Yamada conducts Bernstein

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Ravel La Valse, 13′
  • Korngold Violin Concerto, 24′
  • Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, 18′
  • Bernstein West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, 24′

“This young man is full of music from head to toe” said one critic about Kazuki Yamada, and he’s become a real favourite with audiences and orchestra alike. With Bernstein’s electrifying Symphonic Dances, delicious decadence from Maurice Ravel, plus another Birmingham favourite – Baiba Skride – in Korngold’s luscious Violin Concerto, his first concert as our new Principal Guest Conductor is pretty much guaranteed to set the ears tingling.     http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Nick John Whittle, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

[…]      “Of the final work of the evening a written description will not suffice. Rarely have I been more entertained at a classical concert than this by rendition of Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. An augmented CBSO, complete with all manner of percussive instrument, delivered something that altogether rose above the basal definition of ‘music’.

Special mention must be made of the percussion section whose relentless hammerings constituted the strong, jagged backbone of the magnificent beast. Complex tempi were delivered with accuracy – a breathtaking example of how best to deliver beat and rhythm and, for the young students of the audience who may baulk at the idea of just ‘beating drums’, here was an insight into the beauty and sexiness of rhythm.

Yamada is no despot by any means. He is part of the Big Picture, the final ingredient in the chemical reaction that turns concerts into celebrations. His connection with the orchestra was apparent, and his rapport with each section and each player was as plain as day. By his own admission he feels a connection with the CBSO that is almost “telepathic”; that much was obvious at tonight’s concert.”

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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[…]      “The playing sparkled and mixed the musical ingredients perfectly; a rainbow of carefully shaded and crisply delivered rhythms, street-wise New York pizzazz and just a dash of schmaltz. There were magical moments too, like the pizzicato strings for Maria and the all stops out Mahler-on-the-Hudson orchestration of Somewhere. Every section took a fully-deserved bow and Yamada, a diminutive bundle of bobbing energy, got a rightly raucous reception.

Korngold’s violin concerto got a sniffy critical drubbing when it was premiered in 1947 – as did almost everything tonal and tuneful – but is now getting the recognition it deserves. Vilde Frang gave a fantastic fulsomely passionate performance here two years ago but Baiba Skride’s more inward and subtle interpretation was equally satisfying. She started daringly slow and quiet, a mere wisp of sound heard from afar – music as Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity” – the central Romance warm but not over-heated and the finale’s humorous high-jinks (with characterful brass and wind playing) were delightful. ”     […]

 

 

 

Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Royal Festival Hall

Tuesday 9th October, 2018, 7:30pm

Performers

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Andris Nelsons Gewandhauskapellmeister
Kristine Opolais soprano

Repertoire

Andris Dzenitis: Mara for orchestra (UK premiere)
Tchaikovsky: Liza’s arioso from The Queen of Spades; Polonaise from Eugene Onegin; Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin
Interval
Mahler: Symphony No.1

Part of Classical Season 2018/19

Described by The New York Times as ‘a young dynamo’, Andris Nelsons enjoyed an acclaimed tenure at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before appointments at two of the world’s most feted musical ensembles: the Boston Symphony Orchestra and, in 2018, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

Founded in 1743, the Gewandhausorchester performs weekly concerts in the Gewandhaus, Leipzig’s main concert hall, and it also serves as the orchestra in the Leipzig Opera. The Orchestra’s other musical duties include weekly performances at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, where Bach was the Cantor until his death. Mendelssohn was appointed as Kappellmeister in 1835, part of a long tradition of famous names who have directed this orchestra.

In the second of this pair of concerts, the orchestra presents Mahler’s magnificent First Symphony, alongside a selection of richly lyrical arias and orchestral interludes from some of Tchaikovsky’s best loved operas, including Eugene Onegin’s centrepiece, Tatyana’s affecting ‘Letter Scene’.

The evening opens with the UK premiere of a new work Māra from the rising Latvian composer Andris Dzenitis.

