Our Shakespeare takes to the stage in Birmingham


  • The CBSO presents the most ambitious orchestral series of concerts inspired by Shakespeare in 2016 - music from stage, screen or in the concert hall, opera, musical, film score or ballet

  • Principal Guest Conductor Edward Gardner and actor Samuel West open the concert series with Henry V

  • Michael Seal and Simon Halsey showcase Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music  as part of the ABO conference, live on BBC Radio 3

  • An all-star cast including Ambrogio Maestri perform a concert version of Verdi’s Falstaff


Music features prominently in Shakespeare’s plays, and ever since they were written his works have provided inspiration for many composers. In 2016 the CBSO will celebrate the playwright’s impact on the musical world – and honour his Midlands roots – with Our Shakespeare, commemorating the 400th anniversary of his death.

Over 22 orchestral concerts and 4 chamber performances, the orchestra and its ensembles will perform music spanning four centuries inspired by over half of Shakespeare’s plays.

The CBSO’s journey through the music of Shakespeare will open with Henry V (7 Jan) and an unmissable performance of Walton’s iconic composition that was created for Lawrence Olivier’s 1944 film adaptation. Starring actor Samuel West, conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Edward Gardner and featuring the voices of the CBSO Chorus, the concert also features Strauss’ Symphonic Poem Macbeth, Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs and ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth. Having opened the season, it only seems fitting that Edward Gardner takes to the stage with the final Shakespearean concert in July – Verdi’s Falstaff. This operatic reimagining of Shakespeare’s hilarious play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, has an all-star cast including Ambrogio Maestri, one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world.

Other highlights in the season will include music from Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music (the text of which is adapted from The Merchant of Venice) performed by 16 outstanding young singers currently studying at British conservatoires, Elgar’s Falstaff, Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet and The Tempest, Dvorak’s Othello and two special concerts for schoolchildren aged 7–11.

On 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday and also the day he died, the young Israeli conductor Lahav Shani will conduct Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Shakespeare’s presence on the silver screen will also be celebrated that weekend with a Friday Night Classic concert of music from great Shakespearean movies – including Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar and Shakespeare in Love, conducted by Robert Zeigler.

Shakespeare inspired music will also feature in CBSO Centre’s series of Centre Stage chamber concerts devised and performed by CBSO musicians including a baroque performance with Nicolas McGegan on harpsicord.

CBSO chief executive Stephen Maddock said:

Shakespeare is in the lifeblood of the Midlands, it is where he grew up and where he is buried. We have the privilege of being the only symphony orchestra within the region and as such are thrilled to be celebrating his life with ‘Our Shakespeare’, which we believe is the world’s largest scale concert series celebrating the music inspired by the playwright’s work.
Within this range of concerts, we will be working with our hugely talented team, Michael Seal, Edward Gardner and Simon Halsey as well as our choruses. We’ll also be bringing to the Midlands some of the world’s most talented artists, and we look forward to sharing those musical events with our audiences across the Midlands.

The CBSO’s programme of concerts is part of a wider Our Shakespeare celebration in partnership with leading arts organisations in the region; Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Library of Birmingham, Ex Cathedra, Barber Institute, Shakespeare Institute and University of Birmingham. This partnership will celebrate the world-class creativity of the region where Shakespeare was born, educated and buried, and will engage wide audiences for work inspired by the Bard.

CBSO Our Shakespeare is kindly sponsored by HSBC.

To find out more about Our Shakespeare go to: cbso.co.uk/our-shakespeare. To see the CBSO’s Season in full visit cbso.co.uk/2015-16.


Booking Information for 2016 concerts at Symphony Hall

Henry V, conductor – Edward Gardner, narrator – Samuel West plus CBSO Chorus, Thursday 7 January at 7.30.

Serenade to Music, conductor – Michael Seal and Simon Halsey plus CBSO Youth and Children’s Chorus and 16 soloists from the UK Conservatoires, Thursday 21 January at 7:30 Baiba Skride: Szymanowski, conductor – Olari Elts, violin – Baiba Skride, Thursday 4 February at 7:30

Benjamin Grosvenor: Grieg, conductor – Jac Van Steen, piano – Benjamin Grosvenor, Wednesday 24 February at 2:15 & Thursday 25 February at 7:30

The Firebird, conductor – Nicholas Collon, cello - Leonard Elschenbroich, Thursday 3 March at 2:15

Poulenc’s Gloria, conductor - Nicholas Collon, soprano – Sophie Bevan plus CBSO Chorus Elgar’s Second, conductor – Edward Gardner, viola – Lawrence Power, Thursday 17 March at 7:30

Mahler’s Tenth, conductor - Nicholas Collon plus CBSO Youth Chorus, Thursday 31 March at 7:30

Romeo and Juliet, conductor – Lahav Shani, Wednesday 20 April at 7:30 & Saturday 23 April at 7:00

Shakespeare in Film, conductor – Robert Ziegler, Friday 22 April at 7:30

Become Ocean, conductor - Ludovic Morlot, piano - Stephen Osborne, Thursday 19 May at 7:30pm

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth, conductor – Alexander Vedernikov, violin – Tamsin Little, Wednesday 25 May at 7:30pm and Thursday 26 May at 2:15pm

The Seven Ages of Shakespeare, conductor – Nicholas McGegan plus CBSO Chorus, Wednesday 1 June at 7:30pm.

Beethoven’s Seventh, conductor – Kazuki Yamada, cello – Peter Wispelwey, Saturday 18 June at 7pm

Falstaff, conductor – Edward Gardner, Falstaff - Ambrogio Maestri, Wednesday 13 July at 7pm (Tickets £21-48*)

Tickets: 12.50 - £45 (unless otherwise stated) plus transaction fee*. Tickets are available from Symphony Hall or Town Hall Box Offices in person, by phone: 0121 345 0499, or online: cbso.co.uk/whatson. (*Please note: a £3 transaction fee is charged by THSH Box Office on all bookings except those made in person).



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