Bartók Uncovered

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Thursday 16th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Paul Rissmann  presenter

Bartók: Talk on Bartok Concerto for Orchestra 45′
Brahms: Three Hungarian Dances 12′
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra 35′
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Exiled to America, Béla Bartók re-invented himself, and his Concerto for Orchestra is far more than just one of the most entertaining showpieces ever created for a great symphony orchestra. In this specially-devised concert, presenter Paul Rissman uses illustrations, anecdotes and the full CBSO to unlock the puzzles, secrets and not-so private jokes of this 20th century landmark – before Edward Gardner conducts a complete live performance.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February & Saturday 7th February, 2015
Summer Showcase, Thursday 25th June, 2015

 

Bruch’s Violin Concerto

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Wednesday 8th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin

Smetana: Má vlast – Vltava • Sárka 22′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 25′
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Dvořák: Symphony No.8 38′
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Autumn sunshine: cellos and horns sing a quiet hymn, a bird sings cheerfully, and in a flurry of drums and trumpets, Dvorák’s Eighth Symphony is on its way. Symphonies simply don’t get much happier than this – and violin concertos don’t get much more popular than Bruch’s First, performed by the CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson. Smetana’s tuneful trip down the River Vltava starts our journey today.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Russian Classics, Wednesday 12th November
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February 2015 & Saturday 7th February 2015
Haydn in London, Wednesday 6th May 2015 & Thursday 7th May 2015

Support the CBSO

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.

The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.

The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.

It was a performance of grace and good taste…”      …

Australian Chamber Orchestra

and Steven Osborne

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15, Orchestral Music and Piano Music

Sunday 5th October

Symphony Hall

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti director/violin
Steven Osborne piano

Haydn Symphony No 83, La Poule 24’
Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 32’
Jonny Greenwood Water
Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence 35’

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is a byword for freshness and energy, and from Haydn’s explosive Parisian Symphony to Tchaikovsky’s sun-drenched postcard from Italy, this is a programme that plays to their strengths.

Richard Tognetti* directs a striking new work that Jonny Greenwood wrote especially for the ACO, and Steven Osborne finds new depths in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Steven Osborne never gets in the music’s way. He sits at the piano stool – but the composer is always in the driving seat. In Mozart’s piano concerto No 27, for example, the central movement’s sublime melody was wonderfully shaped without resorting to prettification or excessive rubato and was never slowed down from its specified larghetto. The cadenzas didn’t obtrude with seams showing, and the allegro finale absolutely sparkled supported by excellent work from the ACO.

Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir of Florence was originally for string sextet but while the ACO used triple those forces the gain in sonority didn’t mean a sacrifice in transparency. The adagio’s interplay between first violin and cello had the ardour of an operatic duet – marvellous! In Jonny Greenwood’s Water the composer played with the band on one of two tanpura, a fretless lute. There are tinkling piano ostinatos, a little eerie nachtmusik and some Psycho­-style abrasive strings – 17 minutes of movie music sans film.”

*****

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

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…     “The Radiohead guitarist had clearly drawn on their fluidity of movement for the piece that emerged. That movement was reflected, too, in the final title, Water, from Philip Larkin’s poem in The Whitsun Weddings. The effects of light bouncing off water created a distinct aura. Once again, strings were wrapped around pivotal instruments: two flutes and two Indian tanpura, the smaller of which was played by Greenwood himself, with Tognetti leaning in to deliver concertante violin lines. The tanpuras’ low, gently plucked droning gave the piece – in five interconnected sections – a constant deep resonance. Featuring amplified upright piano and keyboard, synthesising the sound of glockenspiel and celeste (nodding to the soundworld of Messiaen, yet without the use of ondes martenot), Greenwood’s soundscape was organic and persuasive. The rhythmic ostinati and the shimmering rise and cascade of scales, with rippling chromatic colour, created a more dynamic effect. Greenwood bowed as modestly as a novice; in fact, he is anything but.”     …

Romantic Journeys

ThumbnailCBSO 2020Relax and Revitalise

Thursday 2nd October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Ryan Wigglesworth  conductor/piano
Sarah Tynan  soprano

