Beethoven Week: The Fifth Symphony

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Thursday 18 September 2014 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 32′
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 36′
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“Thus Fate knocks at the door!” Everyone’s heard the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, but if that’s all you’ve heard, you’re in for a thrilling surprise, as Andris Nelsons’ Beethoven cycle arrives at the most famous symphony of all time. Prepare to be electrified – and to be delighted by the Fifth’s prettier, funnier little sister: the joyous Fourth Symphony.

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The second concert consisted of the Fourth and Fifth, given as an afternoon matinee. Both symphonies were electrically charged affairs and, after eight weeks of Proms in the cotton-wool acoustics of the Albert Hall, returning to the immediacy and precision of sound in the crowded Symphony Hall was a delight in itself.

Nelsons’ treatment of the Fourth was startling. Like all outstanding conductors, he has the precious ability to conjure something unexpectedly brilliant out of thin air. He did it a year ago in another matinee concert with the CBSO in Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, and Beethoven’s Fourth here was cut from the same cloth. Its slow introduction seemed pregnant with dramatic possibilities, and what followed exploited most of them, with every rhythm sprung, every chord perfectly balanced, the perpetuum mobile of the finale fabulously precise, and Nelsons’ repertoire of podium gestures becoming ever more extravagant: a star jump, arms aloft, both feet well off the ground, was a new one to me.”     …

Beethoven Week: The Eroica

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Tuesday 16 September 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 25′
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 34′
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) 47′
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The symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven are the greatest journey any conductor and orchestra can take together, and tonight, Andris Nelsons and the CBSO begin that adventure once more. The first two symphonies are the sound of a young genius stretching his wings and then, with the two mighty chords that open the Eroica, changing music forever. They’ll knock you backwards.

Supported by The Mailbox

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Panufnik Centenary, Wednesday 24th September
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March & Saturday 28th March, 2015





Review by Geoff Brown, Times ££

Click here for full review


CBSO Opens New Season – Support your orchestra

“CBSO opens new season amid £1m fundraising plea

Symphony orchestra in battle to raise huge amount of money after facing budget cuts of 24 per cent since 2010

The CBSO will open its new season tonight with a plea to concert goers to help it raise £1 million to support the company after it was hit by budget cuts.

The orchestra, which will be performing the complete Beethoven symphonies over six days at Symphony Hall from tonight, has seen its funding cut by 24 per cent since 2010.

It says it needs the extra cash to support its work delivering key concerts, providing musical opportunities for youngsters and to continue with its four-year major community project in Perry Barr to commemorate the First World War.

The orchestra, which is planning its centenary in 2020, says it is looking to raise £1 million to support its work this year, around 80 per cent of which has already been committed.

Players from the orchestra are writing personally to thousands of regular concert goers with an appeal to raise £50,000 after an anonymous supporter pledged to match fund every £1 up to £50,000.

The CBSO has won international acclaim for its concerts and performs for more than 200,000 people each year”     …
Click here for full article


Click here to donate online

Wagner and Elgar


Monday 25 August 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Klaus Florian Vogt  tenor

Wagner: Parsifal -
Good Friday Music 11’
Act 2 Soliloquy 7’
Act 3: Nur eine Waffe taugt 6’
Wagner: Lohengrin -
Prelude to Act 3 4’
Lohengrin’s Soliloquy and Grail Narration 9’

Elgar: Symphony No. 2 54’

“Here, time becomes space…” Wagner’s Parsifal is like no other opera, and today Andris Nelsons and the CBSO make their first journey into its enchanted world; a realm of sublime passion, transcendent grandeur and music that glows from within. This should be very special indeed, and it’s a ravishing upbeat to Elgar’s mighty Second Symphony; music of epic vision, secret sorrow and beauty that’ll break your heart.



Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Vogt will sing Lohengrin for two more years at Bayreuth before taking the title role in a new production of Parsifal in 2018 and we got a foretaste of his Parsifal this evening. That was after Nelsons had led a spacious and lustrous account of the Good Friday music in which I was particularly impressed by the breadth of the CBSO’s phrasing and the sensitive way in which the quiet passages were played. Vogt joined them and immediately his big, ringing tone, effortlessly produced, was apparent in ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ His account of this solo was intense and often impassioned yet in achieving intensity he never sacrificed beauty of tone. His top notes rang thrillingly around Symphony Hall. The performance of ‘Nur eine Waffe taugt’ was no less impressive and I especially relished the conviction with which he delivered the line ‘Den heil’gen Speer – ich bring’ ihn euch zurück’.     [...]

