Summer Showcase

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 25th June, 2.15pm

Programme

  • Strauss  Suite in B flat major for 13 winds, 25′
  • Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, 20′
  • Reich  Music for Pieces of Wood, 8′
  • Cage  First Construction in Metal, 9′
  • Mussorgsky (arr. Howarth)  Pictures at an Exhibition, 30′

Our orchestra is made up of 83 extraordinary artists, and today they step into the limelight. The CBSO woodwinds share Strauss’s delightful Suite, and our strings play their hearts out in Shostakovich’s white-hot Chamber Symphony. Then the percussion section sets up a rhythm in two stunning contemporary classics – and a spectacular, all-brass version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition proves that a great orchestra is the sum of some seriously impressive parts!
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Alpesh Chauhan to stay at CBSOarticle by Christopher Morley

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Support the CBSO

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “For the brass Elgar Howarth’s imaginative arrangement of Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition showed just what exciting sounds can be drawn from an expanded palette of brass colours (especially when played with such firm-of-lip panache) and a conductor alert to good balance.

The two percussion items were less rewarding. Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood might be an intriguing rhythmic exercise, but quickly outstays its 8-minute duration; and the huge array of instruments in John Cage’s First Construction (in Metal), which Chauhan conducted with military four-in-a-bar precision, certainly tickled the ears although, by today’s standards, its inventiveness seemed disappointingly limited.

Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for strings, however, was quite different. With its four-note motif an ever-present symbol of the composer’s torment and despair, and the cello solos of Eduardo Vassallo singing songs of forlorn memory, this was a stunningly moving performance, made even more so by the unobtrusive direction of concert master Laurence Jackson. When musicians listen so intently to each other who needs a conductor?”    

Dresden Philharmonic perform Mendelssohn and Brahms

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

Sunday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Dresden Philharmonic
Michael Sanderling Principal Conductor
Bertrand de Billy Principal Guest Conductor
Kurt Masur Conductor Laureate
Frauke Roth General Director
Arabella Steinbacher violin

Beethoven –   Egmont Overture   9’

Mendelssohn –   Violin Concerto   23’

Brahms –  Symphony No 4     39’

Arabella Steinbacher’s encore – Prokofiev – Solo Violin Sonata, First Movement

Dresden Philharmonic’s encore – Rossini – William Tell Overture, Final

Dresden is a hallowed name in the world of classical music, and its conductor Michael Sanderling, too, comes from a fabled musical family. Together, Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic dig down to the very roots of the German symphonic canon; masterpieces by Beethoven and Brahms frame Arabella Steinbacher’s gloriously fresh take on Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Violin Concerto.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

Arabella Steinbacher is one of the leading violinists of her generation, famed for her passionate performances of Classical and Romantic concertos. This programme promises to showcase that passion, as Arabella performs Mendelssohn’s brilliant and much-loved Violin Concerto, joined by the Dresden Philharmonic.

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

..     “The actual opener was Beethoven‘s Egmont Overture, the slow introduction being an heroic and effective vehicle for the Dresden Philharmonic‘s rich, poised sound.  Under Michael Sanderling’s sensitive direction, and with well-handled dynamics, they evoked the drama of the story, ranging from turmoil to anguish to triumph.  The knocking effect of the string passages was very compelling, as was the closing section with full orchestra swelling with excitement.  The whole pivoted on a sudden pin-drop expectant silence.  It was a fine display of teamwork, so they could have afforded to look a little less serious.

The highlight of the evening was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, with Arabella Steinbacher‘s performance a joy to experience.  Composed for Mendelssohn’s friend Ferdinand David, who like the composer became influential in the musical life of Leipzig, the concerto is full of memorable melodies and themes.  Tonight’s interpretation demonstrated how it combines lyric ease – it simply flowed and the audience was swept along effortlessly – with virtuosity.  From the first passionate notes, Steinbacher owned the stage whilst displaying a sensitive rapport with conductor and orchestra.  There was a sense of the audience responding to her smiling disposition – we like to see our performers enjoying themselves.

There was also collective breath-holding in the crowd during the cadenza, which Steinbacher took at a stylishly unhurried pace, really making the silences count.  Some beautiful orchestral playing in the minor key led to a subtle transition by winds then strings from the Allegro into the Andante.  This movement  embodied a sense of serenity, with lovely climbing phrases which somehow felt life-affirming.  Known as a “song without words” it truly did sing its gorgeous melody.  Steinbacher brought a further joyous atmosphere to the final high-spirited movement, which fairly bounded along with a dancelike forward momentum, and was warmly applauded.  She then gave us a lovely encore in the shape of the first movement of Prokoviev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 115.  During a rendition that was both soulful and energetic, her violin seemed to be an extension of her body.”        …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The Dresden Philharmonic plays at a higher default decibel level than most other orchestras I’ve heard in over half a century (Chicago excepted). Sometimes it makes for uncomfortable listening when a concert-room has as probing an acoustic as we have in Symphony Hall.

So the opening of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture almost shocked me out of my seat, strings raspingly heavy as they dug into those portentous chords, conductor Michael Sanderling’s orchestral layout favouring double-basses making the sound-picture swing strongly to the left. I recovered in time to admire the fierce nobility of the horns as this developed into a well-defined reading.

Arabella Steinbacher was soloist in the ineffable Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, her tone rich, intonation glacially pure, her bow wielded almost like a weapon. This was a performance of huge personality, tempi deliberately unsentimentalised, musical paragraphs well contrasted, and with a first movement cadenza which was articulated in the manner of the great solo violin works by Mendelssohn’s beloved Bach.”     …

Andris Nelsons’ Farewell Concerts

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 18th June, 7.30pm

Programme

  • Ešenvalds Lakes Awake at Dawn, 13′
  • Mahler Symphony No. 3, 92′

All good things come to an end. And on what are sure to be emotional evenings, Andris Nelsons has chosen to say farewell to Birmingham with Mahler’s huge, rapturous hymn to nature – both unchanging, and forever renewing. A beautiful new choral work by Andris’s fellow-Latvian Eriks Ešenvalds – jointly commissioned (thanks to support from the Feeney Trust) with Andris’s new orchestra in Boston – brings our orchestra, choruses, audience and conductor together to celebrate seven inspirational years.
Share your memories of Andris’ time with the CBSO
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Support the CBSO
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Andris Nelsons says Birmingham must keep loving the CBSO.

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Farewell Andris – CBSO Gallery, video, etc

Storify here

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:
Click here for full review
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     “Lakes Awake at Dawn is scored for SATB choir and a large orchestra and in this performance played for about 10 minutes. In it Ešenvalds sets some lines by the Latvian poet, Inge Ābele in an English translation to which the composer has appended some words of his own, also in English. The score plays continuously but has two clearly defined sections. In the first, the Ābele setting, the music is tense and powerful, depicting, to paraphrase the composer’s own description, “one’s emotional unrest, anxiety, and physical running away from danger at night in a forest.” Nelsons inspired his combined forces to project this music very strongly, creating a potent atmosphere. Ešenvalds’ own words depict the arrival at the consoling safety of a lake. Here the music becomes hymn-like. The writing for both choir and orchestra has great beauty and is initially tranquil though it gradually builds to a majestic climax, retreating thereafter to a soft consonant orchestral conclusion. The piece has great impact – especially in such a committed performance as this one – and its enthusiastic reception by the audience clearly delighted the composer, who was present. […]

[…]

The concluding Adagio opened with wonderfully rapt playing from the CBSO strings; you sensed they were on their collective mettle, determined to deliver one last time for Nelsons – and they did. Nelsons paced the music broadly and generously but though the tempo was expansive there was always a sense that the music was moving forward with purpose: there was a goal in sight. Throughout this movement the orchestra were at the top of their game. Impressive dynamic contrasts were a telling feature of the reading. In the last few minutes there was a true sense that Nelsons was leading his forces to the summit; certainly he drew every last ounce of commitment from the orchestra. He surely knew that the last great D major chord would be followed by an immediate ovation but Nelsons held the moment, his arms aloft, so that no applause intruded until the music had reverberated around the hall and properly died away. Only then did he lower his arms.[…]

[…]

During a prolonged standing ovation Nelsons plunged into the ranks of the orchestra; it seemed as if he shook hands with or hugged most of the players on the platform. After several minutes he gave a disarming short farewell speech in which, typically, he stressed two themes: the CBSO family, including its audience, and a strong plea to the people of Birmingham to cherish their orchestra. And so with this unforgettable performance the Nelsons era came to an end, though it’s not quite the end for he and the orchestra and the CBSO Chorus have one last outing together: Beethoven’s Ninth at the BBC Proms on 19 July. He will be back in Birmingham, I’m sure, as an honoured guest, but for now, with his successor still to be chosen, he leaves big shoes to fill.”     …

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Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:
Click here for full review
…       “Ešenwald’s composition was commissioned by both the CBSO and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Nelson’s new home. It was fitting that the great Latvian conductor should have used the opportunity to promote the music of one of Latvia’s best contemporary composers in this UK première. The CBSO Chorus clearly relished the work, projecting their magnificent sound throughout the hall with enthusiasm and diction that made the most of the counterpoints and rhythms. Although a number of the lines from the text were repeated, it was never repetitive thanks to the imaginative and colourful orchestration. At various points I could hear the sound of gulls on the lake coming from the violins, the waters of the lake rippling in sync with Nelsons’ elongated fingers, and the sun finally breaching the horizon to a percussive technique that looked from afar like a string bow being drawn across a xylophone block. Yet this was not ‘experimental’ music, but a mature and innovative composition in its portrayal of both imagery and narrative. I have heard some of Ešenwald’s work before on recording and I have been impressed. Its impact in concert is manifold, and I shall be seeking opportunities to hear his work again. (sic) […]
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Highlights from the other movements were aplenty. The changes of mood in the third movement were brilliantly executed, with the offstage flugelhorn exquisitely lyrical. Mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster’s performance was perfectly measured and supported by some mellifluous French horn playing. The CBSO Youth and Children’s Choruses were enchanting in the fifth movement, maintaining good balance with the adult chorus and bringing joyous light relief after the profundity of the fourth movement. In the final movement Nelsons, who had conducted with passion and energy throughout and sometimes jumping on the spot, seemed to get renewed strength and there was a palpable response from the musicians as the finale built to its emphatic conclusion.As Nelsons cut the final thunderous chord his arms remained aloft, motionless and statuesque. Two thousand two hundred lungs simultaneously suspended their breath. Not until the sound had completely faded away after a prolonged pause did he move. Only then did the audience exhale, rising spontaneously as one in a standing ovation that went well past the point of hand hurting.

 

So, what is it that Nelsons has with the CBSO that they find so difficult to replace? Personal chemistry. Despite the risks, the CBSO is right to hold out until they find such chemistry again before appointing Nelsons’ successor.”    

*****

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 Review by Fiona Maddocks:

Click here for full review

…     “A hundred minutes is a long time to be on the edge of your seat, but Nelsons kept us there throughout this epic hymn to man and nature.

During his time in Birmingham he has made his mark with resplendent Wagner and Strauss, electrifying Beethoven and a shoal of world premieres and recordings. The orchestra, trained for 18 years by Simon Rattle and for a decade by Sakari Oramo, was already on fine form. With Nelsons they have discovered a new freedom of expression. This reflects the qualities of this warm-hearted musician from Riga, not yet 40, who encountered his first opera – Tannhäuser – aged five, cried when the hero died, and decided to become a conductor.

Nelsons working his way round the entire CBSO to say his goodbyes.

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Nelsons working his way round the entire CBSO to say his goodbyes. Photograph: Neil Pugh

The Ešenvalds work, Lakes Awake at Dawn, recalls a dark event in Latvian history – June 1940 – when a mass Soviet deportation to Siberia forced thousands to flee their homes and spend a fearful night in the forest. After an explosive start, the work achieves a radiant calm as dawn arrives. The writing is tonal and ecstatic, immediate in impact rather than radical. Commissioned both by the CBSO and Boston, where it was premiered last year, it was a thoughtful prelude to the Mahler, troubling more for its subject matter than its harmonies.