Sibelius: The Oceanides 10′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9, K271 31′
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Wigglesworth: Augenlider 16′ Watch on YouTube

Debussy: La mer 23′
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Watch on YouTube

Mozart composed, directed and performed his own music. So does the remarkable young British musician Ryan Wigglesworth, and the 21-year old Mozart’s lively piano concerto is just one of the delightful waypoints on tonight’s musical voyage of discovery: a concert that begins on Sibelius’s sunlit Mediterranean and ends in Debussy’s storm-tossed English Channel – by way of Wigglesworth’s own, glittering homage to the Romantics.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Mediterranean Classics, Wednesday 22nd October
The Planets: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 2nd November
Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Thursday 16th April, 2015 & Saturday 18th April, 2015

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “True, there were often times in his richly complex score (think Berg laced with Birtwistle) when even the impressive lung power of the excellent Sarah Tynan was overwhelmed; but in its quieter sections – the recitative-like Visionen against unison violins, and the closing moments of the final song – Wigglesworth’s approach to timbre and texture showed considerable imagination.

And this ear for instrumental detail made a vivid listening experience of the sea-themed works at the beginning and end of the programme. The Oceanides of Sibelius may have seemed a bit wait-and-see, but Debussy’s La Mer grabbed and held the attention throughout. Wigglesworth certainly pulled no punches to convey the visceral excitement of the storm-tossed finale, but it was the sparkling Jeux de vagues that provided the most polished, nuanced playing of the evening.”

Daniil Trifonov Plays Liszt

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite,

Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Piano Music

Wednesday 1st October

Town Hall, Birmingham

Daniil Trifonov piano

J S Bach Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, Great (arr Liszt) 8’
Rachmaninov Variations on a Theme of Chopin
Liszt 12 Études d’exécution transcendante 65’

Encore – Rachmaninov – Bach Gavotte

Daniil Trifonov is surely one of the most talked-about pianists of our time, and what more thrilling way to open the 2014/15 Birmingham International Concert Season than with his first ever solo recital in Birmingham?

Bach and (Beethoven Piano Sonata in C Minor replaced by Rachmaninov) demonstrate the depth of his insight; Liszt’s Transcendental Études reveal the full, dazzling extent of his virtuosity.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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“For Liszt, the piano was “an object to be transformed into an orchestra, turned into the elements, lifted into the spheres” wrote Alfred Brendel. Often during Daniil Trifonov’s towering traversal of the complete Transcendental Etudes the young Russian succeeded in doing just that. His snowstorm in Chasse-Neige chilled and raged – the piano producing an amazing infernal howling.

The galloping horses careered and thundered in Mazeppa but Trifonov didn’t just stun and amaze, he seduced us with a beautiful limpid tone as when the theme is temporarily tamed and transformed and Liszt asks for it to be sung Il canto espressivo. The contrasted sections in Wilde Jagd were just as sensitively executed while the will-o-the-wisps in Feux follets were nimble, gossamer-light and utterly captivating.”     …

*****

Panufnik Centenary

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Wednesday 24 September 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Stravinsky: Greeting Prelude 1′
Beethoven: Overture, Leonora No. 3 14′
Panufnik: Piano Concerto 24′
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Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 18′
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Watch on YouTube

Panufnik: Symphony No.2 (Sinfonia Elegiaca) 24′
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When Andrzej Panufnik escaped from communist Poland, Britain offered him a home – and so it was that one of Europe’s greatest post-war composers became principal conductor of the CBSO. Tonight, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we celebrate with some of the music Panufnik conducted in Birmingham, and two of his own finest works: as fresh and communicative today as when he conducted them here himself.

Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of Polska Music programme Polska Music

If you like this concert, you might also like:
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March 2015 & Saturday 28 March 2015
Parsifal, Sunday 17th May 2015

 

Pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Panufnik Centenary
Composer Roxanna Panufnik talks about her father Andrzej, in conversation with Jessica Duchen.

