Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Saturday 18th April 2015 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Cédric Tiberghien  piano
CBSO Youth Chorus  

Mendelssohn: The Fair Melusina Overture 10′
Mendelssohn: String Symphony No.10 in B minor 12′
Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 20′
Listen on Spotify

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – incidental music 45′
Listen on Spotify

Cédric Tiberghien‘s encore – Bach/Siloti – Prelude in B Minor

Edward Gardner’s Mendelssohn symphony cycle was one of the real delights of last season in Birmingham. Now he teams up again with our famous Youth Chorus in its 20th anniversary year in Mendelssohn’s magical homage to Shakespeare: fairies, donkeys and that Wedding March! And we’re delighted to welcome the award-winning Cédric Tiberghien to sprinkle a different kind of magic over Mendelssohn’s sparkling First Piano Concerto.

Brahms and Beethoven

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Saturday 28th March 2015 at 7.00pm

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

Concert Packages

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze  conductor

Steven Osborne  piano

Vaughan Williams: Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus 13′

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 28′ Listen on Spotify

Brahms: Symphony No. 2 45′

Steven Osborne’s encore –

Beethoven – ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata 29 – Second Movement

When Brahms went on holiday, all his troubles fell away – and that’s exactly the effect of his lovely second symphony, 45 minutes of glowing landscapes, jubilant trumpets and tunes that never seem to end. The very English serenity of Ralph Vaughan Williams is a gentle prelude to Beethoven’s most brilliant piano concerto, played today by one of Britain’s brightest keyboard stars.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by , BachTrack (for matinee of the same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “As it rose again, it was for a remarkable rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in B flat major. Whether it was actually Beethoven’s first, strongly influenced by Mozart’s style, or whether it was his second, showing the composer looking back to his hero, Steven Osborne captivated the personalities of both great composers in a sheer magical way. At no point were we aware that active interpretation was taking place, it was as if the music streamed from him in a natural flow, and only long afterwards did you notice how unobtrusively sophisticated phrasing was, or the shaping of dynamics.

Introduced with a strongly textured orchestral sound, Manze virtually threw little dynamic accents that the orchestra eagerly caught. Then Osborne entered with such a pleasantly soft attack I hadn’t thought possible on Symphony Hall’s terribly hard piano (which, it has to be said, also has its merits: Beethoven’s strong bass lines came out beautifully and carried well through the orchestra without becoming muddy). Osborne’s playing was simple, calm and thoughtful, matching Manze’s laid-back movements, making the dialogue-like alternating passages of piano and orchestra in the second movement so intensely focused you didn’t dare to breathe.

His noble reserve also suited the playful Rondo very well: no exaggerated mannerisms distracted from this pure performance, no dramatic movements accompanied those scales of notes like gleaming beads on strings that still threatened to burst with virtuosity. Even though the solo passages, especially in the beginning, struggled to connect seamlessly with the much richer and softer orchestral tissue (I blame it on the piano), the dynamic agility of both soloist and the orchestra made for an arresting last few bars, and the strong connection between conductor and soloist was tangible and gave the concerto developed a simple and natural charm so strong that not even several untidy cues in the orchestra could break its spell.”     …

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post (for matinee of the same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “One can look past the Mozartian elements of the Adagio (easily done when there are no clarinets) and the hovering spirit of Haydn; in the right hands it’s a gem of a concerto by Beethoven at his most romantic.

At least that’s how Steven Osborne played it last Wednesday afternoon, in a performance that, while demonstrating many aspects of an historically informed reading in its elegant phrasing (conductor Andrew Manze engaged all his period-instrument experience to give appropriate weight and articulation of the orchestral support), allowed dynamic contrasts, especially crescendos and diminuendos, to sing with emotional meaning rather than just change volume.

The finale was a particular delight, its humour gently pointed with an almost tongue-in-cheek reticence, and a total avoidance of affectation or posturing (Lang Lang and others please note).”     …

Friday Night Classics: Queen: A Rock and Symphonic Spectacular

ThumbnailCelebrate and Share

Friday 27th March 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Richard Sidwell  conductor
Jenna Lee James  vocalist
Ricardo Afonso  vocalist
Julie Stark  vocalist
Oliver Tompsett  vocalist
Andrew Wyke  executive producer