Nelsons has always shaped every phrase and nuance – unlike, say, Barenboim, who sometimes drops his arms altogether and leaves his players to get on with it. Edging towards the precipice with his fascination for detail, Nelsons somehow always holds the work secure and intact. This was true in the half-hour-long first movement of the Mahler. Colours and effects stood out as if for the first time – the burbling bassoons, the military wind-band mood of the high E flat clarinets. (“Yes, Mr Mahler has E flat clarinets on the brain,” sniped a Viennese critic, one of many who questioned the composer’s sanity when the work was new.)

Watch the CBSO’s farewell video.

Using a full avian repertoire of gestures, Nelsons shifts from gawky wet crow to elegant flamingo to shrinking sparrow to, in the limitless melody of the final movement, a giant kite gliding freely in space. His players, never knowing what might happen next, are ever alert. Check out the CBSO’s tribute video, and see him waggle his hands behind his ears to conjure a brass trill. Boston will enjoy him, if they can keep him.”     …

*****

Andris Nelsons’ Farewell Concerts

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Wednesday 17th June, 7.30pm

Programme

  • Ešenvalds Lakes Awake at Dawn, 13′
  • Mahler Symphony No. 3, 92′

All good things come to an end. And on what are sure to be emotional evenings, Andris Nelsons has chosen to say farewell to Birmingham with Mahler’s huge, rapturous hymn to nature – both unchanging, and forever renewing. A beautiful new choral work by Andris’s fellow-Latvian Eriks Ešenvalds – jointly commissioned (thanks to support from the Feeney Trust) with Andris’s new orchestra in Boston – brings our orchestra, choruses, audience and conductor together to celebrate seven inspirational years.
Share your memories of Andris’ time with the CBSO .
See the final rehearsal pictures of CBSO with Andris Nelsons here
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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post
Click here for full review
…     ” “Please continue to love this orchestra; I feel almost guilty that I am leaving,” were Andris Nelsons’ parting words to the packed audience gathered for his final concert in Symphony Hall as music director of the CBSO after seven amazing years. […]
Sticking with these supposedly slighter central movements, Michaela Schuster was the Erda-like mezzo soloist in the “O Mensch, gib Acht!” Nietzche setting, joined by the ebullient CBSO Chorus Ladies, sounding delightfully youthful, and Julian Wilkins’ remarkable CBSO Youth and Children’s Choruses for the medieval exuberance of “Es sungen drei Engel”.

Full marks to the youngsters for their exemplary attentiveness throughout such a long concert. And so to the top and tail.

The opening movement, nature stirring into life, was persuasively delivered under Nelsons, his conducting gestures constantly alert and choreographic (one of his CBSO predecessors, Boult, would not have approved), balancing colour, dynamics and multi-metred textures always with the most detailed clarity.

World-stopping is an appropriate word for the finale, and some conductors might make its melodic/harmonic richness sound glutinous. Nelsons gave it a flow and sense of direction, growing at last to the tremendous affirmation, two timpanists pounding out the most fundamental of musical intervals (nice to welcome back Peter Hill as an old-stager — trumpeter Alan Thomas was another), as Mahler’s vision of the world was at last achieved.

This finale’s gorgeous melody has a phrase initially sung out by Eduardo Vassallo’s cellists, and it sounds hauntingly like the tune of the old song “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places”.

Sorry, Andris, we won’t. But we all wish we were.”

*****

Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

“Andris Nelsons, the brilliant Latvian conductor who’s led the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra these past seven years, is departing for Boston. It seemed appropriate that, to say their farewells, he and the orchestra chose to play the most colossal symphony in the repertoire, Mahler’s 3rd.

Andris Nelsons may not be particularly big in stature, but on the podium he seems like a giant. He leans forward eagerly as if to scoop the sound from the players, sculpting it with huge embracing gestures.

This might seem domineering, but what makes Nelsons’ music-making so humanly appealing is that the music possesses him, not the other way round. That inspires the players as well as us. “He catches your eye to enthuse you, then lets you do things your own way,” said one of the wind players, one of several orchestral members who gave spoken tributes to Nelsons from the platform.

