BCMG was formed in 1987 from within the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and is established as one of Europe’s leading ensembles.   Sir Simon Rattle is the Group’s Founding Patron and has conducted BCMG in the UK, on tour in Europe and America, and on several EMI recordings. The Group has strong relationships with its two Artists-in-Association Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich, and also with Thomas Adès who conducts the Group during 2006/07 in Birmingham, London, Cologne and Paris, and with whom BCMG is invited to Carnegie Hall, New York in 2008. BCMG was awarded The Arts Ball 2002 Outstanding Achievement Award and has also won prestigious Prudential, Royal Philharmonic Society, Gramophone and PRS Millennial awards. In May 2005, BCMG was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audience Development for its popular Rural Tours programme.
The core of BCMG's work is the performance of new music, and the Group has premiered over 100 new works by leading UK and overseas composers. Most have been commissioned with the help of a large number of individuals through BCMG’s ground-breaking Sound Investmentscheme. The Group regularly tours nationally and internationally. Recent UK engagements have included appearances at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and at the BBC Proms with Birmingham Opera Company for Benjamin Britten’s CurlewRiver.  In April 2006, the Group toured the UK with New York-based jazz trumpeter, Dave Douglas, performing Blue Latitudes, a piece commissioned through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme. Previous projects have included a European tour with Sir Simon Rattle in 2000, a tour of India in 2002 with Judith Weir and Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu and visits to the Berlin, Radio France Présences and Vienna’s Wien Modern Festivals, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal.   
BCMG is committed to engaging the widest possible range of people with its work, and runs extensive learning and audience-building programmes in pursuit of this aim. Projects with young people in and out of school and with adults in a range of community settings are complemented by free performance projects such as the Group’s popular ‘Rural Tours’, Late-Night performances and Meet-the-Composer days. BCMG broadcasts often on BBC Radio, has made TV programmes for BBC and Independent Television, and numerous CD recordings.  The relationship with NMC is particularly strong, with the recent launch of a new CD of Britten’s film music and several more discs planned.

Knussen, Oliver


Born in Glasgow in 1952, Knussen grew up near London, where his father was principal double bass of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was with the LSO that he made his debut in April 1968, conducting his First Symphony in London and in Carnegie Hall, New York.  In 1970 he was awarded the first of three fellowships to Tanglewood, where he studied with Gunther Schuller. During this time he completed several works which were subsequently widely performed on both sides of the Atlantic and established his early reputation. In 1975 Knussen returned permanently to the UK.

From 1983 till 1998, Knussen was an Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival, and also held posts at the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In 1992, with Colin Matthews, he established the Contemporary Composition and Performance courses at the Britten-Pears School in Snape.

After many years of close collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen became Music Director in 1998, and in 2002 was made Conductor Laureate. In 2006 he was appointed Artist in Association with the BCMG. Among his many awards are Honorary Memberships of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal Philharmonic Society, an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the 2004 Association of British Orchestras Award. In 2006 he was named the second recipient of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, USA.

He has guest-conducted in many parts of the world, including in the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. As a conductor he has recorded more than thirty CDs of contemporary music, several of which have won international awards - these include Robin Holloway's Concerto for Orchestra No.2, which won NMC's first Gramophone Award, and Maxwell Davies' opera Taverner.

He became a CBE in the 1994 Birthday Honours.

Image Credit: 
Clive Barda


The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is a British orchestra based in Birmingham, England. The Orchestra's current chief executive, appointed in 1999, is Stephen Maddock. The orchestra's music director designate is Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Founded by Neville Chamberlain, the orchestra first rehearsed at 9.30am on 4 September 1920, in the band room at the Birmingham City Police's Steelhouse Lane station. The first public performance, as the City of Birmingham Orchestra occurred later that month, with Appleby Matthews, the orchestra's first chief conductor, at the baton. The programme included Overture: Saul by Granville Bantock, a strong supporter of the orchestra's foundation. However, its official foundation is generally reckoned to have been the "First Symphony Concert" in November 1920, when Edward Elgar conducted a programme of his own music in Birmingham Town Hall.

