The Great C Major

Tuesday 24 May 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller conductor
Dejan Lazic piano

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 42′
Schubert: Symphony No. 9 (The Great) 57′

Dejan Lazic’s encore – Schumann –

The greatest symphony Brahms never wrote – and the Great symphony Schubert nearly didn’t! Both composers step beyond the stereotype in this blockbuster programme. Forget about Brahms the grumpy old man; his First Piano Concerto is the work of a young genius in (unrequited) love, driven by an almost volcanic passion. And if you think Schubert only did songs, think again: his Great C major Symphony is a huge, gloriously sunny celebration of life, so ambitious in scale that for years after his death, orchestras couldn’t even get to the end of it. No worries on that score today. Veteran Viennese maestro Walter Weller has loved this music all his life – and the young Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic is fast acquiring a reputation to match.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “And that relationship was renewed in a magisterial account of Schubert’s Symphony no.9, strings digging in deeply and happy to endure the ridiculous motoristic demands of the finale, woodwind gurgling away joyously in the scherzo, trombones contributing their sonority with a fetching lightness of touch.”     …

Handel from Il Giardino Armonico

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Thu 19 May 7:30pm at Town Hall

Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini director

Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 1 12’
Vivaldi Concerto in F for Strings and Recorder, La Tempesta Di Mare 7’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 12 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 6 15’
Geminiani Concerto Grosso Op 5, No 12, La Follia 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 7 11’

‘As Italian as the music itself’, wrote Gramophone of Il Giardino Armonico, ‘brightly coloured, individualistic, confident, stylish, arrestingly decorated, bubbling with enthusiasm.’ They are one of Europe’s leading Baroque ensembles, at the top of their game, their revelatory performances packed with freshness and pizzazz. Their Town Hall concert includes the sparkling Concerti Grossi of Handel and music by his Italian contemporaries.

Click here to see a promotional video of Il Giardino Armonico and Handel 12 Concerti grossi, op.6

The Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Symphony No 2

Wednesday 18 May 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Kazushi Ono conductor
Jane Irwin soprano
Renata Pokupic mezzo
CBSO Chorus

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) 80′

We regret to announce that Sakari Oramo has had to withdraw from our performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony on Wednesday 18 May, as he is unwell. We are very grateful to Kazushi Ono, who has kindly agreed to replace him at very short notice. The orchestra, choruses and soloists remain as advertised and we look forward to the concert, as one of the highlights of Birmingham’s Mahler Cycle.

Gustav Mahler may have believed that a symphony “should be like the world”, but his Second Symphony goes further – and takes you to the end of the world itself! It’s more like a blockbuster movie than a classical symphony, with an ending that’ll leave you choked with emotion. Heartrending personal tragedy, dances of death, and a roof-raising musical depiction of the Day of Judgment itself: they’re all there, scored for a colossal orchestra. This instalment of the Birmingham Mahler Cycle – 100 years to the day since Gustav Mahler died in Vienna – should be an occasion to remember.

Review by David Nice, ArtsDesk:

…     “This listener’s hairs stood on end not just from the wild yet precise upsurge of cellos and basses but also – uniquely – thanks to the stomach-flipping pregnant pauses in between. Yet the lyricism was soon allowed to soar and billow within tightly controlled parameters.   […]

[…]     No reservations at all, though, about the extraordinary CBSO chorus. Of course, there’s nothing quite like vast forces singing pianissimo at the crucial moment of salvation, nirvana, call it what you well, when Mahler decides at last there’s no threat from the old wives’ tale of judgment day. But it’s hard to credit a non-professional choir with the half-lights conjured in the men’s meditation and the sudden burst of “Bereite dich!” (“Prepare yourselves!”): non-trained tenors can’t normally give this much tone, but these ones did, thanks to Simon Halsey’s training and countless previous CBSO Resurrections under Rattle, Nelsons, Oramo – all of them playing a part in this season’s Mahler cycle – and others.”     …

Review by Andy Richardson, Shropshire Star:

…     “That finale, featuring a section that Mahler referred to as ‘the march of the dead’ was stunning. An explosion of drums, brass and strings was underpinned by the dramatic massed voices of a choir in full song. By the end of the piece, the audience had felt the full force of Mahler’s improbably ambitious creative vision.

The CBSO showed their virtuosity and Ono proved himself a true master. It made for a spectacular evening’s entertainment.”

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

…     “The twin long percussion crescendi were delivered with stunning impact, typifying the magnificent response of the CBSO. Throughout the evening their playing, both individual and collective, was absolutely superb but in this finale they excelled themselves, delivering playing that was as sonorous as could be wished and yet razor-sharp in attack. Ono directed proceedings with immense drive and energy, yet not in an ostentatious fashion. Eventually he unleashed a stupendous climax, which seemed to depict the very opening of the Gates of Hell, after which the music was allowed to sink down as though exhausted, paving the way for the grosse Appell.”     …

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…     “Somewhere in the world there may be choruses which can match them in this symphony but, if so, they could be counted on the fingers of one digitally-challenged hand. The orchestra in full cry, horns with bells up, brass blazing was itself an exciting spectacle.”     …

Russian Classics

Saturday 14 May 2011 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Litton conductor
Simon Trpceski piano

Prokofiev: War and Peace – Overture 6′
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 32′ Listen
requires Real Player
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 50′

The Soviet censors called it an “optimistic tragedy”. Shostakovich simply called it his Tenth Symphony. Dark, deeply emotional, packed with secret messages and featuring at its heart a terrifying musical portrait of Stalin himself, Shostakovich’s Tenth is certainly one of the most powerful of all 20th-century symphonies. Regular guest conductor Andrew Litton guides the CBSO through its dark corridors – and joins the dazzling young Macedonian virtuoso Simon Trpceski in another emotional epic, from a very different Russia. You might still think of Rachmaninov’s Second as the Brief Encounter concerto, but with Trpceski at the keyboard, prepare to hear it with new ears.

