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.

Bernas, Richard


Gramophone Award-winning conductor Richard Bernas is also Music Consultant at Tate Modern. The events he has developed there are without equivalent in European museums, gallery rather than concert based. They have included performing Feldman's Rothko Chapel and Tallis' Lamentations in Tate's Rothko Room, commissioning Rebecca Saunders' Chroma for the large Turbine Hall, performing music during such exhibitions as Arte povera and Brancusi, and collaborations with BBC Radio 3, the Almeida Festival and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

As well as conducting many of the BBC Orchestras and performing extensively in Europe he has worked with many of today's leading composers. World premieres have varied from Maw's Odyssey at the Festival Hall to Stockhausen's Sternklang in the Berliner Tiergarten, including James Dillon's Oceanos for the BBC Proms and a number of ballets for The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, where he has been a guest for a dozen years.

Highlights of his theatre work include Mozart's Idomeneo for the Theatre du Capitole, Toulouse, the Ravel Operas for Opera Zuid, Holland, Britten's Prince of the Pagodas at Covent Garden and the MET and most recently Will Tuckett's full staging of Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale at ROH2. His recording of Turnage's Greek has recently been re-issued (Decca) and NMC will re-issue his Virgin recording of Casken's Golem.

In April 2005, he returns to Covent Garden for Henze's Ondine.


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Rampant antiphonal brass and percussion characterise Smalley's Pulses for 5x4 Players – a huge and gripping work which uses electronic treatment of sound to explore the spatial relationship between groups of performers.


'Pulses is still fresh and impressive 25 years on, its sound growing inexorably like cumulus clouds... The performers... do the piece full justice, prompting a query as to why it has not been played more often.'   The Wire


Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


Recording date: 5 December 1991

Recording venue: Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale

Engineer: Martin Page

Ring modulators and amplification: Ian Dearden, Javier Alvarez
Producer: Martin Cotton 
Editing & mastering: Marian Freeman

Cover image: Francois Hall

(P) 1994 NMC Recordings Ltd

Faber Music
Catalogue number:
Release Date:
1 May 1994