[...]     The second movement was shaped with care and great feeling by Nelsons and the CBSO responded with wonderful playing that was both sensitive and, when required, burnished. The interpretation was marked by intensity and great concentration – it was noticeable that at the end Nelsons ‘held the moment’ for several seconds before allowing everyone to relax. The reading was very passionate at times but always the ardour, when it came, was appropriate. The reappearance, shortly before the conclusion, of the motif from the first movement associated with the ‘Spirit of Delight’ was movingly done. I thought this performance was highly persuasive. The third movement was packed full of brilliance and bravura. There was also considerable power when some material from the first movement reappears with increasing menace. The dazzling end, where Elgar’s imagination and skill as an orchestrator runs riot to a degree perhaps unparalleled elsewhere in his output, was brought off superbly.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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...     “Though it seemed as if Nelsons was coming to Elgar through Wagner – a perfectly valid approach after all, for Wagner’s influence on Elgar extended well beyond the obvious link between Parsifal and The Dream of Gerontius – the details of his performance of the symphony, superlatively well played by the CBSO, pointed up more connections with Richard Strauss than anyone else. But it was a reading that for all its vividness and energy had begun with slight uncertainty, with the opening movement a series of brilliantly lit episodes rather than a single, sweeping arc, while elements of the Larghetto weren’t quite as effective or tragic as some conductors make them. But the final pair of movements was irresistible, and with refined pianissimo playing from the Birmingham strings, the closing bars were as magical as they should be.”     … 



Review by “Admin”, Lark Reviews:

Click here for full review

…     “No such problems after the interval where we heard Elgar’s Second Symphony. The opening movement had great urgency with the music coming to us in warm waves of sound which made the quieter sections all the more poignant. Throughout, Andris Nelsons drew attention to the militaristic under-pinning of so much of the score, with its hints of violence and destruction beneath the potential for celebration. The second movement took this in its stride with a sense of both nobility and loss, looking backwards rather than dare to look ahead. However the future stares us in the face in the driven fury of the Rondo where odd moments of calm don’t last and the military percussion is ever present. The final movement brought some relief but often seemed on a knife-edge as if everything could still go wrong at any moment. A fascinating reading which made much of the wide dynamic range of the hall.”     …

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package,

SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Saturday 9th August

Symphony Hall

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Edward Gardner conductor
Louis Schwitzgebel piano

Stravinsky Petrushka (1911) 34’
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 1 16’
Harrison Birtwistle Sonic Severance 2000 3’
Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra 28’


This summer, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain brings its infectious energy and artistry to a programme that bursts with character. As “the most uplifting orchestra in the world” (The Times), the all-teenage ensemble joins Edward Gardner (CBSO Principle Guest Conductor) for a celebration of imaginative music-making.

Experience the colourful storytelling of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka paired with the dramatic intensity of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, two pieces that spin folk tunes into vibrant musical fireworks. On the same journey, light the sparks in Prokofiev’s first Piano Concerto with dazzling young pianist Louis Schwizgebel (BBC New Generation Artist), who won second prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2012.

6.15pm in the Symphony Hall Foyer: hear cutting-edge, fresh new music from NYOGB’s unique resident teenage composers performed by the orchestra’s players. This is a free event.



CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy

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Saturday 26th July 2014 at 7.00pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Orchestra Academy

Michael Seal  conductor

Kodály: Dances of Marosszek 12′
Strauss: Metamorphosen 26′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) 47′
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Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony blew classical music sky-high. Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen is a cry of anguish in a world devastated by madness. This is music of extremes: ardent, eloquent, and pulsing with emotion – in other words, perfect for the 50 committed young musicians of the superb CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy. Kodály’s fiery Transylvanian dances light the touchpaper: prepare to be blown away.

“These marvellous young players are invincible”

Please allow extra time to travel to this concert if you are coming by road. The A38 St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels through Birmingham will be completely closed to all traffic from 10pm on Friday 18 July until 6am on Monday 1 September 2014. More information is available from



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Michael Seal conducted a strong sinewy performance where details were clear – the slow movement’s plaintive oboe lament and the basses’ stabbing interventions for example – but always suborned to the overall narrative drive.

The players clearly relished Beethoven’s dramatic thrusts and parries but also excelled in the jolly bucolic trio with its virtuoso hunting calls – fine work by the horns – and the skittish dancing finale.

The symphony’s funeral march stalks eerily through the bass line at the close of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, his string threnody to the destruction of his beloved Dresden, the tainting of German culture by the Nazis and perhaps his own ill-fated collaboration with them.

