Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Sir Simon Rattle Conducts Das Lied von der Erde

Sunday 12 June 2011 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Jane Irwin mezzo-soprano
Michael Schade tenor

Messiaen: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum 26′
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (sung in German with English surtitles) 59′

Twenty years to the day since Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO inaugurated Birmingham’s brand new Symphony Hall, the legend returns. Sir Simon, mezzo Magdalena Kožená and tenor Michael Schade bring down the curtain on Birmingham’s centenary Mahler Cycle with the symphony that Mahler refused to call his Ninth, the heart-rending Das Lied von der Erde. Less a meditation on death, more a rapturous love-letter to the joys of life, Mahler simply doesn’t get more personal – or more beautiful. The evening opens with a very different (but no less transcendent) meditation on mortality, by another composer who came to define Sir Simon’s years at Symphony Hall: the late Olivier Messiaen. Unmissable.

Please note that Magdalena Kožená has withdrawn from this performance due to illness. We are grateful to Jane Irwin, who replaces her at short notice.

 Sold out – Returns only

Review by Stephen Walsh, TheArtsDesk:

…     “The CBSO were on terrific form throughout, but nowhere more than in the lovely wind solos that track the mezzo-soprano, from the blue autumn mists of “Der Einsame im Herbst” to the eternal blue distance of “Der Abschied”. And Jane Irwin, standing in at short notice for the indisposed Magdalena Kožená, matched them in the sensitivity of her response to words and situation, though she had some difficulty filling out her sound in the low registers.”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…     “Words and phrases were coloured with great precision, and, like the orchestra’s solo woodwind, Irwin relished the freedom that Rattle’s expansive conducting allowed her. Even in the final Abschied, nothing sounded too slow or indulgent, just naturally paced, with little of the expressive moulding that can seem rather mannered in some of Rattle’s Berlin performances. Michael Schade also showed he is one of that select band of tenors who can tackle this work without being totally overwhelmed by the orchestra.”     …

Blog post review by Norman Lebrecht, ArtsJournal:

…     “But Jane Irwin is a singer of immense character and daring who dropped on occasion to pianissimo, drawing feather-light sounds from the orchestral soloists, outstanding among them the flute (Marie-Christine Zupancic), piccolo (Andrew Lane), bassoon (Gretha Tuls) and leader (Zoe Beyers).

 The Abschied achieved a stark cohesion. Rattle played down the agonies of parting with a practised flutter of bucolic beauty spots.”     …
Review by John Quinn, SeenAndHeard:
…     “This was a magnificent performance, which Rattle controlled superbly and with great authority. I thought his judgement of pacing was ideal and, amid all the frequent tumult, his control of silent pauses – and the way he ensured the softest passages in Messiaen’s score made their mark – was masterly.”     […]
[…] “Nowhere was this more apparent than in her account of ‘Der Abschied.’ This is a huge challenge for a singer but one to which Jane Irwin rose marvellously. She encompassed all aspects of the song successfully. I admired her sensitivity and sense of intimacy at such passages as ‘Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz’. Just as impressive was the radiant outpouring at ‘Die liebe Erde allüberall…’, a moment superbly prepared by Rattle, and Miss Irwin’s ardour at ‘O Schönheit! O ewigen Liebens…’ This was a memorable, dignified and moving performance.” […]
[…] “He drew from the CBSO playing of great distinction and there was a familiarity, engagement and empathy that made it seem as if he’d never been away. At the end of the work, Rattle drew out the last tendrils of music with the greatest possible refinement. When the last sound died away the silence was as long as I’ve ever heard in a concert hall, Rattle holding the moment and the audience reluctant to break the spell. The silence spoke volumes.I’ve been lucky enough to attend several very fine Mahler performances over the last year of so – not all of them in Birmingham – but this was in a different league.”      …
Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “Das Lied just stunned an overflowing audience into silence. There was a whole gamut of orchestral gesture here (one wouldn’t expect anything less from a composer who was probably the world’s greatest-ever conductor), all teased out by Rattle and the willing CBSO; horns, desolate flute and questing oboe line up for particular praise.”     …


Blog post review by Tam Pollard re same programme but at Aldeburgh Festival:

…     “Here was yet more evidence of just what an exception and world class ensemble the CBSO are: from the rich string textures, to quiet playing of the highest calibre, to fabulous solo performances, it was both an orchestral masterclass and an absolute treat to witness. ”     …