These followed the 12-minute curtain-raiser, a setting of two poems for chorus and orchestra by Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds about cold Siberian lakes, and hope arising even in the dead of night.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Some conductors ease their way into what is the longest of all Mahler’s symphonies, but that is not Nelsons’s approach. The CBSO horns delivered the opening theme like a challenge, setting the stage for a performance that bristled with combative energy, and the kind of vivid incident that Nelsons finds in everything he conducts. There was some tendency to compartmentalise things, to micro-manage detail at the expense of the overall symphonic scheme, which mattered more in the 30-minute opening movement than it did in the later ones where Nelsons regularly sought out the sinister undertow to the music, whether in the faster sections of the second, or the nature imagery of the third, despite the escapist dream offered by its offstage posthorn solos.

But the finale was very much all of a piece, and it built to a final, gloriously assured affirmation; the sense that every section of the orchestra was determined to give its music director the best possible send-off was quite obvious.”     …

Schubert, Strauss and Dvořák

Thursday 11th June, 7.30pm

Programme

  • Schubert  Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) , 22′
  • Strauss  Horn Concerto No. 2 , 20′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 7, 38′

We are sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert at Symphony Hall due to an acute ear infection. We are pleased to announce that CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan has kindly agreed to conduct at very short notice. This evening’s concert programme remains unchanged.

If you enjoy Dvořák’s New World symphony, just imagine the music he wrote when he was happily at home! Dvořák’s Seventh is stormy, passionate and filled with the kind of tunes you just can’t stop humming. Tonight it’s served up with Strauss’s bubbly second horn concerto (starring the CBSO’s own Elspeth Dutch), and Schubert’s Eighth: a symphony that couldn’t be more perfect even if he’d finished it.

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After being called in at little over 24 hours notice for his full CBSO debut last week, Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan talks with Steve Beauchampé

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     ” The CBSO’s principal hornist, Elspeth Dutch, was an ideal exponent for the work. She knows Symphony Hall’s acoustic well and how to make her horn sing both with and above the orchestra. She made the opening arpeggio seem effortless and produced a lovely, legato sound.

Chauhan was an excellent accompanist and ensured the CBSO strings provided a soft cushion of sound to support Dutch. It’s interesting that Strauss gives quite a prominent role for the orchestral horns in the concerto and their dialogue with Dutch towards the end of the first movement was nicely done. The wistful second movement is somewhat reminiscent of music from Der Rosenkavalier and Dutch was once again mellifluous here. The rondo final movement is a great test of agility for the soloist with its tricky leaps and jumps and complex rhythmic dovetailing with the orchestra. After the briefest of awkward starts Dutch and the orchestra gave us a delightful romp through this fun music, finishing with a tremendous flourish.

It is often argued that Dvořák’s Symphony no. 7 in D minor, one of his finest achievements, is his most serious work in the genre but I would wager that proponents of such a view have not spent much time listening to his first three – not too many people do. Certainly, of the symphonies most often performed, it does not possess the sunny character of the Fifth and Sixth, the quirky originality of the Eighth nor the outright folksy-ness of the Ninth. It is likely that Dvořák was under the influence of his friend, Brahms, at the time the Seventh was composed and the mastery of symphonic argument supports this.

Chauhan’s interpretation was, in many ways, fresh and invigorating. He plotted a swift course through the first movement, driving us headlong into the symphony’s turbulence without flinching.”     …

The Tallis Scholars

perform Tallis, Allegri and Arvo Pärt

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite,
Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15, Vocal Music and Early Music
Thursday 4th June
Symphony Hall

The Tallis Scholars
Peter Phillips conductor

Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis 4’
Taverner Leroy Kyrie 5’
Mouton Nesciens mater 5’
Pärt The Woman in the Alabaster Box 6’
Tribute to Caesar 6’
Tallis Sanctus deus 6’
Sheppard Libera nos, salva nos 1 and 2 3’
Allegri Miserere 12’
Tallis Miserere 3’
Pärt Triodion 15’
Which was the Son of… 8’

Encore – text by Donne / music by Harris – Bring Us, Oh Lord God…

For 42 years, The Tallis Scholars have been the world’s pre-eminent performers of early vocal music. But they’ve long since turned their intense commitment and ravishing purity of sound on vocal music from later centuries and our own.

This concert under their founder-director Peter Phillips counterpoints renaissance classics by Tallis and Allegri with the searching, profoundly beautiful new visions of Arvo Pärt.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine, explains his recommendation:

The Tallis Scholars combine great works, not least Tallis’s and Allegri’s sublime but achingly plangent Miserere settings, with the music of Arvo Pärt, a contemporary choral great.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Peter Phillips.