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Review by Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack:

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[…]     “Nelsons, conducting much of the evening with his left hand gripping the podium rail, also had a firm grip on Mahler 1 after the interval. It was richly detailed with scrupulous attention to dynamics, yet took a long time to catch fire. The tremulous first movement didn’t have an organic sense of flow: rather than an open-hearted stroll enjoying the countryside, this felt like a regimented trek, led by a tour guide directing the itinerary from a clipboard.

The emphatic, foot-stamping Ländler felt rustic enough, but the halting rubatos in the gentle Trio section were just a little too sly, a little too knowing, as if Mahler was tapping the side of his nose. The funeral march third movement was taken at an appropriately laboured, funereal pace, although the excellent double bass’ intonation never wavered in his Frère Jacques solo. A jigging bassoonist in the klezmer invasion hinted at an orchestra itching to break free, which it finally did as Nelsons swept attaca into the finale. This was a thunderous assault where micro-management was abandoned for something more, well, abandoned in spirit. The gleeful eye contact between the two timpanists was terrific… the Gewandhaus had now been let off the leash and were making the most of it. This is what we’d come for.”

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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[…]     “As the First Symphony in the second of the RFH concerts confirmed, there’s no doubting the power and theatricality that Nelsons brings to this music. As the central pair of movements showed, he still has a tendency to linger just a bit too long over expressive details, though with an orchestra capable of such refined and transparent string playing, that was easy to excuse. He’d made rather heavy weather of some of the slower music in the opening movement too, but the finale was irresistible, sweeping all before it on a flood of brass tone that never overwhelmed the rest of the orchestral picture.”     […]

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Review by David Nice, TheArtsDesk:

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[…]      “But Opolais’s now weighty dramatic soprano did scale down for the core moment of the 17-year-old girl’s touching vulnerability, abetted by oboist Henrik Wahlgren. Violins were a bit ragged in their initial impetuousness, too. The Act Three Polonaise which came before had just the right swagger under Nelsons the dancer; his panache in sailing and landing on the strong first beat of each bar signalled that he might be a good candidate for Vienna’s New Year’s Day Concert.

And as a Mahler conductor, he is in a class of his own already. Not one with which I always agree; the mannerisms, the sometimes inorganic pulling-about, sometimes seem writ a bit too large. But his interpretation of the First Symphony truly exploded in the gigantic finale, with discipline and rhythmic focus, from his clearly welcoming orchestra, and the febrile leadership of Sebastian Breuninger is always a joy to watch. So, too, was the dedicated work of second timpanist Xizi Wang from Leipzig’s Mendelssohn Orchesterakadamie – the first time I’ve ever seen a woman on timps (and why so, one wonders?)

Above all, Nelson’s establishing of a very different mood for each movement made one wonder afresh at the youngish Mahler’s daring back in the late 1880s. Perhaps the funeral-march rounds on the tune we know as “Frère Jacques” could have afforded to sound uglier, less artistic, from their accomplished “singers”, double bass especially; but the dream idyll at the heart of the movement was so rapt, the gauzes of the natural world in the first movement so poetic, the stomping scherzo so earthy.”     […]

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Review by Peter Reed, ClassicalSource:

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[…]      “As ever, she radiated glamour, her voice was on gleaming form, and her finely judged glides to and from notes and her caressing of pitch were fresh and seductive. The most affecting moment, though, came in Tatyana’s complicit amazement at what she is doing with her life, with Henrik Wahlgren’s oboe and Ralf Götz’s horn hovering in attendance like sorrowful guardian angels, and Opolais wondrously focused and disarmingly innocent.      […]

[…]     I now know how a ghost on timpani might sound, courtesy of Marek Stefula, barely buoying up Rainer Hucke’s equally spectral bass ‘Frère Jacques’ solo at the start of the funeral march third movement, and later Nelsons led the orchestra close to reckless Fiddler on the Roof exuberance in the Klezmer music. Any allusion and irony vanished in the Finale, and the orchestra gave Nelsons everything he asked for – control, terrific momentum and, in the quiet passage just before the thrills of the close, playing that made time stand still. The horns stood in the final peroration, you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between the two timpanists’ ensemble, and, while it was never clear how leader Frank-Michael Erben’s possessed playing related to Nelsons’s rather more laid-back style, the results were consistently electrifying.”