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Interview with Roxanna Panufnik, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“With possibly the neatest scheduling ever, the CBSO’s concert at Symphony Hall on September 24 celebrates the centenary to the day of the birth of one of its previous principal conductors, Andrzej Panufnik.

Born in Warsaw into a highly musical family, and with a mother of British origins, Panufnik studied composition and conducting during the years preceding the Second World War. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 saw the destruction of his works (he reconstructed some later), and after a post-war period conducting orchestras in Warsaw and Krakow Panufnik decided to devote himself to composition.

Hugely patriotic, he loathed the Stalinist regime then prevailing in his native country, and in 1954, whilst in Switzerland conducting recordings of his own music, he and his British-born first wife managed to escape to the West.

In 1956 it was announced that principal conductor Rudolf Schwarz would be leaving the CBSO at the end of the season to succeed Sir Malcolm Sargent at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the hunt was on for Schwarz’ replacement. Rather similar to the process going on now at the CBSO, as they seek a successor to Andris Nelsons, guest conductors were invited to give “audition” concerts, and Panufnik was among them.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Nor was Donohoe fazed by the uncoiled aggression of the Molto agitato finale, which fuses elements from its predecessors (powered by some visceral work from the percussion) as well as building to a bracing apotheosis via an accompanied cadenza such as ranks with the composer’s most thrilling passages. A timely revival of an impressive work.

Following the interval, the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) further opened out the concert’s expressive remit – Seal keeping the former’s distanced ambiguity in focus on the way to a fervent culmination and fatalistic close, while ensuring that the ‘Liebestod’ brought the requisite transcendence during its radiant closing pages. Not music one might readily associate with Panufnik, yet it was an overt presence in that of Szymanowski – in turn an early (and an obliquely enduring) influence on his Polish successor.

Transcendence of a different kind is evinced in Sinfonia elegiaca – the second of Panufnik’s ten Symphonies, completed in 1957 on the basis of material from his discarded Symphony of Peace of six years earlier. Shorn of its propagandist choral component, the piece stands as a finely achieved statement at a time of personal and political turmoil – whose three continuous movements move from a Molto andante that alternates between pensive woodwind chorale and ravishing string cantilena, via a Molto allegro whose barbarity is (just) held in check by its formal subtlety, to another Molto andante such as utilises earlier ideas along with a new string threnody before it ethereally recollects the work’s opening. A committed response from the CBSO was ably controlled by Seal to the evident appreciation of the audience.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Various composers were brought to mind here: bustling Prokofiev, night-music Bartok, stark Ives, rippling Ravel, but all of them assimilated into an urgently communicative personality all Panufnik’s own.

Even more urgent is Panufnik’s Symphony no.2, the “Sinfonia Elegiaca”, an anti-war protest against violence and aggression, and given its British première here in 1958.

Tellingly scored, generously melodic, and unflinching dramatic (such blaring horns in the central section’s mad display of violence), this is a work of immense emotional and musical strength, and deserves a whole raft of hearings, not least in these times where we remember and where we dread.

The CBSO responded with grateful enthusiasm.

For the rest, we heard Stravinsky’s wittily precise Greeting Prelude, a Beethoven Leonore no.3 Overture in which Seal drew a huge sound from the CBSO which only Symphony Hall could comfortably accommodate (portentous offstage trumpet, too), and a Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde phrased and shaped with a well-judged feel for the music’s harmonic pacing.”

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “……And profundity. For if this memorable concert, which included a massive tranche of Wagner’s Tristan and for some the most satisfying of Beethoven’s overtures to Fidelio, the almost symphonic Leonore no. 3, both in handsome performances from all the orchestral sections (duly congratulated at the end) under Seal’s sensibly judged leadership, stirred the depths of emotion – that of the love-lorn Leonora and love-torn Isolde – it was in Panufnik’s second symphony (the second of ten), the Sinfonia Elegiaca (Panufnik, a year younger than Britten, liked such titles: Sacra, Rustica, Mystica, Votiva), a profound lament for war and its victims of all kind (the composer lived through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the fatal 1944 uprising encouraged by Russia and crushed by the Nazis, but he widens his vision to a worldwide conspectus of suffering), with its a slow-fast-slow (ie double-andante, almost double-adagio layout) that from its almost Vaughan Williams-like, nervously serene opening generates a grieving one might look for in, say, Shostakovich 7, Tchaikovsky 6 or the aching tragedy of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1939 Concerto Funèbre.