Sidwell – Overture

Mercury / May – Seven Seas of Rhye

Deacon – I Want To Break Free

Mercury – Play The Game

Queen / Bowie – Under Pressure

Mercury – Killer Queen

Tyler – Radio Ga Ga

Mercury Love Of My Life

Tyler – These Are The Days Of Our Lives

May – Tie Your Mother Down

May – Fat Bottomed Girls

May – I Want It All

Tyler – One Vision

interval

Entr’acte

Mercury / May – Innuendo

May – Who Wants To Live Forever

May – Hammer To Fall

Taylor – A Kind Of Magic

May – The Show Must Go On

Mercury – Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Mercury – Don’t Stop Me Now

Deacon – Another One Bites The Dust

Mercury – Somebody To Love

Mercury – Bohemian Rhapsody

encores – May – We Will Rock You,  Mercury – We Are The Champions

It’s a kind of magic – big, brash, and fabulously larger than life, the music of Queen was simply made for a symphony orchestra. This sensational full orchestral spectacular unleashes Queen’s greatest hits like you’ve never heard them before. We Will Rock You? With guest vocalists from the hit musical, you’d better believe it!

.

Review by Bonnie Britain, LondonTheatre1:

Click here for full review

…     “As the 50 piece strong orchestra walk on we could see we are in for an extraordinary fun night. All the members are dressed up in tributes to Freddie and Queen. The front row brass section catching our eye first making us chuckle, a man with facemask of Freddie (who kept it on all way through the concert), a man in Flash Gordon attire, and a man in drag in full costume from the ‘I Want To Break Free’ video. What an effort! As Jenna mentioned later on in the concert, just going to show CBSO are “one of the most Eccentric Orchestras there is”. It was hard to spot the females of the band too as most were wearing ‘tashes and kudos to them for keeping them stuck on while blowing and playing away.

For me the songs most suited to the balance of the Rock Band, Orchestra and vocalist were Innuendo – with an amazing musical bridge; Killer Queen, which sounded fantastic with the strings and guitars complimenting each, creating more of a big band feel to the song; Radio Ga ga – which the crowd all clapped along to Queen style; One Vison with Oliver Tompsett and Ricardo on vocals; The Show must go on – which may have brought a tear to my eye as it was so full of passion; Hammer To Fall was the most fun to watch with the most resemblance to the way it was performed in WWRY with Jenna and Oliver perfectly mimicking each other on stage.

Oliver Tompsett borrowed the hoover for a prance around the stage while he sang “I Want to Break Free”, which was very funny. But maybe they should have got the vocalists to dress up too. I’m sure Oliver Tompsett’s long legs would look fantastic in a short leather skirt. – sorry Oliver. The Girls brought back girl power as they belted out “I want it all”. We also had big ballads – there sure was something for everyone.”     …

*****

.

Review by Sam Chipman, ThePublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO string section is given its time to shine with Love of My Life and Play The Game, and they are the driving force behind The Show Must Go On the other side of the interval. The brass section have great fun with the introduction of Fat Bottomed Girls and remain an integral force throughout. Unfortunately, the woodwind section are too often drowned by the band, which is a shame as every now and then a glimpse of a flute or an oboe counter-melody would have added so much.

The four vocalists, who all performed in the hit West End musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre in London before it closed, know the songs inside out. They do not try to emulate Freddie Mercury, whose unique voice is synonymous with the numbers, but bring their own qualities and energy to the songs. Jenna Lee-James gives a very impressive rendition of Somebody to Love in which she really shows off her vocal range. Julie Stark’s interpretation of the rock style is bold, particularly in duet with Lee-James for I Want It All, but her cleaner vocals on Love of My Life are the most memorable. Ricardo Alfonso does justice to the incredibly difficult The Show Must Go On, his voice is extraordinarily agile, though he has a habit of clipping his notes and one would like to hear them honoured until the ends of phrases. Oliver Tompsett shows off his showmanship, his vivacious rendition of Don’t Stop Me Now being a particular crowd pleaser. Big songs, with big vocals – vocal rest and honey and lemon must be doctor’s order for the vocalists after this concert.”     …

.

.

Dvořák’s Piano Concerto

ThumbnailPure Emotion

Thursday 19th March 2015 at 2.15pm

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

Concert Packages

Andris Nelsons  conductor

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Dvořák: Piano Concerto 36′
Listen on Spotify

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Is Rachmaninov’s Second the most romantic symphony ever written? With its vast, stormswept vistas, endless melodies and rapturous love-song of a slow movement, it’s certainly a contender, and Andris Nelsons conducts it with unbridled emotion. First, though, he rediscovers the spirited Piano Concerto by Antonín Dvorák – with one of the world’s finest living pianists as his partner. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

Support the CBSO

.

