When Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich performed together during the Cold War, their powerful, underlying message was that ‘music can bring people together, even when other barriers divide them’. Half a century later, that message of hope is as important as ever.


Every now and then, an idea comes along which is so bold that it scarcely seems achievable, yet so important, that everyone knows they want to help make it happen. The Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra is just such a concept - creating an exceptional new orchestra in just a few months, bringing together the genius of exceptional young musicians from Russia and the UK.


It started from a conversation between Ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow and Jan Latham-Koenig, as a way to create a permanent legacy for the 2019 Year of Music between Britain and Russia, and throughout, we have received unstinting encouragement and support from both Governments. We have been supported by an exceptional team, led by Ian Smallbone, who have worked tirelessly to bring this idea to reality and the dream has been made possible by the support of our sponsors, BP and Rosneft, who share the vision of bringing young people together in a spirit of partnership and excellence. My personal thanks also go to those friends and supporters, from both countries, who have believed in this remarkable project from the outset, and whose encouragement and enthusiasm, have been invaluable.


Fifty years on, the friendship between Britten and Shostakovich remains one of the brightest beacons of hope during a difficult time. This orchestra gives that same signal today. We are honoured and humbled that so many supremely talented young people have chosen to take part in a project that symbolises the friendship and common ground between the peoples of our countries. 


The Rt Hon Charles Hendry CBE

Chairman, Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra