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 the British Ambassador at the time, 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.


The dream of the BSFO was initially made possible with the generous support of BP and Rosneft and is now being taken forward by a range of new sponsors and supporters 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 continue to take part in a project that symbolises the cultural friendship and common ground between the peoples of our countries. 


The Rt Hon Charles Hendry CBE

Chairman, Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra