Intermusica artists featured in Best of 2017 critics' picks
At the end of each year we look forward to reading critics’ musical highlights from the last 12 months; we’re delighted to see many of our artists featured in a host of such round-ups.
A standout achievement of the year was Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi 450 tour, which was praised globally. The tour commemorated the 450th anniversary of the composer’s death and visited the Berlin Festival, Philharmonie de Paris, the new National Forum of Music in Wrocław, and the Salzburg, Edinburgh International and Lucerne festivals, as well as Bristol’s Colston Hall, Aix-en-Provence, Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and a historic residency at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the composer's adopted home. Hugh Canning in the Sunday Times praised it as “dazzling”, while it was also chosen as one of the highlights of the year by the Guardian and Alex Ross of the New Yorker, who praised the “deft, vivid” productions that confirmed that “the first great opera composer remains the master of the game.” It was also chosen by the Herald Scotland, The Arts Desk, New York Classical Review and Chicago Classical Review.
Another highlight was the world premiere run of Brett Dean’s Hamlet at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Hugh Canning picked it as his operatic highlight of the year in the Sunday Times, and it also featured in round-ups in the Evening Standard, The Arts Desk and The Stage.
Hugh Canning also praised David Butt Philip’s “searing” performance in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé.
Nicholas Collon’s Prom with his Aurora Orchestra, in which he conducted Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony from memory, was chosen as one of the Evening Standard’s highlights of the classical year, as was the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester’s visit to London. The orchestra’s performance at the Barbican featured Intermusica artists Leonidas Kavakos and Kirill Gerstein performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, and was part of the orchestra’s 275th anniversary tour, which Intermusica brought to Europe and Asia.
Several Intermusica artists also featured in The Arts Desk’s round-up of the best concerts and opera performances. In the concert round-up, Mark Wigglesworth’s Prom with the BBC Philharmonic was highlighted thanks to a “miraculous” performance of Haydn Symphony No.99. Kian Soltani was highly praised for his performance of Strauss Don Quixote at the Southbank Centre with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, with The Arts Desk writing that it was “quite the most vivid” critic David Nice had heard live. Nice also cited HK Gruber for his performance as conductor and chansonnier in his Frankenstein!! at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer festival.
In The Arts Desk’s opera round-up, Martyn Brabbins’ performance of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Last Supper with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra “kicked off the year in thoughtful, complex style”, while David Nice also gave special mention to Wallis Giunta, writing that she was the “young singer of the year in my books” for her performances in L'enfant et les sortileges and Trouble in Tahiti in Opera North's well-received Little Greats series of one-act operas. Giunta was also named 'Breakthrough Artist in UK Opera' in the WhatsOnStage Opera Poll.
Meanwhile, Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s new recording of Bach St Matthew Passion, made with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, was chosen as one of Gramophone’s Critics’ Choice, as was Boris Giltburg’s account of Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 with Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Composer and music writer Robert Hugill picked John Wilson’s recording of Walton’s Façade as one of his top recordings of the year. Also featured were Sir James MacMillan’s “powerful” Stabat Mater and Martyn Brabbins’ latest entry in the Romantic Piano Concerto series for Hyperion, this time featuring the piano concertos of Roger Sacheverell Coke.
The Pavel Haas Quartet once again found great critical success with their latest CD, which featured Dvorák Piano and String Quintets and was made with Boris Giltburg and founder and former member Pavel Nikl. The album was chosen as one of the records of the year by the Boston Globe and WQXR.
Martyn Brabbins celebrates London Sinfonietta's 50th anniversary in Hudderfield & London
Martyn Brabbins conducts the London Sinfonietta in a series of concerts celebrating the orchestra’s 50th anniversary in November. The concerts will explore some of the orchestra’s most iconic past performances including Xenakis’ Thalleïn, Colin Matthews’ Contraflow and Harrison Birtwistle’s Silbury Air.
The first concert on 22 November for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival will also feature the UK premiere of Hilda Parades’ commissioned violin concerto Señales, with Irvine Arditti as soloist, while on 25 November the second concert will instead feature Wolfgang Rihm’s Chiffre II at St John’s Smith Square in London.
Brabbins enjoys a longstanding and highly successful relationship with the London Sinfonietta. The Times described last season’s collaborative performance as “a fine London Sinfonietta concert, immaculately directed by Martyn Brabbins” while the Daily Telegraph declared “the players under conductor Martyn Brabbins were alert, energised and subtle.”
Martyn Brabbins conducts the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie in his first production as Music Director of English National Opera
On 18 November, Martyn Brabbins conducts English National Opera’s opening night world premiere of Nico Muhly’s new opera Marnie at the London Coliseum.
The first night will mark Brabbins’ first production as Music Director at English National Opera, with further performances on 26, 28 November, 1 and 3 December. The production is directed by Michael Mayer in co-production with the Metropolitan Opera New York, and features Sasha Cooke in the title role joined by Daniel Okulitch, Lesley Garrett and James Laing amongst others.
Brabbins is well known for his excellence in operatic productions, and his performances consistently receive critical acclaim. His next production with English National Opera will be Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Spring next year.
Martyn Brabbins begins Vaughan Williams cycle with the BBC Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra at London's Barbican Centre on 13 October for the first concert of their Vaughan Williams cycle. The programme consists of Harrison Birtwistle Earth Dances and Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony with the BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnworth. Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will subsequently record the Sea Symphony for Hyperion, the second installment in the series.
