Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 28 October 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal conductor
Simon Bates presenter
Ben Dawson piano

Including music from:
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (2001, A Space Odyssey)
Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)
Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 (The King’s Speech)
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull & Godfather III)
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Manhattan & Gremlins 2)
Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brief Encounter)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)
Mahler: Adagietto (Death in Venice)
Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)
Rossini: William Tell Overture (Brassed Off & A Clockwork Orange)

Beethoven knew nothing of a future stammering king, and Rachmaninov didn’t compose with a great British screen romance in mind. Yet, from A Brief Encounter to The King’s Speech, classical music is synonymous with some of the most iconic moments on film, from the dramatic to the heartbreaking, the terrifying to the romantic. And played live, in 3D, in Symphony Hall’s incredible surround-sound, it’s even better without the pictures!

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Pictures at an Exhibition

Thursday 27 October 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor
Alisa Weilerstein cello

Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijé Suite 19′
Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor 40′
Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition 30′ Listen on Spotify

Alisa Weilerstein’s encore – Bourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No.3 in C

When 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 opening Promenade to the majestic final Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the true orchestral showpieces, a glittering jewel-box crammed with unforgettable images. And Prokofiev’s cheeky Lieutenant Kijé suite is every bit as much fun! The young Finnish star Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes his Birmingham debut, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein celebrates her return to Birmingham with Dvorák’s impassioned Cello Concerto. 

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “And this world-class orchestra rewarded him with well-turned accounts of Lieutenant Kije, Prokofiev’s cleverest if emptiest score, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in Ravel’s ineffable orchestration (do we really need any other?).”     …

The Year 1911: Elgar’s Second Symphony

Saturday 22 October 2011 at 7.00pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Nareh Arghamanyan  piano

Rachmaninov: Vocalise 6′ 
Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini 23′ Listen on Spotify 
Elgar: Symphony No. 2 54′ 

Nareh Arghamanyan’s encore –

Please note that due to recent unavoidable changes in previously advertised conductor Vassily Sinaisky’s schedule at the Bolshoi Theatre, where he is Music Director, he is now sadly unable to conduct these concerts. He looks forward to returning to the CBSO next season. We are very grateful to our Associate Conductor Michael Seal for agreeing to step in at short notice.

Elgar claimed that his Second Symphony mourned the death of a King – but it’s a lot more personal than that. From majestic opening to sunset finish, Elgar’s Second is one of romantic music’s great emotional voyages. Expect glittering playing from the young Armenian virtuoso Nareh Arghamanyan in the ever-popular, super-romantic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…..     “But in the second half of the evening things decidedly improved, Seal wisely presiding over an account of Elgar’s magnificent Second Symphony which allowed this expertly-scored music to speak for itself.

There were passages which genuinely moved, such as the sad stillness at the heart of the opening movement, and the Tristan-esque ending of the entire work.”     …

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle


Fri 21 Oct 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor
Sir John Tomlinson Bluebeard
Michelle DeYoung Judith
Juliet Stevenson narrator
Nick Hillel director

Debussy Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un faune 10’
Janáček Sinfonietta 23’
Bartók Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (semi-staged) 60’

Please note Measha Brueggergosman will be replaced by Michelle DeYoung.

Fresh from last year’s breathtaking Tristan und Isolde, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia celebrate their return to Symphony Hall with the blazing fanfares of Janácek’s sunny Sinfonietta. But then we step into the darkness of Bluebeard’s castle for a world premiere production: a groundbreaking video installation transforms the Hall into the lair of one of classical music’s greatest villains. Sir John Tomlinson plays the formidable duke whose new bride discovers shocking secrets hidden behind seven doors, each evoked by Bartók’s spine-tingling score.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert: “Bartók’s great psychological thriller is high up on my list of works that I’d encourage first-time opera-goers to give a try. A gripping evening awaits…” 

Article on Sir John Tomlinson, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:
“It was growing up in the heart of industrial Britain which steered one of the great Wagnerians of our time to a career in music.” …

Read More:


Article about the production by Jessica Duchen, Independent:


Philharmonia players blog about Duke Bluebeard’s Castle:

The Making of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle: 


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:


…     “The parade of images – weeping walls, bloodstained jewels, luxuriant blooms and a final sad parade of the silhouettes of Bluebeard’s former wives – is fine as far as it goes, but entirely superfluous when the performance is as good as it was here. Salonen conjured every orchestral colour from the Philharmonia with tremendous panache – the huge C major climax at the opening of the fifth door was sumptuous – while DeYoung and Tomlinson focused the drama superbly, she a wonderful mix of naivety and obsession, he remarkable in his portrait of cruel implacability and sheer, despairing loneliness.”


