Given the history of the Bamberg Symphony, which was formed from German Philharmonic Orchestra musicians expelled from Prague after the Second World War in 1946, it is not surprising that the orchestra is just as at home in Czech repertoire as it is in German music. Having Brno-born Jakub Hrůša as its Chief Conductor since 2016 has strengthened these ties even further. Hrůša has a remarkable chemistry with the orchestra and their concerts together often produce great results, as you can read in our many reviews. Both Germanic and Czech repertoire feature heavily in its 2022–23 season. 

Loading image...
The Bamberg Symphony in the Joseph Keilberth Saal
© Andreas Herzau

Having just conducted his first Wagner opera (Lohengrin at Covent Garden), Hrůša and the Bamberg Symphony closed their 21–22 season with a Wagner focus, including Lorin Maazel’s orchestral synthesis, The Ring without Words. Wagner features in the opening concert of the new season, with the Overture to Tannhäuser, not placed at the start of the concert – where one may expect to find an overture – but at its ecstatic climax. Their new season is heralded by the familiar sunrise that opens Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra before Frank Peter Zimmermann plays Stravinsky. 

Loading image...
Jakub Hrůša
© Marian Lenhard
A week later, Hrůša pairs Zarathustra with Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida. Other Hrůša concerts to whet the musical appetite include Brahms’ German Requiem as the prelude to Burckner’s Ninth Symphony – a mighty programme if ever there was one – and Brahms’ Fourth Symphony in Lucerne, prefaced by the Cello Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar, often seen as an quintessentially English composer, but one whose musical roots can be traced to Strauss’ Germany. Sol Gabetta is the soloist.

In January, Hrůša takes two great programmes of Brahms paired with Dvořák (Brahms 3 and Dvořák 8; and Dvořák 9 and Brahms 9) to the already iconic Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Between each, he inserts short works by György Ligeti – Poème symphonique and Lontano – in what would have been the composer’s centenary year. And there’s more Czech-Bohemian-Germanic fare in February when Hrůša programmes Strauss’ Four Last Songs (with Genia Kühmeier as soloist) after the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony before turning to the dark world of Josef Suk’s Asrael. The Bamberg season ends, appropriately enough, with a project entitled the “Bavarian-Czech Friendship Weeks”.

With the town’s small population of just under 80,000 – around 10% of Bamberg’s citizens have a season subscription of some form – the orchestra relies on touring to reach larger audiences. Away from its north Bavarian home, you can catch the Bamberg Symphony in any number of cities, from Frankfurt to Munich and Hamburg to Baden-Baden within Germany but, further afield, to Lucerne, Vienna and Rome.

In January, Hrůša and the Bambergers head off on tour to Spain with Patricia Kopatchinskaja (the soloist in Stravinsky’s neoclassical Violin Concerto), so watch out for them in Barcelona, Madrid, Tenerife, Las Palmas and Alicante. They take the German-Czech theme as its calling card, opening with Beethoven’s dramatic Leonore Overture no. 3 and closing with Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, subtitled “From the New World”' but essentially about the composer’s Czech homeland.

Loading image...
Jonathan Nott
© Guillaume Megevand
But it’s not all about the Bamberg Symphony’s Chief Conductor. Hrůša’s predecessor in the post, Jonathan Nott, returns for Pärt, Kurtág and Mahler’s Fifth, while the legendary Herbert Blomstedt, who has enjoyed a long association with the orchestra, conducts two programmes, each containing a symphony by his compatriot Franz Berwald. Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler’s mysterious, nocturnal Seventh Symphony in December before Manfred Honeck conducts the traditional New Year’s Eve “Silvesterkonzert”.

Honeck is also at the helm in June when takes the orchestra on tour to Bad Kissingen and Wolfegg. In October, Antonello Manacorda conducts Shostakovich and Beethoven, while Giovanni Antonini brings his period instrument expertise and fire to Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation. Another expert in historically informed performance practices is Fabio Biondi who conducts Mozart and Mendelssohn in Fürth, Würzburg and the exquisite Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth.

And it’s not all Germanic or Czech repertoire either. Among the unusual repertoire to watch out for next season, try and catch a couple of Lili Boulanger miniatures conducted by Petr Popelka in October, George Crumb’s Black Angels and Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy conducted by Patrick Hahn, and the world premiere of Johannes Schachtner’s Violin Concerto in April, performed by Julia Fischer. She also joins her regular collaborator, cellist Daniel Müller-Schott in Brahms’ Double Concerto in October, where Juanjo Mena leads a programme that otherwise features Milhaud’s La Création du monde, Debussy’s Printemps and Villa-Lobos’ rarely heard Amazonas, a rich symphonic poem for full orchestra augmented with Brazilian percussion. Now that’s both musically and geographically as far away from Bamberg and Prague as you could imagine...

Click here to see the Bamberg Symphony's new season events.

This article was sponsored by the Bamberg Symphony