Classical music, autumn season: Our top picks

Femke Colborne
Photo of conductor Vasily Petrenko

A change in season is coming – and we don’t just mean golden autumn leaves. Here’s our overview of the new programme from the top orchestras in the North West.

Autumn is traditionally a time for new beginnings: remember the odd feeling of crisp school uniforms and the excitement of a fresh diary and pencil case? It’s also the start of the next classical music season, with the North West’s orchestras each embarking on their own new adventures this month as they vie for the public’s attention over the coming year.

Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (RLPO), had a bad start to the 2013/14 season, courting controversy with his comments about female conductors. He may well be looking to turn over a new leaf this season as the orchestra celebrates its 175th birthday. The RLPO was founded in 1840, the same year as the birth of Tchaikovsky – whose music will be in the spotlight throughout the season.

The Hallé is set to welcome the Kinshasa Symphony for its first ever UK performance

The RLPO has previously won high praise for its performances of Tchaikovsky – particularly its recording of the Manfred Symphony on the Naxos label, and a performance of the same work at the BBC Proms in 2010 – so it will be interesting to see how Petrenko’s relationship with his fellow Russian has changed since then. Performances will include the Violin Concerto and Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2 as well as all six of the composer’s symphonies.

Also entering new territory this season will be the BBC Philharmonic, which has announced that it will be extending its BBC Philharmonic Presents series in a bid to reach out to new audiences. The radio shows, which have previously included a successful collaboration with dubstep artist Nero, will welcome rising band Clean Bandit, American singer-songwriter John Grant and the ubiquitous Culture Club.

In a more traditional vein, the orchestra will celebrate the 150th birthday of Danish composer Carl Nielsen with a week-long festival in June 2015 – including a two-part symphony cycle at the Bridgewater Hall (Cycle I 9 June, Cycle II 13 June). It will also continue with its mission of championing British music, performing works by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton and Colin Matthews.

Meanwhile, the Hallé is set to welcome the Kinshasa Symphony, an amateur orchestra from the Democratic Republic of Congo, for its first ever performance in the UK. Founded by the son of a church leader with no formal musical training, the orchestra will perform alongside the Hallé and members of its choirs and youth ensembles on 11 September.

Elsewhere in the season, the Hallé will perform all six concertos and one symphony by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich – including a performance of the two piano concertos in one night by the dazzling young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor on 21 May.

And finally, there’s been a change at the top for Manchester Camerata, which has waved goodbye to the charismatic Venezuelan-Italian leader Giovanni Guzzo. Taking his place will be Adi Brett, who has been promoted from her previous position as associate leader. Brett will lead the orchestra through performances with some soloists of notably high calibre, including violinist Nicola Benedetti to open the season and American pianist Ingrid Fliter to round it off. We’re looking forward to a season that’s both new, and classic.

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