Across Manchester and the North, classical music is thriving. There are a number of venues whose classical offering rivals that of any in the country. To name a few, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, The Stoller Hall and the Royal Northern College of Music play host to hundreds of wonderful concerts each year. Also featuring opera and jazz, their programmes draw in a wide range of listeners.
Performing over 100 concerts a year for broadcast on BBC Radio 3, The BBC Philharmonic is a tour de force across Manchester and its neighbouring cities. Equally, The Hallé ranks among the UK’s top symphonic ensembles. Famed for its innovation, Manchester Camerata’s orchestra also celebrates a spectrum of music, and its smaller ensemble pops up in venues ranging from care homes to Northern Quarter bars.
Speaking of smaller ensembles, Manchester Collective is an electrifying new addition to the UK music scene, offering intimate and immersive concerts which aim to break down the barrier between performers and audience. In 2017 they were named The Stoller Hall’s ‘Ensemble in Residence’. Equally adventurous, Psappha is a music ensemble specialising in the performance of works by living composers. They are committed to showcasing the best in contemporary classical music.
Read about all of this and much more in the guide below, in which we preview upcoming events that promise to inspire. Also covering opera and jazz, this guide aims to showcase the very best in classical music in the north.
Here are our picks
One of modern music’s most daring and brilliant voices, Kaija Saariaho will be joining us in person for this concert featuring two of her compositions, both written in the last decade. The first half of the programme is dedicated to another superb orchestral colourist: Hector Berlioz.
Modern and contemporary music specialist The Ligeti Quartet presents a one-off concert in Sheffield, featuring two of the 20th Century’s masterpieces: Steve Reich’s Grammy Award-winning Different Trains and George Crumb’s iconic Black Angels. With a diverse programme of works by John Adams, John Zorn and Tanya Tagaq completing the programme, this looks set to be an exciting and unique evening at The Leadmill.
Two years after winning BBC Young Musician, Sheku Kanneh-Mason makes his Bridgewater Hall debut with perhaps the greatest cello concerto of all: Elgar’s reflection on the First World War, performed tonight to mark this month’s centenary of the Armistice. Also this evening, a wartime suite from Ravel and a thrilling ballet by Stravinsky.
A wonderful concert featuring some of Richard Wagner and Sergei Prokofiev’s most original works. All before the concept of ‘originality’ is turned its head, with Ravel’s incredible arrangement of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, as well as a brand new response from RNCM composer Aaron Breeze.
Performing works by Bach, John Carpenter, Burt Bacharach and Oliver Messiaen, The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble will dazzle an RNCM audience with the possibilities of the analogue synthesiser.
This new audiovisual work marks 100 years of votes for women with live video, electronic and acoustic music and Chetham’s Chamber Choir. The concert also features a discussion of the making of Carpe Vitam, plus The Pankhurst Anthem – based on words by Emmeline Pankhurst – and other vocal works, performed by the choir.
Christian Marclay has spent the last 35 years exploring the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video. From a thrilling programme of Marclay’s work, we’ve selected what we feel are the most exciting events.
Intimate, immersive and utterly thrilling, Manchester Collective’s concerts consistently bowl audiences over. At RNCM they will deconstruct Pierrot Lunaire and delve deeper into the inner world of the female protagonist. BBC 6’s Elizabeth Alker will be a calm voice of guidance before the madness ensues.
To mark 100 years since the Armistice, the BBC Philharmonic reflects on war. Following a work by Rudi Stephan, who died on the Eastern Front, there’s Herbert Howells’s tribute to a fellow composer killed at war, Walton’s haunting Viola Concerto and Shostakovich’s Ninth, written as the Second World War drew to a close.
Joined by renowned soprano Juliet Fraser and conductor Enno Poppe, the pioneering Ensemble Musikfabrik will perform Rebecca Saunders’ new work, Yes. A meditation on the ambiguities of language and expression, the piece was inspired by Molly Bloom’s infamous time-warping stream-of-consciousness monologue that concludes James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses.