The first release in the series features Vaughan Williams London Symphony and is released on 27 October. Brabbins conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal College of Music's brass band for the recording, which also features three lesser-known Vaughan Williams works: Sound Sleep, Orpheus with his Lute and Variations.
“There’s something particularly special about Martyn Brabbins’ new account of A London Symphony … what makes this disc stand out is the sheer thrill of the music making: these are performances that live fully in the moment and are packed with urgency … and, while the big moments rightly pack the heaviest punches, it’s the little, delicate touches that really make this interpretation take off … this is, by just about any measure, one of the great London Symphony’s on record”
Martyn Brabbins continues Tippett symphonic cycle with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins returns to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on 28 September 2017 to continue his Tippett symphonic cycle. For this iteration, Brabbins conducts Tipett Symphony No.3 with Rachel Nicholls, as well as Elgar Sospiri and Sea Pictures, which features mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill.
Brabbins and the BBCSSO began their Tippett cycle last season, with their performance of Tippett’s first symphony receiving particular critical acclaim:
“Tippett’s First Symphony, the opener in Brabbins’ two-season survey of all Tippett’s symphonies with the BBC SSO, as rugged as it was shapely.... it’s not an easy work to fall in love with immediately, but Brabbins drove his lean, muscular account forward with such bristling conviction that it swept away any doubts."
"Perhaps the greatest feature of a superlative performance was that it opened the door to anyone hearing the symphony for the first time … that was the power of Brabbins’ interpretation."
The concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Brabbins and the BBCSSO continue the cycle in January with Tippet’s Symphony No.4 and bring the cycle to a close in February with the Symphony in B flat.
Martyn Brabbins conducts closing concert of the Edinburgh International Festival
Martyn Brabbins joins the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill at Edinburgh's Usher Hall for the grand finale concert of the Edinburgh International Festival on 27 August 2017.
The concert also marks the festival's 70th anniversary and features seminal works from past festivals, such as Bliss Edinburgh Overture, Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Johann Strauss II Emperor Waltz. Brabbins also conducts the world premiere of Ned Bigham and Gerry Fox’s new collaborative and multi-media work, Staffa.
The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 later that evening at 10pm – click here for more information.
Martyn Brabbins opens Komische Oper’s Summer Festival with Stravinsky and Ravel
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Komische Oper Berlin on 11 July 2017 to open the house's 2017 Komische Oper Festival. Brabbins conducts a double bill of Stravinsky Petrushka and Ravel L’Enfant et les Sortilèges.
Brabbins conducted Opéra de Lyon's production of L’Enfant et les Sortilèges earlier this season to critical acclaim:
“At the head of the Opera Orchestra, British conductor Martyn Brabbins delivered conducting that was full of zest and vitality, beautiful even in the smallest details.”
La Lettre du Musicien
Martyn Brabbins conducts Vaughan Williams at the Cheltenham Music Festival
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Cheltenham Music Festival on 8 July 2017 to lead the Salomon Orchestra and Huddersfield Choral Society in Holst The Hymn of Jesus and two works by Vaughan Williams: Stricken Peninsula: An Italian Rhapsody and A Sea Symphony featuring soprano Elizabeth Watts and baritone Marcus Farnsworth. The performance takes place at Gloucester Cathedral.
Brabbins, who was previously Artistic Director of the Cheltenham Music Festival, recorded Vaughan Williams Stricken Peninsula last year with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as part of the critically acclaimed Discovery (Albion Records, 2016). The recording was nominated for Best Classical Compendium at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
“Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra give their very best …cordially recommended to all RVW acolytes”
Martyn Brabbins conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on tour in the UK
Martyn Brabbins conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of four concerts across the United Kingdom this month, beginning at Cheltenham Town Hall on 15 June 2017. The tour then visits London's Cadogan Hall on 16 June, the Cambridge Corn Exchange on 17 and June and the Royal & Derngate in Northampton on 18 June.
Brabbins conducts the orchestra in a programme featuring Glinka Ruslan and Ludmila Overture and Shostakovich Symphony No.5. The first two concerts also feature Beethoven Violin Concerto with Jan Mráček as soloist. For the concert in Cambridge, Lucienne Renaudin Vary joins Brabbins and the orchestra to perform Haydn Trumpet Concerto, while Mráček rejoins the tour to perform Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in Northampton.
Martyn Brabbins returns to Australia to conduct the West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins returns to Australia this month for three concerts with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra on 1, 2 and 3 June 2017. Performing at Perth Concert Hall, Brabbins conducts the orchestra in a programme featuring Sibelius En Saga, Debussy Prélude à ‘L’après-midi d’un faune and Stravinsky Firebird Suite, with pianist Ayako Uehara joining them for the concerts on 2 3 June to perform Bartók Piano Concerto No.3.
Brabbins’ appearance in Australia follows a highly successful production of Raskatov A Dog’s Heart with Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, which was presented in a series of six performances in April and May:
"Flexible and streamlined, Brabbins knows the score and production like no other” - Trouw
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony
After the major success of their collaboration in 2014, Martyn Brabbins returns to conduct the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra on 16 May 2017 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. Brabbins conducts an all-British programme of Butterworth The Banks of Green Willow, Vaughan Williams Symphony No.2 ‘A London Symphony’ and the Japanese premiere of Tippett Piano Concerto with soloist Steven Osborne.
