Bruckner’s Ninth

Wednesday 13th April, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart  Clarinet Concerto, 28′
  • Bruckner  Symphony No. 9, 59′

Bruckner’s Ninth has been called a “cathedral in sound” – and no question, it’s got majesty to spare. But that’s just the surface: this is nothing less than one man’s final struggle to find peace, told in music of shattering power and beauty. There’s more to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto than just gorgeous melodies, too – and if any soloist can get to its heart, it’s Michael Collins. Soul music, Austrian-style.

.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Richard Ely, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     Their cause was aided greatly in the Mozart by soloist Michael Collins‘ choice of the basset clarinet, for which the concerto was written, in preference to the smoother tones of the modern instrument. This gave the solo part an arresting edge which contrasted with the hushed orchestral accompaniment – reined back almost to a whisper during the Andante –and served equally well in the more extrovert outer movements: the gallop of the finale was especially piquant. Collins, genial and earthy next to Feddeck’s more ascetic presence on the podium, proved himself a stalwart advocate for the piece, as powerful when playing in concert with the orchestra as in his spotlit solo role.  This was a performance as alert and life-enhancing as anyone could wish for: the bear traps of blandness were sidestepped with agility.  […]

[…]     Along the way, much orchestral detail was revealed that too many performances overlook. Feddeck downplayed the bombast of the Scherzo, which became less the aural depiction of hell some interpreters like to make it and more of a long march over rough terrain, with a rest break (the trio) in the middle.  The contrasting music of the trio, with its disturbing and otherwise un-Brucknerian sensuality was vividly characterised by the strings in combination with the woodwind.  Although I’ve heard far weightier accounts of this movement, Feddeck’s approach worked through its combination of toughness and ethereality.  

The final Adagio showed conductor and orchestra at their finest. Most  impressive was the solo violins’ harrowing depiction of the ‘cry of anguish’ at the start of the movement. Aside from some scrappy ensemble between the horns and the Wagner tubas, the balance between the different sections was impeccable and there was an almost Viennese lilt to the strings. There was no sense of incompleteness in this performance as  Feddeck and his forces brought the piece home in a blaze of sound that shook Symphony Hall to tis foundations.  ”     …

Mahler’s Tenth

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 31st March, 2016 – 7:30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Webern Six Pieces Op. 6 (chamber version)
    Brahms Four Songs for Women’s Voices,
    Op. 17
    Mahler Symphony No. 10
    (completed by Deryck Cooke)

Mahler never quite finished his Tenth Symphony, but when musicologist Deryck Cooke finally pieced together the sketches, he uncovered a lost masterpiece – in which cries of love and cries of pain finally resolve in music of shattering honesty and piercing beauty. Nicholas Collon uncovers its secrets tonight, and sets it alongside miniatures from Brahms and Webern – each one a tiny, concentrated world of poetry and emotion.

.

Available on iPlayer BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert here until 30th April 2016

Support the CBSO – Become a Friend or Patron

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And so to the Mahler, a work which perhaps would never have been written had the dying composer not realised his wife was having an affair with the next creative artist in her collection. It is maudlin, self-repeating from previous works, but also has a visionary quality which begs the listener’s forgiveness.

Collon allowed the music to make all its own points, as Mahler would have intended. He drew a wondrously rich string tone, summoned the brass to awesomely terrifying outbursts, and presided over a myriad of vital instrumental solos.

Chief among these must come the many contributions of concertmaster Zoe Beyers, and, too, the lengthy flute solo in the finale from Marie-Christine Zupancic. We have heard all such things earlier in Mahler’s authentic symphonic output, but this does not detract from how valid they sounded within this context.”

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “There was a real authority about the CBSO’s playing under Collon, the sense of an orchestra continuing to explore a work it knows inside out. Beyond the English Midlands, Cooke’s score may not have quite secured the place in the canon it deserves. No other completion of the 10th I’ve heard seems anything like as convincing, so true to the world of late Mahler as what Cooke, with the assistance of Berthold Goldschmidt and Colin and David Matthews, produced. This performance was a reminder of how important a musical document it is.

Occasionally, the account was perhaps a little glib. Both scherzos have more menace in them than Collon suggested, and parts of the huge first movement seemed doggedly persistent rather than genuinely aspirational. But from its crepuscular opening onwards he caught the mood of the finale perfectly, right through to the radiance of the coda, when the strings return to the untroubled world of the Fifth Symphony’s adagietto.”

