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.”     …

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