London’s great. We all know it – and especially in the summer, when reams of internationally celebrated performers make their way nightly to the BBC Proms, it can be easy to forget about the rest of the UK. But there’s a lot going on outside the capital as well, especially once the new seasons get going this autumn. That’s why we’ve decided to take a look at what’s going on in concert halls in other parts of the country. We’ve planned out a little road trip for you: next season, why not try sampling live music somewhere new?

The Holywell Music Room, Oxford
The Holywell Music Room, Oxford
Even if you live in London, there are plenty of compelling reasons to leave every once in a while. The concert scene in Oxford, for instance, is only a swift coach journey away (the remarkable Oxford Tube coach service runs 24 hours a day), and there’s a lot to look forward to next season in this beautiful city. Two local orchestras – the Orchestra of St John’s and the Oxford Philomusica – both have strong programmes and some world-class soloists. Steven Isserlis will join the OSJ twice for Haydn and Tchaikovsky concertos, and the Oxford Phil can boast both Anne-Sophie Mutter and Renée Fleming, neither of whom seem to have any upcoming London appearances. For something smaller-scale, Oxford Coffee Concerts runs a series of top-quality chamber recitals in the historic Holywell Music Room, providing a free cup of coffee just before lunch – as well as music from the likes of the Carducci and Doric String Quartets. It’s famously awkward to make the trip between those two famous university cities Oxford and Cambridge – a notorious bus route known sinisterly as the X5 remains the best option – but such a trip can be rewarded with a quality concert or two. Though Cambridge lacks its own professional symphony orchestra (not that the university bands are too bad), the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be resident at the Cambridge Corn Exchange for three years starting this autumn. A valedictory concert next May with Julian Lloyd Webber, stepping down from his term as Artist in Residence, will feature a striking selection of British music including Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Also based in Cambridge are the superb chamber orchestra Britten Sinfonia, but they can be heard in various other locations around the country too – they have residencies not just in Cambridge and London, but also in Norwich, and further travels are taking them to Birmingham and Reading next season. Unsurprisingly, they are hitting the Britten centenary hard, with collaborators including Mark Padmore and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge – but there’s more to their programmes than that; they are as thoughtfully and eclectically curated as ever. Look out for Roderick Williams’ appearance with the group, which features the baritone as composer as well as singer.
Britten Sinfonia © Harry Rankin
Britten Sinfonia
© Harry Rankin
If you head out of London west instead of north, you may find yourself in Reading, home of Reading Arts. They put on events at both The Hexagon and the town’s Concert Hall, and top draws for the season include Mitsuko Uchida and two Beethoven concerts from the Elias String Quartet. And for concerts of a similarly high calibre, a quick trip down the A33 will take you to Basingstoke: regular visitors to the Anvil include the Philharmonia and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, and their list of soloists for 2013/14 is world-class: Piotr Anderszewski, Truls Mørk and Eva-Maria Westbroek all make appearances. Visiting orchestras from further afield include the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra. It’ll be well worth a trip to Basingstoke.
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
After Basingstoke, why not carry on heading south to Southampton and Bournemouth? The English south coast has an active, varied classical music scene. The programme at Turner Sims in Southampton is fantastically eclectic – from a concert of graphic scores performed by Joanna MacGregor and others, to some Baroque snippets with trumpeter Alison Balsom and The English Concert, plus another stop on Mitsuko Uchida’s tour (she’s offering a different programme from her Basingstoke concert). The Bournemouth classical scene, meanwhile, has much from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Bournemouth Pavilion – but you can also catch this orchestra in a number of other destinations. They play more regularly nearby at the Lighthouse in Poole, and are hitting the rest of the south hard this season, from Torquay to Bristol. A surefire BSO highlight will be Radu Lupu’s appearance for Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto, which you can catch in either Basingstoke or Poole. Moving north up the M5 will take you to Bristol, home to one of England’s most vibrant classical scenes outside London, with Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol both providing numerous regular events. While popular highlights at Colston Hall will include Valentina Lisitsa playing Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto and a Britten War Requiem with the BSO, a series of lunchtime concerts presented with Royal Academy of Music will offer some music-making on a smaller scale, and an opportunity to hear some of tomorrow’s talent early on in their careers. Cardiff is only a short drive away from Bristol – or a swim across the channel, if you’re in the mood – and concerts abound in the Welsh capital next season. The city is home to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Welsh Sinfonia, and both have some imaginative programmes lined up. BBC NOW will give a rare outing to Arthur Honegger’s “Liturgical” Symphony in January with popular former chief conductor Thierry Fischer, and highlights with new chief Thomas Søndergård include Mahler 9 and Brahms’ German Requiem. The Welsh Sinfonia mainly perform at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and under conductor Mark Eager they have a habit of mixing old and new in their concerts, with a healthy number of pieces coming up from composer Michael Csányi-Wills.