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Review by Mark Berry, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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[…]      “Tchaikovsky made much more sense to me, Kristine Opolais on superlative form. In Liza’s third-act arioso from The Queen of Spades and the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, she truly brought to life her characters, without context, scenery, or titles. One knew and felt what Liza and Tatiana meant, what their plight was – and could have taken dictation, verbal or musical, from her. Hers were fully gestural performances too, very much those of a classic singing actress. The Gewandhaus Orchestra ‘spoke’ splendidly too: this, after all, is an orchestra that plays for the Leipzig Opera as well as the concert hall (and the Thomaskirche). If only Nelsons and/or Opolais had not indulged in quite so extreme gear changes towards the end of the Letter Scene, and if only he had not driven the Polonaise so hard, these would have been ideal performances. No one, however, would have been seriously disappointed.

The first movement of the Mahler symphony opened with great promise: opening string harmonics (and their later repetition) spot on, without sounding clinical, woodwind full of colour and character, offstage brass as well balanced as I can recall.”     […]

 

 

 

Tchaikovsky and Beethoven

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Skalkottas Four Images, 12′
  • Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, 33′
  • Koukos In Memoriam, 4′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 7, 38′

Yulianna Avdeeva’s encore – Tchaikovsky – Meditation

“I am the new Bacchus, pressing out glorious wine for the human spirit!” Beethoven wasn’t known for his modesty – but until you’ve heard his Seventh Symphony you’ve never known just how intoxicating music can be. It’s the only way to end a concert that begins with Skalkottas’s riotous Greek wine festival, and which features the virtuosic Yulianna Avdeeva in Tchaikovsky’s barnstorming concerto. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, Arcana FM:

Click here for full review

[…]     “Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto has never wanted for exponents, so credit to Yulianna Avdeeva for her engaging perspective on music to which the ‘war-horse’ epithet is too often applicable. The indelible opening melody was majestic without being portentous, with the imposing first movement convincingly held together so that the accrued momentum carried through to a searching take on its lengthy cadenza. There was no lack of deftness during the Andantino, replete with woodwind playing of real elegance, while the finale had energy to spare on its way to a surging peroration. This is an impressive interpretation in the making.     […]

[…]      Carydis then headed directly into Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, here given a reading that was always invigorating and often electrifying. Dynamic contrasts occasionally verged on the contrived, and the repeat of the scherzo’s hymnal trio was almost parodic in its stateliness, but these were outweighed by the power and incisiveness elsewhere. Carydis drove the CBSO hard in the finale, but the players admirably rose to the challenge – antiphonal violins to the fore as the coda reached its visceral culmination.  […]

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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“Febrile, furious and triumphantly joyous – this was the performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony one longs to hear. The Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis took risks, which is appropriate for a work which made Weber declare that Beethoven was “ripe for the madhouse”. In the Dionysian finale the CBSO became a musical juggernaut with Carydis pushing the accelerator to the floor and accepting the challenge of Beethoven’s notoriously optimistic metronome marking. I expected the wheels to come off but it’s tribute to the CBSO players that not only did they reach the finishing line in one piece but that they delivered a brilliantly articulated and weighted performance. In the wonderful Allegretto Carydis urged the strings to play with the utmost quietness – clarity aided by his dividing the fiddles left and right – making the most of the movement’s magic.”      […]

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(Review by Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette, for same programme but at Leeds Town Hall:

Click here for full review)

 

 

 

Italian Moments

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Romeo and Juliet Overture, 21′
  • Rachmaninov  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 24′
  • Puccini  Intermezzi from Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, 13′
  • Respighi  Feste Romane, 24′

Pavel Kolesnikov’s encore – Chopin  Waltz in A Minor

North meets south, and whether it’s Tchaikovsky’s star-crossed lovers embracing under the Italian night sky or Respighi’s roof-raising vision of Roman excess, this is a concert full of big emotions and spectacular colours. Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan has become a star in Italy: he knows not to hold back. And nor will the superb young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, in Rachmaninov’s hugely popular Rhapsody.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Midland Music Reviews:

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[…]     “The programme had its roots entirely in Chauhan’s adopted country, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture.in which the conductor wove a haunting string web of regret before launching into a well-paced tumult — and commendably bringing his left hand into play only for telling moments.

