Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Valery Gergiev  conductor
Sergei Semishkur  tenor
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre   
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and CBSO Chorus  

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution 47′
Berlioz: Grande Messe des Mortes (Requiem) 78′

A giant name – and a giant concert. Valery Gergiev is an artist whose sheer force of personality electrifies everything he conducts. So we’re thrilled that he’s bringing his legendary Mariinsky Theatre forces to join the CBSO and the CBSO Chorus in Europe’s greatest concert hall for two truly spectacular masterpieces – Prokofiev’s rousing commemoration of the 1917 revolution and Berlioz’s vast, roof-raising Requiem. With its huge chorus, four brass bands and massive orchestra, every performance of the Requiem is a special occasion – even when it isn’t being directed by one of the world’s greatest living conductors!

Absolutely awesome!

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“Choral projection in both works was exemplary, the collaboration between two great orchestras was totally without ego, and the CD-set of the Berlioz immediately on sale afterwards will preserve for all time this fabulous enterprise.”

Review by Richard Morrison, Times:

“I am still reeling. Squashed on the stage were 200 players and even more singers. Offstage bands blasted out from the upper tier. And the ensemble also included air-raid sirens, a team of accordions, gunfire and a man with a megaphone shouting speeches by Stalin.”

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

“The music is effectively bombastic but thin, yet it’s the sort of challenge Gergiev enjoys, and he marshalled its excesses so magnificently, that one almost believed it could be a piece worth cherishing.”

Review from John Quinn, MusicWeb International:

“This was a great occasion. It was a long evening but one that was very worthwhile and which showed that there’s nothing to beat the thrill of live music making. The Prokofiev performance was an interesting experience; the Berlioz was an unforgettable one.”

Review from Steve Beauchampé (Cantata) and Gary Whitehouse (Requiem), The Stirrer:

“It’s fervent, patriotic stuff, even if composed with seditious intent. As the final movement (The Constitution) reaches its rousing, intense climax, Gergiev stretches out his arms in celebration, soaking up the choral crescendo, and the rousing C Major chord with which Prokofiev tells us unequivocally: ‘It is over. It is done.’”

“I was hooked. Do not be mistaken. This is a work of spiritual depth and power that far transcends our mere mortality to present us with a profound vision of the Day of Judgement. It is dark, mysterious and vast.

…”Flawless and flowing, almost supernatural in its quality, its beauty was almost unbearable.”

Force of Destiny

Saturday 10th October 2009 at 7pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Dmitri Slobodeniouk conductor
Kristine Opolais soprano

Verdi La forza del destino – Overture 8’
Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin – Letter Scene, Entr’acte & Waltz 22’
Verdi Otello – Salice and Ave Maria 10’
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 44’

With its grand emotions and tempestuous drama, there’s no symphony more operatic than Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. So it’s the perfect finish to this night of passion – after Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais (star of last season’s tear-jerking La Bohème) sings two of the all-time great romantic opera scenes by Tchaikovsky and his idol Verdi.

After his thrilling surprise debut with the CBSO last season, expect guest conductor Dmitri Slobodeniouk to give it his all. Forget the Stella Artois advert – Verdi shared Tchaikovsky’s obsession with Fate, so his melodramatic Force of Destiny overture makes the perfect curtain-raiser.


Review by Julian Seva, Birmingham Post:

“And when she came to the magical final bars, with a pianissimo to die for, the emotional effect was totally overwhelming.” …..

“By allowing drama to emerge naturally as the music progressed, the climaxes of the first movement and much of the finale had tremendous veracity and power, while the dazzling sectional contrasts in the scherzo demonstrated just how well co-ordinated and disciplined these players are.”

Russian Romantics

Wed 7 Oct 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Dmitriev conductor
Barry Douglas piano

Tchaikovsky Excerpts from Sleeping Beauty
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1
Rachmaninov Symphony No 3

Three sumptuous Russian works performed by an orchestra which has this music firmly implanted in its DNA. Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable ballet music complements his First Piano Concerto, which opens with one of the world’s best-known melodies, whilst Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony is suffused with glowing autumnal colours and nostalgic passion.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Two giants of Russian Romanticism dominate proceedings tonight, neither afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto still packs out concert halls around the world.”

Encores:- Barry Douglas played Brahms Intermezzo

SPSOrchestra played two encores Schubert-“Moments Musicaux”, and “Spanish Dance” from Rosamunde