Brabbins leads the orchestra in a second performance on 21 May, this time at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre. Brabbins conducts another all-British programme which this time featuresElgar Violin Concerto with soloist Fumiaki Miura and Vaughan Williams Symphony No.7 ‘Sinfonia Antartica’, which features soprano Miwako Handa and the New National Theatre Chorus.
Martyn Brabbins returns to Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to conduct two concerts on 7 and 9 April 2017 in the Main Hall of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, including world premieres of commissioned Easter-themed works.
The programme will begin with Debussy’s fragments symphoniques, before two new Passions commissioned by the orchestra: Nasimi-Passion by Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and The Mystical Sacrifice by Serbian-Swedish composer Djuro Zivkovic.
Brabbins will also return to Dutch National Opera next month to lead six performances of Raskatov’s opera A Dog’s Heart from 22 April to 5 May. Brabbins returns to the work after conducting the overwhelmingly successful world premiere of A Dog’s Heart in 2010, as well as productions at La Scala and Opera de Lyon. Brabbins will again collaborate with Simon McBurney, and many of the singers from the original production are returning, including Sergei Leiferkus and Ville Rusanen.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Birtwistle in debut with Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música
Martyn Brabbins makes his debut with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música on 11 March 2017. The concert continues Brabbins' recent exploration of Harrison Birtwistle with a programme featuring Birtwistle Violin Concerto with soloist Peter Herresthal alongside Vaughan Williams Symphony No.2.
Brabbins has conducted many works by Birtwistle, most recently with a semi-staged production of his opera The Last Supper at the Glasgow Royal Concert Halls in January, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3:
"Martyn Brabbins conducted with a superb knack for elasticity — the orchestra clinched the yo-yoyoing between sudden movement and sudden stasis, and the intensity never dropped."
Guardian, January 2017
Click here to watch Brabbins interviewing Birtwistle at his home, where they discuss The Last Supper and life in general.
Martyn Brabbins continues Tippett symphonic cycle with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins returns to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on 9 February 2017 to continue his Tippett symphonic cycle. Brabbins conducts the orchestra in a performance of Tippett Symphony No.2, part of a programme that also features Haydn Symphony No.8 'Le Soir' and Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and Brabbins and the orchestra will also record Tippett Symphonies No.1 and No.2 for release by Hyperion.
Elsewhere this month, Brabbins conducts the Royal Flemish Philharmonic in three performances of Prokofiev Ivan the Terrible at the newly refurbish Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp on 3, 4 and 5 February.
Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Birtwistle The Last Supper with Benedict Nelson & Susan Bickley
Martyn Brabbins returns to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on 14 January 2017 at Glasgow City Halls, leading the ensemble in a performance of Harrison Birtwistle's opera The Last Supper. The performance will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 28 January 2017, which will be subsequently available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast.
The semi-staged performance, directed by Victoria Newlyn, features a leading solo cast featuring Intermusica's Benedict Nelson as John and Susan Bickley as Ghost alongside baritone Roderick Williams as Christ and tenor John Daszak as Judas.
Brabbins last conducted the BBC SSO in November 2016 in a programme of Tippett, Haydn and Ravel that the Herald Scotland described as “sizzling and life-affirming performance, “blistering” and “magisterially controlled by Brabbins at white heat”.
In addition, the Scotsman wrote:
"What brought [the three pieces] together...was the drive and vigour of visiting conductor Martyn Brabbins.”
Brabbins next appears with the BBC SSO in February 2017 in the next concert instalment of the Tippett Symphony cycle.
Nelson most recently received praise for his "vocally glorious" (Times) portrayal of Ulysses in Monteverdi Ulysses’ Homecoming for English Touring Opera with future highlights including Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, a recital at the Leeds Lieder Festival and several performances of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.
Bickley has this season performed in Barrie Kosky's acclaimed production of The Nose at the Royal Opera House and in Das Rheingold with the Hallé. Future engagements this season include the world premiere run of Ryan Wigglesworth's The Winter's Tale at English National Opera.
Martyn Brabbins conducts the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin's New Year's concerts
Martyn Brabbins closes the year in Berlin, returning the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin to conduct the orchestra’s three New Year concerts on 31 December 2016 and 1 January 2017. Brabbins and the orchestra are joined at the Tempodrom Berlin for the concerts by artists including Nicolas Altstaedt on cello and performers from the Roncalli Circus.
Brabbins last conducted the DSO Berlin in June 2015 at the Berliner Philharmonie. Der Tagesspiegel praised Brabbins for his musical leadership of the ensemble:
“Brabbins encouraged the strings in Dvořák's String Serenade to play as chamber musicians... And the violins, violas, celli and basses succeeded brilliantly in breathing together and in carrying through the melodic lines even when their own group did not have the tune. Thus we heard intimate music-making, utterly gripping for the listener, drawing them in to relive this romantic scene-painting with complete concentration.”
Der Tagesspiegel, June 2015
In 2017, Brabbins continues his guest conducting appearances at the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, the Dutch National Opera, and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, among others.
Congratulations to the Intermusica nominees at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards
Recordings by Giancarlo Guerrero, Martyn Brabbins and Susan Bickley have been nominated at this year’s Grammy Awards, including nominations in three categories for Guerrero. Congratulations to all!