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Returning to Tudor Polyphony, we heard pieces by Tallis and by John Sheppard. It was shrewd to juxtapose the quite slender Sanctus Deus with the two Sheppard pieces, which are much more rich of texture. I especially admired Libera nos, salva nos I which spans a tremendous range from the firm bass lines up to the flamboyant, soaring soprano parts. The Tallis Scholars’ sopranos were fantastic here, their pure, clear tone soaring above the ensemble.

In What We Really Do Peter Phillips relates that, in response to popular demand, the group has performed Allegri’s Miserere more than any other piece of music. Between 1979 and the end of 2012 they had sung it 370 times and I daresay there have been a few more performances since. How on earth do you keep a piece fresh after so many outings, especially when the piece is, frankly, somewhat repetitious? Well, part of the answer seems to lie in imaginative – but definitely not gimmicky – presentation. Here Phillips made excellent use of the spatial opportunities offered by the venue, His main consort of five singers (SSATB)was placed at the front of the stage, right in front of him. The SATB semi-chorus was positioned high above the platform, right in front of the organ console. That much I had half-expected. What came as a very pleasant surprise was that the chant passages were sung by three off-stage tenors. These singers were high up somewhere in the backstage area – on the same level as the semi-chorus – and we heard their singing in the distance, wafting through the partially opened acoustic doors at the right-hand side of the stage, as if from a distant cloister. It was a most effective and thoughtful presentation of this over-familiar piece.

The full ensemble returned to the front of the stage for Tallis’s Miserere. This is infinitely more compact than Allegri’s piece, setting just one line of Psalm 51 in a tone of gentle supplication. It’s a brief but eloquent piece, given a beautifully poised performance here.

Pärt’s Triodion is a fascinating piece, heavily indebted to Orthodox liturgical music, which is refracted through the composer’s own style. Alexandra Coghlan memorably commented that in the piece “we can clearly hear the contemporary ghost-double of Faburden chant, transformed here in collision with Pärt’s own Orthodox faith and spare soundworld.”  I don’t doubt for a minute that the element of Faburden chant is present though so far in listening to the piece I’ve found the Orthodox influence is much more evident. Perhaps it’s that influence that accounts for the greater richness of choral texture that we hear in this piece compared to many of the composer’s vocal pieces.  Each of the three Odes, which are sung without a break, ends with a short plea for mercy. In these passages Pärt’s writing is particularly masterly. He manages to invest the music most effectively with an air of hesitancy and humility. That’s especially evident at the end of the first Ode where marginally different note values in the various parts give an impression of what I can only call “stammering”. Triodion is a most affecting and prayerful composition and it here received a magnificent performance.”     …

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

… “What makes the Tallis Scholars so special is not what they sing, but how they sing it. Their founder-director Peter Phillips is, in the best sense of the word, a purist, who believes Renaissance sacred choral music can speak for itself, without exaggerated dynamics or dramatic excess. […]

[…] Even more rewarding were the four works by Pärt. ‘The Woman with the Alabaster Box’, in which sustained upper voices provide a connecting thread to a harmonised recitative, explored a wide range of tessitura and sonorities; ‘A Tribute to Caesar’, with the simplest of means, made poignant use of discords as parts nudged into each other; ‘Which was the Son of…’ offered a quite rhythmically catchy (for Pärt) account of Christ’s family tree; and ‘Triodion’, where Pärt echoes aspects of Renaissance style in an incantatory sequence of spiritual odes, hit all the right emotional buttons. Sheer magic.”

*****

Fisk Jubilee Singers

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite,
Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Vocal Music
Saturday 23rd May
Town Hall

Fisk Jubilee Singers
Paul T Kwami
musical director

This isn’t the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ Birmingham debut – but given that they last appeared at Town Hall in March 1874, this is an overdue and very welcome return.

Originally founded in Nashville, Tennessee, by George L White, Treasurer of the Fisk School, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are the heirs to two centuries of African-American Spiritual tradition, performing with a beauty and a power that has moved audiences on three continents.

141 Years Later, Fisk Jubilee Singers Return to England.

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