In Sanskrit the word ‘shri’ means ‘diffusing light, radiance and beauty’. Terry Riley’s Shri Camel does just this. Combining minimalist explorations with Far-Eastern atmospherics, it’s a transcendental work made up of four movements. Using purpose-built instruments, Temko will tackle Riley’s notoriously difficult score in a boldly unique way.
Sō Percussion are all about innovation and re-invention. Armed with plant pots and brand new instruments, they will perform a hypnotic array of works ranging from Steve Reich to Caroline Shaw to The National’s Bryce Dessner.
Hilda Paredes’ Harriet is a chamber opera about the African-American freedom fighter and former slave Harriet Tubman. Its ambitious and powerful narrative details Tubman’s journey from captivity into activism, depicting both the suffering she endured and the spiritual experiences that spurred her onward.
Explore Ensemble joins forces with the world renowned EXAUDI Ensemble to present the UK premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s grand song cycle, Carnaval. Written in 12 movements for five voices, piano and ensemble, it requires meticulous and attentive players in order to achieve the disquieting and dramatic atmosphere contained within the score.
This concert features three highly contrasting masterpieces: ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Igor Stravinsky, ‘Verklärte Nacht’ by Arnold Schoenberg, and ‘Parade’ by Erik Satie, each of which represents a significant landmark in our cultural history.
Featuring some of Puccini’s most famous arias, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi are beautifully linked by a common thread – a tragic opera about death, followed by a witty farce that explores the same theme.
In the mountain range of piano concertos, Rachmaninov’s Third is the Everest – intense and immense, technically demanding and emotionally overpowering. Few pianists prove equal to the task – but, as his acclaimed performance of the work at the BBC Proms last year made clear, Alexander Gavrylyuk is more than a match for it.
Perfect for winter, this concert by the Hallé celebrates the two towering figures of Scandinavian classical music – Sibelius and Grieg. The programme includes Grieg’s much-loved Peer Gynt Suiteas well as Sibelius’ stirring tribute to his homeland, Finlandia.
Neil Brand’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ festive classic gives it a dark and atmospheric twist – helped along by Chester Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Chamber Choir and actors from Manchester School of Theatre. The leading role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Timothy West for this one-off staging.
Would it even be Christmas without The Snowman? At the Bridgewater Hall this December, screenings of this festive staple will be accompanied live by the Hallé, who will perform Howard Blake’s beautiful score. It’s the perfect way to get kids excited about orchestral music!
If you’re finding that the Christmas spirit still eludes you, then look no further than the Hallé Christmas Extravaganza. Joined by guest artist Noah Stewart, the Hallé will perform a programme filled with Christmas classics.
Casino Royale in Concert: For the first time ever, experience Bond on the big screen accompanied by the full force of the Hallé performing David Arnold’s thrilling musical score live and in sync to picture!
The BBC Philharmonic, in association with The Bridgewater Hall, presents a very special event marrying sound with vision, bringing classic works by two of the 20th century’s greatest composers to vivid musical and cinematic life.
One of the country’s most acclaimed and recognised trios performs Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio and Sally Beamish’s Piobaireachd for this visit to The Stoller Hall. The group will also be joined by regular collaborator, clarinettist Robert Plane, for the North West premiere of a new work by Huw Watkins – with the programme completed by Plane’s performance of Boulez’s Dialogue de l’ombre double – accompanied by taped electronics.
Born in Liverpool and a former pupil at Chetham’s School of Music, pianist Paul Lewis returns to the North-West for a performance of one of Mozart’s most elegant and expressive piano concertos. Also tonight, Ben Gernon conducts the BBC Philharmonic in a sparkling Stravinsky work and Tchaikovsky’s tempestuous, gripping Fourth Symphony.
Part opera, part oratorio, Berlioz’ ‘The Damnation of Faust’ is an epic retelling of the Faust story. Celebrated for its orchestral brilliance, this tempestuous work will be performed by the Hallé for the first time in seventy years.