Giancarlo Guerrero’s recording of music by Michael Daugherty with the Nashville Symphony for Naxos is nominated in three categories: Best Classical Instrumental Solo, Best Classical Compendium and Best Contemporary Classical Compendium. Guerrero has led the Nashville Symphony to multiple Grammy wins in recent years, most recently for works by composer Stephen Paulus in February 2016.
Martyn Brabbins’ recording Ralph Vaughan Williams Discoveries with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and soloists Roderick Williams and Jennifer Johnston is nominated for Best Classical Compendium. Released on Albion Records, the disc features world premiere recordings of several Vaughan Williams pieces, and spans the composers entire career.
Susan Bickley is one of the soloists in Janáček Glagolitic Mass with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, released on Chandos., and nominated for Best Choral Performance.
The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 12 February 2017 in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS network.
Martyn Brabbins receives Grammy nomination for Vaughan Williams Discovery with the BBC Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have been nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Classical Compendium category for their latest Vaughan Williams recording, Discovery, released on Albion Records in September.
Discovery features world premiere recordings of realisations by Anthony Payne and others of works such as the early Three Nocturnes and his Four Last Songs, with soloists Roderick Williams and Jennifer Johnston.
This nomination further consolidates Brabbins’ reputation as one of the leading conductors of British music, both on disc and in concert, and paves the way for a projected Vaughan Williams symphony cycle with the BBC Symphony at the Barbican Centre, starting in Autumn 2017.
Last month Hyperion released another critically acclaimed recording by Brabbins (this time with the BBC Scottish Symphony) of Elgar Enigma Variations, In the South and three rarities from World War I with soprano Kate Royal:
“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.”
Recording of the Month, 5*, BBC Music Magazine, October 2016
"Impressively emotional and dramatic performances by Brabbins…. a gem, lovingly coaxed by Brabbins…a collector’s item"
Album of the Week, Sunday Times, October 2016
"Fine, firmly unsentimental, bracingly muscular performances"
Guardian, November 2016
"Martyn Brabbins masterminds an expansive, ideally flexible and notably unflustered reading of Elgar's In the South, one which quarries this evocative score's plentiful reserves of noble grandeur, pantheistic wonder and vulnerability in a way that perceptively demonstrates its kinship with the First Symphony that was soon to follow."
Gramophone, November 2016
"Sizzling and life-affirming": Listen again to Martyn Brabbins & the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's Tippett Symphony No.1
Martyn Brabbins made a triumphant return to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a critically-acclaimed performance of Tippett Symphony No.1 on 24 November 2016. The programme also included Haydn Symphony No.6 Le Matin and Ravel Piano Concerto in G with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.
The performance, part of a two-year cycle in which Brabbins will conduct all of Tippett’s symphonies with the orchestra, was greeted with critical praise:
"… the drive and vigour of visiting conductor Martyn Brabbins….were there most of all in Tippett’s First Symphony, the opener in Brabbins’ two-season survey of all Tippett’s symphonies with the BBC SSO, as rugged as it was shapely....it’s not an easy work to fall in love with immediately, but Brabbins drove his lean, muscular account forward with such bristling conviction that it swept away any doubts. Roll on the rest of his Tippett cycle."
The Scotsman, November 2016
“Martyn Brabbins’ sizzling and life-affirming performance on Thursday with the BBC SSO of Michael Tippett’s First Symphony…reflected every lesson I learned about this masterpiece many decades ago…. just let it play, open your ears, and listen…All of that, and much more, suffused the intellectual lucidity and near-elemental power of the SSO’s blistering performance, magisterially controlled by Brabbins at white heat.”
Herald Scotland, November 2016
The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and is available on the BBC iPlayer until 24 December.
Brabbins returns to the BBC SSO in January 2017 conducting Birtwistle The last supper.
Martyn Brabbins announced as Music Director of English National Opera
The appointment was announced today of Martyn Brabbins as Music Director of English National Opera, effective immediately, and running until August 2020. He will plan the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons together with the Artistic Director Daniel Kramer, and will conduct a production at ENO in 2017/18.
He last conducted at ENO in 2012, a production of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress to which he gave "wonderful breadth and assurance" (Guardian) and "exemplary musical direction" (Times).
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. His acclaimed performances of Tristan and Isolde with Grange Park Opera (2016) caused the Observer to describe him as "a musician’s musician, he can turn his hand with ease and perception to anything".
This season he conducts L’enfant et les sortilèges at the Opéra de Lyon, Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart at Netherlands Opera, and Birtwistle’s Last Supper in concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony. Symphonic engagements include reinvitations to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Deutsche Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Read the full press release on the ENO website.
Martyn Brabbins returns to Opera National de Lyon to conduct Ravel L’Enfant et les sortilèges
Martyn Brabbins returns to Opéra National de Lyon to conduct four performances of Ravel L’enfant et les sortilèges from 1 to 4 November 2016. The innovative new production directed by Grégoire Pont uses light projection to capture fantasy of the music and story.
Brabbins previously conducted L’Enfant et les sortilèges at Lyon in 2012 and subsequently led the production at the Bayerische Staatsoper. His last appearance in Lyon, conducting Tchaikovsky Iolanta and Stravinsky Persephone in May 2016, received critical praise:
"the biggest praise must go to Martyn Brabbins – one of the few conductors who are as expert at Tchaikovsky’s lyricism as with Stravinsky’s abstract vigour. Stylistic precision vies with the accomplishment of a pit conductor – the dynamics were always controlled (the singers fully audible), delicate orchestral colours, appropriate tempi, a sense of the structure as a whole and of a unifying dramatic impetus."
