical experiences in a way that brings connection, inspiration and joy to the people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and beyond.

Across more than 100 performances, the CBSO journeys from the greatest orchestral masterpieces at Symphony Hall to fun-filled interactive concerts for all the family, and from new music by today’s most important composers to performances at Birmingham’s Bullring and New Street Station – showcasing the incredible range and talent of the orchestra through diversity of programming, in a Season that places CBSO musicians in the spotlight as well as welcoming a host of world-renowned guest artists and conductors.

The orchestra also strengthens its mission to reach new audiences across the West Midlands and beyond with an ambition to embed itself even further into the cultural life of the city. 

Emma Stenning, Chief Executive, CBSO, says: ‘I’m so proud of this season. It speaks to the future of this remarkable orchestra, puts the brilliant Kazuki Yamada at the heart of our music making, and solidifies our commitment to being an ensemble that truly explores both the creative potential of our glorious city, and the opportunity of creating work in new ways, that will speak to more people.

There are an abundance of classical masterpieces and brilliant creative collaborations, alongside moments when the orchestra will try something genuinely new, for those who would like to adventure with us. At the core of it all, is a sense of joy and welcome, and a promise that wonderful music is for everyone. We can’t wait to share it all with you.’

Kazuki Yamada

Today, Kazuki Yamada takes up the new title of Music Director, reflecting his ever-deepening relationship with the orchestra and increasing involvement in programming and creative decision-making.

Yamada leads 22 concerts in Birmingham across the 2024-25 season, from performances of landmark classical works to appearances with the CBSO Youth Orchestra, at the CBSO’s annual Schools’ Concerts, and at Hockley Social Club, as well as working with Shireland CBSO Academy, the UK’s first school run in collaboration with an orchestra which opened in September 2023.

A highlight of Yamada’s season will be an exploration of Ninth Symphonies, including the last symphonies of Mahler, Bruckner, Dvořák and Beethoven. The focus launches with Beethoven’s dazzling ‘Choral’Symphony, showcasing the full-force of the CBSO Chorus alongside soprano Lucy Crowe, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, tenor Nicky Spence and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu (19 September); in the year that marks Bruckner’s 200th birthday, Yamada leads his Symphony No.9, a work which famously remained unfinished at his death (12 December); Dvořák’s 9th Symphony – his ‘New World’ symphony – is at the heart of two Yamada-led concerts, the first in a programme that also features music by Villa Lobos and Mendelssohn (14 February) and the second a deep-dive into the history and context of the work in a collaboration with Black Voices (15 February); and Mahler’s Symphony No.9 sits in a concert of two works both triggered by loss and grief – alongside Takemitsu’s Requiem (10 April).

Yamada also joins the CBSO Youth Orchestra for a performance of Mendelssohn’s ‘Reformation’ Symphony alongside music by the composer’s sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, and Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, performed by YCAT Artist and one of Classic FM’s Rising Stars of 2024, violinist Hana Chang (3 November).

Further highlights of Yamada’s season include: a celebration of the music and heritage of Spanish music with renowned Montenegrin guitarist Miloš (30 October); a host of violin concertos with starry soloists, including Shostakovich’s No.2 with Isabelle Faust (5 February) and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Suyoen Kim (14 February), plus a concert that places the CBSO’s leader Eugene Tzikindelean in the spotlight as the soloist in Elgar’s Violin Concerto (4 December); Haydn’s mighty oratorio – The Creation – with the CBSO Chorus (26 February); Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No1 with soloist Kian Soltani (1 May) and the composer’s famous Organ Symphony performed by Sabastian Heindl (4 June); before closing the season with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2 performed by Hisako Kawamura (18 June) and Elgar’s Cello Concerto by the CBSO’s close musical friend Sheku Kanneh-Mason (19 June). Yamada also leads the orchestra on tours to Europe and Japan during the 2024-25 Season. 

Kazuki Yamada, Music Director, CBSO, says: “I am very excited to announce the contents of our new season, which will be very fulfilling. As Music Director, I have renewed my determination to participate more actively in the CBSO’s various activities than ever before.

The CBSO is like a big family. While the orchestra is at the core, our ideal is to involve the entire city in an exciting way through music, including choral activities, educational activities, and collaborations with other fields. I hope that the CBSO can play a central role in raising the quality and level of cultural activities in Birmingham, and we want everyone to feel that they can join our family at any time.

For me, the CBSO is a miraculous reality. Our special relationship of trust allows us to create magical moments with our audience at every concert. And new bonds can be created. At its core, music is about having fun and connecting with people – and we want to share music and have fun with as many people as possible.”