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “In the first scherzo Mahler constantly changes the time signature, giving the music a very unstable feel. Here the playing of the CBSO was incisive and displayed no little brilliance.  Collon handled the Ländler-like trio very well, using rubato very skilfully so that the music sounded very idiomatic. When the scherzo material reappeared he drove the movement to an exciting conclusion.

The short third movement, entitled ‘Purgatorio’ is a strange piece of writing. As I listened to the performance it seemed to me that the music offers echoes of the Seventh Symphony. Collon showed a fine feeling for Mahlerian style and he brought out the colours in the orchestration very vividly.

He took the second scherzo attacca. (In effect, since the finale also follows without a break, this meant that we heard the three movements that constitute Part II of the symphony as an unbroken span.) In some ways this fourth movement sounds to me the most Mahlerian of all – I’m thinking especially of the middle three symphonies and the Ninth. Here passages that require – and were given – real bite alternate with warm, sentimental music. The mood and colours of the music seems to be constantly changing – the former the responsibility of Mahler, the latter the product of Mahler’s invention as realised by Cooke’s orchestration. The CBSO played the movement with great virtuosity. The hushed coda, dominated by the percussion, was spookily effective.

If the end of the fourth movement was spooky then the beginning of the long finale was positively eerie; the dull bass drum thuds and doleful tuba distilled an atmosphere as baleful as even the start of the finale of the Sixth. And then, out of the darkness emerged the wonderfully tender flute melody, cushioned by soft violas and cellos. As voiced by the CBSO’s principal, Marie-Christine Zupancic, the melody was fragile yet soothing. Had Mahler’s sketches been left to gather dust we should have been deprived of this, arguably his most heart-stopping melody; what a loss that would have been. The consoling melody was then taken up and developed most beautifully by the violins. The paragraphs that followed were shaped with intensity and understanding by Collon and the CBSO responded to his leadership with wonderfully glowing playing.  Later, in the faster episodes there was urgency and bite from the orchestra but it’s for the heart-easing lyrical passages that I will long remember this performance.  The last few minutes of the movement seem suffused by acceptance and, perhaps, by a recollection of temps perdu. Collon conducted these closing pages with fine yet controlled intensity and was rewarded with luminous playing, especially from the strings and golden-toned horns. One last anguished outcry and then the symphony ends in tranquillity.

As I said earlier, many distinguished Mahler conductors have resisted performing this performing version by Deryck Cooke – or, indeed, the various versions by other hands. With all due deference, I have to say I think they are wrong. Cooke never made any pretence that what he had done was to “complete” Mahler’s score. Using highly informed conjecture and great musicianship he and his colleagues gave us a way – not the way – to hear the music that Mahler had composed. If we ignore the Tenth we surely have an incomplete picture of Mahler in his last years. If we embrace it, however, we expand and enrich our understanding of one of the twentieth century’s most important and influential symphonists. This evening’s very fine performance demonstrated very clearly how rewarding an experience Mahler’s Tenth can be.

I left Symphony Hall full of admiration for the performance by Nicholas Collon and the CBSO. But above all I left full of gratitude to Deryck Cooke and his three collaborators. Through their dedicated work our Mahler horizon was expanded significantly.”

 

 

Seven Last Words from the Cross

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package, SoundBite

and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Sunday 20th March, 2016 – 3pm

Town Hall

Britten Sinfonia
Britten Sinfonia Voices
Eamonn Dougan conductor

1.45pm Pre Concert conversation with Eamonn Dougan.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

Byrd Miserere mei 4’
Bach Cantata O Jesu Christ,mein’s Lebens Licht BWV 118 5’
Shostakovich arr. Barshai Chamber Symphony Op 110a 23’
James MacMillan Seven Last Words From the Cross 45’

.

James MacMillan may well be the finest British composer since Britten, and his music – driven by passionate personal beliefs – simply burns to communicate. His Seven Last Words are already a modern classic; here they’re the climax of a powerfully-conceived Palm Sunday sequence from some of our foremost champions of contemporary music, the Britten Sinfonia and Chorus.