ResMusica, May 2016
Brabbins was recently announced as Music Director of the English National Opera. His return to Lyon continues a busy start to the 2016/2017 season, in which he has already conducted the Symphony Orchestra of India in Mumbai, led the world premiere of Kalevi’s Double Concerto with Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and released a new recording of works by Elgar on Hyperion.
Martyn Brabbins releases new recording of Elgar works on Hyperion Records
Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra release their new recording of Elgar Enigma Variations and other works on 28 October 2016 on Hyperion Records, a label on which Brabbins has released over 50 discs to date.
The CD also features In the South ‘Alassio’ alongside lesser-known wartime works by Elgar including Carillon and Le drapeau belge, featuring Florence Daguerre de Hureaux as the narrator, Une voix dans le desert with Kate Royal, and Pleading with Yann Ghiro performing the solo clarinet.
Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performed the Elgar Enigma Variations in concert last year, a performance that received vast critical acclaim:
"A considerable achievement, dispatched with exquisite care by conductor Martyn Brabbins."
Daily Telegraph, November 2015
Martyn Brabbins conducts world premiere of Kalevi Aho's Double Concerto with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Royal Flemish Philharmonic on 21 October 2016 to conduct the world premiere of Kalevi Aho’s Double Concerto for Cor Anglais, Harp and Orchestra, paired with Shostakovich Symphony No.5
The concerto features soloists Dimitri Mestdag, principal Cor Anglais at the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and Anneleen Lenaerts performing the harp.
Earlier in October, Brabbins returns to the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a studio concert performance of Rubbra Symphony No.11, Grøndahl Trombone Concerto and Brian Symphony No.6 on the 11 October. This concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Afternoon on 3’.
Martyn Brabbins & Kristóf Baráti join the Symphony Orchestra of India in Mumbai
Martyn Brabbins and Kristóf Baráti travel to India this month to perform with the Symphony Orchestra of India at Jamshed Bhabha Theatre in Mumbai on 12 September 2016. Brabbins conducts a programme of Rossini The Thieving Magpie Overture, Brahms Symphony No. 1 and is joined by Baráti for Paganini Violin Concerto No.1.
Brabbins conducts the orchestra in a second concert at Jamshed Bhabha Theatre on 17 September, this time with a programme of Wagner Tannhäuser Overture and Holst The Planets.
Brabbins then returns to London where he conducts the BBC Singers in a programme of Britten, Harvey and the world premiere of Blossomings by Wim Henderickx at LSO St Luke’s on 23 September.
Intermusica at the Grafenegg Festival 2016
George Li, Valentina Naforniţa and Renaud Capuçon all perform at Grafenegg Festival this summer, while composers Brett Dean and HK Gruber join the jury of the festival’s composer workshop concert, and Martyn Brabbins supports the workshop participants.
On 4 September, George Li joins the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev as soloist in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1. Later that day, Renaud Capuçon appears with Orchestre National de France and Christoph Eschenbach to perform Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No.3.
Valentina Naforniţa sings Mozart concert arias with the Cologne Radio Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste on 8 September.
Brett Dean and HK Gruber return to the Festival to sit on the jury of its Ink Still Wet Composer-Conductor Workshop. With the support of the Tonkunstler Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins, contemporary composers will have their work showcased in the workshop’s closing concert on 5 September. Both Dean and Gruber have held the post of Composer-in-Residence at the festival in previous years.
Watch Martyn Brabbins & the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Gramophone's Video of the Day
Gramophone Magazine’s Video of the Day for 5 July 2016 features Martyn Brabbins leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Rotterdam Symphony Chorus at Sint-Janskathedraal's-Hertogenbosch during the orchestra’s tour of the Netherlands in November 2015. Performing Howells Hymnus Paradisi, the concert features tenor Andrew Staples and soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon.
Martyn Brabbins conducted Hymnus Paradisi at the BBC Proms in 2012, a performance which was highly praised:
“Conductor Martyn Brabbins led a searching performance, which cut through to the heart of the work, delivering its meaning with a wonderful clarity.”
Bryan Register debuts at Grange Park as Tristan with Martyn Brabbins
Bryan Register makes his Grange Park Opera debut singing the title role in two concert performances of Wagner Tristan und Isolde on 13 and 17 July 2016. Register joins Rachel Nicholls, Clive Bayley, Sara Fulgoni and Stephen Gadd for the performances, which are conducted by Intermusica's Martyn Brabbins.
Register made his role debut as Tristan for Theater Kiel in 2014 to great critical acclaim:
“The audience celebrated with loud bravos… the Kiel production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde comes with extraordinary voices… the public sat spellbound by what was offered in vocal power and might…by Bryan Register…”
The concerts mark a return to Grange Park Opera for Brabbins, having conducted Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin there to great critical acclaim:
“Martyn Brabbins, in charge of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, finds the natural ebb and flow in Tchaikovsky’s score and is instinctive in his support of the cast.”
“[Martyn Brabbins] coaxed passionate playing from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.”
