Australian Chamber Orchestra and Freddy Kempf

Sunday 27 November, 3pm

Birmingham Symphony Hall

Mozart Symphony No 29 28’
Shostakovich Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings 22’
Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings 28’
Mozart Symphony No 40 35’

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Richard Tognetti director, violin
Freddy Kempf piano
Tine Thing Helseth trumpet


The Australian Chamber Orchestra has been described by the Washington Post as having ‘the energy and vibe of a rock band with the ability of a crack classical chamber group.’ This afternoon they’ll shine a fresh light on much-loved music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

The Aussies are matched in youthful flair by the dream team for Shostakovich’s witty Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings: pianist Freddy Kempf and brilliant trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth.

‘Listening to the ACO is like taking a swig of a vitamin drink. Suddenly: pow! The music certainly feels stronger, muscled, hot from the gym… If that’s what Australia does for you, I’m also emigrating.’ The Times

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, recommends today’s concert: “If this is the first time you’ve encountered the ACO, the first thing you’ll notice is that, unlike other orchestras, their musicians stand when they perform which brings a real energy to their playing. The second thing is that music-making of this quality is an absolute joy to behold.”

Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

…     “The Mozart alone merited the ticket price, but here also were Shostakovich’s early Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, and Mozart’s G minor Symphony. Freddy Kempf, the solo pianist in Shostakovich’s concerto, was burningly intense and focused, where sometimes a certain ironic distance would have helped in the outer movements. Trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth had a far less taxing role, but she executed it with relish.

Then, in Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, the orchestra proved it can do romantic pathos just as well as 18th-century wit.”     …

Article on Richard Tognetti, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…      “Russian music separated the symphonies. Larger string groups might produce more sumptuous weight of tone in Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, but not the finely painted inner detail the ACO managed, nor the exquisitely spun melodic thread through its slow movement, while in Shostakovich’s Concerto for piano and trumpet, with Freddy Kempf and Tine Thing Helseth as the soloists, they responded with playing of whiplash precision. Though it’s a concerto in which the trumpet is very much the junior partner, Helseth took every opportunity to show what a fine instrumentalist she is, even if there was something a bit bombastic about Kempf’s contribution; this is, after all, a work in which a touch of sardonic brittleness is entirely appropriate.”

C’est Fantastique!

Thursday 24 November 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Martin Fröst clarinet

Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 10′ Listen on Spotify
Martinsson: Concert fantastique (CBSO co-commission; UK premiere) 24′
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique 49′ Listen on Spotify

Fantastique by name – fantastic by nature! Witches, guillotines, dance-tunes and of course, unrequited love: Berlioz threw them all into his sensational Symphonie fantastique, and the result is still bringing the house down today. New CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner unleashes all his operatic flair, and joins one of the world’s finest living clarinettists in an entertaining new commission (inspired by Berlioz) from Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson.

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

Click here to find out more about composer Rolf Martinsson and his music.

Martin Fröst’s Encore – “Let’s Get Happy – by Göran Fröst

Sounds Interesting pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Conservatoire Showcase!

Butterworth: Two English Idylls;

Korngold: Overture to a Drama, Op. 4
Come early to hear the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, perform two tuneful mini-masterpieces from the year 1911. Free!

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…     “Fröst’s technical wizardry and engagingly extrovert musical personality make him the ideal interpreter of Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson’s Concert Fantastique which received its UK premiere with the CBSO conducted by Edward Gardner.

It was heartening to hear a contemporary work being greeted so warmly – deservedly so.”     …

Welsh National Opera – Don Giovanni

Tue 15 Nov, Fri 18 Nov

Don Giovanni
Supported by the WNO Partnership

Cast includes David Kempster as Don Giovanni, David Soar as Leporello, Nuccia Focile as Donna Elvira, Camilla Roberts as Donna Anna, Robin Tritschler as Don Ottavio, Claire Ormshaw as Zerlina, Gary Griffiths as Masetto and Carlo Malinverno as Commendatore
Who is Don Giovanni?
He is charming, charismatic, attractive and irresistible. Take care however; he is also deceitful, dangerous, violent and cold-hearted. To date he has had 2065 amorous conquests. He has seduced and murdered his way around Europe, but Don Giovanni’s luck is about to run out. Don Giovanni is one of the greatest of all operatic villains, drawn with consummate skill and surrounded by a kaleidoscope of very human characters. The opera is as rich and complex as the Don himself – it is both chilling and beautiful, comic and dramatic with one of the most powerful finales in all opera.
John Caird’s productions for WNO (Aida and Don Carlos) have been critically acclaimed. Music Director Lothar Koenigs conducts a superb cast, which includes Welsh baritone David Kempster in the title role.
Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director John Caird
Designer John Napier
Sung in Italian with surtitles in English
Review by Simon Penfold, Express and Star:
…     ” On this occasion the devil doesn’t get all the best tunes – they are reserved for his victims. Both Nuccia Focile as Donna Elvira – torn between love and loathing for the Don – and Camilla Roberts as the wronged Donna Anna, are extraordinary sopranos and their voices were in fine form last night. David Soar was engaging as the Don’s hapless servant Leporello, keeping score of Giovanni’s 2,065 conquests.The set is a clever piece of work, with Rodin’s unfinished sculpture The Gates of Hell as its centrepiece, and”     …


Review by Roger Clarke, BehindTheArras:

…     “The story is there, the singing and playing is first class, the sound clear and well balanced and, in truth, it is a most enjoyable evening which could be made so much more satisfying though if it were just to lighten up a little both in terms of colour and candlepower, and in attitude. Let there be light and fun amid the cheats never prosper morality – after all Mozart catalogues Don Giovanni as opera buffa– comic opera – and perhaps he should know.”

