BBC Symphony Orchestra

BBC Symphony Orchestra

The BBC Symphony Orchestra has played a central role at the heart of British musical life since its inception in 1930, and as the flagship orchestra of the BBC provides the backbone of the BBC Proms with at least a dozen concerts each year, including the First and Last Nights. Strongly committed to twentieth-century and contemporary music, it has given the premiere of more than 1,000 works by composers such as Bartók, Britten, Hindemith, Holst, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and more recently has premiered BBC commissions by Simon Bainbridge, Jonathan Dove, Michael Nyman and Sir John Tavener among others. Its annual season of concerts as Associate Orchestra of the Barbican includes a weekend each January focusing upon a single composer from the twentieth or twenty-first century, most recently James MacMillan, Elliott Carter and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Jiří Bĕlohlávek took up the post of Chief Conductor in July 2006 and David Robertson was appointed Principal Guest Conductor in 2005. The BBC SO works frequently with Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis and Artist-in-Association John Adams. All concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and a number are televised, giving the BBC Symphony Orchestra the highest broadcast profile of any orchestra in the UK. The BBC SO is committed to innovative education work, with ongoing projects including the BBC SO Family Orchestra and Music Intro, introducing families to concert-going.

The BBC SO has appeared on 34 of NMC’s CDs, including the best-selling recording of Elgar’s Third Symphony.

Wigglesworth, Mark


Born in Sussex, Mark Wigglesworth studied music at Manchester University and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Whilst still a student, he formed The Premiere Ensemble, an orchestra committed to performing a new piece in every programme. A few weeks after leaving the Academy, he won the Kondrashin International Conducting Competition in The Netherlands, and since then has worked with many of the leading orchestras and opera companies of the world.

In 1992 he became Associate Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra; further appointments have included Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. In addition to concerts with most of the UK's orchestras, Mark Wigglesworth has regularly guest conducted Europe's leading ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. He has been equally busy in North America, having been invited to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and the Boston Symphony.

Alongside his symphonic conducting, Mark Wigglesworth has always been equally at home in the opera house, beginning with a period as Music Director of Opera Factory, London, and since involving Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera and English National Opera, as well as engagements with the Netherlands Opera, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

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Lento is music of extraordinary directness and simplicity. It is an enigmatic and hypnotic work within which shifting modal chords progress through the orchestra to create a chorale-like, almost architectural form beneath a calm melodic surface; now something of a cult piece, it is NMC's most consistently-selling recording since its release in 1992.


'Lento, by the British miniaturist Howard Skempton, must surely be heading for cult status… it is captivating in its simple wistfulness.'
BBC Music Magazine Pick of 1992


'An enigmatic orchestral chorale … like Gorecki’s Third Symphony, it is stuff that cults are made of' Gramophone

'First performed in 1991, Lento is a timeless piece, both an intensely personal continuation of the English pastoral tradition and a far more convincing assertion of the continuing expressive power of tonal music than anything in Pärt's world of faux-religiosity.'
Andrew Clements, The Guardian



Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


Recording date: 9 August 1991

Recording venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Engineer: Helen Robinson
Producer: Martin Cotton 
Editing & mastering: Marian Tryggvason for Modus Music

Cover image: Francois Hall

(P) 1992 NMC Recordings Ltd

Oxford University Press
Catalogue number:
NMC D005
Release Date:
1 April 1992