Martyn Brabbins is Music Director of the English National Opera. An inspirational force in British music, Brabbins has had a busy opera career since his early days at the Kirov and more recently at La Scala, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and regularly in Lyon, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Antwerp. He is a popular figure at the BBC Proms and with most of the leading British orchestras, and regularly visits top international orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony. Known for his advocacy of British composers, he has also conducted hundreds of world premieres across the globe. He has recorded over 120 CDs to date, including prize-winning discs of operas by Korngold, Harrison Birtwistle and Harvey. He was Associate Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1994–2005, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic 2009–2015, Chief Conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic 2012–2016, and Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music 2005–2007. He is currently Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music and Artistic Advisor to the Huddersfield Choral Society alongside his duties at ENO, and has for many years supported professional, student and amateur music-making at the highest level in the UK.
In June 2019 Brabbins made his San Francisco Symphony debut conducting Ravel L'enfant et les sortilèges, appearing two weeks later at the Grant Park Festival in Chicago. Then in August, to mark his 60th birthday the BBC Proms commissioned a set of variations by 14 living composers, mirroring Elgar Enigma Variations (also in the programme). Brabbins was joined by the BBC Scottish Symphony, English National Opera Chorus and BBC Singers for the televised concert which also included Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.
To open the 19/20 season Brabbins conducted a new production of Harrison Birtwistle Mask of Orpheus at English National Opera - the first London staging since its debut 30 years ago, also at ENO; with Puccini Madame Butterfly later in the season. In May 2020 he conducts the world premiere of Thierry Escaich Khosrow et Chirine at the Opera National de Lyon. Symphonic highlights include the continuation of his acclaimed Vaughan Williams cycle with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican; Elgar’s Apostles with the London Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall; and a Shostakovich/Mussorgsky programme with the Royal Philharmonic in their London season. He makes the European premiere of his BBC Proms Enigma commission with the Antwerp Symphony, where he has a long association; and returns to Suntory Hall with the Tokyo Symphony to give the Japan premiere of James Macmillan Trombone Concerto.
Brabbins’ extensive discography ranges from Romantic to contemporary repertoire, with over 50 recordings for Hyperion Records alone, notably of Elgar, Walton and Tippett. He won the Gramophone Award for Birtwistle Mask of Orpheus with the BBC Symphony (NMC), the Cannes Opera Award for Korngold Die Kathrin with the BBC Concert Orchestra (CPO), and the Grand Prix du Disque for his recording of Jonathan Harvey Wagner Dream.
Brabbins studied composition in London and conducting with Ilya Musin in Leningrad, subsequently winning first prize at the 1988 Leeds Conductors' Competition, launching his international career.
MacMillan Exsultet (version for symphonic brass)
Gubaidulina Seven Words upon the Cross
De Sabata Gethsemani (comtemplative poem)
Wagner Parsifal: Extracts
Dvorák The Noonday Witch
Lutoslawski Cello Concerto
Pärt Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten
Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta
World War I:
Gurney War Elegy / Ravel Mother Goose Suite
Beamish Violin Concerto
Walton Symphony No.1 / Vaughan Williams Symphony No.3 'Pastoral'
Songs and Dances:
Mussorgsky Songs and Dances of Death (Pesni i plyaski smerti) (mezzo soprano & orchestra)
Fujikura Song cycle in a new orchestral version
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)
“Firsts” – including a first performance by Kalevi Aho:
Beethoven Symphony no.1
Aho Trombone Concerto
Shostakovich Symphony no.1
Sibelius En Saga
Shostakovich Symphony no.5
Rachmaninov The Miserly Knight
Dance of the Earth:
Birtwistle Earth Dances
Stravinsky Sacre de Printemps
Harvey Body Mandela / Ades Asyla / Anderson Stations of the Sun
Holst The Planets
Bartok Miraculous Mandarin suite
Bartok Piano Concerto No.1
Hindemith Trauermusik (Viola solo)
Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis, on theme by Weber
Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel
The Mask of Orpheus
The Second Mrs Kong
Volo di Notte
Der Prinz von Homburg
Alice in Wonderland
Le nozze di Figaro
Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail
Les mamelles de Tiresias
Love of 3 Oranges
War & Peace
Francesca da Rimini
The Miserly Knight
A Dog’s Heart
L’enfant et les sortileges
From Morning to Midnight
Der Ferne Klang
Queen of Spades
Child of our Time (staged oratorio)
The Flying Dutchman
Die Walküre (act 1)
Troilus and Cressida
Also possible: Borodin, Dvořák, Glinka, Martinu, Korngold, Rimsky-Korsakoff
BBC Music Magazine
Once in a while, a performance comes along that focus an understanding of a familiar work in a new way – or recaptures an insight that might have been lost. Martyn Brabbins's Enigma Variations is revelatory. Brabbins’ performance as a whole is a reminder of what a masterpiece of construction Enigma truly is….shows that ardour and subtlety can be two sides of the same complicated coin.
The orchestra played magnificently for him - what a fine and underrated band it is, every bit as good as the one along the road at Covent Garden and one of ENO’s priceless assets"
The Telegraph, September 2018