City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

The best classical and opera in the UK this December

Jamie Barton at the Barbican plus James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio
November 1, 2021

John Wilson & CBSO

Birmingham Symphony Hall, 1st December. Everything conductor John Wilson touches turns to musical gold. If the rave reviews of his BBC Proms appearance this summer haven’t yet convinced you, nor the pile of awards stacking up for recent recordings, then how about the enticing prospect of a performance with the mighty City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra? Wilson brings together Russian émigrés Rachmaninoff and Glazunov with the music that welcomed them beyond the Atlantic.

LPO, Mark Elder: James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio

Royal Festival Hall, 4th December; Saffron Hall, 5th December. Carols, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio or Handel’s Messiah: the festive musical options are as predictable as they are familiar. But this year there’s a chance to change that with the long-postponed UK premiere of James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio. As much meditation as narrative, setting poetry by Milton, Donne and Southwell alongside Bible passages, this taut, 90-minute oratorio is an orchestral and choral triumph that offers a moment of stillness among the Christmas chaos.

Jamie Barton

Saffron Hall, 3rd December; Barbican, 5th December. She triumphed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2019, smouldered in the title role in Chicago’s recent Queer Carmen, and now irrepressible American mezzo Jamie Barton makes her Barbican recital debut.  This vocal force of nature has one of the richest, most sensuous instruments in the business, as well as an enormous personality. Here she appears in recital with pianist-composer Jake Heggie for a typically eclectic programme spanning four centuries, with women’s voices to the fore.