Review by Elmley de la Cour, Birmingham Post:

…     “Litton doesn’t sugar-coat his demands and the CBSO responded with great flexibility, shaping the first movement’s giant crescendo into a terrifying, muscular climax.

A mesmerising account of the savage allegro followed. It would be hard to imagine how this could have been any better.”     …

Staatskapelle Dresden

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Fri 13 May 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Staatskapelle Dresden
Christoph Eschenbach conductor
Leonard Elschenbroich cello

Schumann Overture, The Bride of Messina 9’
Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations 17’
Brahms Symphony No 1 45’

Leonard Elschenbroich’s encore – Paul Hindemith Sonato for Solo Cello, final movement.

Staatskapelle Dresden’s encore – Mozart

Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory has been a Partner of the Staatskapelle Dresden since 2008

The unbroken history of the Staatskapelle Dresden reaches back to 1548: its rich pedigree led Richard Strauss to call it “the best orchestra in the world” and it is still a strong contender for the title. This concert includes music by three composers with whom the orchestra was associated, with Tchaikovsky’s loveable Rococo Variations complemented by the heroic grandeur and warmth of Brahms’s First Symphony.

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…     “The Brahms grew in stature after a rather subdued opening movement. The andante was mellifluous and serene with excellent contributions from the oboe and the orchestra’s leader Kai Vogler. The finale was splendid, Eschenbach building and maintaining the tension as the music unfolded in a peroration for the orchestra’s outstanding horn section.”      …

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian, for same concert, different venue:

Review by Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard, for same concert, different venue:

…     “Enjoyable though the Rococo Variations were, the real substance of the evening came with a very fine performance of Brahms’ First Symphony, a performance that exuded authority and passion.”     …

Celebrity Recital: Natalie Clein

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Fri 6 May 7:30pm at Town Hall

Natalie Clein cello
Katya Apekisheva piano

J S Bach Solo Cello Suite No 2 in D Minor 18’
Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D Minor 29’
Sibelius Malinconia 13’
Rachmaninov Cello Sonata in G Minor 33’

Encore – Schumann – Fantasy

Few British performers have caught the public’s imagination as much as cellist Natalie Clein. Her programme includes Rachmaninov’s great Sonata, one of his most passionate and poetic works.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:
“A natural, charming musician, Natalie Clein is the foremost cellist of her generation. She came to prominence after winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1994 with a spell-binding performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a work she recorded with great acclaim for EMI Classics.”

The Organ Symphony

Thursday 5 May 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Jun Märkl conductor
Sergio Tiempo piano
Thomas Trotter organ

Debussy: Le martyre de Saint Sébastien – Symphonic fragments 21′
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major 21′
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ) 34′

Sergio Tiempo’s Encore – Ginastera

You might have heard it in the film Babe, but trust us – when the mighty Symphony Hall organ crashes in at the end of Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony, and the CBSO’s trumpets raise the roof, you won’t be thinking about talking pigs! Few symphonies finish in such thrilling style, and with the full CBSO joined by Birmingham City Organist Thomas Trotter, one thing’s for sure: this concert is going to end with a bang. To whet the appetite, French music expert Jun Märkl dishes up a pair of very different French delights: Ravel’s deliciously jazzy Piano Concerto, with rising star Sergio Tiempo, and the latest landmark in the CBSO’s 10-year 2020 project – Debussy’s ultra-sensuous Symphonic Fragments.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “Acoustic chamber-doors wide open, and Thomas Trotter’s experienced rasping at the fabulous Symphony Hall organ added to the impact of this memorable performance.

Not, though, to eclipse the scintillating account of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto, with Sergio Tiempo the deft soloist.”     …

Russian Music from the Bolshoi

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Tue 3 May 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra
Alexei Stepanov* conductor
Ivan Rudin piano

*Please note that Alexi Stepanov replaces Alexander Lazarev, as originally advertised

Khachaturian Suite from Spartacus 21’
Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 20’
Tchaikovsky (arranged Mravinsky) Music from The Nutcracker 40’

With a history stretching back to 1776, the outstanding Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra is the oldest in Russia and has acted as midwife to many of Russia’s most famous ballets and operas. Join us for a truly authentic performance of two of the most popular and stunning Russian ballet scores, displaying the full range of emotion, lyricism, pathos, humour, and glittering orchestral colours.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert:
“Direct from Moscow, the players of the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra travel to Birmingham to bring us a wealth of riches from back home. Russian composers, it seems, always perform well in the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame, thanks to listeners’ votes. Here’s to a great evening – za vashe zdorovye!”

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…     “Shostakovich’s second piano concerto is the antithesis of Khachaturian – quicksilver, ironic and gossamer-light. Ivan Rudin, the modest bespectacled soloist who looks uncannily like the young Shostakovich, was introspective and musing in the Rachmaninov-style andante, and fleet-fingered in the rollicking humorous finale.”