Pavel Kolesnikov was a perfect collaborator with the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, now effervescent, now thoughtful in his punctuation of these colourful textures. The piece emerged as the sinfonia concertante for orchestra and piano that it actually is.

Orchestra and conductor really came into their own in the Intermezzi from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, sumptuous in tone, strings phrasing like soloists, and everything delivered with an ardour which surely had the composer smiling down on us.”     […]

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Review by Robert Gainer, Bachtrach:

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[…]    “But Chauhan and the CBSO were saving the best until last. Respighi’s Feste Romane is a symphonic poem of serious magnitude. I’m surprised the strings had room to bow, or the trombones space to slide, given how tightly the musicians were packed on the stage. The third in Resphigi’s Roman trilogy, Feste Romane comes in four movements, each depicting aspects of Ancient Rome. The first opened with a wonderfully coherent trumpet fanfare that celebrates the occasion of gladiatorial combat. There was no subtlety in Chauhan’s presentation, nor should there have been. Who ever heard of a subtle gladiator? This was blood and guts and glory in Nero’s Rome and the CBSO were on fire. Everything was coming together: the power of the deep brass; the tension of the tempestuous strings; the driving tumult of bass drum and timpani. Even as the tempo and volume subsided to reflect a more ponderous depth of feeling in strings and woodwind, the forward motion of the first movement was inescapable and inevitably returned to reiterate the opening fanfares.

The remaining three movements continued in a similar vein, indeed, if anything became increasingly frenetic, especially in the brass and percussion. Yet there were moments of respite when we were treated to more unusual orchestrations. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of percussive chimes and the mandolin passage in the third movement. The fourth movement was as tight and absorbing as anything I have experienced at Symphony Hall, a truly climactic finale.”     […]

 

Autumn Classics

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Featuring

Programme

  • Dmitri Shostakovich   Festive Overture
  • Edward Elgar   Salut d’amour
  • Fritz Kreisler   Liebesleid,  and Tambourin chinois
  • Antonín Leopold Dvořák   Slavonic Dances, Op.72, No.1
  • Alexander Glazunov   The Seasons: Autumn
  • Leonard Bernstein   West Side Story: Overture
  • Robert Farnon   À la claire fontaine
  • Henryk Wieniawski   Légende, Op. 17,  and Polonaise Brillante Op. 4 No. 1
  • Camille Saint-Saëns   Danse macabre
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky   Swan Lake: Act I Finale
  • Colin Twigg   Anton and Antonio

**  Support the CBSO Benevolent Fund here  **

 

Autumn: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But it’s also the time for a right old celebration, and in this delightfully entertaining concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Jennifer Pike plays some of the most mouth-watering miniature treats in the violin repertoire. And then we crack open the vodka, as Shostakovich, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky start the party, Russian style! www.CBSO.co.uk

The CBSO Benevolent Fund is a registered friendly society, no.735F, supporting CBSO players and staff.

Review by John Gough, Midlands Music Reviews:

Click here for full review

[…]     “Shostakovich’s opening ‘Festive Overture’ went off like a rocket, with deft articulation, cracking string playing, balalaika-like pizzicatos, and a blaze of fanfares at the close.