Malvern Theatre
Malvern Theatre
Not too far from the Welsh border lies the town of Malvern, once the home of Edward Elgar, and in more recent times violinist Nigel Kennedy. The town may be tucked away in the West Midlands, but it’s a serious player on the classical touring circuit: guests include two top bands from Manchester – the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Manchester Camerata – and chamber concerts from the likes of Benjamin Grosvenor and Stephen Hough. A little further east within the Midlands lies Royal Leamington Spa, home (most of the time) of Leamington Music, with another strong programme of chamber music lined up for the season. Their headline event, however, is taking place in St Mary’s Church, Warwick, where The English Concert and their director Harry Bicket will perform a delightful programme of Baroque music this October. But if we’re talking West Midlands, Birmingham of course remains the biggest draw: with a typically scintillating season from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, it’s high time to make the trip to Symphony Hall and catch their much-loved conductor Andris Nelsons there while you can. He’s just taken up the position of Music Director with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and speculation abounds concerning how long he’ll be staying put at his Birmingham post. Looking north, the next stop on our tour is Nottingham, a city which may lack its own professional orchestra but is in no shortage of talented guests: the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic are regular visitors to the Royal Concert Hall, which is also playing host to a number of other orchestras from both the UK and overseas. The University’s Lakeside Arts Centre is also a top chamber music venue, and the place to find your fix of string quartets or lute recitals. Pop up the M1 next to Sheffield for more vibrant programmes from touring orchestras at Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall, and there’s chamber music as well at the famous Crucible (and elsewhere) courtesy of Music in the Round. This enterprising group is the UK’s largest chamber music promoter outside the capital, and won a coveted Royal Philharmonic Society Award earlier this year for chamber music and song.
Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall, Sheffield
Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall, Sheffield
Across the Peak District, to the west of Sheffield, Manchester probably boasts England’s largest number of professional resident ensembles outside London. The BBC Philharmonic, Hallé and Manchester Camerata are all well worth the trip. This season, the BBC Phil’s season is particularly enticing: entitled “The Mancunian Way”, it celebrates the city’s musical heritage through pieces both old and new with Manchester connections. Manchester-educated pianist Stephen Hough is soloist for three concertos, and Elgar’s First Symphony, whose première took place in Manchester in 1908, will make a popular return under chief conductor Juanjo Mena. It’s clear from a glance at our listings that there remains a lot to celebrate about classical music in Manchester, with such high quality across the board.
Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool © RLPO
Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool
© RLPO
Over in Liverpool, meanwhile, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic are kicking things off in style this September with a series of concerts from Bryn Terfel. This ever-popular Welshman is demonstrating the range of his talent, with extracts from musicals, a Bach cantata, another German Requiem, and the role of Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca. This will be a remarkable start to the season in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, and their dynamic chief conductor Vasily Petrenko is bound to maintain momentum for the rest of the year. The classical scene in the North East is dominated by Sage Gateshead, home to the newly honoured Royal Northern Sinfonia. 2013/14 is a big season for this renowned chamber orchestra, being Thomas Zehetmair’s twelfth and last as Music Director – as well as the orchestra’s first with royal patronage. Zehetmair is bowing out in June 2014 with a programme of Mozart, Bartók, Beethoven and John Casken – whose new piece The Subtle Knot will feature both Zehetmair and his partner Ruth Killius on violin and viola respectively. There’s plenty more afoot at Sage next season, with numerous guest orchestras visiting and plenty of Britten programmed for the end of 2013: a royal treat, indeed.
Sage Gateshead © Mark Savage
Sage Gateshead
© Mark Savage
Our grand tour finishes in Scotland. Edinburgh and Glasgow have the most to offer, with numerous top ensembles, though these can often be found touring around the rest of the country as well. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, for one, may have Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall as their most frequent haunt, but they also visit not just Edinburgh but also Aberdeen, Inverness and Perth. Their season features two striking Mahler programmes: one, their first concert in September, with 
Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC SSO
Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC SSO
Thomas Hampson singing Lieder, and another with chief conductor Donald Runnicles conducting the Ninth Symphony. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, who likewise tour around the country, have programmed noticeably more concerts for this year than the last. Peter Oundjian’s second season in charge contains some spectacularly big concerts: Holst’s The Planets, Messiaen’s Turangalîla, and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony all figure. The Scottish Ensemble are traversing Scotland in this coming season too, bringing their delightful string orchestra programmes to diverse locations. They’re taking a couple of detours to Wigmore Hall as well – but why bother with London?