Future highlights for Register include another Tristan at the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Theatre under the baton of Jesús Lopez Cobos, and his house debut at Oper Frankfurt as Enee in Berlioz Les Troyens.
Martyn Brabbins conducts London Sinfonietta in cutting-edge programme at St John's Smith Square
Martyn Brabbins leads the London Sinfonietta in a cutting-edge programme of 21st century music on 1 June 2016 at St John Smith Square. The evening includes the UK premiere of Francisco Coll Liquid Symmetries, and two world premieres – one of which is Five Lessons in a Frame by Harrison Birtwistle, a composer whose work Brabbins has enjoyed great success with:
"astonishing clarity and unerring sense of dramatic shape… the performance under Brabbins was in many respects exceptional.”
Guardian, May 2014 (Gawain, BBC Symphony Orchestra)
Brabbins, who last month was appointed Visiting Professor of Conducting at Royal College of Music, is well known for his support of new music – having conducted world premieres by leading international composers all over the world.
Sir Willard White & Diana Montague join Martyn Brabbins for Iolanta at Opéra de Lyon
Sir Willard White and Diana Montague return to Opéra de Lyon on 11 May to perform in Peter Sellars’ production of Iolanta, conducted by Martyn Brabbins. White and Montague sing the roles of Ibn-Hakia and Marthe alongside Ekaterina Scherbachenko, Dmitry Ulianov and Maxim Aniskin.
White's performance as Ibn-Hakia at the 2015 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence Festival was widely praised:
“Willard White caught the mesmerizing strangeness of the Moorish doctor Ibn-Hakia’s music.”
Opera, September 2015
“Willard White, always appreciated in Aix where he has been a regular for years, stands with a lot of presence and nobility in the somewhat ephemeral role of Arab physician”
Forum Opera, July 2015
"The mesmerising Ibn-Hakia [of] Willard White"
Res Musica, July 2015
Martyn Brabbins makes debut at Hungarian State Opera with The Rake's Progress
Martyn Brabbins makes his debut with the Hungarian State Opera this month when he conducts Stravinsky The Rake’s Progress from 6 April 2016.
Brabbins enjoyed previous success with The Rake’s Progress with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Aldeburgh:
“It's the brilliance of Stravinsky's music, and the pacing and insight of Brabbins's conducting, that made this evening so rewarding”
Further performances take place on 8, 10, 13, 15 and 21 April.
Other opera productions for Brabbins this season include a return to Opera National de Lyon in May for a double bill of Tchaikovsky Iolanta and Stravinsky Persephone, and two performances of Tristan and Isolde at Grange Park Opera in July.
Martyn Brabbins closes Barbican Centre's Andriessen series with La Commedia
Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert performance of Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia on 12 February, closing the Andriessen: M is for Man, Music & Mystery series at the Barbican Centre. The concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 20 February.
Brabbins’ operatic performances this season include The Rake’s Progress in Budapest, Tristan und Isolde at Grange Park Opera and a double bill of Tchaikovsky Iolante and Stravinsky Persephone at Opéra de Lyon.
Martyn Brabbins steps in to conduct the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Britten’s War Requiem
Martyn Brabbins replaces Semyon Bychkov in Cologne on 13 and 14 November, conducting the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Britten’s War Requiem on 13 and 14 November at the Kölner Philharmonie. This will be his debut with the WDR Sinfonieorchester. He is joined by the WDR Rundfunkchor, the Berlin Rundfunkchor, Koelner Domchor, and soloists Elza van der Heever, Andrew Staples and Hanno Mueller-Brachmann.
The concert will be broadcast on 18 November on WDR 3.
It is a work Brabbins has conducted many times, notably just one month ago with the Russian National Orchestra at the Moscow Conservatoire; this was his first collaboration with the RNO and he has already been invited back.
Martyn Brabbins conducts concert for 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain with BBC Singers
Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Singers in a commemorative programme of English and American music in honour of the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Britain on 18 September 2015. Brabbins leads the performance in the RAF Museum’s Historic Hangars, with repertoire including the world premiere of Three Spitfire Motets by Edward Cowie, Eric Whitacre’s musical portrayal of Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying-machine, and Gabriel Jackson's Airplane Cantata.
Marytn Brabbins makes Rotterdam Philharmonic debut at Het Concertgebouw
Martyn Brabbins makes his Rotterdam Philharmonic debut on 30 August 2015 at the Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, where he conducts the orchestra in a space-themed concert as part of the Robeco SummerNights series. Brabbins conducts a programme including Holst The Planets, Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra and Ligeti Atmosphères, accompanied by a NASA film. Brabbins’ interpretations of The Planets have previously elicited great acclaim, with the Independent observing:
“Brabbins and the orchestra gave the freshest of performances, full of keen detail and felicitous colouration. His blistering tempo for "Mars" was as good a sign as any of life on the red planet.”
Martyn Brabbins: Concerts in Japan with the Nagoya Philharmonic
Martyn Brabbins travels to Japan for four concerts with Nagoya Philharmonic beginning on 15 July 2015, where he is Chief Conductor. Brabbins and the orchestra perform at the NTK Hall Forest Hall (15 and 18 July) and at Aichi Arts Center (24 and 25 July).
Brabbins then returns to the UK for the St Endellion Summer Festival, where he conducts two performances of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Collegiate Church of St Endellion on 5 and 7 August. The cast features Sir John Tomlinson in the title role, alongside Brindley Sherratt, David Butt Philip and Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts.
