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A symphony of sound: Bristol Beacon's homecoming Orchestral Season for 2023 - 2024

A person conducting an orchestra.

Bristol Beacon will welcome world-renowned musicians and conductors back to the South West for its 2023/24 Reopening Orchestral Season, including performances from newly announced Orchestra in Residence Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Associate Artists London Symphony Orchestra.

It’s a season of firsts and lasts with two world premieres, and three opportunities to catch conducting greats performing in their opening or closing seasons for their respective orchestras. This will be the inaugural season for Sir Antonio Pappano as Chief Conductor Designate of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and Kirill Karabits’ final season as Chief Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Currently Music Director at the Royal Opera House, Pappano will step into his new role with LSO in September 2023 and the Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits will complete his final season with BSO following 15 mesmerising years in the role. Another farewell performance will take place as Sir Mark Elder CH CBE completes his final season after 23 years as Music Director of The Hallé.

As symphonic music returns to its home in Bristol, the idea of home resonates throughout this opening season. The series showcases some of the UK’s best-loved home-grown orchestras, several with long histories of performing in Bristol, testing out the improved acoustics of the newly transformed Beacon Hall. Lining up alongside Associate Artists London Symphony Orchestra and newly monikered Orchestra in Residence Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are The Hallé, The Royal Philharmonic and Royal Northern Sinfonia – ensembles all known for their artistic excellence.

Kirill Karabits at Bristol Beacon with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

The season opens on Tuesday 19th December when Bristol Beacon’s long-standing collaborators, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, will open the season with a brand new work ‘Beacons’, written by Mark Anthony Turnage and dedicated to the venue. Celebrated conductor Kirill Karabits will lead the BSO in the first classical concert in the newly reopened Beacon Hall, as the orchestra performs Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 ‘Emperor’ and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

On Sunday 28th January, home is seen in a different light in the world premiere of ‘Odyssey’ by composer Jonathan Dove, as music tells the dramatic story of one refugee fleeing their home to find safety in another country. Commissioned by Bristol Beacon and drawing on first-hand accounts, this powerful music-drama for singers and orchestra will allow the audience to see through the eyes of one refugee as they leave loved ones to undertake a perilous journey. BSO join forces with the voices of City of Bristol Choir, Bristol Youth Choir and community singers under the baton of conductor David Ogden, while Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina and South African tenor Thando Mjandana will perform lead roles. The performance will be part of a day of creativity co-curated by members of the refugee community in Bristol.

The season will also see London Symphony Orchestra take up the position of Associate Artists at Bristol Beacon. Their first concert in the new Beacon Hall will be on Monday 4th March 2024, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and featuring Roy Harris’ Third Symphony, three pieces from Gershwin including his Piano Concerto performed by Kirill Gerstein, and a world premiere from John Adams. A second concert on 12th April 2024 will see Chief Conductor Designate Sir Antonio Pappano wielding the baton for Bristol audiences for the first time, and trumpeter Alison Balsom performing the jazz-imbued concerto fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis wrote especially for her.

A conductor holds their arms in the air in front of an orchestra.
Sir Antonio Pappano

The reopening of Bristol Beacon will also herald the return of international orchestras to the city. In February Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra performs a programme of French repertoire and Rachmaninov’s much-loved Piano Concerto No. 2, performed by pianist Nikolai Lugansky. In April, Dresden Philharmonic returns to Bristol Beacon playing emotive and thrilling works from Mussorgsky, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.


A smiling person looks at a trumpet on a table.
Alison Balsom

The Hallé takes to the new stage on Tuesday 7th May with Sir Mark Elder performing a blockbusting programme of Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad and Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Alongside these two concert hall favourites, Sir Stephen Hough performs Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1. The concert is a chance to catch Elder’s outgoing season at the helm of The Hallé, who rank among the UK’s top symphonic orchestras.

“Revealing the first orchestral season for our newly transformed Beacon Hall is a very special moment for us at Bristol Beacon. We are looking forward to welcoming audiences to experience world-class music reverberate around the improved acoustics of our wonderful auditorium Beacon Hall, in 21st century levels of comfort.

We are also honoured to host conductors and orchestras who have played such a huge part of our musical history to date. It’s fitting that they are helping us start this new era with this special season, which is packed with some of the greatest and best-loved classical works, as well as brand new music from some of the world’s most respected living composers.”

Louise Mitchell, Chief Executive
Bristol Beacon

“We can’t wait to return to Bristol to open this extraordinary hall, which has been designed to create the very best acoustic experience for live music and will undoubtedly set a new benchmark in concert-going. As we share the breadth of our work in this opening season — we’ll be excited to return to audiences both familiar and new.We’re proud of our long-standing history in Bristol and look forward to helping the brilliant team at Bristol Beacon in marking this new chapter of creativity in the city and the wider South West.”

Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

A conductor spreads their arms in front of an audience.
Sir Mark Elder

For those that wish to take a deeper dive into the themes inside the music, alongside many of the concerts there will be pre-concert talks hosted by conductor, music educator, writer and presenter Jonathan James.

For our reopening season we have introduced new pricing that we hope will allow more people than ever to experience world-class orchestral music. A new open concession ticket price is for anyone who feels they cannot pay the standard ticket price when booking, without needing to provide any proof of eligibility. This new initiative goes alongside £10 tickets for under 26s, as well as the cheapest standard ticket price having been lowered from £18 to £15.

The Reopening Orchestral Season 2023-2024 goes on general sale on Friday 16 June. To discover the concerts, visit our season page.

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