Review by Elmley de la Cour, Birmingham Post:


…     “But musically it was excellent. Michelle DeYoung dealt nimbly with Judith’s declamatory lines.

John Tomlinson’s Hungarian sounded wonderful, and, shrouded in his cloak, was every inch the mysterious, tortured duke.

Esa-Pekka Salonen navigated clearly through the work’s abounding details, and the orchestra played well for him, particularly the phalanx of strings.”     …


Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard MusicWeb:


…     “Nick Hiller’s production and dramatic visuals proved to be nothing short of a triumph, enthralling totally from the very start, whilst it is well nigh impossible to imagine a more chilling, atmospheric and powerful performance than that given by Sir John Tomlinson, Michelle DeYoung and the forces of the Philharmonia. With the production now set to go on tour, this is a Bluebeard not to be missed.”

End of the Rainbow

Mon 17 – Sat 22 Oct at Birmingham Hippodrome

Thursday 20th October

Judy Garland – Tracie Bennett

Mickey Deans – Norman Bowman

Anthony – Hilton McRae 

‘*****A STAR IS BORN. One of the greatest musical theatre performances I have ever witnessed. Bennett is dazzling and unforgettable and her performance will be talked about for years to come.’ Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph 

Olivier award-winning Tracie Bennett has taken the West End by storm as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter’s new play End Of The Rainbow.

London, December 1968, and Judy Garland is about to make her comeback… again.

Determined to reclaim her crown as the greatest talent of her generation, she battles with a tornado of drugs and alcohol and a gruelling schedule of exhausting concerts at The Talk Of The Town.
Despite a series of failed marriages, Judy has her latest and youngest husband-to-be by her side, a man as determined as she that, at any cost, these concerts will mark the revival of her battered career.
Tracie Bennett’s remarkable portrayal of this tough, talented, compelling woman has been rewarded with standing ovations.
This extraordinary production – thrilling, hilarious, moving and tragic – is directed by Tony and Olivier-award winner Terry Johnson and features a six piece onstage band and includes Garland’s most memorable songs –The Man That Got AwayCome Rain Or Come ShineThe Trolley Song and -of course – Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
‘YOU MUST SEE IT’ Observer
Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Whatsonstage

Review by Alison Norton, Express and Star:

…..     “A well deserved standing ovation from the whole theatre concluded an evening of outstanding entertainment, which must surely be a guaranteed Broadway success as it heads for the States in March next year.”
Reviews by Roger Clarke, and Paul Marston, BehindTheArras:
“Brilliant Bennett is breathtaking…  
TRACIE Bennett is just magnificent. She is Judy Garland. She captures everything from the voice, honed, sanded and coloured by years of cigarettes and alcohol, to the strange, jerky, gestures and mannerisms that Garland produced on stage.

It is a portrayal which reminds you why you do this job. Every so often a production comes along which raises the hairs on the back of your neck, which shows just what the theatre can create and in End of the Rainbow affords the privilege of seeing an actress with a performance she will surely never better even if she has a dozen lifetimes.     […]

[…]     The instant, universal standing ovation said it all. She is just unforgettable with a performance that will be talked about for years to come.”

Friday Night Classics: Pink Martini “The Symphonique Tour”

Friday 14 October 2011 at 7.30pm

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

Pink Martini draws inspiration from the romantic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s or ’50s… with a more global perspective. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue.”

That’s how Pink Martini’s founder and pianist Thomas Lauderdale describes their unique brand of tuneful eclectic nostalgia. Pink Martini have become a truly international sensation: from multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, to opening the Sydney Festival in Australia, to sell-out shows at Carnegie Hall. Sit back for a truly feel-good Friday evening, as this globally popular band joins the CBSO for one night only featuring the songs Amado Mio, Sympathique, Malagueña, Bolero, Brasil and more!

