Where's the next Beethoven cycle?

Where's the next Beethoven cycle?


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2011

As if it’s not bad enough that they’ve just won the Premier League and the FA Cup, the city of Manchester is also getting a set of Beethoven symphonies next season. Those lucky Mankies.

Not sure it’s the first of the 21st century, tho. What about Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic?

Beethoven, Bernstein and Beyond

The Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder place Beethoven’s complete symphonies at the centre of their 2011/12 Manchester season

Compelling repertoire combinations and innovative performing partnerships hallmark the Hallé’s programme in 2011/12. The Hallé will present its first Beethoven symphony cycle of the new century, performing the works in order of composition and pairing each with more recent masterpieces, Harmonium by John Adams and Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto among them. Sir Mark Elder, in his twelfth season as Music Director, will conduct five of the symphonies and guide what is a landmark series for the Hallé.  “Beethoven’s adventure remains as fascinating as ever,” comments Sir Mark. “By playing the cycle in order, with each symphony alongside a powerful work written during the last hundred years, we hope to underline the range of his achievement, with much to stimulate and to enjoy.”

His programming choices underline Beethoven’s enduring legacy to composers, highlighting coincidences and contrasts with such influential works as Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto and his great ballet scoreLe sacre du printemps, Messiaen’s L’ascension, Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the left hand and Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto. Beethoven’s youthful First Symphony, originally published in 1801, contains tantalising traces of revolutionary sounds to come from the composer in his later symphonies. Its pairing with Stravinsky’s iconoclastic ballet (13 October 2011) is sure to offer fresh insights into the forward-looking nature of Beethoven’s first thoughts on the symphony.

John Adams’s ‘choral symphony’ Harmonium, crowned by an ecstatic setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Wild Nights’, promises to cast revealing light on Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’, presented together on 5 November 2011 in another intriguing musical juxtaposition. Sir Mark says: “I am looking forward immensely to conducting the ‘Eroica’ in tandem with Harmonium, a hugely impressive work by a colossus of today’s musical scene.” Markus Stenz, the Hallé’s Principal Guest Conductor, Lothar Koenigs and Edward Gardner will each conduct a Beethoven symphony, while Nikolaj Znaider brings the cycle to a close with Shostakovich’s ironic Ninth Symphony and Beethoven’s profoundly optimistic ‘Choral’ Symphony.

In addition to performing Harmonium, the Hallé Choir returns later in the season to sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (24 May 2012) and two outstanding works from the British choral repertoire, Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus (15 March 2012) and Elgar’s The Apostles (5 May 2012). “Any admirer of The Planets will warm to Holst’s very personal mysticism in The Hymn of Jesus, one of his greatest works,” says Sir Mark. “I have longed to conduct Elgar’s The Apostles for many years, and here we will perform it with some of the marvellous singers who took part in our performances of The Dream of Gerontius. It should be a night to remember.”

Kathleen Ferrier, born in Lancashire in April 1912, gave many unforgettable performances with the Hallé during her stellar yet tragically short career. The orchestra celebrates the contralto’s centenary with a work often associated with her, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (10 May 2012) under Sir Mark Elder. “Although many of us will never have heard Kathleen Ferrier sing live,” observes the conductor, “we can still be moved by her extraordinary recordings of the ‘Abschied’ (‘Farewell’) from Das Lied. We will mark the centenary of her birth with a performance of Mahler’s work, with Lars Cleveman and Alice Coote who, at the start of her career, won a prize named in honour of this great Lancashire contralto.”

At the season’s height (31 March to 14 April 2012), Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé are set to join forces with the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and The Lowry in Salford to give 16 fully staged performances of Leonard Bernstein’s 1953 musical Wonderful Town. Connie Fisher, winner of BBC One’s How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? and star of The Sound of Music, will lead the cast as RuthSherwood, who, with her sister, travels to New York in search of love and fortune. “Manchester and Salford are leading the way in artistic collaboration,” comments Sir Mark. “Leonard Bernstein’s magnificent work will get what it deserves – a great orchestra performing a great score as part of a great production.”

The Hallé’s Opus One Concerts continue in 2011/12, once again presenting established musicians in company with outstanding young talents. The series opens on 21 September 2011 with the first of three performances under the Hallé’s Assistant Conductor, Andrew Gourlay, and with the young German artist Sophia Jaffé as soloist in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. Other Opus One performers include John Lill, Colin Carr, Hong Xu, Nicola Benedetti, Hallé oboist Stéphane Rancourt, Andrew Manze, Polina Leschenko, former Hallé Assistant Conductor Rory Macdonald and Sofya Gulyak, winner of the 2009 Leeds International Piano Competition.

“We will also hear five outstanding 20th-century concertos in 2011/12,” says Sir Mark Elder. “Bartók’s First Piano Concerto opens the Thursday Series with the return of the great Hungarian pianist András Schiff. The violin concertos by Bartók and Stravinsky are in the expressive hands of Nikolaj Znaider and Julian Rachlin, who makes his Hallé debut. We are also delighted to welcome back Garrick Ohlsson and Nelson Goerner for piano concertos by Barber and Ravel.” The orchestra’s survey of solo concertos continues when Alban Gerhardt and Kolja Blacher respectively explore Henri Dutilleux’s sublime Tout un monde lontain for cello and orchestra and Magnus Lindberg’s searing Violin Concerto.



  • Nick Morandi says:

    Not to mention the Utah Symphony, my local orchestra in Salt Lake City. Music director Thierry Fischer is programming Beethoven but in reverse, 9-1 through the course of the season, from opener to last concert. No idea if there’s any intentional reason, other than maybe grabbing some headline attention.


    I’m a relatively new reader, but already a fan. Thanks!

  • In fairness, Norman, they only claim it’s the Halle’s first Beethoven Cycle of the new milennium; they aren’t claiming a first for Manchester…