Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra – 2023-24 Season

Music Director Joanna MacGregor has prepared a most interesting but rather risky programme. Quite a lot may be unfamiliar. Every concert has a distinct theme, each with a mix of works, some popular, or intriguing, and some challenging. Furthermore, only four are in the Dome Concert Hall on a Sunday afternoon. I have been reading the brochure carefully!

Joanna MacGregor CBE Music Director of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The season will begin with a terrific rush, John Adams’ exhilarating ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’. This will have us alert for George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. With Joanna MacGregor herself at the piano, it should be thrilling. The all-American programme continues with Charles Ives’ mysteriously haunting ‘The Unanswered Question’ and Leonard Bernstein’s brilliant ‘Symphonic Dances from West Side Story’, what’s not to like?

For Philharmonic regulars who enjoy a calmer repertoire, December’s concert goes to the Baltic for two wonderfully gentle works by Arvo Pärt, ‘Spiegel im Speigel’ and ‘Lamentate’, which precede Sibelius’ majestic 2nd Symphony.

January’s concert is special. György Ligeti would have been 100 in May. His delicate ‘Atmosphères’ will challenge the orchestra but should not fuss any audience used to the music of suspense films. This is followed by the enchanting ‘Folk Songs’ Luciano Berio composed for his wife Cathy Berberian. In Brighton we had our own Berio expert in Professor David Osmond-Smith who lived and studied with him as a young man in Milan. There are many of David’s students still in town who will appreciate the delicacy of Berio’s settings. They will make an ironic amuse-bouche before the meat of this concert, a mighty, 65 minute orchestral medley of Wagner’s great Ring Cycle, with perhaps the largest orchestra ever crowded on to the stage of the Dome.

Errollyn Wallen

Errollyn Wallen

For International Women’s Day in March there are inspiring works by Eleanor Alberga and Errollyn Wallen and the epic ‘Mississippi River Suite’ by Florence Price whose work never disappoints. These may be unfamiliar to the BPO audience but they deserve to be enjoyed more widely and with the Artistic Director herself conducting we can rely on a Friday evening to remember.

The November’s concert is an exploration of Moondog jazz and I assume draws on MacGregor’s experience in touring the Southern USA. We’ve already been wowed some of her sparkling improvisations so we can be sure of a lively and exciting Sunday evening!

Andy Sheppard - Moondog-Sidewalk-Dances

Andy Sheppard – Moondog-Sidewalk-Dances

Jazz is also a major element of the February concert with the BPO emulating a jazz band for Stravinsky’s ‘Ebony Concerto’. Darius Milhaud and Kurt Weill are also on the bill and this jazzy concert concludes with Alistair McGowan as the Devil in Stravinsky’s ‘The Soldier’s Tale’.

Appropriately for Brighton, the season’s finale features the sea with the evocative Sea Interludes from Benjamin Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes’ and later with Debussy’s ‘La Mer’, which was composed while he was on holiday in Eastbourne. Now I’ve only ever heard the hardanger fiddle on the radio, so I am looking forward to finding out what it really sounds like in the concerto by Geirr Tveitt. I almost expect to taste the salt spray as the season closes.

Ragnhild Hemsing

Ragnhild Hemsing

Some folk have groaned that there is no Beethoven nor Mozart this year (nor Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Brahms or Bach etc.) but there is still plenty to delight, entertain and educate in this carefully curated programme. Do read the brochure carefully because there are changes to the usual times and venues and also some imaginative pricing, especially the £1 children’s ticket.
You can get the most up-to-date information about the BPO programme, dates and tickets, by visiting

Andrew Connal

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