The CBSO is proud to be Birmingham’s Orchestra

The CBSO continues its work to develop deeper and more meaningful connections with the city it calls home – building relationships and encouraging dialogue that will ensure the orchestra continues to be an inspiring presence that is relevant to as many people as possible. 

For a week in August 2024, the CBSO and Kazuki Yamada will be out and about in Birmingham, filling the city with music. CBSO in the City (26 – 31 August) will see the orchestra present free performances in unexpected locations including the Bullring, Grand Central, The Hawthorns (home of West Bromwich Albion FC) and New Street Station, as well as a host of libraries, community centres, museums, parks, pubs and more. The programme will include shows for families across a huge range of spaces, as well as performances for those living with dementia alongside their carers, family and friends.

The CBSO’s programming increasingly recognises the cultural make-up of Birmingham, with performances that explore collaborations with the many other non-classical musical genres which reflect the city: Soweto Kinch’s White Juju fuses electronic hip-hop, jazz and rap, and was inspired by a year of turbulent racial politics, culture wars and the pandemic (20 October); Singer and Kora-player Seckou Keita puts his instrument in the spotlight in a performance of African Rhapsodies (27 November): a CBSO Explores programme in collaboration with Punch Records brings together a host of Birmingham-born artists working across the grime, hip-hop and rap scenes (12 April); Birmingham legends ELO are celebrated in a concert conducted by Richard Balcome and featuring the CBSO Chorus (8 March); an evening of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, given a new twist by local saxophonist Xhosa Cole (20 March); the CBSO’s long relationship with Sampad Arts continues with a concert of best-loved Bollywood songs, performed by a host of incredible vocalists and conducted by Michael Seal (30 May); and the CBSO’s collaboration with the Orchestral Qawwali Project returns for the second year, written and directed by critically acclaimed composer Rushil Ranjan and featuring the soaring vocals of Abi Sampa in orchestral arrangements performed by the CBSO, CBSO Chorus and University of Birmingham Voices (19 July).

The CBSO today launches a new Community Board – a group designed to build connections with a diverse range of voices across Birmingham and help the orchestra to engage more proactively with communities in the region that are currently under-represented in classical music. The Community Board will meet with CBSO staff and musicians regularly throughout the year to discuss the orchestra’s work and ways in which it can be more relevant and impactful to communities across the West Midlands.

The CBSO’s current Community Board is: Aftab Rahman (Legacy West Midlands – Chair), CAS Thompson (Punch Records), Carol Pemberton (Black Voices), Kuldip Ubhi (Namdhari Sikh Sangat UK), Gurj Singh (Real Live Inc.), Mukhtar Dar (Kalaboration Arts), Fateha Begum (Independent Artist) and Shabana Qureshi (Women’s Wellbeing).

As a response to the challenging financial times the city is facing, the CBSO’s season will also feature offers and discounts for specifically Birmingham residents. This scheme will be launched before the season opens in September.

Guests, debuts and returning CBSO Conductors

The CBSO’s 2024-25 Season sees a host of close musical friends and collaborators take to the Symphony Hall stage, including two of the orchestra’s celebrated former named conductors.

Former Principal Guest Conductor, Sir Mark Elder, makes a welcome return to the CBSO after more than 20 years, with a programme that includes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.1 performed by Sir Stephen Hough, and Shostakovich’s dramatic Symphony No.6 (16 October). And the orchestra’s Associate Artist, Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla returns with music by the composer she championed while in her post as the CBSO’s Music Director – Weinberg’s fierce and powerful Symphony No.4, alongside Brahms’ Violin Concerto performed by Stephen Waarts (11 June). And former Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan returns for a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 (Pastoral) and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with mezzo soprano Karen Cargill and tenor Brenden Gunnell (6 March). 

The CBSO puts its own musicians firmly in the spotlight as soloists or instrumental sections in a series at Birmingham’s Town Hall, including Nikolaj Henriques in Weber’s Bassoon Concerto (28 July); the CBSO Wind and Brass mark the 200th anniversary of Bruckner (13 October); CBSO Leader Eugene Tzikindelean play/directs Bach’s Goldberg Variations with the CBSO Strings (10 November); the CBSO Winds are joined by oboist Nicholas Daniel who play/directs a concert featuring music by Anna Clyne and Mozart (26 January); and the CBSO’s Brass and Percussion sections present a programme featuring tangos by Jacob Grade and Piazzolla and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition conducted by Kazuki (2 March).

