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.

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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′
Listen on Spotify

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 brumtunnels.co.uk.

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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.

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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.”     …

Friday Night Classics: A Gershwin and Bernstein Gala

FRIDAY NIGHT CLASSICS: A GERSHWIN AND BERNSTEIN GALA

ThumbnailCelebrate and Share

Friday 4 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael England  conductor
Leila Benn Harris  vocalist
Caroline Sheen  vocalist
Norman Bowman  vocalist
Victor Sangiorgio  piano

We are sorry to announce that Martin Yates has had to withdraw from this concert. We are grateful to Michael England for taking his place.

Gershwin:
Girl Crazy – Overture
Gershwin Medley • Summertime
I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise
I’ve Got a Crush on You
Promenade (Walking the Dog)
Swanee • The Man I Love
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Fascinatin’ Rhythm • Rhapsody in Blue

Bernstein:
West Side Story: Mambo | Balcony Scene
Something’s Coming | Somewhere |
A Boy Like That

Candide: Overture

On the Town: Lonely Town |
Times Square 1944 |
I Can Cook Too |
Some Other Time |
Wonderful Town: A Little Bit in Love |
New York, New York

 

New York, New York! George Gershwin wrote the soundtrack to the Jazz Age Big Apple. Lennie Bernstein turned its mean streets into thrilling song and dance. Together, they add up to one fabulous night out on the Fourth of July in the greatest city on earth… Birmingham, of course! We’re talking songs like Summertime and Fascinatin’ Rhythm, and shows like West Side Story and On the Town, not forgetting the theme tune of Manhattan itself, Rhapsody in Blue. So let’s go – it’s a helluva town!

Produced in association with West End International Ltd.

Bluebeard’s Castle

Wednesday 2 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Edward Gardner  conductor
Michelle De Young  mezzo-soprano
Gábor Bretz  bass

Janácek: Sinfonietta 25′
Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (sung in Hungarian with English subtitles) 59′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

“In wars outside the blood runs redly / Here is something far more deadly / Ladies and gentlemen.” Bluebeard’s castle has seven doors. Judith is determined to open them all. But some questions are best left unanswered… Edward Gardner, music director of English National Opera, brings all his sense of theatre to Bartók’s dark fairytale, and brings up the curtain with Janácek’s ear-tingling Sinfonietta. Imagine 14 trumpeters blasting the roof off – now experience that ultimate sonic thrill in Europe’s most brilliant acoustic!

http://www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a piece that seems to work well in the concert hall, though Gardner added some clever theatrical touches to the performance. The prologue was spoken by a disembodied but amplified voice (surtitles being a definite boon throughout) then singers, Michelle DeYoung and Gábor Bretz emerged through a creaking door as the ominous lower strings opening played out on stage. The castle’s sighs were creepily reproduced through speakers in the hall, whilst the offstage brass situated in the upper rear balconies provided a thrilling sense of surround sound at the astonishing point in the score when the fifth door is opened to reveal Bluebeard’s kingdom in all its glory. At this point, the collective goose pimples were palpable!

The singing was of the very highest quality. DeYoung, partly because of her register, was consistently audible even in the loudest moments of Bartók’s colourful score while Bretz was occasionally overpowered in this respect. DeYoung’s expressions were a masterclass in their own right, constantly conveying Judit’s feelings as they cycled between foreboding, desperate hope and grim realisation. Bretz was a still, sinister presence on stage, thoroughly at ease singing in his native Hungarian.

Marshalled by Gardner, the CBSO gave their all. Bartók’s score growled and glistened as it should. This was a thoroughly engaging performance in which you could have heard a pin drop in the quieter moments, not least the telling silence that followed the final note before the rapturous applause began.”

*****

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Edward Gardner conducted a performance of staggering virtuosity from the CBSO, from ferocious brass and percussive power to subtle Debussy-like musical impressionism.

The radiant C major outburst as the castle’s fifth door opened – impressively supported by the thunderous organ – was exactly the coup-de-theatre Bartok wanted. Gábor Bretz (who also performed the prologue) was a young virile Duke for whom his new bride Judith’s attraction is as much erotic as pecuniary.

The Hungarian’s rock-steady bass was ideal for this largely declamatory role, but he used it with tenderness when needed. Judith can be just an annoyingly inquisitive shrew unless sung with the subtlety Michelle deYoung brought to the part, combined with a powerful voice never overwhelmed by Bartok’s huge orchestral forces.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Certainly the music is all that’s needed in a performance as fine as the one that closed the CBSO’s season at Symphony Hall, with the orchestra’s principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner. The orchestral sound was sumptuous, overwhelmingly massive when required, and other than delaying Bluebeard and Judith’s appearance on-stage until the recorded spoken prologue had finished, there was no attempt at any kind of concert-hall staging. Gábor Bretz and Michelle DeYoung stood and delivered superbly well. Bretz was not all the monstrous Bluebeard of myth, but a sadly resigned, rather touching figure, his mysterious nobility captured in the dark richness of his voice and its perfectly modulated diction; DeYoung, meanwhile, was passionate, impulsive, and naive rather than calculating.