The pace varied constantly. Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was sweet yet purposefully phrased. The orchestra was joined by golden toned violinist Jennifer Pike in two Kreisler pieces, by turns dazzling and melting, producing an audibly contented sigh from the audience at the end of ‘Liebesleid’. She returned later with two attractive and entertaining pieces by Wieniawski.” […]

Dvořák’s New World Symphony

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Featuring

Programme

  • Dvořák Othello, 15′
  • Bartók Violin Concerto No. 1, 21′
  • Dvořák Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), 40′

Gidon Kremer’s encore – Weinberg – three Preludes

CBSO’s encore – Dvořák – Slavonic Dance 1, Op.46

Some pieces are classics for a reason – and Dvořák’s symphony “From the New World” sounds as fresh, as stirring and as gloriously tuneful today as when it was first heard, 125 years ago in New York. Guest conductor Omer Meir Wellber makes a keenly awaited return: he’s paired it with a choice of two passionate concertos, each played by one of the greatest stars on the current classical music scene. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Bratby, The Arts Desk:

Click here for full review

[…] “If Othello had ended suddenly, the opening phrases of the “New World” symphony sounded as if they’d always been playing, and Wellber had merely turned up the volume. That sense – of hidden, elemental forces, masterfully channelled – powered the whole performance. Initially, it was Wellber’s sheer control that impressed, as he swept each section of the symphony’s outer movements towards its culminating point. But then came the quieter moments – the loving way he moulded the string accompaniment around Marie-Christine Zupancic’s first movement flute theme, and Rachael Pankhurst’s fluid, dark caramel cor anglais solo, and then let each melody unfurl and gather pace like an improvisation.

And repeatedly, just as you felt things were humming along a little too slickly, Wellber would open the sluices. The brass ripped through the texture, and Dvořák’s windswept climaxes took on the proportions and power of Mahler. Wellber’s gestures had been almost elegant in the Bartók. Now he thrashed about with clenched fists, generating an electrical storm whose hectic, brooding atmosphere the encore – the Slavonic Dance Op.46 No.1 – did nothing to dispel. It was a shattering reading, and I’m tempted to say a necessary one – at the very least, a reminder from a conductor of a new generation that the enduring stature of this great symphonic tragedy owes nothing to Smooth Classics compilations, or a TV advert that no-one under 40 ever saw. “

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Review by Andrew Clements, The Guardian:

Click here for full review

[…] “The concert also introduced the orchestra’s new artist-in-residence, the violinist Gidon Kremer. Though much of his residency will centre on the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose centenary falls next year, in this first appearance he was the soloist in Bartók’s First Violin Concerto. We now hear much less of Kremer in Britain than we did a decade ago, but as this fine-grained performance showed, that’s very much our loss; he caught the quiet ardency of the concerto’s first movement perfectly, and even in the more extrovert Allegro managed to retain a degree of something personal and lyrical, leaving Wellber and the orchestra to provide the bigger emphases.” […]

 

Elgar’s Cello Concerto

with Bergen Philharmonic and Edward Gardner

Tuesday 17th January, 2017 – 7:30pm

Artists

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
 
Edward Gardnerconductor
Truls Mørkcello

Programme

GriegPeer Gynt Suite No 1
ElgarCello Concerto
WaltonSymphony No 1

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Truls Mørk’s encore – Bach –

Bergen Philharmonic’s encores – Elgar – Nimrod, and Grieg – March of the Trolls

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A great Norwegian orchestra meets great British music, as Edward Gardner conducts Grieg, Walton, and Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Truls Mørk is the soloist, and his take on Elgar’s hugely popular concerto is both fresh and deeply thoughtful. Gardner, meanwhile, became Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 2015. Together, they’ve got a real chemistry – so whether in Walton’s explosive First Symphony or Peer Gynt (by Bergen’s hometown hero Edvard Grieg), expect some serious energy tonight.

6:15pm: Pre-concert conversation with Edward Gardner. This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter.

