During his tenure, Stephen has expanded the orchestra’s reach and impact within the wider community, and has nurtured the talents of young players, conductors and composers.
He will oversee the CBSO’s 100th anniversary celebrations, with two seasons of special events and initiatives inspired by its history and shaping its future.
The celebrations include 20 new commissions from composers including Thea Musgrave, Jorg Widmann, Grace-Evangeline Mason, Gary Carpenter and Unsuk Chin.
Stef Conner has also written a new piece for the CBSO’s community choir SO Vocal, which will premiere as part of its Christmas celebrations.
Here, Stephen selects the pieces that have inspired him most and picks out some highlights from the upcoming CBSO calendar…
JS Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.2 (finale)
This was for many years my favourite ‘happy music’ - blasted out from a cherished LP on the day I finished my O Levels, A Levels and whenever there was good news.
Cesar Franck: Violin Sonata (finale)
In my violin-playing youth, this was one of my favourite pieces: though I was never quite good or accurate enough for the thrilling final pages, I always gave it plenty of energy and enthusiasm…
Mahler: Symphony No.8 (end of 1st movement)
I used to sing in the Philharmonia Chorus, and our fantastic choirs here are one of the many things I really love about the CBSO. I sang in Mahler’s massive Symphony of a Thousand several times, but at the start of our Centenary year next January I get to sit in Symphony Hall and have my ears pinned back by the CBSO’s massive choir and orchestra blasting it out for all of Birmingham to hear.
Elgar: Piano Quintet (slow movement)
Elgar is probably my favourite composer of all, and this late work, written at the end of World War 1, seems to express so much depth of emotion while never feeling sorry for itself. I have asked for this to be played at my funeral…
Rachmaninov: Symphony No.2 (finale)
Another joyful one – I have had the great pleasure of hearing the CBSO play this piece with loads of great conductors. It’s always an hour really well spent.
John Williams: Hymn to the Fallen (from Saving Private Ryan)
Film music is now a central part of the CBSO’s repertoire, and nobody does it better than the great John Williams. This score always brings a lump to my throat.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Room Where it Happens (from Hamilton)
Like many people I have been absolutely obsessed with Hamilton’s energy, originality and intelligence since I first heard it and was lucky enough to go to the room where it happens last summer in London, one of the greatest nights I’ve ever spent in a theatre.
Jorg Widmann: Con brio
We loved having this amazing German composer as our Artist in Residence here at the CBSO a couple of years back, and we will be giving the British premiere of a fantastic new work (one of our 40 CBSO Centenary Commissions) with our music director Mirga in December.
Lloyd Webber: All I Ask of You (from The Phantom of the Opera)
I have a huge soft spot for musical theatre, and this duet from Lloyd Webber’s most popular show has been a favourite since I first heard it (and tried to sing it!) in the eighties. I’m really looking forward to hearing the new orchestra suites from Phantom, Sunset Boulevard and Evita at Symphony Hall on 1 November.
Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now
As heard in Love Actually – a fabulous orchestral arrangement, and full of complicated nostalgia as she revisits a song from her youth.