It has been a busy summer of operatic engagements for Brabbins, who has just finished conducted at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition and also recently replaced Tugan Sokhiev at the last minute to conduct DSO Berlin in Martinů’s rarely heard one act opera Ariane alongside Dvorak String Serenade, to fantastic reviews:
“Brabbins encouraged the strings in Dvorák’s String Serenade to play as chamber musicians – i.e. paying utmost attention to each other’s parts. And the violins, violas, celli and basses succeeded brilliantly in breathing together and in carrying through the melodic lines even when their own group did not have the tune. Thus we heard intimate music-making, utterly gripping for the listener, drawing them in to relive this romantic scene-painting with complete concentration.”
Der Tagesspiegel, June 2015
Martyn Brabbins steps in at Aldeburgh Festival with BBC Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Aldeburgh Festival on 24 June 2015, replacing Principal Conductor Sakari Oramo at very short notice, in a sea-themed programme:
Sibelius: Oceanides Op.73
Grime: Everyone Sang
Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with soloist Alice Coote
Bridge: The Sea
Britten: Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia with specially commissioned film by Tal Rosner
The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm on 24 June.
Brabbins has a long-standing relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and is delighted to be able to step up, straight from conducting at the televised Cardiff Singer of the World final concert on the evening of Sunday 21 June. Brabbins gave the world premiere of Helen Grimes’ Everyone Sang and his studio recording of Bridge’s The Sea was featured on a BBC Music Magazine cover.
This follows his huge success with the DSO Berlin where, only a few days before, he stepped in at last minute to replace Chief Conductor Tughan Sokhiev to conduct Dvořák String Serenade and Martinu’s one-act opera Ariane, making his Berlin Philharmonie debut in the process. He has already been invited back. The critics were equally impressed:
"Brabbins has exactly the qualities one would wish for a Martinu rarity. A conductor who supports his musicians’ enthusiastic music-making with gentle yet definite gestures. A connoisseur of sound, who helps the musicians achieve an undreamt-of intimacy…The DSO showed its best side right from the start, in Dvorak’s string serenade, radiating glorious colours, fascinating us with its harmonious beauty and lilting rhythms. Brabbins’ Dvorak was deliciously entertaining – something to lean back and close one’s eyes to."
"Brabbins encouraged the strings in Dvořák’s String Serenade to play as chamber musicians – i.e. paying utmost attention to each other’s parts. And the violins, violas, celli and basses succeeded brilliantly in breathing together and in carrying through the melodic lines even when their own group did not have the tune. Thus we heard intimate music-making, utterly gripping for the listener, drawing them in to relive this romantic scene-painting with complete concentration."
Martyn Brabbins conducts BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition
Between 14 and 21 June 2015, Martyn Brabbins conducts the Welsh National Opera Orchestra at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, supporting the vocal stars of the future in this high-profile showcase. Several Intermusica artists have competed in the past, with Valentina Nafornita winning First Prize in 2011 and Ben Johnson taking home the Audience Prize in 2013. The competition is always shared between the two Cardiff orchestras Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which Jun Märkl conducted during the last competition in 2013. The competition will be broadcast on BBC radio and television.
Brabbins also records Kalevi Aho's trumpet and trombone concerti for BIS this month with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and continues his Sibelius cycle with the Nagoya Philharmonic alongside a new work by Dai Fujikura.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Vaughan Williams Symphony No.5 at Newbury Festival
Martyn Brabbins performs at the Newbury Spring Festival on 23 May, conducting a performance of Vaughan Williams Symphony No.5 with the Philharmonia.
This follows two other performance of British repertoire, with Brabbins conducting Holst The Planets, Finzi Clarinet Concerto and a new work by young composer Mark Bowden in Swansea on 17 April and at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, on 18 May. He will also conduct works of David Sawer with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at Birmingham Town Hall on 9 May.
Brabbins will end the month at the Istanbul Festival, where he will conduct the Nash Ensemble in a programme featuring the works of Berlioz and Debussy.
Martyn Brabbins steps in to conduct Royal Flemish Philharmonic
Martyn Brabbins replaces Edo de Waart in two performances of Elgar’s oratorio The Kingdom with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic (of whom he is Principal Guest Conductor) at De Singel in Antwerp on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 April.
The cast includes Elizabeth DeShong, Edith Haller, John Daszak and Jeremy Carpenter, with the combined Flemish Radio and the Netherlands Radio choruses.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Strauss’s Die Schweigsame Frau for his Aalto Theater Essen debut
Martyn Brabbins conducts Strauss Die Schweigsame Frau in his debut at the Aalto Theater Essen on 14 March. The new production of Richard Strauss's only comic opera is directed by Guy Joosten and opens on 14 March, with subsequent performances on 17, 19, 22 March, 1, 4, 19, 22 and 30 April.
On 28 March, in between opera performances, he conducts Kalevi Aho’s new Trombone Concerto with Joergen Van Rijen at the Royal Flemish Philharmonic’s contemporary music festival in De Roma, Antwerp, coupled with Sanstroem’s tuba concerto and Wim Henderickx’s Percussion Concerto.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Wagner in concert with the Nagoya Philharmonic
Martyn Brabbins conducts The Valkyries Act 1 in concert with the Nagoya Philharmonic on 30 and 31 January, starring Susan Bullock.
