The season began with a performance at the BBC Proms starring sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar, followed by a concert curated by Helen Grime in partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra to welcome conductor Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director of the LSO. 2017-18’s highlights included the beginning of the orchestra’s four-year Brahms Symphony Cycle conducted by Sir Mark Elder, as well the second year of their thrilling Beethoven Symphony Cycle with Thomas Adès at the Barbican, Saffron Hall, and in Norwich, where the Beethoven concert formed part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2018.
Britten Sinfonia also gave world premieres including Emma-Ruth Richards’ Sciamachy (which was programmed alongside Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis pacem and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, performed with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge) and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s operatic adaptation of Coraline, with Sian Edwards conducting. Britten Sinfonia gave thrilling performances of Rhapsody in Blue with celebrated pianist Jeremy Denk, while Britten Sinfonia Voices gave Easter performances of Mozart’s Missa Brevis and Stravinsky’s Mass, in an illuminating programme featuring young horn player, Benjamin Goldscheider (whose mother, Nicola Goldscheider, was also on stage in the Second Violins). The orchestra were in the pit at Nevill Holt Opera for the first UK revival of Thomas Adès’s Powder her Face, where audiences picnicked on the lawns in the hot summer of 2018. The season ended with the world premiere of Keaton Henson’s orchestral journey into anxiety and depression, Six Lethargies, at the Barbican.
The award-winning At Lunch concert series in Norwich, Cambridge and London featured new commissions by Leo Chadburn, Nik Bärtsch, Caroline Shaw, Mark Bowler and Tom Coult programmed alongside major chamber music works.
International touring thrived in 2017-18 with the orchestra giving an arresting performance of Sir James MacMillan’s acclaimed Stabat Mater with The Sixteen in the glorious surroundings of the Sistine Chapel, making history as it became the first livestreamed concert from the historic chapel, which was watched by over 1 million people through partners Classic FM. Britten Sinfonia also travelled to Paris to perform the live film scores to two of Hitchcock’s classics: Vertigo & Psycho, and performed Britten’s War Requiem in an international collaboration with the Orchestre de Picardie at Brighton Festival. The orchestra also went to Amsterdam with Thomas Adès and Steven Isserlis to perform at the world-renowned Concertgebouw, taking a group of Supporters with them.
Britten Sinfonia Academy’s sixth year saw the launch of the Composer Hub, with members being mentored by Tom Coult (whose orchestration of the Mother Goose Suite was premiered in lunchtime concerts with the Academy). BSA gave a free Christmas performance at the Barbican, worked with laptop musicians, and even performed at Latitude Festival. They also continued their partnership with Cambridge University Museums, giving family friendly performances in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and participating in the annual Twilight at the Museums event.
Outside the concert hall, Britten Sinfonia’s musicians performed 29 shows in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, exploring the story of Alice Through the Looking Glass through music with hundreds of primary school children. Members of the orchestra also participated in Into Opera’s first production, A King’s Ransom, a new opera by Patrick Hawes sung by primary school pupils. After a call for submissions, and a workshop featuring three finalists, Britten Sinfonia and special guest judge Nik Bärtsch announced the winner of composition competition, OPUS2017: Mark Bowler.