The CBSO Chorus is at the forefront of nine concerts in the 2024-25 Season, with highlights including Beethoven’s ‘Choral’Symphony (19 September); a programme of choral music by Judith Weir, Nico Muhly, Britten and Elgar conducted by Sofi Jeannin (20 November); the CBSO’s annual Christmas choral celebration, presented by Jess Gillam and conducted by Chorus Director Simon Halsey (19 & 20 December); Haydn’s The Creation (26 February); a celebration of Birmingham legends ELO (8 March); Poulenc’s Stabat Mater (16 April); and the Orchestral Qawwali Project (19 July).

Internationally renowned guest artists include pianists Paul LewisSteven Osborne and Sir Stephen Hough, tenor Nicky Spence, violinist Leila Josefowicz, guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, Artists making their CBSO debuts this season include mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and cellist Kian Soltani, while visiting conductors include Robert AmesKerem Hasan, Jonathan Heywood, Sofi JeanninKirill KarabitsAnna Rakitina and Dinis Sousa – also making their debuts – as well as Kora player Sekou Keita, and saxophonist Xhosa Cole

CBSO Explores

This season, the CBSO continues to explore new and exciting ways to present orchestral music through a new series – CBSO Explores. Across the season, there will be moments where the orchestra tries something different – be that through staging, movement and lighting, narrative or context, or simply through the music being played.

The CBSO Explores concerts are:

  • CBSO in the City (26 – 31 August): the orchestra takes great music out and about to the city and beyond, presenting performances in libraries, community centres, museums, parks and more.
  • CBSO Explores the CBSO Centre (15 December): a workshop with Kazuki Yamada, Tom Morris and the full orchestra, which invites audiences to be immersed in the orchestra, exploring the potential of the CBSO’s own building as a place of extraordinary performance.
  • CBSO Explores: FRIENDS IN LOVE AND WAR (11 January): an audio-visual experience in collaboration with Ikon Gallery and their exhibition of the same name, exploring the relationship through France and England through music by Satie and Debussy as well as the world premiere of a new work by French-born, London-based soprano and composer Héloïse Werner.
  • CBSO Explores the New World Symphony (15 February): a collaboration with Black Voices which invites audiences to take a deeper look at the music and poetry that inspired Dvořák’s 9th Symphony.
  • CBSO Explores: LEGACY with Punch Records (12 April): a showcase of the best music making that Birmingham has to offer. Connecting grime, hip-hop, rap and orchestral musicians to create incredible new work.
  • Family Concert: CBSO Explores Carnival of the Animals (8 June): an invitation for families to see inside the orchestra in a fun family concert produced by MishMash, bringing elements of freedom and movement to live performances for young audiences. 

New music

Continuing the CBSO’s commitment to championing the music of living composers, the orchestra presents five premieres in the 2024-25 Season; the world premiere of CBSO Commission siren suite for soprano and orchestra will be performed by its composer, Héloïse Werner, as part of a CBSO Explores concert responding to the theme of friendship through France and Britain (11 January); Mark Simpson places the CBSO’s Principal Trumpet, Jason Lewis, in the spotlight for the UK premiere of his Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra (25 September); the UK premiere of Nico Muhly’s Friday Afternoons inspired by Britten’s song cycle by the same name, inventively written for children and performed by the CBSO, CBSO Choruses and led by Sofi Jeannin (20 November); Akio Yashiro celebrates the full power of the CBSO in the UK premiere of his Symphony for Large Orchestra (5 February); and violinist Guy Braunstein combines the Beatles’ Abbey Road with the orchestra, in the UK premiere of his new concerto, under the baton of Eivind Gullberg (26 March). And Birmingham-based composer Millicent B James will present the premiere of her Come Show Them the River, created for the CBSO’s Sounds New project in 2023 and reworked here for the orchestra’s Youth Children’s Choruses.

Further Season Highlights

The music of the big and small screen is celebrated across the 2024-25 Season, including a new natural history immersive concert experience, with a screening of highlights from Netflix’s original documentary ‘Life on Our Planet’ with live orchestra (4 October); Top Gun: Maverick is shown on the big screen with Hans Zimmer’s epic score performed live-to-picture by the CBSO conducted by Ben Palmer (27 April); following the success of the CBSO’s explorations of the music of the FINAL FANTASY, conductor Eímear Noone and the CBSO Chorus present some of the most inspiring soundtracks written for video games (25 May); a night of Music at the Movies explores the soundtracks to films including Harry Potter, The Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean and more, conducted by Ben Parry (19 January); and some of the most recognisable themes in cinema history will be showcased in a special concert of music composed by John Williams (21 February).

