We use cookies

This website uses cookies in order to function. By continuing to use the site, you accept that we will place cookies on your computer. Please see our cookie policy for more information.

Don't show me this message again.

BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales announce their 2016-2017 season

BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales announce their 2016-2017 season

BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales announce their 2016-2017 season


9 May 2016

Highlights from the season include:

  • Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård continues his Mahler cycle with performances of the Sixth Symphony

  • Xian Zhang makes her debut as Principal Guest Conductor with six concerts throughout the season

  • The orchestra explore some of the great stories in classical music including Stravinsky’s interpretations of Russian folk tales

  • Welsh Foundations: a series celebrating eminent Welsh composers at Hoddinott Hall

  • Guest artists include Sarah Connolly, Peter Donohoe, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Catrin Finch, Chloë Hanslip, Stephen Hough, Tasmin Little, Baibe Skride, Paul Watkins, Roderick Williams and Thomas Zehetmair

  • Guest conductors include Martyn Brabbins, John Butt and Mark Wigglesworth, alongside Conductor Laureate Tadaaki Otaka 

The BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales (BBC NOW) today announce their 2016-2017 season. Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård returns to continue his Mahler cycle with the composer’s intense Sixth Symphony. Xian Zhang makes her debut as Principal Guest Conductor and conducts six concerts including opening the season at BBC Hoddinott Hall and a special concert for International Women’s Day. The theme of storytelling runs throughout the season with the Orchestra exploring Stravinsky’s interpretations of Russian folk tales, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and Bach’s personal and intense account of the St John Passion

Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård

Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård conducts an array of concerts throughout the season that display the breadth and versatility of BBC NOW. On 20 January at St David’s Hall and 21 January at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea Søndergård continues his Mahler cycle with a performance of the composer’s intense sixth symphony. The work was completed in 1904 at what was a happy time in Mahler’s life; however the nature of the piece is a contrast with its tragic, even nihilistic ending. For this concert the BBC National Chorus of Wales is joined by its Artistic Director Adrian Partington for a selection of Bruckner’s Motets including Ave Maria, Christus factus est, Os Justi and Locus Iste 

Throughout the season the Orchestra gives performances of the three major Stravinsky ballets, as part of the storytelling series. Søndergård conducts two of these starting with The Firebird on 13 October. Written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, the piece takes its inspiration from Russian fairy tales of the magical glowing bird that can be both a blessing and a curse. The ballet has historic significance not only as the composer’s breakthrough piece but also as the beginning of a long creative partnership between Stravinsky and Diaghilev. The programme also includes another Diaghilev ballet score, Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly performs Ravel’s Sheherazade and Emily Beynon returns to Wales for Ibert’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra

Søndergård returns to close the season on 8 June at St David’s Hall and 9 June at Brangwyn Hall with Stravinsky’ Rite of Spring. Widely considered to be one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century, it caused huge controversy at its premiere, and still surprises audiences today. The concert also includes a rare performance of Prokofiev’s giant Scythian Suite and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Søndergård and the Orchestra celebrate the festive period on 12 December at Hoddinott Hall with a programme exploring Prokofiev with seasonal favourites the Love for Three Oranges and Lieutenant Kije Suites

Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang

Following her appointment in December 2015, Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang conducts her inaugural concert on 27 September at Hoddinott Hall,the first of six concerts throughout the season. Over her first two programmes she explores the music of Russian romantic composer, Tchaikovsky, commencing with his fourth symphony in Cardiff; in Hafren, Newtown on 1 October, the programme includes Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet. In Newtown Zhang and the Orchestra also perform Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite and Welsh harpist Catrin Finch finally performs the Glière Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, which she was unable to perform on tour with the Orchestra in South America last year due to illness.

Zhang also marks International Women’s Day on 8 March with a concert at Hoddinott Hall, when she and the Orchestra are joined by Latvian violinist Baibe Skride, who returns to Cardiff with her sister, pianist Lauma Skride.

On 11 March in Swansea Zhang’s programme includes Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes” and Shostakovich’s Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings with pianist Peter Donohoe and trumpeter Philippe Schartz. The centre piece of the programme is Rimsky-Korsakov’s most popular work Scheherazade. Written in 1888, the piece is based on One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk stories compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. It is a masterful display of symphonic writing, creating an incredible spectrum of orchestral colour.