The Britten Sinfonia have a reputation for fascinating, captivating programmes, and for this concert have selected a powerful musical backdrop for the start of Holy Week – alongside Bach, Byrd and MacMillan at their most heart-rending, this brilliant ensemble are including Rudolf Barshai’s orchestral arrangement of Shostakovich’s breathtaking, agonising String Quartet No. 8, dedicated to the ‘to the victims of fascism and war.’

BBC Music Magazine Editor | Oliver Condy

 

.

Review by Simon Cummings, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Having ambled thus far at the edge of the abyss, our communal plunge into it now began. Conductor and singers left the stage for Rudolf Barshai’s famous transcription for string orchestra of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet. Reborn as a Chamber Symphony, it highlights even more emphatically the weird, troubling drama of a work written when its composer was fully intending to commit suicide. The myriad quotations from Shostakovich’s earlier works send mixed signals: a final revisiting of cherished creations, or a self-loathing act of blunt ridicule (parody, after all, being second nature to Shostakovich)? Either way, there was the profound sense of a composer in the confessional, articulated with an authentic sense of discomfort by Britten Sinfonia. In a work that offers essentially nothing resembling a respite, the players brought a lightness of delivery through the faster movements that for a time kept at bay the dread at its core. But only for a time; through a concluding pair of Largo movements, Shostakovich places his pulse into ever more quicksand, where everything – even a fugue – becomes increasingly concentrated and claustrophobic. As the music came full circle, the players managed to make returning ideas the antithesis of a recapitulation; we were back where we started, stupefied and numb, and the way they lingered upon the work’s agonized final cadence – music that almost cannot bear to end – was horribly effective and very moving indeed.

Eamonn Dougan and Britten Sinfonia Voices returned for the second half featuring a rare performance of James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross. A 45-minute meditation on this subject needs to be punishing, and it is, for performers and audience alike. Even more than the Shostakovich, this is music in extremis, where thoughts and feelings are pushed beyond the limits of rationality, resulting in a complex blend of sweetness and agony. Dougan’s judgement and skill were genuinely brilliant here, drawing out the nuances in MacMillan’s shifting palette yet never allowing even the slightest hint of indulgence – even in the tricky third movement, which in the wrong hands takes on the saccharine viscosity of condensed milk. In this performance, that sweetness finally made sense as a kind of delirious ecstasy, but even this was dismissed as soon as it had spoken. Furthermore, Dougan often moved between movements with minimal pause, which not only strengthened the work’s continuity but provided valuable distance from being rendered as a kind of ‘concert liturgy’. MacMillan’s Seven Last Words are rooted in collisions, multi-layered textures that present a serious challenge in respect of clarity and diction. Of the former, it was the most transparent performance I have yet experienced, rendering the askew symmetry of the central movement (one of MacMillan’s best creations) into a lucid, lyrical ascent and decline, and making the aghast final sections heart-stoppingly vivid. Regarding the latter, Britten Sinfonia Voices’ diction was perfect: singing, whispering, even borderline hollering, every word they uttered was audible, the increasingly desperate message all too clear. Having stopped our hearts, the conclusion then broke them, hammer blows precipitating the already desiccated music’s disintegration into wisps and fragments, forgotten as soon as they were heard.”  …

.

Review by Geoff Brown, The Times (££)

Click here for full review (££)

…     “For the next step, Dougan, voices and most of the musicians’ chairs left the platform, leaving leader Jacqueline Shave and the strings to scorch our ears in the valedictory rage of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, arranged from his Sixth String Quartet. Furiously precise rhythms rubbed against lyrical anguish draped in black velvet; every twist in the kaleidoscope was felt in our heart and bones.

All forces then fused in MacMillan’s Seven Last Words, originally commissioned for BBC television, though its music, piercingly direct, surely makes images redundant. Dougan and his team displayed masterly control, never letting dramatic pauses weaken fervour or momentum as the composer mused in anger and tenderness on Christ’s words from the cross.

Singing without blemish; playing that leapt straight from the heart: here was a sterling performance of a work that cries out to people of any faith or none.”     …

 

Elgar’s Second

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 17th March, 2016 – 7:30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Walton Prelude: Richard III
  • Walton Viola Concerto
  • Elgar Symphony No. 2

“Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!” Edward Elgar headed his Second Symphony with a line from Shelley, and then launched it in a huge, surging wave of golden sound. Is this the greatest symphony ever composed by an Englishman? Edward Gardner and the CBSO will make a passionate case – after beginning the evening with Walton’s jazz-age concerto, and another stirring cinematic salute to Shakespeare.

