A rare beast!

Britten Sinfonia is that rare beast: an orchestra that chooses not to be led by a music

director or principal conductor in the traditional sense, but rather focuses on extending the skills of its acclaimed musicians by working with guest artists who specialize in different musical genres. The line up for the 2008/2009 shows the fruits of this approach.

The Programme

Tenor Mark Padmore opens the season on 23 October with a programme exploring the theme of night, including Britten's Nocturne. The dramatically-treated performance is directed by Katie Mitchell as part of an on-going relationship in which Mitchell and Britten Sinfonia players have been exploring elements of concert presentation. Other new associations during the season include pianist Paul Lewis (directing Mozart), oud player and vocalist Dhafer Youssef (on the opening night of the London Jazz Festival) and young artists, including Russian pianist Polina Leschenko and composer/conductor Ryan Wigglesworth. Returning artists include Imogen Cooper (with her continuing exploration of Beethoven's piano concertos), Joanna MacGregor, Polyphony and Stephen Layton (a nationwide Christmas tour and recording of Handel's Messiah) and young violinist Alina Ibragimova (playing Bach, Berg and Kurtág). Britten Sinfonia's acclaimed lunchtime series takes a new turn this season. Four of Britain's finest composers, Thomas Adès, Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and John Woolrich have been invited to choose programmes featuring major works from the classical chamber repertoire alongside a chosen work from their own output. Each has also nominated a young composer for a Britten Sinfonia commission. New works by Richard Harrold (chosen by Adès), Ryan Wigglesworth (Knussen's choice), Charlotte Bray (championed by Matthews) and Pawel Mykietyn (Woolrich's choice) will all be heard during the series. The monthly lunchtime series, which starts on 30 November in Krakow 2 December, visits the Wigmore Hall London, promoted as part of the hall's subscription season for the first time, Town Hall Birmingham, Krakow, Norwich and Cambridge, where it will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in Spring 2009.

New CD Label

Britten Sinfonia's new label will be launched in early 2009. The first release in the series, BS001 Songs of the Sky, will feature works all commissioned by Britten Sinfonia from composers Tarik O'Regan, Huw Watkins, Steve Martland, Jason Yarde and John Tavener. The CD includes soloists Alina Ibragimova, Nicholas Daniel, Julius Drake, Joanna MacGregor, Jacqueline Shave and Jason Yarde. Two further CD's are planned for release in the following months: a recording of rarely heard music by Hindemith and Live in Buenos, recorded during the orchestra's celebrated 2007 South American tour with Joanna MacGregor.

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