Zhang conducts Berlioz’s imaginative and revolutionary Symphonie Fantastique at St David’s Hall on 4 May and Brangwyn Hall on the 5 May. The evening also includes a performance of Tan Dun’s Internet Symphony: Eroica,commissioned in 2008 by Google and YouTube, and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini performed by pianist Stephen Hough 


On 9 February at St David’s Hall the Orchestra is conducted by Mark Wigglesworth for the second Stravinsky ballet, Petrushka. Another collaboration with Diaghilev, Petrushka tells the story of the loves and jealousies of three puppets with musical evocative depictions of a Russian fairground. The programme, which is also performed on 10 February at Brangwyn Hall, is completed by Wagner’s Tannhäuser: Overture & Venusburg music and Mahler’s Songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” with Roderick Williams.

On 10 November at St David’s Hall, the Orchestra and Chorus perform Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé under BBC NOW’s Conductor Laureate Tadaaki Otaka. This is set alongside Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with one of today’s great violinists, Thomas Zehetmair. On 1 December at St David’s Hall conductor Martyn Brabbins and bass Neal Davies join the Orchestra and Chorus for a performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, heard alongside Delius’ Concerto for Violin and Cello performed by Tasmin Little and Paul Watkins. The final concert with the Chorus at St David’s Hall is a performance of JS Bach’s personal and dramatic account of the St John Passion on 12 April, with conductor and baroque music authority John Butt.

Welsh Foundations

Three concerts at Hoddinott Hall on 18 October, 25 November and 27 January celebrate three important Welsh composers: Alun Hoddinott (1929–2008), Daniel Jones (1912-1993) and William Mathias (1934 1992). Across the concerts each of the three composers is featured with an overture, concerto and symphony. Alun Hoddinott is recognised as one of Wales’ most prolific composers with 300 works including symphonies, operas, sonatas and concertos. The Sun, The Great Luminary of the Universe, is perhaps his most admired work from his middle period (1970) and takes its title from Joyce’s Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man. His Horn Concerto is performed by Alec Frank-Gemmell and the symphony is his rarely heard second. Daniel Jones, a friend of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, was a code breaker at Bletchley Park and his music is full of intricate textures. His final Symphony (the unnumbered thirteenth) was written the year before he died (1992) in memoriam to his friend and then Director of the Swansea Festival, John Fussell. The Violin Concerto is a much earlier work (1966) and is performed by the Jack Liebeck, and his overture Ieuenctid completes the trio. William Mathias is best-loved for his choral writing; he studied with Lennox Berkley and is perhaps most known for the anthem Let the people praise Thee, O God written for the royal wedding in 1981 of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In an exploration of his orchestral music the Orchestra perform his Symphony No. 1 (1966) which traces clear influences from Walton and Tippett. Laudi (1973) is one of several orchestral works that Mathias described as ‘landscapes of the mind’ and his Piano Concerto No. 3 is performed by Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams.

Other highlights

Over two concerts at Hoddinott Hall BBC NOW celebrates ‘Great Brits’ on 13 January and 3 February. The concerts include works by Gavin Bryars, Graham Fitkin, David Bedford, Michael Nyman, Steve Martland, David Sawer and Howard Skempton – composers carving their own musical direction, rebelling against the prevailing high intellectualism of the post-war era, by embracing rock music and elements of American minimalism.

The Orchestra presents three concerts at Hoddinott Hall, ‘Tales of Travel’, which explore pieces of music inspired by other countries. The first concert on 7 April includes music from composers dreaming of Egypt and its antiquity, with Saint-Saën’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian) withLouis Schwizgebel, Ravel’s Shéhérazade Overture and Debussy’s unjustly neglected and imaginatively scored Egyptian ballet Khamma, conducted by Jun Märkl. The second and third concerts feature composers that sought refuge in America. The concert on 28 April, conducted by Alexandre Bloch, includes Stravinksy’s Danses Concertantes, Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 3 andHindemith’s Clarinet Concerto performed by BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (NGA) Annelien Van Wauwe. The final concert on 16 June is conducted by Kazuki Yamada with pianist, and fellow NGA, Beatrice Rana for a performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Symphony in F-sharp major by Korngold, better known for his Hollywood film scores.

On 30 October members of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales join BBC NOW for ‘Halloween Spooktacular’, an afternoon concert at St David’s Hall. Guest conductor Richard Balcombe also joins the orchestra on 16 December at Brangwyn Hall and 17 December at St David’s Hall for further seasonal music. On 25 March the orchestra is joined by American conductor Edwin Outwater for ‘Geek Musique’, an afternoon family concert celebrating the Sound of Sci-Fi and an evening concert exploring Cult TV classics.

In collaboration with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, member of Welsh psych-pop band Super Furry Animals Cian Ciarán premieres his first live orchestral work Rhys a Meinir on 4 November at Hoddinott Hall. Encapsulating the drama of ancient Welsh folklore and the splendour of rural Wales, the performance features poetry by Gruffudd Antur.

Full listings available online:

For full listings at the Hall, please click here

Join our mailing list