.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “Performances are always welcome, especially when the soloist is this country’s leading viola player, Lawrence Power, returning here to the piece with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner.

Premiered in 1929 by no less a musician than Paul Hindemith as soloist (decades later, Walton would repay the favour with his Variations on a Theme of Hindemith), the work is sometimes identified as a jazz-age concerto. But it is much more than that, and specifically the romping middle movement marks it out as a great example of British modernism. Gardner took that aspect in his stride, along with all the other elements he fused together tautly and seamlessly.

Right from the ruminative start, Power displayed rock-steady authority. He found serenading delicacy and fierce virtuosity in equal measure. Although it shows the influence of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, still only a decade old when Walton was writing his piece, the Viola Concerto is also shot through with the Italianate light the composer had discovered in the Amalfi – and the ends of both the first and third movements were given their full glinting radiance.”     …

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Walton at his more authentic followed, with Lawrence Power the engaging soloist in the melancholy Viola Concerto, shaping a poignant characterisation from his eloquent instrument.

At times his tone was appropriately bluesy, at others his rhythmic attack was as biting as though playing Prokofiev, and the lovely ending brought us near to Elgarian wistfulness.

Which we then heard in abundance, in the most perfectly-judged performance of Elgar’s nostalgic Second Symphony I think I have ever heard. Compared with Gardner’s subtle reading, memories of Boult seemed too literal, Barbirolli too head-pattingly indulgent; here Gardner set flexible tempi, discreetly encouraged significant instrumental lines (the horns were understatedly magnificent, the double-basses noble), and to the slow movement’s threnody brought mystery as well as inner grief.

There was a prolonged hush at the end of the work’s twilit coda. Then time to go home and savour the programme-note penned by our greatest writer on Elgar, the late and much-missed Michael Kennedy.”

.

Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times:

Click here for full review (££)

…     “The 1929 Viola Concerto that Elgar so disliked blends dark, doubting melody with dancing modernity. Lawrence Power was the eloquent soloist, a virtuoso who draws you in, asking you to listen. Always agile, purposeful and lyrical, his sound was sweet and silky up high, angrier and rougher in the lower reaches. A quiet but certain voice in a turbulent world, he held both hope and anguish side by side with moving poignancy.

“I have written out my soul,” said Elgar of his Second Symphony (1911), dedicated to the memory of Edward VII. Gardner’s driven approach didn’t always give the elegiac moments room to breathe, or the voices of doubt to speak, but emphasised the complex modernity of this music. The Scherzo was, as Elgar wanted it, “very, very brilliant”. Elsewhere the strings played with radiant Wagnerian intensity, and it ended with a beautifully judged fade from gold to dusk.”

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Performs Mahler Symphony No. 5

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package, SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Saturday 12th March, 2016

Symphony Hall

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko conductor
Simon Trpčeski piano

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

Grieg Lyric Suite Op 54 17’
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 33’
Mahler Symphony No 5 72’

Simon Trpceski’s encore  with cellist Louisa Tuck – Rachmaninov – Vocalise

Oslo Philharmonic’s encore – Schubert – Moment Musical no. 3 in F Minor (for strings)

.

Long acclaimed as Scandinavia’s finest orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra has found a fresh energy under its dynamic new music director Vasily Petrenko. In Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Petrenko and the Oslo Phil will make a compelling pairing; in Rachmaninov, meanwhile, Petrenko and pianist Simon Trpc˘ eski have already been hailed by critics as a ‘dream team’!

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    The concerto was Rachmaninov Two, the soloist the much-loved Simon Trpceski (…)playing with a confident rubato and empathy with his collaborators. This was a joint triumph for pianist and orchestra (full-throated strings, eloquent woodwind), Trpceski bringing warmth as well as glitter to rippling passage-work, and always a freshly-minted response to this well-worn work.

Applause from a packed auditorium came in huge waves, rewarded with a lovely encore, Trpceski modestly accompanying cello principal Louisa Tuck in Rachmaninov’s poignant little Vocalise.

Petrenko drew a tight, compact sound from the OPO for Mahler’s mighty Fifth Symphony. Strings dug deep, and the brass soloists (horn, trumpet, trombone), so important throughout this work laden with symbolic imagery, were a constantly commanding presence.”     …

.