“Pink Martini are on a mission to bring back romance and beauty.”(The Telegraph)

“A mix of the exotic and the nostalgic” (Sunday Times)

Listen to Pink Martini (with guest singer Storm Large) below.

£10, £17, £24, £29.50, £33, £37, £39.50

Please note that, due to ill health, vocalist China Forbes will be replaced by the fabulous Storm Large for ‘The Symphonique Tour’.

Thomas Lauderdale says of Storm: ‘I always hoped we could find a way to collaborate. She is a brilliant, beautiful, charismatic and seductive star who would give Jayne Mansfield a run for her money. While we are disappointed that China is unable to perform with us, I am delighted be able to introduce Storm Large to European audiences.’

Click here to read more.

Review by Paul Marston, BehindTheArras:

“THIS was an intoxicating concert featuring the remarkable 12-piece American band, Pink Martini, supported by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and performing music from around the globe.”     […]

[…]     “There were wonderful individual contributions, too, from Gavin Bondy (trumpet), Timothy Nishimoto (vocals and percussion), Nicholas Crosa (violin) and Jeffrey Budin (trombone), but Storm Large (sporting a shoulder-to-shoulder tattoo on her back) was the undoubted star of a great concert.”

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Tue 11 Oct 7:30pm  at Symphony Hall

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conductor
Lars Vogt piano

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5, Emperor 38’
Schubert Symphony No 9, The Great C major 48’

Sir Simon Rattle described Lars Vogt as “one of the most extraordinary musicians of any age group that I have had the fortune to be associated with.” So he’s the perfect pianist for the splendour of Beethoven’s epic Emperor Concerto. The electric partnership between the LPO and the dynamic Yannick Nézet-Séguin promises an outstanding performance of the first of the two great ninth symphonies featured this season.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Now in its 79th year, the LPO is still one of the most exciting and innovative orchestras around; a performance with their Principal Guest Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is definitely a date for the diary.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“It would be so easy for a great orchestra like the London Philharmonic just to churn out routine accounts of Viennese classics they will have rolled out on the production-line countless times. Not so on Tuesday, when, perhaps stimulated by a packed house and the matchless ambience of Symphony Hall, and certainly responsive to conductor and soloist, the LPO delivered performances which came up sparkling and new.”     …..

Rachmaninov by Candlelight


Sun 2 Oct 6:00pm at Symphony Hall

Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore director
Steven Osborne piano

Rachmaninov Vespers
Piano Preludes Op 23 Nos 6 in E flat, 10 in G flat, 3 in D minor, 4 in D, 7 in C minor
Op 32 Nos 5 in G, 7 in F, 9 in A, 1 in C

This concert has a running time of c. 2 hours including one interval.

The soaring voices of Ex Cathedra bring Rachmaninov’s choral masterpiece to life by candlelight. Glowing with radiant Russian Orthodox spirituality, the Vespers are interspersed with a selection of the composer’s much-loved piano preludes performed by Steven Osborne.

In the words of The Times, ‘the brilliant Scottish pianist… scales the preludes… with passion and authority… Sorrow and sunlight, death and life: all Rachmaninov is here’.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Rachmaninov’s Vespers is some of the Russian composer’s most profound and moving music; the All-Night Vigil remains one of the most atmospheric musical creations. On what’s likely to be a chilly, autumnal evening, Ex Cathedra will be bringing music to warm your very soul.”

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard -MusicWeb:

…     “Not for the first time – and surely not for the last – Jeffrey Skidmore had devised an imaginative and illuminating programme and he conducted the choir superbly, drawing from them singing that was, according to the demands of the music, exquisitely poised or powerfully sonorous and which always rang with conviction.

Experiencing Rachmaninov by candlelight in this way made for a memorable concert. It was one which, for me – and with apologies for the pun – shed new light on Rachmaninov’s music in two different genres.”

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

…     “From first note to last this was a powerfully atmospheric and often hypnotic account, with Jeffrey Skidmore and his singers (Jeremy Budd and Martha McLorinan the gloriously idiomatic soloists) going beyond melody and harmony to explore a rich choral tapestry where inner-part textures and movements were of equal importance and, especially in the basses, awesomely sonorous.

In such a finely judged musical environment, Steven Osborne transcended the role of solo pianist to become an additional member of the ensemble.”    […] Rating * * * * *