Blog post by Stephen Hough about Dvořák’s Piano Concerto – here

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

ThumbnailPure Emotion

Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Dvořák: Piano Concerto 36′
Listen on Spotify

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Stephen Hough’s encore – Dvořák – Songs My Mother Taught Me

Is Rachmaninov’s Second the most romantic symphony ever written? With its vast, stormswept vistas, endless melodies and rapturous love-song of a slow movement, it’s certainly a contender, and Andris Nelsons conducts it with unbridled emotion. First, though, he rediscovers the spirited Piano Concerto by Antonín Dvorák – with one of the world’s finest living pianists as his partner. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

Support the CBSO

.

Blog post by Stephen Hough about Dvořák’s Piano Concerto – here

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “I must confess that I don’t know the concerto all that well – performances are not frequent – but it seemed to me that Hough and Nelsons made the best possible case for it. Both displayed full engagement simply through their body language – Nelsons was his usual expressive self. Hough’s playing was expertly nuanced and full of character while Nelsons and his orchestra gave him consistently marvellous support. The first movement, which accounts for about half of the entire piece, is full of Dvořákian stylistic fingerprints and in the introduction Nelsons set out the stall for this performance, shaping the music with freshness and vitality; later, several of the tutti passages were suitably red-blooded. The piano part is almost modest in tone – certainly by comparison with many other nineteenth century concertos – but Hough played it most persuasively. The movement as a whole was attractive and, in this performance, winning. 

Much of the Andante sostenuto second movement is gently lyrical. It was a great shame that the opening minutes were marred by quite an amount of intrusive coughing. There was a note in the programme that the performance was being recorded and the microphones were something of a giveaway. Even so the members of what my colleague Mark Berry has so rightly called the Bronchial Terrorists made their presence felt without, it seemed, making any effort to stifle the coughs. It is to be hoped that Hyperion will be able to get a less interrupted take of these pages either at the second performance of this concert or from rehearsals. The music itself was wonderfully delivered. Hough’s touch was delightful while the CBSO partnered him beautifully. Some lyrical asides apart, the finale is mainly high spirited in character. It’s here that the Czech folk element seemed most prominent to me. The performance was exciting and often exuberant; Hough and Nelsons were fully engaged and gave every indication of enjoying the music. 

The concerto may not be universally regarded as Dvořák at his best but the Symphony Hall audience gave the work and the performers an extremely warm reception. Stephen Hough sent us on our way to the interval with an utterly charming Dvořák encore. Watch out for the CD when it appears. ”     […]

[…]     “Instead the ardent lyricism of the music came across in an ideal way, the reading passionate and impulsive yet in a very natural way. This was a very fine performance. 

The finale surged in an exciting and confident fashion. Rachmaninov’s lyrical digressions along the way were given their proper due but never in such a way that the sense of purpose was sacrificed. The performance had great momentum and drive; Nelson’s conducting had an electric charge to it. The CBSO gave their all here and the music pulsated with life and energy. The blazing conclusion elicited an ovation from the audience, and rightly so.

 This memorable performance offered proof, if proof were needed, that this is one of the truly great Russian symphonies. I missed Nelsons’ previous CBSO performances of the work back in 2008, near the start of his term with the CBSO but I’m jolly glad that before he departs I have experienced him in a score to which he is so manifestly suited. My only regret is that I assume the recording microphones, put in place for the concerto, were switched off during the symphony.”     …

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Hough certainly made it seem the most attractive music in the world, making light of the more strenuous moments in the opening Allegro, adding silvery filigree to the Grieg-like passages in the slow movement, and steadily increasing the showiness of the finale. His Hyperion recording, taken from the Symphony Hall performances, should be a treat.

Nelsons followed the concerto with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. He and the orchestra very much emphasised the score’s darkness and introspection, and in a work that can sometimes be smothered in sentimentality, there was never a hint of indulgence. The first movement was positively combative, the scherzo explosive, and even the long-limbed, languorous clarinet tune in the Adagio, elegantly played by Oliver Janes, had a sense of purpose about it. Nelsons handles such vast orchestral canvases magnificently, conceiving them as a single irresistible span, yet still managing to make sense of every bit of detail along the way.”    

*****

Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “Now we are about to get a new addition to the discography, as Stephen Hough’s thrilling performance with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will happily be released on the Hyperion label.

At Symphony Hall, Hough and the CBSO’s music director, Andris Nelsons, shed fresh light on the work and its place within Dvořák’s output. Written in 1876, shortly before his first set of Slavonic Dances, it already anticipates in its slow movement the composer’s “New World” voice, but it also looks back to Chopin and Beethoven – perhaps even earlier in the rustic, Haydnesque innocence of the opening movement’s second subject. After a long orchestral introduction, the piano’s entry itself recalls the opening chords of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, and the finale’s mix of cosmopolitan sophistication and folk-rooted dance suggests supercharged Chopin.