Andris Nelsons Conducts Bruckner

Thursday 12th January, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Maxwell Davies Trumpet Concerto, 28′
  • Bruckner Symphony No. 4 (Romantic), 64′

The air seems to shimmer, and a horn calls softly in the mist. The loveliest opening to any symphony ever? Decide for yourself as Andris Nelsons unfolds the glowing peaks and sweeping vistas of Bruckner’s Romantic symphony – and sets it against the windswept seascapes of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Trumpet Concerto, played by one of the world’s greatest living trumpeters. Nelsons’s first concert in Birmingham since 2015 is certain to be a highlight of our season.

Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Hardenberger’s contribution scuttered with tripping articulation and sang with generous phrasing, and Nelsons (let’s not forget he began as a trumpeter) breathed as one with his soloist.

If this offering was a revelation, the performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony which followed was a glorious affirmation of Nelsons’ stature as a conductor of this Wagner-revering composer.

We were made subconsciously aware of the huge arc of the work’s architecture, from the shimmering opening (and Elspeth Dutch’s evocative and immaculate horn solo) right to the very ending, almost rainbow-bridge in its grandeur, and with Nelsons achieving a cut-off which left us stunned in midair.

Along the way there was so much to admire: the empathetic interweaving of Dutch and Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute; the magisterial timpanism of another returnee, Peter Hill; Nelsons’ firm grip over the score’s characteristic two+three rhythms; the sturdy brass chorales (trumpeter Alan Thomas yet another welcome returnee).

There was a huge emotional release at the end, from audience, players, and from Andris Nelsons himself, whose gestures and body-language signified so much joy at being back in what had once been his “home”.”

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “But he can still charge a melody with meaning, whether powering through a rainshower of bells, grinding against the altogether more menacing sheen of the CBSO’s trumpet section, or chanting a muted prayer amidst keening violins in Maxwell Davies’s central vision of St Francis preaching to a wheeling flock of Orcadian gulls and skuas.

If that was something of a surprise success, there was every reason to expect a lot from Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, the “Romantic”. Nelsons’s credentials in Wagner might be presumed to give him a headstart in Bruckner, and in the Alpine clarity of Symphony Hall’s acoustic (sorry, London) it’s possible to create a truly colossal range of dynamics. No fear: Nelsons’s grasp of Bruckner’s symphonic architecture is too sophisticated for such cheap wins. With a modest, precise-looking beat he let the music stride forward in eloquent, articulate paragraphs, allowing incidental motifs and twists of harmony to find their own space, and pointedly declining to overemphasise the first movement’s more spectacular geographical features. It felt almost classical.

this performance of a Bruckner symphony was still, remarkably, a kind of chamber music The Andante evoked Schumann in its inwardness and warmth: Nelsons has the ability to create forward momentum amid a feeling that there’s all the time in the world. He tied the tempi of the scherzo’s slower passages back to the earlier movements, and only with the first climax of the finale did he finally unleash the full power and scale of sound that this orchestra can create in this hall – an overwhelming moment of arrival. From that point on, not even Nelsons could bring absolute coherence to Bruckner’s stop-start ramble of a finale, but the journey towards those mighty final chords was certainly beautiful. Rich string textures built from the basses up, luminous woodwinds and cellos and violas that can sing – really sing – the heart out of Bruckner’s yearning second groups: we’ve come to expect all this when Nelsons conducts the CBSO. The honeymoon never really ended between this band and this conductor. On this showing they’re still rather more than just good friends.”     …

Marina Medvetskaya’s Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet

Present Swan Lake

Saturday 7th January 2017

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Swan Lake is the story of the Prince and the Swan Princess, a tragic tale of love that triumphs over evil, set to Tchaikovsky’s sublime, soaring dramatic score performed by a live orchestra.

Following a triumphant premier UK tour earlier this year, Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet makes its debut here at Symphony Hall. Under the direction of Marina Medvetskaya, SPCB has won plaudits across Russia, Scandinavia and the USA.

Demonstrating the superb technique and artistic heritage from the cradle of Russian ballet – the City of St. Petersburg – and presenting the best-loved Russian ballet titles, Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet’s performances have an air of magic, along with outstanding young soloists who will take your breath away!

