Dmitri Shostakovich (left) and Benjamin Britten in 1966. Photograph: Ria Novosti

The Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra is a unique bi-national ensemble bringing together young people of conservatoire age in a shared cultural experience.

The formation of the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra marks the UK-Russia Year of Music 2019, a bilateral initiative between the United Kingdom and Russia. The orchestra is expected to flourish as a regular annual feature in the musical calendars of both countries. Its ambition is to maintain a dynamic cultural collaboration bringing together young musicians from the United Kingdom and Russia each year to work intensively and present a series of concerts on tour.

Applications for the orchestra came from many of the most talented orchestral musicians studying or just starting their careers across the United Kingdom and Russia. They were auditioned between March and May 2019, and all are graduates of or students at leading conservatoires and music colleges in Moscow, St Petersburg, Rostov, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, Glasgow and Cardiff.

The orchestra is made up of similar numbers of British and Russian musicians, providing them with an invaluable musical and cultural experience that will leave a lasting impression at a key stage in their development. The public concerts in the United Kingdom and Russia will be the first time that most of these musicians will have experienced such international musical collaboration.

The inaugural season started with a week in residence at the Sirius Park of Science and Art in Sochi, Russia, where the orchestra rehearsed and was coached by a professional faculty drawn from major orchestras and opera houses. Afterwards it embarked on its first tour, giving five concerts in Russia and seven across the United Kingdom, performing in several of the world’s most prestigious concert halls.

Jan Latham-Koenig, the British Artistic Director of the Kolobov Novaya Opera in Moscow, conducted the orchestra. He is the only British conductor to occupy such a senior titled position with one of Russia’s leading musical institutions.  

For more information please visit the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra website

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