Hough had all the delicacy and steel-fingered virtuosity that implies, and played with blistering brilliance where required. But what made this performance truly special was his musical dialogue with Nelsons and the orchestra. This is not a piece that plays itself, and in the wrong hands its paragraphs can sound disconnected, but Nelsons worked hard here to give it satisfying coherence. Ultimately, it was pure Dvorak.”     …

*****

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “When it eventually appears it’s bound to be one of the records of the year, and could well join Hough’s two previous releases with the CBSO (Mendelssohn, Lawrence Foster conducting and Saint-Saens, Sakari Oramo conducting) as Gramophone award-winners.

This time round it will be the Schumann concerto (recorded live at Symphony Hall last November), and the rare Dvorak, which an excited and packed auditorium acclaimed last night.

As Hough’s deeply-committed and dedicated performance revealed, the Dvorak does in fact have many Schumannesque moments, particularly in the opening movement, so the coupling will indeed be appropriate.

Hough brings probing thoughtfulness to everything he touches, and the listener is too transfixed ever to consider virtuosity.

He preserved the essential intimacy of the work even in a context which was perhaps too overblown for Dvorak’s ideas, with shaded reserves of tone and a dreamy spontaneity. The piano-writing is not that of a pianist-composer, but Hough was able to make the keyboard communicate tellingly, even at the normally thin top of its range.

This was a richly rewarding partnership between piano and CBSO, Nelsons and Hough breathing as one, and there were some gorgeous orchestral gems, not least the horn opening to the andante, and the bravely sustained long note from the violins at that movement’s end. Songs My Mother Taught Me, short and very sweet, was the perfect encore.

And so we came to what probably most of the audience had thronged to hear, Rachmaninov’s irresistibly wonderful Second Symphony.

There was so much to relish here: the quietly sonorous initial tuba entry; Zoe Beyers’ sweet solos from the concertmaster’s desk; a beautifully-phrased clarinet in the slow movement’s famous solo.”     …

.

Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Hough’s playing, too, was heroic in the many passages in which the soloist has to project their arpeggiated accompaniment to the main action that takes place in the orchestra. He also delighted in the moments of repose, including the lovely “Twinkle, twinkle” melody that cannot fail to cheer. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons played with both heft and beauty, though orchestra and soloist took a little while to settle their tempi together. Nevertheless, there were lovely solo contributions from the principal bassoonist in the first and second movements and the principal horn in the second, an achingly tender balm after the relative bombast of the first.

While it felt as though Hough and Nelsons were having to strain every sinew to sell the first movement to the audience, they seemed to relax and have a great deal of fun in the dance rhythms of the Allegro con fuoco finale. This was evidenced in Nelsons’ characteristic leaps from the rostrum and a look of pure delight from Hough when the conductor and orchestra pulled off a remarkable feat of rubato – a grand pull-up into the orchestral ritornello after the development section. I think it will be a while before I fully appreciate this Cinderella work but with Hyperion’s microphones present at least I’ll be able to return to this team’s performance when the recording is released.”     …

Camerata Salzburg and Nicola Benedetti play Mozart

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

Thursday 12th March

Symphony Hall

Camerata Salzburg
Ben Gernon conductor
Nicola Benedetti violin

Schönberg Waltzes for string orchestra 16’
Mozart Violin Concerto No 5, Turkish 31’
Bruckner Adagio from String Quintet in F major, arr for strings 13’
Mozart Symphony No 29 28’

.

Following his triumph in the 2013 Salzburg Festival conducting competition, Shropshire-born conductor Ben Gernon brings Camerata Salzburg, one of the world’s greatest chamber orchestras, to Birmingham.

Two of Mozart’s sunniest masterpieces are at the heart of this concert and with the hugely popular Nicola Benedetti as soloist, this promises to be a joyful evening of music.

http://www.THSH.co.uk

CBSO New CDs

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Volume 3 –

CBSO and CBSO Chorus with Edward Gardner and Sophie Bevan and Mary Bevan

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op.27 and Symphony No 2 in B Flat Major

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 3

is now available

Click here to buy online (all volumes here)

or visit the Symphony Hall Gift Shop

*****

Tchaikovsky – Manfred Symphony and Marche Slave –

CBSO with Andris Nelsons

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony & Marche slave

Available in the Symphony Hall Gift Shop now;

released 6th April 2015 elsewhere –

Click here to buy online