City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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About City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

From its beginnings as a part-time self-governing orchestra to its current international status, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has proved formidably adaptable. While retaining its characteristic warmth and energy, the orchestra has modified its sound to a remarkable degree for a succession of principal conductors. As result, the irrepressible zest of George Weldon (1944-1951), the joie de vivre of Louis Frémaux (1969-1978), and the meticulous detailing of Simon Rattle (1980-1998) became vital parts of the orchestra’s corporate identity. The brainchild of composer Granville Bantock and future UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the City of Birmingham Orchestra, as it was initially christened, was founded in 1920. From the beginning it showed strong support for new music, including performances of recent works by Holst and Bax, and became the first major orchestra to get involved in children’s education with a series of Saturday afternoon concerts. New chief conductor Adrian Boult directed the world’s first-ever orchestral outside broadcast concert on October 7, 1924, and with the arrival of Frémaux in the late ’60s, the orchestra became known popularly as “the best French orchestra in the world.” Yet it was Rattle’s 18-year tenure that took the CBSO to the top flight with distinguished recordings of (especially) Mahler, Szymanowski, and Britten, alongside contemporary composers Thomas Adès, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and John Adams.

Birmingham, England
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