City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Voice/Instrument: Orchestra


The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is a British orchestra based in Birmingham, England. The Orchestra's current chief executive, appointed in 1999, is Stephen Maddock. Since 2008, the CBSO's music director is Andris Nelsons.

Founded by Neville Chamberlain, the orchestra first performed as the City of Birmingham Orchestra in September 1920, with Appleby Matthews conducting its first concert. The programme included Overture: Saul by Granville Bantock, a strong supporter of the orchestra's foundation. However, its official foundation is generally reckoned to have been the "First Symphony Concert" in November 1920, when Edward Elgar conducted a programme of his own music in Birmingham Town Hall.

Appleby Matthews was the orchestra's first chief conductor. Adrian Boult was chief conductor from 1924 to 1930. The CBO became a full time organisation in 1944, changing its name to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1948. Chief conductors since then included Rudolf Schwarz, the composer Andrzej Panufnik, Boult in an emergency return for a season after Panufnik's sudden resignation, Hugo Rignold and Louis Frémaux. During this time, the orchestra made recordings and gave regular concerts.

The CBSO began to gain greater international renown after Simon Rattle became chief conductor in 1980. Under him, the orchestra increased its recording profile and became one of the leading ensembles in Europe, and gained a name for its interpretations of late romantic and 20th century works, especially those of Sibelius and Gustav Mahler. During this period, the orchestra moved from Birmingham Town Hall to a new home venue, Symphony Hall, inside Birmingham's International Convention Centre. The nearby CBSO Centre, a converted factory, houses management offices, rehearsal facilities, and is a concert venue in its own right, for more intimate performances. The CBSO Youth Orchestra has been affiliated with the CBSO since 2004.

Rattle was named music director of the CBSO in 1990. That same year, the post of Radcliffe Composer in Association was created, with Mark-Anthony Turnage filling the role. In 1995 Judith Weir became Fairbairn Composer in Association, followed in 2001 by Julian Anderson.

After Rattle relinquished his posts with the CBSO, the Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo became chief conductor in 1998, and music director in 1999. His CBSO work has included the Floof! festival of contemporary music. He has also championed the music of John Foulds in concerts and recordings. In 2008, Oramo stood down as music director and took the title of principal guest conductor for the 2008-2009 season.

In October 2007, the CBSO named Andris Nelsons as its 12th music director, effective with the 2008–2009 season. Nelsons' initial contract was for 3 years. The appointment was unusual in that Nelsons had not conducted the CBSO publicly prior to his appointment, but only in a private concert and in a recording session. In July 2009, the orchestra extended Nelsons' contract for another 3 years, through the 2013–2014 season. In September 2010, the CBSO announced the appointment of Edward Gardner as its next principal guest conductor, effective September 2011, with an initial contract of 3 years, for 3–4 weeks of concerts per season.

In 2001, the players rejected a contract that would have stopped extra payments for broadcasts and recordings, in the context of financial crisis at the CBSO. In addition, other controversy arose from the CBSO's demands from the Arts Council for a greater share of the Council's stabilisation fund, because of its reputation compared to other British orchestras.

The CBSO has recorded substantially for labels such as EMI Classics, Warner Classics, and Orfeo. The orchestra has also released recordings under its own self-produced label. 

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Composers' compositions

Gustav Mahler
Mahler - Symphonies (Rattle)

Symphony / Symphonic music