Tuned In: Shostakovich Symphony No 4

Thursday 29 April 2010 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Johnson  presenter

Shostakovich: Introduction to Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony, with live orchestral examples 45′
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4 60′

Shostakovich’s massive Fourth Symphony is a devastating portrait of the most turbulent years in 20th-century history. In this concert with a difference, broadcaster Stephen Johnson explains the many stories behind this extraordinary work, and shows how Shostakovich uses his huge orchestra to such unforgettable effect – with live illustrations from Andris Nelsons and the 110-piece CBSO! Then there’s a chance to hear the whole symphony. Whether you know and love the Fourth – or you’re new to Shostakovich – this concert will help you hear it with new ears. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


…”It was gripping for every second from the opening’s thunderous mechanical rhythms to its magical close, with the celeste crooning the musical monster into a growling sleep. Nelsons, aided by terrific playing from every department, ensured that the middle movement’s ghostly waltz, Tchaikovsky’s shade making an appearance, was eerily effective.” …

Review by Neil Fisher, Times:


…”What impressed was how fervently he stamped his authority on this scrambled score, drawing sharp and sinuous playing in a spine-tingling combination of moment-by-moment intensity and a canny sense for where the symphony’s guiding pulse points lie. The sprawling third movement in particular was guided by an energising momentum that almost fooled you into thinking that its twisted threads might resolve into something heroic and affirmative. In the end, the ticking shrug that signals a fade-out came as the most gruesome and chilling of wake-up calls.” …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb International:


…”Johnson conveyed his enthusiasm for the work throughout. After the orchestra had played the opening bars of the first movement, he pronounced ‘What a way to begin a symphony!’ Hear! Hear! ” ….

…”Andris Nelsons’ punishing schedule resulted in his late arrival, but hotfoot from the airport he was there to take up the baton for the performance proper. Showing little sign of fatigue, he exuded his customary energy upon his one hundred and ten strong orchestra. The opening chords of the first movement Allegretto were crisp and exhilarating. The twists and turns of the two sonata-form elements and their development can sometimes result in a disjointed whole, but here they were seamlessly fused together by Nelsons and a CBSO on top form. ” …

Review by Christopher Thomas, MusicWeb International, (second opinion):


…”With Nelsons on the podium the spell that the young Latvian has over the orchestra was immediately striking, the rapt attention of the players palpable throughout as the almost maniacal cackling of the brass and the shrieking of the woodwind carried an intensity that was only topped by the fugue in the strings, played at a jaw dropping tempo that conveyed a terrifying sense of desperation, a telling sign of the composer’s state of mind at the time of the work’s composition.”

…”Utterly desolate, utterly heart rending and yet as Stephen Johnson so aptly pointed out also utterly magnificent, the closing bars of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony are as powerful a statement as anything in the Russian symphonic literature. Could this be the last word in musical ambiguity and paradox? On the evidence of this performance at least, there are few who would be likely to argue. “…

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Igor Stravinsky CD

Stravinsky – The Firebird and Symphony of Psalms

CD released 26th April 2010

Stravinsky - The Firebird & Symphony of Psalms

Review by Geoffrey Norris, Telegraph:


“The vibrant Russian colouring of The Firebird and the austerity of the Symphony of Psalms make for an uncommon coupling, but Nelsons and his Birmingham forces are wise to the marked differences of style. The volatility of The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet for Diaghilev, is excitingly airborne in Nelsons’s hands, with plenty of the luminous orchestral detail that reveals Stravinsky as the direct heir to Rimsky-Korsakov.” …..

buy online: http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/search.php?searchString=andris+nelsons

Review by Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer:


Melody Gardot

With support Federico Aubele

Monday 19 Apr 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Melody Gardot burst onto the scene with her 2008 debut album Worrisome Heart which displays her innate gift for transforming the traditions of jazz and blues with her “personal kiss of life.” Her 2009 follow-up, My One and Only Thrill, is an artistic leap forward for the smoky-voiced singer, mixing Latin rhythms, finger-snapping blues, and smouldering torch songs.

This performance will be going ahead despite travel restrictions due to volcanic ash. www.thsh.co.uk

Mozart’s Requiem

Friday 16 Apr 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr soloist/director
Katharine Fuge soprano
Barbara Kozelj mezzo soprano
James Gilchrist tenor
Christopher Purves bass

Mozart Overture, Don Giovanni 5’
Piano Concerto No 25 28’
Requiem 50’

The circumstances under which Mozart’s Requiem was composed have all the elements of Gothic fantasy. Commissioned by a mysterious stranger, it was still being written by Mozart on his deathbed and is one of his most iconic works. The Academy of Ancient Music brings a special dark hue to this music, using the original instruments of Mozart’s own time.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “If you’ve ever thought about introducing a friend or family member to the wonders of classical music, then this could be the concert to take them to. It’s a real taste of the immensely diverse works that Mozart produced.” www.thsh.co.uk    www.aam.co.uk

 Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:-


(Think we were at different concerts by that review?! Or maybe it depended on where you were sat. Found it beautiful; – the sound of the olde piano lush and warm, the singers powerful, and just twenty-one chorus singers offered every bit as much impact as the two thousand who had attended the Singalong Mozart Requiem with the CBSO last year.)

Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Thursday 15 Apr 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Emmanuel Krivine conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet piano

Berlioz Overture, Roman Carnival 8’
Grieg Piano Concerto 28’
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique 50’

John-Yves Thibaudet

Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Symphonie Fantastique dramatises unrequited love. In this colourful score Berlioz depicted the fantasies of a spurned lover, ranging through a glittering ball, love in a meadow during the drowsy heat of the afternoon, an execution and a supernatural encounter in a churchyard at night.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Every year Classic FM asks you to vote for your favourite classical works in our Hall of Fame. One of the works I like to vote for each year is the Grieg Piano Concerto and one of my favourite recordings of it is by tonight’s soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.”  www.thsh.co.uk

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


…”Jean-Yves Thibaudet is a bit of a dandy but there was nothing self-regarding about his forthright playing in the Grieg Piano Concerto. He thundered in the opening, stole in pianissimo in the romantic adagio, with fine support from the orchestra’s first horn, and gave the dancing final movement an endearing lilt.

His encore, of the second of Brahms’ six Op.118 pieces, was meditative, introspective and exquisitely performed.”

Pictures at an Exhibition

Wednesday 14 April 2010 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

Andrew Grams  conductor
Isabelle Faust  violin

Dvořák: Carnival Overture 8′
Beethoven: Violin Concerto 42′
Mussorgsky: (orch. Ravel) Pictures at an Exhibition 32′ Listen
requires Real Player

When Maurice Ravel arranged Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra, he created one of the few adaptations that’s better than the original! From its famous opening Promenade to the roof-raising final Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the all-time great orchestral showpieces, a glittering Russian jewel-box full of spicy tunes and unforgettable images. It’s a real CBSO favourite – and Dvorák’s riotous Carnival Overture is every bit as colourful. The great open spaces of Beethoven’s noble violin concerto will be like an oasis of calm – especially in the masterly hands of the young German virtuoso Isabelle Faust. www.cbso.co.uk

This concert is sponsored by

“Christopher Morley speaks to the German violinist Isabelle Faust…” :


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


…”The soloist’s trust in her on-loan 1704 Strad allowed her to reduce dynamic levels to a minimum at appropriate points: it also permitted a multitude of colourings and voices from one single line, and everything in this interpretation was understatedly eloquent — all matched by Grams and the orchestra.” …