Romantic Landscapes


Thursday 19 January 2012 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Karl-Heinz Steffens conductor
Sol Gabetta cello

Mozart: Symphony No. 36 (Linz) 30′
Saint-Saëns: Cello Concerto No. 1 19′
Dvořák: Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra 5′ Listen on Spotify
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 36′

“Play me some village music – that’s what I like.” Antonin Dvorák certainly practised what he preached. He took the sounds and emotions of the Bohemian countryside and transformed them into one of the happiest symphonies ever written (listen out for his pet pigeons!). That’s just the climax of this joyous concert, which also features Mozart’s brilliant Linz Symphony and Saint-Saëns’ passionate First Cello Concerto – played with style by the stunning young Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta. Summer sunshine on a January day!

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:

Click here for full review

…     “Between the symphonies came added delight with the presence of Sol Gabetta, surely the most enchanting of cellists.

She immerses herself totally in the music (bopping along gleefully with the orchestra when not herself playing), and naturally creating a warm empathy with her orchestral colleagues.

To Saint-Saens’ First Concerto she brought both mercurial bowing and a well-burnished tone from her fabulous Guadagnini instrument, fleet and accurate in a bravura display in which songfulness was never far away.

And in the neatly-programmed encore, Dvorak’sSilent Woods, she created an atmosphere of quiet, serene concentration.”

CBSO Sale and CD release

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s


January Sale is now on!

 See here for details

Get 25% off CBSO tickets, for one week only, from Saturday 14 to Sunday 22 January (inclusive; terms and conditions apply).


In other news Anthony Hopkins’ CD, recorded with the CBSO is released today.

Anthony Hopkins: Composer

See here for more info!

Nelsons conducts Strauss

Thursday 12 January 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Strauss: Tod und Verklärung 24′ 
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 1 26′ 
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra 32′ Listen on Spotify 

 Stephen Hough’s Encore – Strauss: Traümerei

“I mean to convey in music an idea of the whole evolution of the human race.” Richard Strauss never did anything by halves, and when you hear the stupendous opening fanfare of Also sprach Zarathustra, it’ll blow you sideways. In this blockbuster concert, Andris Nelsons takes his love affair with Strauss to the next level, beginning with Strauss’s visionary Death and Transfiguration, and featuring a guest appearance from the man who might just be the most brilliant piano virtuoso on the planet: the incomparable Stephen Hough.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and CBSO cello section leader Ulrich Heinen discussing Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.

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 Fiona Maddocks, The Observer:

Click here for full review

“Double basses quiver and swirl on a note so murky it is hard to hear the pitch. A lone trumpet ascends in a three-note sunrise through an octave, followed by a cataclysm of thundering drumbeats. Add to that the evolution of the human race, man, superman, illness, death, transfiguration, a levitating Latvian maestro and a flying baton dropped somewhere amid the cellos and this was Symphony Hall, Birmingham last Thursday night, the CBSO’s first major concert of the year – broadcast live on Radio 3 and repeated last night. When that baton’s owner isAndris Nelsons, always excitedly athletic on the podium, players are no doubt used to ducking these identified flying objects.” …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Expectation was rewarded with stunning opening to Tod und Verklärung: the death-bed scene was evoked with reverence yet tinged with a mysterious aura of the great unknown; woodwind phrases hovered gently in the air, the quality of the CBSO string-playing simply breathtaking. Nelsons then launched headlong into the Allegro molto agitato, where life pits itself against death, with blazing ferocity. The players responded with precision and the brass excelled in the transfiguration theme bringing an elegant legato upward sweep and transcendent glow. The placing and internal balance of Strauss’s evocative harmonies was also impeccably controlled by Nelsons, drawing the listener deep into the heart of the music.”    …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But Nelsons was able to put all thoughts of new life behind him, summoning tautly-strung delicacy for the opening deathbed scene, drawing eloquent woodwind and violin solos, and in the febrile textures of the ensuing tortured struggle urging the strings to ride high over menacing brass.
The climax was heart-stopping – we feared literally so, given the energy Nelsons was burning here; but he then found quiet affirmation at last from the brass as he opened the Pearly Gates.”     …

The Royal Opera: Die Meistersinger

Wednesday 11th January 2012 – 4:30pm

Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

This concert has a running time of c. 5 hours 45 minutes including two intervals.

