Nottingham Classics announces starry season for 2017-2018, including a debut for Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Records have again been broken at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall, as its international concert season, Nottingham Classics, notched up average audiences of nearly 1900 for its orchestral concerts, with orchestras responding to packed houses with roof-raising performances.
Each year of growing audiences presents the challenge to do it all again the following season but with another starry line-up of soloists and orchestras, Neil Bennison, Music Programme Manager, feels that there’s plenty to keep the audiences coming back. “Over the last few years, our Nottingham Classics season has been able to attract some of the biggest names in the classical world, and 2017-18 is no exception. With some of the biggest names in the business joined by several exciting newcomers to the Royal Concert Hall I think we have plenty for the famously warm Nottingham audience to cheer.”
Two acclaimed Americans – violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Alisa Weilerstein – are the soloists with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (24 January) and the Czech Philharmonic (15 February). Both have performed previously in Nottingham, to sell-out audiences. Joshua Bell, whose leadership of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the world’s most recorded orchestra, has taken it to new heights, will be performing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and giving Nottingham audiences a chance to hear more of his acclaimed Beethoven when he directs the orchestra in the composer’s upbeat 2nd Symphony. Alisa Weilerstein, widely regarded as the finest cellist working today, performs Dvořák’s epic Cello Concerto, a piece that’s in the blood of the Czech Philharmonic, one of the world’s most esteemed ensembles.
Soloists making their Nottingham Classics debuts include German violinist Arabella Steinbacher, the groundbreaking Welsh harpist, Catrin Finch, and the astounding Japanese pianist, Noboyuki Tsujii. Blind since birth, Nobuyuki was the joint winner of the coveted gold prize in the Van Cliburn piano competition in 2009, the competition founder himself describing the young Japanese as being “absolutely miraculous”. Noboyuki will be performing Rachmaninov’s enduringly popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, now an essential fixture in the Nottingham Classics calendar under their maestro Vasily Petrenko.
For Nottingham concert-goers there’s an extra level of interest in the coming season as it features the Nottingham Classics debut of the phenomenal 17-year old cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician 2016. On 9 November he’ll be playing the concerto which won him the competition, Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, whose newly-appointed young Lithuanian conductor, Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, will also be making her Nottingham debut.
Another brilliant young Nottingham soloist, Clare Hammond, performs in the orchestral series for the first time, when she plays Hummel’s virtuosic Second Piano Concerto. Like Sheku, Clare was a winner of the Nottingham Young Musician of the Year competition and her flawless technique and spirit of adventure won her the Young Artist category at the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Music Awards for 2016. She was also seen by millions on the big screen in the movie The Lady in the Van, when she played a young version of Mary Shepherd, the character played by Dame Maggie Smith.
There’s also a Nottinghamshire connection when the BBC Philharmonic makes one of its two visits, on 8 March, to perform Tchaikovsky’s dramatic Manfred Symphony. The inspiration for the symphony was Lord Byron’s semi-autobiographical poem of the same name, which was written 200 years ago this year. The symphony is just one of several large scale orchestra works featured in the season, all of which will be heard to huge advantage in the Royal Concert Hall’s world-renowned acoustic.
Gustav Holst’s The Planets comes to the Royal Concert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a performance which also features the much-garlanded Mansfield girls choir, Cantamus. Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony and Mahler’s Second Symphony feature in two spectacular programmes by Nottingham Classics’ resident orchestra, The Hallé, with its conductor Sir Mark Elder launching the season in grand style with Ravel’s Bolero and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Sir Mark also conducts the largest orchestra to have ever performed on the Royal Concert Hall stage when the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain performs Bartók’s dark psycho-drama, Bluebeard’s Castle.
With some of the greatest orchestral showpieces ever written and a line-up of stars that would grace any concert hall, the 2017-2018 season looks in good shape to follow what’s been an amazing run of concerts this year.