 

.

Shostakovich’s Fifteenth

Wednesday 9th March, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Borodin  Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dances , 14′
  • Osvaldo Golijov  Azul (UK premiere) , 25′
  • Shostakovich  Symphony No. 15, 42′

An opera that launched a pop song, a symphony out of time, and a new rhapsody in blue… The young Birmingham conductor Alpesh Chauhan has a flair for fantasy, and this concert is drenched in it, from Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (think Stranger in Paradise) to the mysterious clocks that tick through the dying bars of Shostakovich’s last symphony. The CBSO’s own Eduardo Vassallo gives the UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s lush, baroque-inspired Azul..

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “As for Azul itself, it’s a 30-minute, single-movement arc for solo cello and an orchestra augmented by accordion, exotic percussion and occasional eerie touches of electronics. Golijov’s notion, apparently, is to “evoke the majesty of certain Baroque adagios”, with the cello less a virtuoso soloist than a leading voice, and the extra instruments serving as a kind of continuo section. In practice, this meant stretches of lush, harmonically static music broken by jagged, gradually building rhythmic ostinatos, fading at length to a horn-coloured sunset and a long, sliding final sigh.

Eduardo Vassallo - photo by Upstream PhotographyVassallo played with a sweet, glowing tone and evident commitment in music that didn’t sound particularly grateful for the cello (Golijov cites Berlioz’s Harold in Italy as a model). The lyrical opening section seemed to work best, making an effect somewhere between Tavener’s The Protecting Veil and one of those “Rainforest Moods” relaxation CDs they sell at garden centres. The audience gave it a standing ovation – almost unheard of at a CBSO concert.

But then, that was the spirit of the evening. Chauhan had set the mood with a flying, joyously balletic account of the Polovtsian Dances: springy, vividly colourful and delivered without a trace of self-indulgence. And laughter ran through the audience as he stepped down to adjust Vassallo’s music stand before Azul. “I was his student – some things never change,” he explained. As a product of Birmingham’s schools music service and a former cellist in the CBSO Youth Orchestra, this was something of a homecoming gig for Chauhan, and the warmth in the hall was genuine.

But that can’t account for the impression that Chauhan has made in recent seasons with orchestras as far apart as Scotland, Finland and Italy; nor is it enough to explain the sense of atmosphere and quiet power that he generated in Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony.”     …

 

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “For this UK premiere the solo part was played by the CBSO’s long-serving (since 1989) Argentinian principal cellist, Eduardo Vassallo. By a pleasing piece of symmetry Alpesh Chauhan, himself a cellist, is a sometime pupil of Mr. Vassallo, as he amusingly reminded the audience while helping his soloist to adjust his music stand before the performance began. (“I was his student: some things never change.”)

The work, which played for about 27 minutes in this performance, is in one continuous movement but divided into two sections. In the opening paragraphs the music was slow-moving and included long, high, soulful melodic lines for the soloist. The percussionists and the accordion supported the soloist with ear-tickling sounds; certainly Golijov’s sound palette is ingenious. I may be wrong but it seemed to me that for long stretches of the work Chauhan’s beat was largely a moderate 4/4, suggesting that Golijov does not here rely on frequent changes of metre, as is so often the case in contemporary music. But even if the pulse was fairly regular there was still considerable interest in the writing. At times, when the orchestral accompaniment had swelled to quite a significant level there seemed to me to be a Latin American feel to the music which I couldn’t quite identify. After the performance the penny dropped when my guest said he had detected a (benign) infludence of Villa Lobos. I agree, though the influence may not have been deliberate.

The second section began quietly with more sustained and intense lyrical writing for the soloist, this time against a rhythmically irregular accompaniment among the orchestral strings. Gradually the music grew in power and suggested to me a threnody. After a short cadenza-like passage for the soloist a remarkable passage of fast, vigorous music began. This was played by the soloist and the obbligato group. The soloist’s music was energetic in the extreme but it was the percussionists who really caught the eye –and the ear. They impelled the music forward with tremendously vital rhythms, deploying the full range of their assembly of instruments. At several points one of the percussionists was required to contribute wordless vocalizations. It was both fascinating and exciting to witness – I’m not entirely sure the section would have quite the same impact if experienced just through an audio recording. Eventually the orchestra joined in the frenetic dance. Then the music slowed and the accompaniment became quiet and warm though the cellist’s lines seemed plaintive. During the remaining minutes of the piece the music glowed though eventually Golijov introduced more dissonance, albeit not in an aggressive fashion. The piece reached its conclusion amid a welter of glissandi from the soloist and orchestra which gradually faded into silence.”     …

.