Panufnik’s determination to work with tiny cells – major-minor thirds, or elsewhere seconds – reflects a Beethovenian precision and a Haydnesque incisiveness. It worked better here, in this elegy, than in his Piano Concerto, despite Peter Donohoe’s valiant efforts, looking a bit like a peak-scaling John Ogdon, to make multiple decoration work. Such toccata-like writing put one in mind of Malcolm Williamson’s similar propensity in Hyperion’s magnificent new recording of all Williamson’s piano concerti, CDA 68011/2. But it did not impact in the way this magnificent and moving symphony, punctuated by massive CBSO brass ostinati did, an opening cor anglais elegy, and strange feelings from string harmonics at both the start and chiasmic close that sounded almost bewilderingly like that rarely-used French instrument, the theremin, which generates such eerie terror in the film noir scores of Miklós Rózsa. If one had to compare Panufnik’s strange brand of modalism to another, it might just be to near-neighbour Kodály at his height.”     …

 

Beethoven Week: The Choral Symphony

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Sunday 21st September 2014 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Annette Dasch  soprano
Lioba Braun  mezzo soprano
Ben Johnson  tenor
Vuyani Mlinde  bass
CBSO Chorus  

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 27′
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) 67′
Listen on Spotify

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the summit of any Beethoven cycle – and some might say, the whole of classical music. But there’s a lifetime of experience to live through before we get to that final, transcendent Ode To Joy, and Beethoven’s explosive little Eighth Symphony launches a concert that’s sure to be one of the most talked-about events in Birmingham this year.

Supported by The Mailbox

If you like this concert, you might also like:
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Schubert’s Great, Wednesday 14th January 2015 & Saturday 17th January 2015
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March 2015 & Saturday 28th March 2015

£12.50, £19, £25, £34, £39, £44 plus transaction fee*

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Plaudits first to the glorious CBSO chorus, their discipline making Beethoven’s huge demands on them appear negligible: intonation and enunciation of Schiller’s words wereimpeccable, and the care given to the oft-repeated word‚ “brüder” underlining the aspiration to peaceful brotherhood had its own powerfully cumulative effect. The orchestra, too, was in optimum form: details precisely honed, while also sustaining the almost Wagnerian expansiveness that Nelsons brought to the phrasing. The Eighth Symphony, a world away from the lofty ideals of the Ninth, had carried the same balance of a dancing grace with dramatically explosive bursts of rhythmic energy.

But from the quietly arresting opening, it was the organic progress of the Ninth that held the attention, with the contemplative heart of the slow adagio allowing the choral finale to emerge as a logical conclusion to everything so far. South African Vuyani Mlinde who sang the stirring bass solo, joined with soloists Annette Dasch, Lioba Braun and Ben Johnson, to push the reluctant Nelsons on for a solo bow. Nothing to do with him, he tried to suggest, only the genius of Beethoven.”

*****

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The cycle culminated in a magnificent ninth: a scherzo of relentless energy, a slow movement wafted in from a beatific realm, an orchestral recitative which really spoke and a well-integrated quartet of soloists in Annette Dasch, Lioba Braun, Ben Johnson and Vuyani Mlinde who were equal to Beethoven’s demands.

And of course there’s the tremendous 130-strong CBSO Chorus, under their associate conductor David Lawrence, their articulation and attack enhanced by having the score in their heads rather than their heads in the score.

If the CBSO is the crowning glory of Birmingham’s musical life then its Chorus is the jewel in that crown.

In Schiller’s Ode to Joy, the celebrants are described as “feuertrunken” (drunk on fire) and often the orchestra played like that – intoxicated by Beethoven’s music, soaring on a natural high which infected the audience with their enthusiasm and brought us all within the enchanted circle for the duration of each work. It was a privilege to be invited in.”