As merry as the day is long, Hector Berlioz’s captivating comic opera is one of the most joyful operatic translations of Shakespeare from page to stage. Béatrice et Bénédict slims down the plot of Much Ado About Nothing to focus on the will-they-won’t they romance between the title characters, whose attraction to each other is the living, breathing antithesis of love at first sight.
The BBC Philharmonic celebrates Robin Holloway’s 75th birthday with a brand new work by the treasured English composer, given its world premiere by guest soloist Håkan Hardenberger. Also tonight, a rare performance of Valentin Silvestrov’s transcendent Fifth Symphony, one of the best-kept secrets in contemporary music.
The Hallé are joined by conductor Jamie Phillips for Mozart’s ‘Paris’ Symphony, John Casken’s ‘Madonna of Silence’, and the centrepiece of the evening, Prokofiev’s ‘Fifth Symphony’.
Bohuslav Martinů and Igor Stravinsky both fled Europe during the Second World War – and tonight’s concert is centred on two works they composed in the USA: Stravinsky’s expressive ballet and Martinů’s inspiring Fourth Symphony. Dvořák’s Cello Concerto was also part-written in America, but it sings of the composer’s Bohemian homeland.
The final symphony completed by Franz Schubert before the composer’s death at just 31, the epic Ninth is ‘Great’ in both nickname and nature. Before it, Clemens Schuldt directs the brilliant Alina Pogostkina in Prokofiev’s riveting First violin concerto. Also this evening – a homage to French Baroque music from Thomas Adès.
BBC Philharmonic favourite John Wilson returns to The Bridgewater Hall to celebrate our green and pleasant land with this all-English programme, taking in Vaughan Williams’s impassioned Fourth Symphony, Bax’s reflections on autumn and Walton’s iconic Violin Concerto – performed by acclaimed Canadian soloist James Ehnes.
Steven Osborne made the definitive recording of Tippett’s masterpiece several years ago – and tonight, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, he joins the BBC Philharmonic to perform it live. Also on the programme, two symphonies by 20th-century pioneers: Sibelius’s brilliant Sixth, and a vital work written by Stravinsky ‘to the glory of God’.
Either side of Sophie Bevan’s performance, conducted by English National Opera’s Music Director Martyn Brabbins, two epic fourth symphonies by great Britons, each a single movement: James MacMillan’s kaleidoscopic masterpiece, premiered at the 2015 BBC Proms to huge acclaim, and Michael Tippett’s punch-packing odyssey from birth through life to our inevitable end.
Edward Elgar was a violinist as well as a composer – and his soaring Violin Concerto opens this evening’s concert. Following Christian Tetzlaff’s performance of this towering work, John Storgårds conducts the BBC Philharmonic in Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony, a wonderful homage to his native Russia.
Sir Mark Elder brings the 2018–19 Opus One Series to a triumphant close with Berlioz’ best-known work, ‘Symphonie Fantastique’. Also in the programme is the brilliantly virtuosic overture to Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’, as well as Dvorák’s beautiful ‘Violin Concerto’.
Dmitry Shostakovich lived much of his enigmatic life in the shadow of Stalinist Russia – and turbulence in his homeland led him to keep his magnificent, Mahlerian Fourth Symphony under wraps until Stalin’s death. Before it, conductor Mark Wigglesworth is joined by British baritone Roderick Williams for some of Mahler’s most romantic songs.
A previous winner of both the BBC Young Musician and BBC Young Composer of the Year awards, Mark Simpson is both the soloist and composer of tonight’s world premiere – his Clarinet Concerto. Either side, leading British soprano Elizabeth Watts joins the BBC Philharmonic for three Mozart arias and Mahler’s majestic Fourth Symphony.
The Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3WS - Visit now
Home to the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic orchestras, the Bridgewater Hall attracts some of the biggest names in classical music. Purpose-built to the tune of £42m, the hall was designed around its acoustic needs; it floats on 280 earthquake-proof isolations springs that mute all external noise, perfect for shielding around 250 performances a year from the trams outside.