Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of Saffron Hall. Founded through philanthropic donations, the north Essex venue has gained an enviable stature in this time, attracting the cream of musical talent from the UK and around the world. In the process it has cemented Saffron Walden County High School as one of the best centres for music education anywhere in the country.

Saffron Hall
© Saffron Hall Trust

Given its philanthropic origins, Saffron Hall’s programming ethos is inclusive and eclectic. Events are available for families and young people, at different times of the day, and with a wide variety of musical offerings.

Notable this season are visits from many renowned orchestras. The BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Aurora Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, City of Birmingham Symphony, and London Philharmonic Orchestra all make appearances throughout 2023 – not forgetting the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

Alongside this cavalcade of orchestral splendour are a series of chamber events, including the Doric String Quartet, pianists Paul Lewis and George Harliano, and vocalists such as Sir Bryn Terfel and Roderick Williams.

The year opens in January with one of two visits by the BBC Concert Orchestra. A Neujahrskonzert Viennese chocolate box of waltzes and polkas, the date also features the Mozart Clarinet Concerto performed by Emma Johnson. The orchestra returns later in April to present a programme of Hollywood classics, including music from On The Town and Hello Dolly!.

Alina Ibragimova
© Eva Vermandel

The London Philharmonic Orchestra contributes soloists for a concert by Syrian clarinettist and composer Kinan Azmeh in January, whose mesmerising and scintillating music will be accompanied by a spread of middle-eastern street food. Later in May, the LPO returns under Edward Gardner with soloist Alina Ibragimova, in a programme featuring Bartok’s Violin Concerto no. 1 and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra, under chief conductor Sakari Oramo, will make an appearance in February, with a programme of Dvorak, Elgar and a rare work by gifted mid-century Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz.

Sakari Oramo
© Yanan Li

Some chamber-scale works are also worth looking out for in early 2023. Paul Lewis will in early January give the first of a series of concerts (over the next three years) exploring Schubert’s meditative piano sonatas. Later in February the multiple keyboards of the James McVinnie Ensemble make an appearance performing Philip Glass’ Glassworks, alongside other mesmerising offerings from Meredith Monk.

Then in March, Sir Bryn Terfel returns to Saffron Walden with a wide-ranging programme from traditional Welsh folk songs, Gerald Finzi, Ivor Novello, to the Basque songs of Jesús Guridi, to Debussy, Schumann and Wagner. Chamber music fans will be able to catch the Doric String Quartet later in March in a programme featuring Beethoven, Berg and Smetana, in his intensely personal String Quartet no. 1 “From my life”.

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
© Emma-Jane Lewis

March also sees a visit from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. One of Britain’s pioneering early music ensembles, they will present Bach’s Mass in B minor, led from the harpsichord by Václav Luks. Performing will be some of the best vocal soloists in the country, including Roderick Williams and Julia Doyle. (Roderick Williams returns in May with tenor Mark Padmore and Rory Kinnear as narrator, for a programme of songs and readings.)

Scotland’s premiere early music group the Dunedin Consort will also visit in March, with an all-Handel programme of arias, cantatas and overtures, featuring up-and-coming soprano soloist Nardus Williams.

Britten Sinfonia
© Mark Allen

The Britten Sinfonia is resident a Saffron Hall this season, performing two concerts. In February they will present new music for ensemble and the middle-eastern oud – a relative of the lute, whose fretless neck grants it a unique flexibility of expression. The instrument, performed by Joseph Tawadros, will be incorporated into Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5 (in place of the mandolin) and also in a new work for oud and ensemble by Tawadros himself.

Then in April the Britten Sinfonia returns with another world premiere, a new piano concerto by the young Dutch composer Mathilde Wantenaar. Piano soloist Daria van den Bercken joins the Sinfonia, who will also perform Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks and Haydn’s Symphony no. 22 “The Philosopher”. Later in May, the Sinfonia returns with vocal group Polyphony to perform Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks, and Fauré’s Requiem.

Aurora Orchestra
© Nick Rutter

The Aurora Orchestra also present two concerts this season, beginning in May with an all-American programme with piano soloist Tom Poster. As well as Ives’ groundbreaking Three Places in New England, arrangements of Gershwin and Bernstein are presented, along with works by Copland and 2013 Pulitzer winner Caroline Shaw. The Aurora Orchestra will return later in August with one of their celebrated performances from memory – with the programme yet to be announced.

Fans of US contemporary music should also catch Manchester Collective, who return to Saffron Walden in May. With Sean Shibe joining as guitar soloist, they present a mixed programme of recent music by US composers Julius Eastman and David Lang, along with John Cage’s wonderfully wistful Six Melodies. Alongside this are new works from the US composer Kelly Moran, and Brits Dave Fennessy and Emily Hall.

Benjamin Grosvenor
© Juan Diego Castillo

Among all the other visiting orchestras this season, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will also make an appearance in June. Illustrious young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joins for Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 2. Schubert’s sunny Overture in the Italian Style and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony round out the programme, led by Riccardo Minasi.

Saffron Hall
© Saffron Hall Trust

If this weren’t enough, the talented National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain will also make an appearance in August. For fans of large-ensemble classical music, the 2023 season at Saffron Hall is a must.

Click here to view all the events at Saffron Hall.

This article was sponsored by Saffron Hall Trust.