Based in Symphony Hall, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gives over 130 concerts each year in Birmingham, the UK and around the world, playing music that ranges from classics to contemporary, film music and even symphonic disco. With a far-reaching community programme and a family of choruses and ensembles, it’s involved in every aspect of music-making in the Midlands. But at its centre is a team of 90 superb professional musicians, and a 96-year tradition of making the world’s greatest music, right here in the heart of Birmingham.
That local tradition started with the orchestra’s very first symphonic concert in 1920 – conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. Ever since then, through war, recessions, social change and civic renewal, the CBSO has been proud to be Birmingham’s orchestra. Under principal conductors including Adrian Boult, George Weldon, Andrzej Panufnik and Louis Frémaux, the CBSO won an artistic reputation that spread far beyond the Midlands. But it was when it discovered the young British conductor Simon Rattle in 1980 that the CBSO became internationally famous – and showed how the arts can help give a new sense of direction to a whole city.
Rattle’s successors Sakari Oramo (1998-2008) and Andris Nelsons (2008-2015) helped cement that global reputation, and continued to build on the CBSO’s tradition of flying the flag for Birmingham. As the only professional symphony orchestra based between Bournemouth and Manchester, the orchestra tours regularly in Britain – but it doesn’t stop there! A CBSO concert in Tokyo was voted as Japan’s best orchestral performance in 2013 in a poll of music critics. And its recordings continue to win acclaim. In 2008, the CBSO’s recording of Saint-Saëns’ complete piano concertos was named the best classical recording of the last 30 years by Gramophone.
Meanwhile, under the artistic leadership of principal guest conductor Edward Gardner, associate conductor Michael Seal and assistant conductor Alpesh Chauhan, the CBSO continued doing what it does best – playing great music for the people of Birmingham and the Midlands. The 2015-16 season ranges from Handel, Beethoven, Elgar and Mahler to opera and contemporary classical music - while popular Friday night shows and lively family concerts offer world-class music making for all tastes and all ages.
On 4 February 2016, the CBSO announced the appointment of Mirga Gra?inyt?-Tyla as its Music Director, with effect from September 2016. Her artistic plans with the CBSO will range widely from Mozart and Haydn to 20th century classics and works by living composers. Coming from the strong choral traditions of the Baltic states (her father is a choir conductor in Lithuania), and following her role as Music Director of the Salzburg Landestheater, she will also lead opera projects in Birmingham and will work closely with Simon Halsey CBE on projects with the CBSO’s internationally renowned choruses.
Vassily Sinaisky’s international career was launched in 1973 when he won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Karajan Competition in Berlin. His early work with Kirill Kondrashin at the Moscow Philharmonic and with Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatoire provided him with an incomparable grounding. Soon after his success at the Karajan Competition, Sinaisky was appointed Chief Conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, a post he held from 1976 to 1987. He then became Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic, leading numerous high-profile projects with the Orchestra both in Russia and on tour.
Sinaisky enjoys regular collaborations with such orchestras as the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Symphony, Stuttgart Radio Symphony and Czech Philharmonic. Recent seasons have also seen him conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and NHK Symphony, Tokyo.
Sinaisky holds the positions of Conductor Emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic and Honorary Conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Sweden. Memorable projects with the BBC Philharmonic have included the Shostakovich and his Heroes festival, tours to Europe and China, and many appearances at the BBC Proms. With the Malmö Symphony, Sinaisky has toured to the UK and to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and recorded an acclaimed four-disc series of the symphonies of Franz Schmidt. Sinaisky has also held the positions of Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic and Music Director of the Russian State Orchestra. From 2010 until 2013, Sinaisky held the position as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow and conducted acclaimed productions including Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel directed by Kirill Serebrennikov and Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier directed by Stephen Lawless (the first ever staging of this work in Moscow).
Sinaisky has a distinguished pedigree as an operatic conductor. He recently conducted Iolanta and Francesca da Rimini in new productions by Stephen Lawless at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. He also recently conducted Boris Godunov at San Francisco Opera. Other projects have included productions of Carmen and Der Rosenkavalier for English National Opera and an acclaimed Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Hans Neuenfels at the Komische Oper Berlin.
Vassily Sinaisky’s recordings include the aforementioned set of the symphonies of Franz Schmidt for Naxos with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. His other recordings include many with the BBC Philharmonic including works by Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shchedrin, Glinka, Liadov, Schreker and Szymanowski. Vassily Sinaisky is a noted and influential teacher, and holds the position of Professor of Conducting at the St Petersburg Conservatoire.
James Ehnes, violinist
Born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, James Ehnes has established himself as one of the foremost violinists of his generation. Gifted with a rare combination of stunning virtuosity, serene lyricism and an unfaltering musicality, Ehnes is a favourite guest of many of the world’s most respected conductors including Ashkenazy, Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, Denève, Dutoit, Elder, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Maazel, Noseda, Robertson and Runnicles. Ehnes’s long list of orchestras includes, amongst others, the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York, London Symphony, Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, DSO Berlin and the NHK Symphony orchestras.
Recent and future orchestral highlights include London Symphony with Alsop, Vienna Symphony with Elder, New York Philharmonic with Mena, Orchestre National de France with Gardner, Philadelphia and Boston Symphony Orchestra with Denève, Frankfurt Radio Symphony with Orozco-Estrada, Danish and Washington National Symphony with Noseda, Pittsburgh Symphony with Vänskä, Royal Philharmonic with Dutoit, DSO Berlin and Sydney Symphony with Søndergård, and Oslo Philharmonic with Petrenko.
Alongside his concerto work, James Ehnes maintains a busy recital schedule. He has appeared at festivals such as City of London, Ravinia, Montreux, Chaise-Dieu, the White Nights in St Petersburg, Festival de Pâques in Aix, and in 2009 he made a sensational debut at the Salzburg Festival performing the Paganini Caprices. Ehnes is a regular guest at the Wigmore Hall in London and at the 2007 BBC Proms he premiered a new work for violin and piano by Aaron Jay Kernis. In May 2016, Ehnes will embark on a cross-Canada recital tour to celebrate his 40th birthday.
As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with leading artists such as Andsnes, Lortie, Vogler and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2010, he formally established the Ehnes Quartet, with whom he made his debut European tour in February 2014 and returns in autumn 2015 for performances at the Wigmore Hall, Auditorium du Louvre in Paris and Théâtre du Jeu de Paume in Aix, amongst others. Ehnes is the Artistic Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.
Ehnes has an extensive discography and has won many awards for his recordings including a 2008 Gramophone Award for his live recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra. His recording of the Korngold, Barber and Walton violin concertos won a 2008 Grammy Award for ‘Best Instrumental Soloist Performance’ and a 2008 JUNO award for ‘Best Classical Album of the Year’. His 2010 recording of the Paganini Caprices earned him universal praise, with Diapason writing of the disc, “Ehnes confirms the predictions of Erick Friedman, eminent student of Heifetz: ‘there is only one like him born every hundred years’.” Ehnes’s recent recording of the Bartók Concerti was nominated for a 2012 Gramophone Award in the Concerto category. Recent releases include concertos by Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian.
Ehnes began violin studies at the age of four, became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin aged nine, made his orchestral debut with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal aged 13 and graduated from The Juilliard School in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 2010 was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
James Ehnes plays the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715.