For the great C major climax at the opening of the fifth door – the moment of the couple’s greatest closeness – the extra brass were arrayed around the auditorium. In the first half of the concert, they had been lined up behind the rest of the orchestra for Janáček’s Sinfonietta; it was a racy, celebratory performance, the perfect fizzy aperitif, for something as weighty and troubling as what followed.”

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Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Edward Gardner’s grasp of the opportunities for cranking up the tension of Bartók’s music were evident from the opening bars as the first vision of the castle came mysteriously into view against the ominous tones of the narrated introduction.

His ability to draw the listener into the darkness of Maeterlinck’s portrayal of the destructive frailties of the human mind were brought about through a gradual, entirely compelling yet at the same time almost imperceptible control of the deeply engrained psychological drama within both story and music, whilst the increasing sense of claustrophobia as the performance progressed proved to be masterful in its control of the shape of the music revolving, as it does, around the pivotal opening of the fifth door.

The magnificent vista over Bluebeard’s kingdom revealed by the opening of that fifth door was portrayed with breathtaking power by the orchestra and additional brass, whose antiphonal placing behind the stalls lent the musical picture an added sense of magnificence.

Colorado born soprano Michelle DeYoung emerged as an entirely convincing Judit, with the huge dynamic range of her voice capturing every nuance of the musical drama, at the same time finding the human frailty, initial wonder and the ultimate transformation of that wonder to escalating horror at the depths of Bluebeard’s inner darkness with a vivid sense of atmosphere and presence.”     …

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Review by Hilary Finch, Times ££

Click here for full review

 

 

Mozart’s C Minor Mass

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 26th June 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Malin Christensson  soprano
Christine Rice  soprano
Ben Johnson  tenor
Vuyani Mlinde  bass
John Tattersdill  double bass
CBSO Chorus  

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 26′
Mozart: Misero! O sogno – Aura, che intorno spiri 11′
Mozart: Per questa bella mano 7′
Mozart: Mass in C minor 51′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

When Mozart got married, he made a pact with heaven – and Mozart took his promises seriously. The result was the tremendous C minor Mass: a soul-shaking choral epic on the grandest possible scale. If you love Mozart’s Requiem, you’ll be knocked backwards when Andris Nelsons, the CBSO Chorus and a top-notch team of soloists come together for a concert that also features Mozart’s best-loved symphony and his only solo for double bass, featuring the CBSO’s popular section leader. Hearing is believing.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Sarah-Jane Brandon has sadly had to withdraw from these concerts. We are grateful to Malin Christensson for taking her place at short notice.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Mozart’s Requiem has the fame but his Mass in C minor perhaps has the more beautiful music. The wind band harmonies at the start of Et incarnatus est with Malin Christensson soaring gently above them was balm for the soul.

The Swedish soprano began the Kyrie tentatively, her trill sketchy, but relaxed and improved as the work progressed.

In Domine Deus she blended well with mezzo Christine Rice who was assured and agile in the demanding coloratura passages of Laudamus te, accompanied by crisp and energetic playing from the CBSO, astutely conducted by Andris Nelsons.

The CBSO Chorus was splendid and their intensity and dynamic range in Qui tollis made it the dark heart of the work: they’re a credit to choral director Simon Halsey.”     …

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The humour of Mozart cropped up again in Per questa bella mano, an unusual combination for bass voice, solo double bass and orchestra – the only time Mozart composed for the largest member of the string section and at K612 he left it rather late. But he had his reasons! By making the instrumental obbligato part extremely difficult, Mozart (according to one source) supposedly intended to humiliate his orchestra’s double bass player for having shown an interest in his wife Constanze; a more plausible reason for its composition was simply for its inclusion in a little known comic opera of 1791. CBSO section leader John Tattersdill, who has been with them since 1973, was never going to be embarrassed: his leaps and double-stopping were more than equal to the task. Even the centre platform grouping of a male vocalist, a conductor and a double bass player struck me as somewhat comical. The low register affirmation of love from an effortless Vuyani Mlinde was deliberate in tone yet resounding in projection; together with the emphasised movements of the virtuosic Tattersdill up and down his instrument’s long neck, the combination exuded parody.”     …

Wagner’s Ring: Götterdämmerung

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

Saturday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Alwyn Mellor Brünnhilde
Mati Turi Siegfried
Mats Almgren Hagen
Orla Boylan Gutrune
Eric Greene Gunther
Jo Pohlheim Alberich
Susan Bickley Waltraute
Katherine Broderick Woglinde
Madeleine Shaw Wellgunde
Sarah Castle Flosshilde

Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North
Richard Farnes conductor
Peter Mumford staging and design, lighting and projection design
Dame Anne Evans vocal consultant

Wagner Götterdämmerung 270’

This performance has a running time of c 6 hours including
two intervals of 30 and 75 minutes.