Brabbins, Martyn

Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music 2005-2007, he was Associate Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1994-2005. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, a position which started in September 2009. After studying composition in London and then conducting with Ilya Musin in Leningrad, his career was launched when he won first prize at the 1988 Leeds Conductors' Competition. Since then Brabbins has regularly conducted all the major UK orchestras and is much sought-after in Europe, notably in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Scandinavia.   
Brabbins’ symphonic engagements have included appearances at London's  South Bank in subscription with the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras, his Tokyo debut, with the Tokyo Metropolitan (where he returns in 2011); and visits to the Netherlands Radio Chamber in the prestigious Matinee series, the Residentie Orkest, Salzburg Mozarteumorchester and Lahti Symphony.  He is a regular guest with the City of Birmingham Symphony, Halle and BBC Philharmonic orchestras, and appears several times each season with the BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony orchestras in subscription and at the BBC Proms.

Oramo, Sakari

Sakari Oramo is Chief Conductor of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Principal Conductor of the West Coast Kokkola Opera and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, and between 1998 and 2008 he was Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. After a decade as Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, he has now served as their Honorary Conductor since 2012.
Image Credit: 
Benjamin Ealovega

Halsey, Simon

Simon Halsey, CBE (born 8 March 1958) is an English choral conductor. He is the Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, a position he has held since 1983, and has been Chorus Director of the London Symphony Chorus since 2012. He is also artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic Youth Choral Programme and the director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir, and Conductor Laureate of the Berlin Radio Choir. He is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham.
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This disc from Julian Anderson celebrates his residency with Birmingham's ensembles from 2001-2005.

Book of Hours, one of three live recordings on the disc, combines ensemble and live electronics in a tribute to two great glories of late medieval art - the illuminations of the Très riches heures du Duc de Berry and the Dame à la licorne tapestries held in Paris; it uses electronic sound as (in the composer's words) "an extra colour … rather as gold-leaf might be applied in a Medieval manuscript".

This exploration of other times and sound-worlds is continued in Eden (recorded live at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival), which opens with a solo viola and cello evoking the sound of Renaissance viols; and Four American Choruses, which set nineteenth-century hymn texts in a robust display of spirituality reminiscent of Charles Ives.

The disc is completed by Anderson's Symphony (also recorded live) - which despite its abstract title was inspired by a painting, Lake Keitele, by the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela; and by Imagin'd Corners, an exuberant showpiece for five horns and orchestra.

Note on Recording (RE: Track 9 "noise")
We would like to point out that the crackling noise present on track 2 of Book of Hours (track 9 of the album) is intentional. The composer's idea was to begin Part 2 of the work as a distorted version of Part 1 (track 8).  Julian Anderson has explained to us that he is recreating - with electronics - the surface noise of LPs bought in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall (he has a strong interest in Eastern European music).




'For his "fusion of direct simplicity and delirious complexity", which won him this year's RPS award for large-scale composition, Anderson has become one of the most admired British composers of his generation. Here's why.' The Observer

Review in The Classical Source

Reviews on MusicWeb by Anne Ozorio and Hubert Culot



Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


Recording date: 1 July 2005
Recording venue: Cheltenham Town Hall
Engineer: Huw Thomas 
Producer: Michael Surcombe

Imagin'd Corners:
Recording date: 19 January 2006
Recording venue: Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Engineer: Mike Clements
Producer: Andrew Walton

Recording date: 4 December 2003
Recording venue: Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Engineer: Steve Portnoi
Producer: Chris Wines

Four American Choruses:
Recording date: 19 January 2006
Recording venue: Hawksyard Priory, Lichfield
Engineer: Mike Clements
Producer: Andrew Walton

Book of Hours:
Recording date: 29 January 2005
Recording venue: RNCM, Manchester
Engineer: Steve Portnoi
Producer: Chris Wines

Book of Hours is released by arrangement with BBC Music

Cover image: Francois Hall

Eden, Symphony, Choruses, Imagin'd Corners (P) 2006 NMC Recordings Ltd
Book of Hours (P) 2006 BBC

Faber Music
Catalogue number:
NMC D121
Release Date:
1 October 2005