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
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.
This year-long celebration of outstanding pianists marks Chetham’s School of Music’s golden jubilee year. With almost all of the performers having previously studied at the school – and the likes of Paul Lewis, Boris Berman and Murray McLachlan already announced – it promises to be a comprehensive celebration.
The RNCM Day of Percussion is an annual day of inspirational clinics and performances from leading educators and artists – including the incredible Evelyn Glennie.
Once described by The Times as “The David Bowie of the fiddle”, violinist Pekka Kuusisto will perform contemporary American repertoire at the RNCM, alongside Nadia Sirota and Markus Hohti.
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.
The Lost Words: Spell Songs brings together eight remarkable musicians, plus live illustrations by Jackie Morris, to respond to the art and language of creatures and plants.
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’.
Seasoned singer-songwriter, powerhouse vocalist and a true entertainer, Mario Jose will be returning to the RNCM this March for a rare collaboration with the Session Orchestra.
From its dark and murky opening to its exultant finale, Mahler’s Fifth Symphony takes its listener on an hour-long journey whose emotional scope is almost overwhelmingly ambitious.
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.
Inspired by John Bunyan’s novel, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ opera The Pilgrim’s Progress will be one of the highlights of the RNCM’s Spring Season.
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.