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Interview with Natalia Romanova, by Andy Coleman, WeekendNotes:

Click here for full interview

“Principal dancer Natalia Romanova, who joined the company in 1998, talks about her career and how the dancers prepare for a big production.

Natalia Romanova, Marina Medvetskaya's Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake,

Why did you decide to become a professional ballerina?

I have wanted to be a dancer ever since I can remember. Dance, particularly ballet, is a huge part of our culture, dating back to the 17th century, so we all learn about it in school and it’s a big part of our lives.

Natalia Romanova, Marina Medvetskaya's Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake,      ” …

 

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Friday 6th January, 2017, 7:30pm

Artists

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

John Wilsonconductor

Tamara Stefanovichpiano

Programme

Lauren Marshall – Suspended Between Earth and Air (conducted by Joshua Mock)

Brett DeanKomarov’s Fall

SzymanowskiSymphony No 4 (Sinfonia Concertante)

RachmaninovSymphony No 2

It’s cold outside. But step inside the concert hall and the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers is fired up and ready to put on a show of orchestral brilliance.

The journey begins in the chilly isolation of outer space, lands in the middle of a lively Polish party and ends in the radiant warmth of a showstopping Russian symphony. Your guide for the evening is John Wilson, charismatic conductor and conjurer of musical magic.

Brett Dean’s Komarov’s Fall is music that sharpens the senses. Its eerie opening requires precise and fearless playing as sparse, icy strings and woodwind glisten in the silence of space. As the tragic drama unfolds, jagged percussion and urgent brass take over the story of the Russian cosmonaut who became a hapless victim of the ruthless 1960’s space race.

For a fun-filled feast of toe-tapping rhythms, joyful dances and cheerful marches look no further than Szymanowski’s Symphonie Concertante. It is a cross between a symphony and a piano concerto and was one of the composer’s favourite pieces. With playful banter between the orchestra and piano, it is energetic and spirited, just like a stage-full of teenage musicians.

The finale of the evening is Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2, the ultimate Russian Romantic symphony. With big, bold melodies and lush, glowing harmonies, this music will smoulder and blaze in a performance of irresistible sparkle and flamboyance.

Totally teenage orchestral brilliance. Come and hear it.

BBC Radio 3 Live Broadcast –

Available on BBC Radio iPlayer here until 5th February 2017

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “This is an orchestra of marvellous flair and panache, profoundly intelligent, miraculously accurate, immensely responsive to scores of different hues, romantic and modern, producing a thrilling overall sound that is sheer joy to listen to. “Aurally volcanic” was how The Observer dubbed these breathtakingly talented young players. And indeed there were plenty of full-blooded explosions throughout this concert.

The chief surprise was an unexpected opener, Suspended between earth and air, by Lauren Marshall. She studied at the Purcell School and is currently NYO’s Principal Composer. This work turned out to be a miracle of inspiration. To behold at the outset eight trombones and a mass of horns arrayed in front of us, with a vast, possibly quadruple, spread of woodwind and strings, was in itself pretty astonishing, even if the NYO has more than 160 players to call upon.

But the impression made by Marshall’s largescale yet compact, beautifully argued piece and its use of a bigger-than-Wagner sized orchestra was astonishing: so atmospheric, indeed, that it actually managed to upstage Brett Dean’s Komarov’s Fall, a piece with which it had affinities both in subject matter (the might of the universe) and deployment of thickly massed orchestral sections. The start alone made a wondrous impact: low tympani, growling soft trombone, yielding to a striking early string build-up and some vivid chattering — almost a conversation — from the percussion. Some of the birdlike chirruping in the strings sounded uncannily like Szymanowski (the opening of his Violin Concerto No.2), which was especially appropriate given what was to come.     […]

[…]    There followed another piece of inspired programming by the NYO: one of the very rare live performances one can hear of Szymanowski’s Sinfonia Concertante (Symphony No.4). It is the work the Polish composer sketched late in life in an attempt to keep alive his performing on the platform when tuberculosis was beginning to play havoc with his health. Though the composer attempted to keep the solo part restrained, it is in fact a pretty full-blooded concerto, with a great deal of virtuosity which calls for an able soloist. Tamara Stefanovich brought colour and life and vivacity to the solo role, ably supported by the orchestra as a whole.