Review by Clive Peacock, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Responsibility for compiling this vast array of instruments, including cajon, dumbek, darabuka, djembe and waterphone falls to Aidy Spillett, percussion section leader, who shot to prominence in 1998 as winner of the BBC Young Musician prize, later to become director of the vibrant, exciting percussion quartet 4-MALITY.

Golijov’s five part composition opened with flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic accompanying a strong cello lead before the introduction of the high-powered percussion unit positioned close to the conductor, whilst the double basses provided an ethereal contribution from a concentric arc positioned close to the choir stalls and behind the wind section. Vassalo demonstrated exceptional concentration in the blissfully played Silencia, the longest part, supported by extraordinarily sensitive interpretations of moods by the percussionists, accompanied by accordion player, Mark Bousie. During this part, conductor Chauhan was happy to put his baton down to allow the sublime cello sound to float above the clever innovative percussion before regaining control with a full orchestral flourish. Strings played ricochet with bows in the left hand and downward glissandi with the right, serving to produce high energy waves calling to alien life occurring beyond the Symphony Hall’s entranced audience. Chauhan, Vassallo and the Spillett team received the well-deserved standing ovation from many moved by the remarkable earthling performance.

Quotations from Rossini and Wagner litter Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony. Extracts from the William Tell overture and fate leitmotivs from Die Walküre and Siegfried signal a premonition to listeners, written just four years before the composer’s death. Chauhan has a wonderful feel for the music, dispensing with his baton to rely on hand movements to do his bidding. This he achieves most spectacularly in the third movement as first the violins and, later, the brass sections combine with the percussion unit to produce a sharp scherzo. With Wagner leitmotivs again evident in the last movement, Chauhan contrived to bring this puzzling symphony to a delicate, yet very competently delivered conclusion.”

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Borodin’s evocative Polovtsian Dances conjured all their accustomed magic under Alpesh Chauhan’s balletic (not for nothing has he worked closely with Andris Nelsons) conducting, sculpting vibrant colours from the CBSO, and knowing when not to over-conduct. If the opening was paced a little hectically, the players coped well.

Then came the much-awaited UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra, ten years after it came into the world in Tanglewood, Massachusetts — a long delay. And it’s understandable why, with the work’s extravagant percussion contingent and its detailed demands concerning orchestral layout.

None of which were observed here, despite the many paragraphs devoted to it in Boosey and Hawkes’ unhelpful programme-note, which also failed to explain the meaning of the title.

Eduardo Vassallo was the committed, hard-working soloist, crossing a million miles across his strings, his cello singing a song which found its deliverance in a wonderful extended cadenza with a group of continuo percussionists placed close by (the only concession to the layout stipulations).”     …

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The performance, though, was a fine one. The cello soloist was the CBSO’s principal Eduardo Vassallo, and the orchestra’s assistant conductor Alpesh Chauhan, who began his musical career in the CBSO Youth Orchestra, took charge. Russian music provided the frame: Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, from the opera Prince Igor, and Shostakovich’s final, death-haunted symphony, the 15th, in which Chauhan caught the edge of sardonic humour and bleakness perfectly – even if he made the finale’s puttering close a bit more prosaic than it ought to be.”

Poulenc’s Gloria

Saturday 5th March, 2016, 7.00pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Hamlet , 19′
  • Poulenc  Gloria , 23′
  • Berlioz  Romeo and Juliet – Love Scene , 14′
  • Stravinsky  The Firebird – Suite (1945) , 29′

A dark kingdom, a troubled prince, and a spine chilling mystery… OK, so Hamlet and The Firebird don’t exactly tell the same story! But they both unleash music of sweeping passion and dazzling colour, just as Romeo and Juliet gave Berlioz a chance to pour out his romantic soul. Nicholas Collon leads a gloriously colourful toast to Shakespeare: and lifts the roof with the CBSO Chorus in Poulenc’s jubilant Gloria.

Support the CBSO