The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is about to bring live classical music back to audiences in Birmingham. Following months of closure as a result of the Covid pandemic, the CBSO Centre will host a brand-new series of chamber music concerts for socially distanced audiences every Friday, starting from next week. The first public performance follows two trial concerts to ensure the best possible audience experience.

Live at the Centre will feature mid-sized ensembles from the CBSO, performing repertoire that is rarely played live, at the Justham Auditorium in the CBSO Centre. In the midst of the orchestra’s centenary celebrations and programmed by the musicians themselves, the theme of these first concerts – A Toast to the Twenties – celebrates music from the era of when the CBSO began.

The first pair of concerts – Octets of the 20s – take place on Friday 16 October (at 1pm and 5:30pm). CBSO Associate Conductor Michael Seal conducts music by Shostakovich, Varèse and a brand-new commission by Grace Evangeline Mason whose World Premiere was sadly cancelled earlier in the year. Forthcoming concerts will include works from the 1920s by Holst, Janáček, Prokofiev and Fauré as well as a tribute to Beethoven, in the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Tickets cost £15 and will be made available on the CBSO website a week in advance for each concert.  Tickets for the 16 October concerts will go on sale at noon today.

In a time of huge uncertainty and change in the world, the CBSO’s plans to celebrate its centenary in 2020 have had to change significantly, however the orchestra continues its mission to bring the best classical music to its audiences in Birmingham and around the world.  On 5 September, the orchestra marked its 100th birthday with a landmark celebration led by former Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, streamed from a warehouse in Longbridge. In less than a month the performance has received over 175,000 views worldwide. Live at the Centre marks the CBSO’s first steps back toward concerts for a live audience, with the hope to return to the orchestra’s symphonic home at Symphony Hall later this autumn for some larger-scale concerts.

At this week’s Gramophone Awards, the CBSO and its Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla were awarded the much-coveted Recording of the Year. The Award was presented for their debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon of Mieczysław Weinberg’s Symphonies Nos 2 & 21, with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica.

Friday 16 October – CBSO Centre

Octets of the 20s

In 1924, when the City of Birmingham Orchestra was looking for a new conductor, the job was nearly given to Eugene Goossens. 96 years later, here’s what could have been: Goossens’s ebullient and very English Concertino is just part of a concert that proves that when you put eight musicians together, you get ten times the fun. Stravinsky and Shostakovich channel the spirit of the age: bracing, brilliant, and often outrageous. Edgard Varèse takes seven wind instruments (plus a bass) and creates sounds that no-one had ever imagined. But none of these composers ever stood still, so the CBSO is looking to the future too, with a world premiere by Grace-Evangeline Mason, one of its 20 Centenary Commissions.


Varèse Octandre

Goossens ‘Concertino’ String Octet

Grace-Evangeline Mason My Thoughts Fly In At Your Window (CBSO Centenary Commission: World Premiere)

Shostakovich Two Pieces for String Octet 

Stravinsky Octet

Conductor – Michael Seal

Keeping audiences safe:

Support your CBSO: