Beethoven’s Pastoral

Thursday 24 June 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Ludovic Morlot  conductor
Renaud Capuçon  violin

Bartók: Two Pictures 17′
Ligeti: Violin Concerto 28′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) 40′

It’s summer – so it must be Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. From its dewy-fresh opening to the serene Shepherd’s Hymn with which it closes, no composer has ever captured the healing power of nature more timelessly. Two centuries on, it’s still a candidate for the most relaxing piece of music ever written. Guest conductor Ludovic Morlot brings a uniquely Gallic lightness of touch to Beethoven’s inspiration – and plenty of colour for Bartók’s folk-flavoured miniatures. They’ll stand him in good stead for the amazing sound-world of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto. French virtuoso Renaud Capuçon brings all his skill to bear on the ravishing colours, child-like humour and crackling energy of this true modern classic.

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…”Capuçon was dazzling, in both musicality and sheer physicality, as he tried to outwit his opponents by playing faster, quieter, louder and even by charming them with a beautiful, rapt romantic solo.” …

…”The CBSO’s wind players excelled in Bartok’s Two Pictures especially in the rumbustious village folk dances.”…

Bruckner’s Romantic

Wednesday 16 June 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Jonathan Nott  conductor
Jean-Guihen Queyras  Cello

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Dutilleux: Tout en un monde lointain… 24′
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 (Romantic) 64′

Inspired by the same idea of courtly romance as Wagner’s Lohengrin, Bruckner’s glorious Fourth is one of the finest of all Austrian symphonies, its evocative horncalls and soaring melodies perfectly suited to Symphony Hall’s cathedral-like acoustics. Henri Dutilleux also summons up ‘a whole distant world’ in his much-played cello concerto, composed for the great Rostropovich and played tonight by one of his greatest successors. It’s a gloriously vivid programme for the CBSO debut of Solihull-born conductor Jonathan Nott, who has established an enviable international reputation both in new music and in the Austro-German classics.

Article re Jonathan Nott:

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”After last Saturday’s unforgettable Lohengrin under Andris Nelsons, the orchestra certainly has Wagnerian blood currently coursing through its veins, and all the Wagnerian influences in Bruckner’s gripping symphonic account of an alpine journey, past shrines and inns towards a triumphant arrival, were sumptuously conveyed.” …


Saturday 12 June 2010 at 4.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Hillevi Martinpelto  Elsa
Lioba Braun  Ortrud
Eike Wilm Schulte  Telramund
Lance Ryan  Lohengrin
Gidon Saks  King
CBSO Chorus   
CBSO Youth Chorus   
Kostas Smoriginas  Herald

Wagner: Lohengrin (sung in German with English surtitles) 225′

A maiden in distress, a black-hearted count, a wicked sorceress and a mysterious knight in shining armour… no question, Wagner’s Lohengrin is the ultimate Romantic opera. But it’s not just a stirring tale of chivalry and romance in medieval Europe. Lohengrin is Wagner at his accessible best, filled with music of flamboyant colour and profound beauty. Just weeks before Andris Nelsons makes his hotly-awaited debut at Wagner’s own theatre in Bayreuth, Birmingham gets a one-off preview. With an all-star cast, the full CBSO and CBSO Chorus, and a conductor who loves Wagner above all other composers, this extraordinary evening will be one of the most talked-about concerts in Birmingham this year. Be sure to book early!


Review by Geoff Brown, Times:

…”The CBSO Chorus, CBSO Youth Chorus and gents from the London Symphony Chorus surged through the choral pages with vigour. None could beat Lioba Braun for fusing singing with acting: dressed in heinous black or jealous green, her Ortrud stayed resolutely villainous and wily. There was character even in the tilt of her head. Telramund, her partner in trouble, wasn’t far behind in authority, with the veteran Eike Wilm Schulte in astonishingly young and virile voice. Decibels rang out equally tellingly from the proclamations of Kostas Smoriginas’s Herald, while Gidon Saks easily supplied gravitas as King Henry.” …

Review by Patsy Fuller, Coventry Telegraph:

…”The young Latvian’s drive and passion were obvious – and infectious. He made it clear he had high expectations of his musicians, and CBSO followers in turn had high expectations of him.

Well, they haven’t been disappointed. Since then he has delivered many exciting concerts– but this concert performance of Wagner’s romantic epic has to go down as something truly special. Proof, as if it were still needed, that Nelsons is indeed the man of the moment.

From the opening spine-tingling notes of the prelude, the audience was enraptured.” …

…”Amid rapturous applause and a standing ovation, Nelsons looked drained – not surprising after 225 minutes of thrilling music making.” …

Rating * * * * *

Blog / Review by Onthepast:

…”Nelsons will take Bayreuth by storm, if he plays ‘Lohengrin’ there like he did in Birmingham. The man is a genius. He gives Wagner his romanticism back. ‘Lohengrin’ is full of mass get-togethers, and the music rises to the occasion each time, gaining in excitement, volume and choral power. Nelsons made of these scenes something unbelievably vibrant, colourful and ecstatic. There is no artifice in his style, or rather it is so well disguised that you feel you are getting pure music, as it was always meant to be heard – legend comes alive, and you believe it all for a few hours (as is clear from the above – only for a few hours…). The sheer enthusiasm he conveys is clearly felt and shared by the orchestra, who give their all, and the Birmingham audience clearly love him. Who wouldn’t?” …

Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph:

“In less than expert hands, Lohengrin can prove a tedious affair – Wagner at his windiest – but in this magnificent concert performance presented by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, it gathered an explosive momentum which finally brought the audience to its feet.” …

…”But the best singing of the evening came from Simon Halsey’s chorus, swelling majestically and making Wagner glow in Symphony Hall’s rich acoustic.     Rating: * * * * *     “

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…”Gidon Saks’s King was tremendously authoritative, Eike Wilm Schulte’s Telramund wonderfully judged and articulated. Lioba Braun’s sexy, scenery-chewing Ortrud threatened to steal the show, but in the end it was Nelsons’s vital control of every element that left the biggest impression.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

… “Rehearsals had been many and intensive, and the supple phrasing, bold articulation and depth of tone from the orchestra was even more apparent than when we hear these amazing players after normal rehearsal conditions. Choral projection was as forward and vivid, even in the most quietly articulated passages, as we have come to expect under Simon Halsey’s tutelage.

Lance Ryan’s Lohengrin was a little steely of tone, but totally engaging, not least in his great Act III revelations, Hillevi Martinpelto made much of the somewhat wan character of Elsa, Gidon Saks was a commanding, sympathetic King Henry, Eike Wilm Schulte an incisive Telramund, and Kostas Smoriginas rounded out the two-dimensional role of the Herald to engrossing effect.

But outstanding in this well-complemented team was mezzo-soprano Lioba Braun, her Ortrud a gripping model of evil conveyed by feminine wiles, the strength of her singing in no danger of suffering in this accommodating acoustic.” …

Blog / Review by Intermezzo:

…”Andris Nelsons scored an early winner for Birmingham with a prelude of exquisitely tensile beauty. Unlike Rob Green he let nothing slip from his grasp all evening.  Semyon Bychkov’s brisk, Italianate Lohengrin at Covent Garden last year cast an eye back at the work’s influences. Nelsons instead looked forward to the merged space-time of Parsifal. Lohengrin is one of the least action-packed three and a half hours ever, and Nelsons didn’t try to impose any notion of dramatic momentum. His contemplative tempos explored the music rather than driving it, yet paradoxically it was perhaps the most enthralling, dramatically absorbing rendition I’ve ever heard.” …

Review by Michael Tanner, Spectator:

“In the centre of Birmingham, in Symphony Hall, there was a tremendous performance of Lohengrin last Saturday, with minimal acting, apart from the wonderful imprecations and insinuations of Ortrud. So yet again the most memorable performance of any opera for a long time was not staged at all, and left the audience to do its own interpreting — a sheer blessing.  …

The CBSO covered itself with glory from start to finish, but even more the CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus sang their mainly glorious music to overpowering effect.” …

Alfred Brendel Talk: The Light and Shade of Interpretation

Mon 7 Jun 7:30pm at Town Hall

Alfred Brendel retired from the concert platform in 2008. Now he returns as a speaker, discussing the ideas and inspiration that, for nearly fifty years, have made him one of the world’s leading pianists. There will be a chance to savour the old Brendel magic when he illustrates his thoughts at the piano.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor Oliver Condy explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert: “Alfred Brendel may have retired from public piano performance, but that hasn’t stopped one of the most entertaining, intelligent and thoughtful musicians from sharing his views on music. Brendel has as much a gift for communicating verbally as he does musically.”

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb:

…..”During his concert and recording career Alfred Brendel always impressed me as a thoughtful, articulate and deeply musical pianist. On the evidence of this lecture he’s just as successful a musical communicator now that he’s switched from the keyboard to the spoken word. His delivery was modest in style but held the attention of his audience throughout. It’s good that Alfred Brendel’s musical wisdom and insight are still on show to the public even after his retirement from the concert platform.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“Now retired from the concert-platform, the pianist Alfred Brendel (one of the greatest performer-thinkers the world has ever seen), delivered an engrossing lecture with copious musical examples, some recorded, more of them played so grippingly by himself at the piano (the gifts haven’t diminished).” …..

Andris Nelsons

Andris Nelsons, magician of Birmingham

“Charismatic young conductor Andris Nelsons is a talent in global demand. Since joining the CBSO in 2007 his reputation has soared – a thrilling debut at last year’s Proms will be followed by the opening night at Bayreuth this year. He talks to Fiona Maddocks about growing up in Riga, Simon Rattle’s legacy and Birmingham’s bid for UK City of Culture 2013″

Watch conductor Andris Nelsons rehearse with the CBSO: The charismatic young music director talks about the challenge and intensity of leading the CBSO, and why Birmingham deserves to be City of Culture 2013″

CD review by Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer 

Stravinsky- The Firebird; Symphony of Psalms:

Andris Nelsons talks to Sean Rafferty, Radio 3: (at 1:06:50 ish 😉 ) – (available until Wednesday 16th June 2010)

CBSO’s Andris Nelsons in demand at the world’s biggest stages:

Andris talks to Tommy Pearson on CBSO’s June Podcast:


The Pathétique

Wednesday 2 June 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Rainer Gibbons  oboe

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: The Voyevoda 14′
Strauss: Oboe Concerto 26′
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique) 45′ Listen
requires Real Player

There’s really nothing in all music quite like Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony. Tchaikovsky threw his all into this no-holds-barred musical autobiography; the result is a symphony that blends raw emotion and glorious melody to devastating effect. It’s gripping stuff – Andris Nelsons has it in his blood. And if you saw him conducting Tchaikovsky last season, you won’t need any further recommendation. Meanwhile, the CBSO’s wonderful section leader oboe offers a moment of tranquillity with Strauss’s gentle concerto.

pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
The Players’ Perspective – The Pathétique
Violinist David Gregory, and CBSO colleagues, explore Tchaikovsky’s final symphony.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…..”Nelsons conjured so much tension and release, brought such a strong operatic approach where necessary and balletic poise, too, and uncovered the work’s true symphonic greatness in a reading which was quite simply the finest I’ve ever heard in the concert-hall (anyone who’s interested, I have an ancient World Record Club LP by the Sinfonia of London under Muir Mathieson which wrings out even more emotion).

The way Nelsons effected the transition between the hell-for-leather desperation of the scherzo and the cataclysm of sorrow which launches the finale was masterly, and the eternity of silence he commanded at the very end before allowing applause to start was a tribute to the receptiveness of this large audience.”