The Orchestra’s Symphonic Sessions series continues into its fourth year – taking the orchestra out of the concert hall and presenting concerts in the informal atmosphere of the Hockley Social Club for a special Halloween-inspired programme (31 October). Further events to be announced.

Three Rush Hour concerts are presented at 6pm, designed for those looking for a short, post-work performance, which still provides the full force of the CBSO, complete with world-famous soloists and conductors in an informal setting with introductions from members of the orchestra. The three Rush Hour performances this year are: Brahms’ Symphony No.2 conducted by Thomas Søndergård (9 October); Elgar’s Violin Concerto with Eugene Tzikindelean conducted by Kazuki Yamada (3 December); and Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony with Sebastian Heindl, also conducted by Kazuki Yamada (3 June).

And away from the classics – Beatle Mania! comes to the Symphony Hall, with a West End International collaboration featuring a host of renowned singers conducted by Stuart Morley (25 October); and a night of music from the Musicals features conductor Michael England and a host of singers (31 January).

Creative Associates

The CBSO today announces two Creative Associates – MishMash Productions and Professor Nate Holder. The Creative Associates programme is a year-long collaboration between the orchestra and organisations and individuals making waves in the arts sector, with the aim of encouraging new thinking and different approaches that will bring new audiences to the CBSO’s work.

MishMash Productions, led by Artistic and Executive Director Liz Muge, will support the ongoing development of the CBSO’s work in communities and for young-audiences developing more theatrically-led programmes, as well as nurturing an audience focused, player-led approach, enabling more creative autonomy for the musicians at the centre of this work.

As part of the partnership, MishMash will collaborate with the CBSO on a Family Concert (8 June) that invites audiences aged 6+ to take a look inside the orchestra, getting to know the music and musicians through a varied programme of orchestral and chamber music chosen by the players themselves.

Professor Nate Holderwill support the orchestra’s ambition of further developing an anti-racist approach to work. The CBSO is in a prime position to be able to make a difference in this area, with a new Community Board to guide its work with local communities, programmes tackling the barriers to progression for under-represented classical musicians, a new series of concerts – CBSO Explores – which will challenge our assumptions about performance and music, and the Shireland CBSO Academy, a brand new state secondary school that places music at the heart of the national curriculum.

As part of the partnership, the CBSO will work with Nate to develop a Family Concert based on his book ‘WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK FEMALE COMPOSERS?’, which will showcase composers including Hannah Kendell, Edewede Oriwah and Birmingham’s own Millicent B James (16 March).

Children and Families

The CBSO is passionate about bringing music to audiences of all ages; the 2024-25 Season features more than 20 concerts for children and young people, including three Family Concerts designed to bring music alive to audiences young and old and inspire the next generation of musicians and audiences. Entertaining and informal, the CBSO Family Concerts are suitable for ages 6-11, and include Music from the Movies (24 November), Where are all the Black Female Composers (16 March), and CBSO Explores: Carnival of the Animals (8 June). 

The CBSO continues its ambition to make its performances as accessible as possible. The orchestra’s Relaxed concerts are specially designed for SEND pupils and Special Schools, while the Schools’ Concerts are designed to inspire children to explore the world of live music. All schools’ and family concerts are BSL interpreted. The range of activities for older people and those in care settings includes Cuppa Concerts, a series of relaxed, small-ensemble concerts.

An official partner of Classic FM

The CBSO is proud to continue its partnership with Classic FM, the UK’s most popular classical music station, as its Orchestra in the Midlands. Classic FM recommends a series of concerts throughout the season, including Kazuki & Miloš, Music from the Movies (Family Concert), Mendelssohn & Brahms, The Best of John Williams, Video Games in Concert and Classic FM Hall of Fame 2025, a definitive countdown of Britain’s favourite classical music, from Puccini’s Nessun Dorma to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz, conducted by Ben Palmer and presented by John Suchet.

BBC Radio 3 in Concert

The CBSO’s long-standing association with BBC Radio 3 continues throughout the 2024-25 season, with selected concerts being broadcast on Radio 3 in Concert.

Centre Stage, concerts at CBSO Centre

Centre Stage concerts at the CBSO Centre present an opportunity to see CBSO musicians in an informal setting across 15 concerts, featuring works ranging from baroque to the 21st century with links to the main CBSO programme. The concerts are programmed by the CBSO musicians themselves and features soloists and small ensembles from the orchestra. 

Full season details can be found at cbso.co.uk/season

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