It is too unwieldy a task to elaborate on every detail of this work, which responded so well to the Symphony Hall acoustic. The start was mysterious and quizzical as it should be, with pizzicato cellos and basses, later a hinterland of flutes and clarinets, and the piano part characterised by the octaves and other parallellings that form part of its identity. The violins’ delayed entry was wonderfully robust, and they led in the falling-third patterns which become so essential to the argument. After a faultless surge from horns and trombones — I did not hear a single hint of a brass fluff all evening, which is a rare treat — the timpanist ushers in the cadenza, a great medley of material from the movement’s themes. Finely performed as that was, the orchestra’s scampering to a sudden, rather Ravel-like close, was yet more brilliant.     […]

[…]     The final movement gained equal impact thanks to the enduring quality of the NYO’s playing. The swellings and subsidings, all meticulously measured out, continued from earlier movements, the sensitive violas again supplied a plangent link, and the horn flutters — all eight of them beautifully synchronised — sounded like something out of Wagner. The movement, like the others, contains some tricky junctures calling for total attention and excellent conducting, which Wilson, nursing each section with intimacy and encouragement, and an unerring twinkle in his eye, dutifully supplied. In fact it was the links throughout the Rachmaninov, as in the Szymanowski, which showed off to great satisfaction the intelligence and attentiveness of these player en masse. The explosion of timpani and bass drum, and cymbals too, at the close, perfectly engineered, demonstrated with a final burst the magnificent effort put in by all their fellow players. Only occasionally one sensed the massed violin sound could be a little edgy, a mite domineering. But all in all, this was a concert to die for.”

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Wilson energised and balanced everything very precisely, but even in Symphony Hall, which can probably clarify such massive textures better than anywhere else in Britain, there were moments in both works that suffered from problems of scale. Tamara Stefanovich’s fabulously secure solo playing tended to disappear altogether at the climaxes of the Szymanowski, while, though played with enormous verve and skill, the outer movements of the Rachmaninov seemed glutinous and flabby. Even the beautifully sculpted clarinet solo in the slow movement sounded oddly out of place in such a larger-than-life performance.

The published programme began with Brett Dean’s Komarov’s Fall – his short, touching memorial to the first astronaut to die in space – but before it one of the orchestra’s cellists, Joshua Mock, had conducted a beautifully paced account of Suspended Between Earth and Air, by NYOGB’s principal composer scholar, 16-year-old Lauren Marshall, which unfolds a sequence of striking musical images – fluttering woodwind, dense packed clusters and a final, enigmatic chorale – in a wonderfully assured way.”

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Review by Vincent Coster, Blog:

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…     “Tonight they played another concert that is a testimony to the fine work of this orchestra and proudly supports the fact that their ethos is a noble and worthy one. It was evident from the very beginning when we were treated to a surprise piece not originally listed. One that was written by the orchestra’s principal composer Lauren Marshall called Suspended Between Earth and Air. The piece itself was one of those typical modern compositions, which oscillate sharply, jagged and sharp in their contortions, and this too was wonderfully constructed in that mode. It was a treat and fitted in with the direction of the concert, setting us up perfectly for the next piece which was Dean’s piece Komarov’s Fall. So well blended where these two pieces that one thought they had stumbled into the film score of a futuristic nightmare set deep in the cold wastes of space. I for one hope we hear more of this young composer in the future, and that this piece gets performed more often.

Hardly had one time to breathe or recover from the modernistic style which begun this concert when the Orchestra took us backwards to an earlier part of the modern period with Karol Szymanowski’s Symphony No 4 (Sinfonia Concertante), this time joined on stage by Tamara Stefanovich. Together they treated the audience to such a wonderful rendition of a difficult and strikingly beautiful symphony.”     …

 

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