The bass section captured perfectly how the music crumbles into dust as Beethoven’s accusatory shade appears.”     …


The Royal Opera: Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 6th July

Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Karita Mattila Ariadne/Prima Donna
Roberto Saccà Bacchus
Jane Archibald Zerbinetta
Ruxandra Donose The Composer
Markus Werba Harlequin
Sir Thomas Allen The Music Master
Ed Lyon Dancing Master
Ashley Riches Wig Maker
Jihoon Kim Lackey
Wynne Evans Scaramuccio
Paul Schweinester Brighella
Jeremy White Truffaldino
David Butt Philip Officer
Sofia Fomina Naiad
Karen Cargill Dryad
Kiandra Howarth Echo
Christoph Quest Major Domo

Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos 130’

This concert has a running time of c 2 hours 35 minutes including one 25 minute interval.

The Royal Opera’s visits to Symphony Hall are always highlights of the season, and with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting a cast that includes Karita Mattila and Sir Thomas Allen, this performance of Strauss’s brilliant chamber opera, in the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, should be something genuinely special. In baroque Vienna, a grand opera company and a panto troupe are forced onto the same stage: what happens next is uproarious, unpredictable – and ultimately sublime.

This production has already attracted some fantastic reviews. Read The Guardian’s 4* review here and the Financial Times’s 4* review here.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended this afternoon’s concert:

Richard Strauss’s opera is a clever piece of commentary on the role of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art – as well as a hilarious and sometimes slapstick dig at Viennese upper class society. The music, as you’d expect from Strauss, is ravishing – and you might want to keep your ears peeled for some death-defying vocal acrobatics in Part II courtesy of the fiery Zerbinetta…

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.



Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The three nymphs held the trials and tribulations of Ariadne together. They entered rear centre, first Karen Cargill as Dryad and Sofia Fomina as Naiad, to be joined by Kiandra Howarth as Echo. I thought Aussie Howarth, another Jette Parker Young Artist, deserves special mention for her delightful contribution, achieving the appropriate vagueness to her character. Overall the nymphs emanated an ethereal aura, in keeping with their function. This included their angelic guardianship role over Ariadne whilst also expressing her innermost thoughts: her states of tenderness, hatred, traumatism and bliss all emerged. One celestial highlight was their Töne, töne, süsse Stimme (Sing on, sing on, sweet God) one of Strauss’ best loved tunes. Not that Mattila didn’t display these emotions as well, if not better; she was stunning, a prima donna in every sense. Although there was no semblance of a cave, with head slightly bowed, she was a stationary sleepwalker, abandoned by Theseus. How could this hero reward the woman who saved him from Crete and the Minotaur with such a fate? The languor of the situation was made absolute by the silvery harps of Lucy Wakeford and Hugo Webb. I wondered whether Mattila might have donned a shawl/mantle, as referred to in the magnificent libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but it was superfluous. Her bearing said it all. Mattila was the best Ariadne I have seen and heard, she was Ariadne. When occupying centre stage, which was for considerable periods, she exuded class and presence. There was no need for Pappano to hold back his players whilst she was singing; she effortlessly rose above them with passion and quality – and over the whole register required of her. When she was longing to meet with death, in Wo war ich? Tot? (Where was I? Dead?) I was on the edge of my seat! When she first hears the voice of Bacchus, there was no turn of the head at this double mistake in identity; her catatonic state was so intense it took a while to break it – a nice touch in direction I thought as liberation was still someway off. Comparable to the great Wagnerian ones, the love duet between Mattila and Roberto Saccà as Bacchus, was as wunderbar as the lines of Hofmannsthal. Indeed Saccà, albeit in a lesser role, was as good as Mattila, his heldentenor delivery both forceful and true.”     …



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Leading the comedy cast is Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta who is happy to flirt with anyone if it helps her achieve her aim. We see the masterstroke of Strauss in Zerbinetta though because while she appears a superficial butterfly, her words belie a deeper desire to be truly loved and to love in return, creating a parallel with Ariadne.

Karita Mattila is the Prima Donna engaged to play Ariadne. She is imperious and supercilious in the first act but really comes into her own in the second as she takes on the role of the abandoned Ariadne. Here is a woman singing her soul out as she shares her loneliness and begs to die.

Her agony ensures the juxtaposition when the comedy troupe come onstage is all the stronger. She may be in the depths of despair but Zerbinetta and her friends tell us a woman can jump from one man to another with ease.

There are moments of real comedy genius in Ariadne auf Naxos and that humour comes out of the disjoint between the two companies and their outlooks. When the opera company stress that Ariadne is alone and broken-hearted on her island the comic return that it’s a good job they are going to come along to keep her company. Their complete lack of awareness of the spirit of opera makes every opera-goer in the audience smile.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is conducted with plenty of enthusiasm by Sit Antonio Pappano who teases out the subtleties of Strauss’s music but also ensures gusto when needed.

The concert production doesn’t appear to lack anything by being performed without sets – if anything it concentrates the audience’s attention on Strauss’s lyrical wit.”