Brabbins is Chief Conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic, and this follows his and Susan Bullock's Wagner collaboration in his first concerts as Chief Conductor in July 2013.
Martyn Brabbins: concerts with Royal Philharmonic, BBC Scottish and Royal Flemish Orchestras
Following his performances in Japan with Nagoya Philharmonic and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins returns to the United Kingdom to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall on 11 November. The concert features a programme of Brahms Symphony No.1, the prelude from Wagner Die Meistersinger and Strauss Vier Letzte Lieder with soloist Eleanor Dennis.
Brabbins then travels to Glasgow for a concert with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for a programme including MacMillan Piano Concerto No.3 and Shostakovich Symphony No.5. Brabbins has regularly conducted the BBCSSOm and their last performance, in September of this year, received critical acclaim:
"He opened with a clear, ungushy account of Wagner's Siegried Idyll: the playing was light, the inner parts lucid, the strings beautifully soft and grainy. The programme closed with a sober, thoughtful account of Elgar's Enigma Variations. There was no syrupy veneer; the sound was dark and gravelly, there was anguish to the opening theme and unusual weight to many of the variations. Nimrod was quietly emphatic; the finale was stately and cathartic."
Guardian, September 2014
Brabbins brings the month to a close in Antwerp, conducting two concerts on 28 and 29 November with Royal Flemish Philharmonic, where he is Principal Guest Conductor. Alongside works by Celis, Britten and Shostakovich, Brabbins will conduct the world premiere of Wim Hendricx's Oboe Concerto with soloist Piet van Bockstal, for whom the piece was written.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra at Suntory Hall
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony for an adventurous pair of programmes, on 26 October and 4 November, featuring Walton's two symphonies. On 26 October he conducts Walton Symphony No.1 at Suntory Hall, preceded by Vaughan Williams Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 and Britten Piano Sonata with Steven Osborne. On 4 November he will conduct Walton Symphony No.1, Vaughan Williams Norfolk Rhapsody No. 2 and Delius Violin Concerto with Chloe Hanslip at Tokyo Metropolitan.
He will split these two concerts with a performance in Nagoya on 30 October. The concert features the Japanese premiere of Kalevi Aho Trombone Concerto, and the world premiere of a new work by Composer in Residence Dai Fujikura. The programme is completed by Beethoven Symphony No.1 in C major and Shostakovich Symphony No.1 in F minor.
Martyn Brabbins conducts BBC Symphony at the BBC Proms
Martyn Brabbins makes a return to the Proms on 1 August, leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a programme of English Music at the Royal Albert Hall. He will conduct Gurney’s War Elegy, Walton Symphony No.1 and the London premiere of Sally Beamish’s Accordion Concerto with soloist James Crabbe, for whom the piece was originally commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival when Brabbins was Artistic Director.
Brabbins then travels up to Scotland to record the Accordion Concerto for BIS with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as part of a whole Beamish disc, shared with the National Youth Orchestra for Scotland who will record Beamish’s Trumpet Concerto, also under his direction.
Brabbins’ performance of the Walton symphony promises to be a highlight of this year’s Proms season; his recording of this work in 2011 with the BBC Scottish Symphony on Hyperion received excellent reviews:
“Martyn Brabbins, excelling himself, directs a reading that far more than usual conveys comparable electricity, helped by superb playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a vivid recording quality. To complete the picture, this account of the First even rivals the classic Previn version of the 1960s.”
Gramophone, Editor’s Choice, December 2011
Martyn Brabbins leads BBC Symphony Orchestra in Gawain with Leigh Melrose in title role
Martyn Brabbins returns to the Barbican to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert performance of Harrison Birtwistle’s Gawain on 16 May as part of the composer’s 80th birthday celebration. Leigh Melrose sings the title role in Birtwistle’s groundbreaking opera, and performs opposite Sir John Tomlinson as The Green Knight.
A seasoned conductor of Birtwistle, Brabbins's recording of the composer's The Mask of Orpheus with the BBCSO was the winner of a Gramophone Award. Brabbins is currently mid-way through a series of performances of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle at Vlaamse Opera, which opened on 11 April and runs until 10 May.
Melrose’s performance further contributes to his reputation as a formidable performer of contemporary music, Melrose ends the season as Vicomte de Valmont in Luca Francesconi’s Quartett at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House. He then performs Matthias Pintscher’s Songs from Solomon’s Garden at this year’s Lucerne Festival, a work which he debuted in 2013 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Martyn Brabbins conducts Bartók Bluebeard's Castle at Vlaamse Opera
Martyn Brabbins returns once more to Vlaamse Opera this April to lead 11 performances of Bartók Bluebeard's Castle, opening on 11 April. The performances are part of a special double bill with Schubert’s Winterreise staged by Kornel Mundruczo. Brabbins will split his time between two cities, with five performances in Gent on 11, 13, 15, 18 and 19 April, and six performances in Antwerp on 30 April, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 May.
Brabbins enjoys a strong regular relationship with Vlaamse Opera, premiering Christan Jost’s Rumors with them in 2012, and led a production of Wozzeck in 2009 that received critical acclaim:
“If this performance of the Vlaamse Opera Symphonic Orchestra is exemplary of his work, then there are some exciting times ahead in Antwerp.”
De Volkskrant, five stars