How can you top a season programme for which you’ve been recently honoured with the Best Concert Programme awarded by the Deutscher Musikverleger-Verband (Association of German Music Publishers)? With their upcoming season themed “Once upon a time…”, the Bamberg Symphony has found an answer and is eager to set the bar even higher. It has been a year of “Passion” in the Bavarian music city, culminating in a performance of Jörg Widmann’s Das heiße Herz and the 2018-19 season of storytellers is equally hotly anticipated.

Jakub Hrůša © Petra Klačková
Jakub Hrůša
© Petra Klačková
Throughout the year, Jakub Hrůša and visiting artists explore the fairy-tale world with symphonic poems and suites, starting with Antonín Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel in the season’s opening concert, led by the Bamberg’s chief conductor. It is a dark story of a young girl, Dornička, who falls in love with the king and is, out of jealousy, murdered by her stepmother and stepsister. Through magic, she is brought back to live and finds her happiness with the king, while the murderesses are thrown to the wolves. Singing and dancing animals can be heard in Leoš Janáček's suite from his opera The Cunning Little Vixen in a programme with Frank Peter Zimmermann playing Martinů's Violin Concerto.

Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt leads us into a world of elves with Niels Gade’s Elverskud, while Ludovic Morlot immerses listeners in Anatoly Lyadov’s tone poems The Enchanting Lake, Baba Yaga and Kikimora – all based on Russian folklore. Constantinos Carydis conducts not one, but two pieces by Rimsky-Korsakov and Maurice Ravel respectively dedicated to the heroine and storyteller of The Arabian Nights, with Myrtò Papatanasiu singing Shéhérazade in Ravel’s song cycle.

Martin Fröst © Mats Bäcker
Martin Fröst
© Mats Bäcker
A young artist’s passionate love for a woman turns into a haunting idée fixe, delirious dreams and a vulgar, grotesque witches’ sabbath in Hector Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique. Honorary Conductor Herbert Blomstedt will, without doubt, draw the disturbing and manic moods superbly. He also returns to Bamberg for the closing orchestral concert with Beethoven's “Eroica” and Richard Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung.

For a tour to his homeland – the Czech Republic – and Switzerland, Jakub Hrůša chooses a piece close to his heart, Bedřich Smetana's Má Vlast (My homeland). The six symphonic poems are often played individually, Vltava (The Moldau) probably being the most famous of them, but performing the work in its entity is a true love poem to the countryside, legends and history of Bohemia. Another tour with Mahler’s Third Symphony brings the Bamberg Symphony and their chief conductor, together with Bernarda Fink, to Paris in February.

Next year’s Portrait Artist is the fabulous Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst. He visits Bamberg as a soloist of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto in January, a chamber musician with the Quatuor Ébène and an autumnal Brahms programme in December, and as a conductor and performer with his latest remarkable project Retrotopia in November. It draws a musical line from Mozart’s Figaro overture to three contemporary works – Exodus: Departure, Nomadia and Emerge – to challenge our modern society’s way of “looking back” instead of “moving forward”. It also features a newly developed instrument, the Gestrument, which transforms Fröst’s movement into music via motion sensors and infrared cameras.

Barbara Hannigan © Elmer de Haas
Barbara Hannigan
© Elmer de Haas
Hans Abrahamsen composed his 2013 song cycle let me tell you for the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan. Its narrative follows the character Ophelia from Hamlet who tells her tragic story from her own perspective and has been highly praised by critics, and Hannigan for her “bewitching performance”. Abrahamsen paints a wintry landscape in his piece that beautifully accompanies the mood in Bruckner’s “Romantic” Fourth Symphony and Brahms' melancholic Second respectively in the Bamberg Symphony’s German tour with Hrůša and Hannigan.

Compared with other violin concertos, Erich Korngold’s is a rarity on the orchestral stage. In a concert which opens with the Symphonic Suite of Prokofiev’s satirical opera The Love for Three Oranges and closes with Stravinsky’s sizzling Firebird Suite, the young Norwegian whirlwind  Vilde Frang plays the Austrian composer’s lush, oft-neglected concerto. Cello virtuoso Mischa Maisky visits Bamberg for a special New Year’s Eve concert where he performs Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, the closest the Russian composer ever came to writing a full cello concerto.

With Mother Goose and Peter and the Wolf, the season also includes two magical concerts for children and the Bamberg Symphony further continues their encore! Project with newly commissioned works by Duncan Ward and Detlev Glanert.

It is a charming new season with plenty to choose from. Let the Bamberg Symphony enchant you!

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This preview is sponsored by the Bamberg Symphony.