(personally I loved the dark and brooding sets, the Gates to Hell were magnificent!)


Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:


…     “Vocally, Leporello (David Soar) almost upstaged his master, and Nuccia Focile’s nuanced, genuinely affecting Donna Elvira stood out amongst Camilla Roberts’ robust Donna Anna and Claire Ormshaw’s winningly guileless Zerlina. As Don Ottavio, Robin Tritschler made Dalla sua pace sound like Puccini; a ravishing moment, and of a piece with the almost Wagnerian colours of the WNO Orchestra in one of Lothar Koenigs’ most powerful readings to date.”




Rating * * * *

Tuned In: Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony

Thursday 10 November 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Stephen Johnson presenter

Shostakovich: Introduction to Shostakovich’s Seventh with live orchestral examples 35′
Shostakovich: Symphony No 7 (Leningrad) 71′ Listen on Spotify

Dmitri Shostakovich sat down and wrote his Seventh Symphony with Nazi forces surrounding Leningrad. In this concert-with-a-difference, presenter Stephen Johnson explains the story behind this modern classic, and shows how Shostakovich uses his huge orchestra – with live illustrations from Andris Nelsons and the 100-piece CBSO! Then there’s a chance to hear the whole symphony. Whether you know and love the Leningrad – or you’re new to Shostakovich – this concert will help you hear it with new ears.

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

£20 all areas, including a free programme. Standard CBSO discounts apply.

Review for Saturday 12th’s concert which included Shostakovich 7, by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…     “Nelsons followed the concerto with Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. He took immense care over its details, drove the notorious “invasion” of the first movement to a frightening climax, while keeping plenty in reserve for the bombastic blaze with which the work ends. The precision and tonal weight of the orchestral playing were outstanding; its dynamic range remarkable.”     …


Review for Saturday 12th’s concert which included Shostakovich 7, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:  

…     “The famous jackbooting advance of totalitarianism (whether Hitler’s or Stalin’s we shall probably never know) is depicted with the cumulative unstoppability of Ravel’s Bolero – and what a tremendous underpinning the snare-drummer provided in Saturday’s CBSO account under an Andris Nelsons who seems to be permanently on fire.”      …     Rating * * * * *

Slava’s Snowshow

Thursday 10th November, Birmingham Hippodrome

Wed 9 – Sun 13 Nov

SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW touches the heart and the funny bone and is packed with fun for all the family.

It delights and exhilarates theatregoers across the globe with its spectacle, comedy, poignancy and stunning effects.
The breathtaking, heart-stopping finale is unforgettable ….. a magical show of innocence, laughter and joy.
“Pure Magic. An evening of enchantment and fun”
Daily Express

“DAZZLING! Guaranteed to make even the glum thaw into happiness”
The Observer

“Simply thrilling ….. Unmissable comedy masterpiece”
The Independent

“Theatrical brilliance”
Sunday Times
“Utterly breathtaking, the stage effects are dazzling…Suddenly the audience is young, innocent, and transported with delight.” Daily Mail
“One of the most theatrical moments I have ever experienced.” The Guardian
“The unmissable and already classic ‘SNOWSHOW’ is a thing of rare theatrical beauty” The Times

PLEASE NOTE: The first few rows in the stalls are ONLY AVAILABLE BY CALLING TICKET SALES. These seats will not be available to purchase online.

Article on Slava Polunin, by Diane Parkes, Birmingham Mail:

Review by Adrian Caffery, Birmingham Mail:

…     “Created by Russian ‘superclown’ Slava Polunin nearly 20 years ago, this ever-evolving show has three aspects.

Firstly, there’s the clowning around: surreal, full of pathos and never stepping into slapstick – afterall, the show is aimed at big kids, not their children.

Then there’s the audience participation – hysterical but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun by revealing too much!”     …

Review by Roger Clarke, BehindTheArras: (spoilers!)’s_SnowshowH11-11.html

…     “His multi-award winning Snowshow is billed as a childhood fantasy and it is certainly that, filled with whimsy, the absurd, fun, poignancy, sadness and even a touch of terror.     […]    

[…]     You could see the wonder and delight in the faces of children but, let’s face it, in the world of Slava we are all just big kids once again.”

Autumn Sunshine

ThumbnailWednesday 2 November 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Baiba Skride violin

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn 19′
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major 24′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 6 41′

Everyone loves Dvorák’s New World Symphony – but if that’s the only Dvorák symphony you know, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. His Sixth must be one of the happiest symphonies ever written – a glowing Bohemian landscape filled with lilting tunes, stirring trumpets and gentle poetry. Andris Nelsons gives it the deluxe treatment. First, though, comes a spirited tribute to a bygone age by Dvorák’s great friend Brahms, and a welcome return for the enchanting young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride, in Mozart’s fresh-as-a-daisy Fourth Concerto.

This concert is being broadcast by BBC Radio 3

Birmingham Post article about Baiba Skride, by Christopher Morley:

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “On either side came works by composers who were great friends and mutual admirers. Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn was given with an appreciative awareness of its many-faceted timbres and moods, its tracery and interweaving spanning delicately bouncy bass lines and delicate wind tones.

This account could well be my highlight of the year.

Dvorak’s delicious Symphony no.6 was springy, exultant, its paeans to Nature so spontaneously sculpted by Nelsons.”     … cont…