Act I 3.30pm – 5.45pm
Interval 75mins
Act II 7pm – 8.10pm
Interval 30 mins
Act III 8.40pm – 10pm

Opera North’s visually-stunning concert production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in recent British opera. ‘If the cycle continues at this level’ said The Spectator’s Michael Tanner of Das Rheingold ‘it will rank as one of the greatest ever’.

Today, in Götterdämmerung the final tragedy unfolds, as Siegfried falls amongst enemies, Brünnhilde’s love is betrayed and the gods themselves confront the end of a world.

An epically tremendous achievement
The Daily Telegraph ****

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

The final opera in Wagner’s magnificent Ring Cycle doesn’t go out with a whimper. As the Ring gets returned to the Rhine, Wagner conjures up, with awesome power, Valhalla’s and the gods’ fiery destruction. But not before one of Wagner’s most dramatic and overwhelming scenes – Siegfried’s death and funeral march.

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

2.15pm Free pre-performance talk: Opera North’s Head of Music Martin Pickard in conversation with Stuart Leeks about the final installment of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. The talk takes place in the auditorium and is free to all ticket-holders for the performance. Opera North’s pre-performance talks are made possible by the generous support of the Friends of Opera North.

A collaboration with Opera North, Symphony Hall, Birmingham and The Sage, Gateshead.

Financially supported by the Opera North Future Fund and The Ring Fellowship.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “All of the cast are wonderful. Alwyn Mellor is a mighty Brunnhilde. She is gentle and endearing in love and mourning but gloriously terrifying when on the path of vengeance. You wouldn’t want to get in this Valkyrie’s way!

Also impressive is Mats Almgren as the scheming Hagen. Evil enough to sacrifice his half-brother and half-sister to his machinations, he is yet so believable they all fall for his flattery. But we also see his own vulnerability when he is forced to face his even more monstrous father Alberich (Jo Pohlheim), the Nibelung dwarf who stole the Rhinegold and then saw it stolen in his turn.

Mati Turi plays Siegfried as a bit of a simpleton. He may be a great hero of Germanic tradition but he does fall prey to Hagen’s tricks and bring about Brunnhilde’s revenge. And when the Rhinemaidens warn that the ring is cursed and beg him to return it, he simply shrugs off ‘women’s wiles’ and heads off for a drink instead. It takes death and Brunnhilde’s eulogy to reinstate him as the great hero.

And so, at the end, we also see the destruction of the Gibichung siblings Gunther (Eric Greene) and Gutrune (Orla Boylan) who gave in to the temptation offered by Hagen but could not foresee its terrible results.

As the fires burn on Siegfried’s funeral pyre and at the hall of the Gods, Valhalla, the screens are filled with red flames and the orchestra finally becomes silent.

In Birmingham the applause and standing ovations were tremendous – and richly deserved. This really has been an epic journey.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Everything, of course, is built upon the orchestra, teemingly textured with Leitmotiven we have learned to assimilate during the 14-plus hours of the tetralogy, and under the well-paced baton of Richard Farnes the Orchestra of Opera North provided a wonderfully warm, sonorous, detailed and subtle cushion for the uniformly brilliant soloists.

Many of the singers had come with the valuable experience of singing in Longborough Festival Opera’s Ring cycle: Alwyn Mellor the most touching Brunnhilde I have ever heard, subtle right to the end of her world-denouncing Immolation; Mati Turi a much more genial Siegfried than we usually suffer, and capable of disguising his voice in the horrid betrayal scene; and Lee Bisset was one of a trio of Norns with unexpected personality.

Of the other soloists, Eric Greene was a thoughtful, self-doubting Gunther, Orla Boylan a Gutrune much more three-dimensional than this normally wan cipher, and as their villainous half-brother Hagen Mats Almgren sang chillingly and had the look of one of the nastiest of Eastenders.  Susan Bickley’s Waltraute, so grippingly delivered,”     …

*****

 

 

 

 

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Review by Alfred Hickling, Guardian (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review