In the year which celebrates the centenary of the birth of Prince Rainier III, Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in the opening concert of the 2023-24 season.

The programme features Sir Andrzej Panufnik’s Symphony No 3, Sinfonia Sacra, and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 2, Resurrection.

The soloists in the Mahler Symphony are Australian soprano Eleanor Lyons and German mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger, backed by the impressive City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus (CBSO), directed by Simon Halsey CBE.

Artistic and Musical Director of the OPMC, Kazuki Yamada is also Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Guest Conductor of the Seiji Ozawa International Academy.

Soprano Eleanor Lyons, according to Resmusica, has “A straight and powerful voice, capable of the most delicate nuances, with seemingly unlimited highs”. Ms Lyons’ current season includes performances of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, a New Year’s Concert with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem and Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” with the Balthasar Neumann Choir & Ensemble.

As a concert performer, mezzo-soprano Gerhild Romberger has a wide-ranging repertoire which covers all major contralto and mezzo-soprano parts in the oratorio and concert repertoire – including the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, as well as 20th century music. Highlights of her career include Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris, with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – part of the International Music Festival in Hamburg – with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and in Mahler’s Symphony No 3 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, comprising 180 vocalists, is one of the world’s great choirs and has been trained for almost 40 years by Simon Halsey CBE. With four Grammy Awards to its credit, the Chorus performs in the main with the CBSO, and has also appeared with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, such as the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics. It has a wide-ranging repertoire, from Bach to Henze, the Mahler symphonies and the CBSO’s famous annual carol concerts, and has toured Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.

Warsaw-born Sir Andrzej Panufnik is one of the most important and original symphonic composers of the second half of the 20th century. Having won international admiration and honours in his own country – he became the “father” of the Polish avant-garde – he was appointed chief conductor of the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra in 1945, seeking out instrumentalists scattered all over Poland, and in 1946 he was also asked to restore the Warsaw Philharmonic. From 1957 to 1959, Andrzej Panufnik served as Chief Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, before deciding to dedicate his life entirely to composition.

Symphony No 3 Sinfonia Sacra was composed in 1963 as a tribute to Poland’s Millennium of Christianity and Statehood in 1966, and – as the composer says – “as an expression of my religious and patriotic feelings”. As a result he was keen that this work would be Polish in character, with an emphasis on the Catholic tradition. He based the symphony on the first known hymn in the Polish language, the Bogurodzica, a Gregorian chant, the heroic and religious aspects of which were incorporated into the symphony. It was premiered by the Monte-Carlo Opera orchestra, conducted by Louis Fremaux on 12th August, 1964.

Austrian pianist, composer and conductor Gustav Mahler is today known for his emotional, large scale symphonies – characterised as part of the Romanticism movement – and choral works such as Das Klagende Lied, Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and the song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). During the early period of his composing career, his work was met the the public lack of comprehension which he was to experience for most of his career. Turning to conducting, he served as director for the Vienna Court Opera from 1897 to 1907, and later led the New York Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mahler ultimately composed 10 symphonies, and is now regarded as a pioneer of 20th century composition techniques, and an influence on composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Dmitry Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten and Alban Berg.

Mahler completed the first movement of his Symphony No 2, Resurrection, in a few months. Four years later, in 1893, he composed an andante in the style of an Austrian folk dance, and a scherzo based on his own setting of the Wunderhorn song. Inspiration for the final movement came during the funeral service for the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, in which a boys’ choir performed a setting of the Resurrection Ode by the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock. The first three movements were heard in Berlin on 4th March, 1895, and the premiere of the complete work took place on 13th December of that year, with the composer again conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists and CBSO Chorus in the opening concert of the 2023-24 season. The performance takes place in the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, on 24th September. For booking information visit the OPMC website.

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Lead image courtesy Orchestra Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo

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