Birmingham names orchestra chief

Birmingham names orchestra chief


norman lebrecht

March 27, 2023

Stephen Maddock steps down next month after two decades running the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

His successor, it was announced today, will be Emma Stenning, latterly head of a Canadian theatre in Toronto.

Her credits include Chief Executive of Bristol Old Vic, where she produced the Bristol Proms and Executive Director of Battersea Arts Centre, which was then home of BAC Opera. She was also Head of Theatre at Arts Council England and
Cultural Programme Advisor at the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Her Arts Council experience could be very useful in the coming storm.



  • Tommy Pearson says:

    There’s only one Stephen Maddock.

    • Stu52 says:

      And there’s only one Emma Stenning.

    • Tommy Pearson says:

      Just to be clear: I was referring to the fact that Norman had written “Maddocks”.
      Although, to be fair, there IS only one Stephen Maddock.

    • Symphony Hall supporter says:

      I agree with Tommy Pearson, Stephen is a popular figure at the Symphony Hall. Its a shame we are getting someone less qualified. Hopefully Kazuko will be able to train Emma.

  • Worried player says:

    Coming on top of ENO and the BBC there’s massive worry among the players about this appointment. She doesn’t have any experience with orchestras and her knowledge of music is rudimentary. The level of panic among current management is obvious. Feels like the board has gone mad especially after our Chair also presided over what has happened at City of Culture.

    • Worried concert goer says:

      I really agree with ‘Worried Player’ – that Emma’s lack of experience with orchestras and minor grasp of music does make this appointment seem mad.

    • C.B S.O. Society subscriber says:

      We have been subscribers to the C.B.S.O. Society since we moved to the area in 1972. After the problems when Louis Fremaux left we have loved seeing our orchestra get better and better. First Simon Rattle came with such energy and excitement and led the move from the old Town Hall, then Andris Nelsons, lovely Mirga of course, and most recently the fabulous extension at the Symphony Hall. We were very relieved when Steven Maddocks managed to save the orchestra after the Council took away its funding. For the first time we are worried that the C.B.S.O. may be loosing its way, what with Mirga and Steven leaving and now this worrying appointment. We hope we are proved wrong.

      • Appleby says:

        The CBSO is lucky to have such loyal and committed long term friends – it’s one of the orchestra’s greatest strengths. But if you were there when Louis Fremaux quit – and yet you say that only now, for the first time, you’re worried that the organisation is losing its way – I’ve got to admit, I find that baffling.

        There’s been a stable transition to a new CEO whom the Board clearly trusts, and the players recently chose a new music director who is giving electrifying concerts and is absolutely adored by every player and audience member I’ve spoken to. Is the financial situation difficult? Yes, just as it has been difficult pretty much continuously since the start of 1921. Clearly no-one should ever be complacent and the orchestra will always need support from its public and private supporters. Its financial health can always do with being stronger. But – without having seen any figures – I’d be astonished if the finances are anywhere near as disastrous as they were in 1999, when Stephen Maddock took over at the end of Rattle’s “golden age”!

    • Appleby says:

      But the players are well represented on the Board, which made the appointment, and they don’t usually hold back. Presumably they made their views known during the recruitment process?

  • Derek H says:

    A big “Thank you” to Stephen Maddock for all he has given to the CBSO over so many years and best wishes for the future.

    Let’s give a very warm welcome to Emma Stenning as she takes over at yet another important stage for the CBSO.

  • Warren says:

    But what does she know about MUSIC !!!!!

  • CA says:

    Great. A theater person leading an orchestra. Sigh….

  • horbus rohebian says:

    The woman hasn’t been given a chance yet!

    • Stu52 says:

      It’s just so tiresome. Stephen, when he took the job, is very different to the “now”. She too will also learn and adapt and change things (as any leader should)

  • IC225 says:

    Agreed – it’s a little unnerving that they appear to have handed the keys of one of the UK’s best orchestras to someone with precisely zero relevant experience.

    But on the other hand, the current clusterfuck at the BBC is being presided over by a former orchestral musician, and they can hardly do worse than that.