Royal Opera Chorus
Renato Balsadonna Chorus Director
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sergey Levitin Co-concert Master

Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Wolfgang Koch Hans Sachs
Emma Bell Eva
Simon O’Neill Walther
Toby Spence David
Peter Coleman-Wright Sixtus Beckmesser
Sir John Tomlinson Veit Pogner
Heather Shipp Magdalene
Pablo Bemsch Augustin Moser
Nicholas Folwell Konrad Nachtigall
Martyn Hill Balthazar Zorn
Colin Judson Kunz Vogelgesang
Jihoon Kim Hermann Ortel
Robert Lloyd Nightwatchman
Donald Maxwell Fritz Kothner
Andrew Rees Ulrich Eisslinger
Jeremy White Hans Foltz
Richard Wiegold Hans Schwarz

Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival opens with an unmissable event: The Royal Opera makes its much-anticipated return to Birmingham to launch a sequence of Wagner’s four greatest music dramas. Hear an outstanding cast in Wagner’s epic comedy about the power and glory of song, under the inspired baton of Sir Antonio Pappano.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert:

Here’s a chance to catch the composer at his more light-hearted, performed by a world-class bunch of musicians. Wagner’s greatest tunes coupled with a touching storyline will ensure the time will fly by.

Bryn Terfel has regrettably had to withdraw from the role of Hans Sachs due to a chest infection. We are pleased to be able to announce that the role will be taken by German bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch, who has been delivering outstanding performances as Sachs in the current staged production at the Royal Opera House. Koch has previously triumphed as Hans Sachs at the Vienna Staatsoper, and his highly praised Wagnerian roles also include Alberich (Das Rheingold, Siegfried) and Amfortas (Parsifal). All other casting remains as before.

If you are a ticket holder for this performance and you have any queries, please contact the Box Office on 0121 345 0600.

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

One of a series of Wagner’s greatest operas, performed in the space of 6 months as part of Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival.
Tristan und Isolde – Saturday 3 March
Good Friday: Gergiev conducts Parsifal – Friday 6 April
Wagner’s Ring: Die Walküre – Saturday 30 June

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

...     “The principals were uniformly magnificent, headed by Wolfgang Koch as Hans Sachs: the indisposed Bryn Terfel was not missed here, Koch displaying all the intricacies of Sachs’ maverick yet wise character, and with a huge range of emotion in evidence.

Simon O’Neill was a sturdy, ringing Walther von Stolzing, rising superbly to Wagner’s cruel Prize Song challenge at the end of a long sing; John Tomlinson brought an endearing sense of bewilderment to Veit Pogner, wondering if he’s done the right thing in offering his daughter’s hand to the Prize Songwinner; that daughter, Eva, was sung and acted by Emma Bell with more personality than we sometimes see in the role, and her companion Magdalena was portrayed again far more roundly than usual by Heather Shipp.

And everyone’s hearts were captured by the David of Toby Spence, open-voiced and despatching his apprentice duties so appealingly.”

Review by Rohan Shotton, Bachtrack:

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…     “The soloists were largely superb in both voice and character, none more so than Sir John Tomlinson, whose Pogner exuded a glorious mix of power and grace: he was not the stale, daughter-selling fool he could be, but noble and commanding, and hinting at wistfulness in announcing the gift of his daughter. His presence filled the hall from the moment of his entry to his bow (greeted by the largest cheer of the evening), and he sang faultlessly with a magnificently full tone. His dialogue with Emma Bell as Eva early in Act II was touchingly gentle from both parties. Bell sang beautifully, mustering broad, lengthy lines with barely an effort. She switched from haughtiness with Sachs to radiant glow at the sight of Walther with fine command of both moods, and her vocal control was very impressive.”     …

Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The star of Scene 2, and indeed the singer who throughout was the perfect fit for his role, was Toby Spence as David. Both his interaction with the other apprentices (twelve on this instance and constituting the front row of the centre choir stalls) and his instruction of Walther in the ways of the Nürnberg singing contest were exemplary. Seeing David later taking up his indentures from Sachs, made me wonder how long it might be before Spence himself plays the noble cobbler. His Der Meister Tone und Weisen was full of beautiful tone and melody, loud notes and soft, short ones and long, a contrasting range of colour, a diversity of flora and animal sounds; David knew the endless list of rules and Spence delivered them all.”     …

Comment by SCO Helen at the Guardian:

Link here

“Your reviewers have missed a treat – Birmingham Symphony Hall last night was the place to be! The concert performance of the Royal Opera House’s production of Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg was absolutely wonderful. Although Bryn Terfel was ill and could not take the role of Hans Sachs, he was admirably replaced by Wolfgang Koch, who played the role at the ROH. This meant that we were seeing the whole ROH cast, and they were very relaxed and natural with each other, acting far more than in usual in concert performances and thus giving us a very near approximation of the staged production. This was complemented by excellent surtitles, so that the dialogue was easy to follow. It was admirably and clearly sung in every case, with Sir John Tomlinson outstanding as Pogner and Toby Spence radiant as David.
The acoustics of Symphony Hall made the effect of the orchestral highlights and, particularly, of the chorus ‘Wach Auf’ in the final act absolutely overwhelming. And – a delight for a Guardian reader – Hans Sachs was reading yesterday’s copy of The Guardian onstage in Act 3 !

I should also have mentioned the magnificent orchestra under Antonio Pappano, who clearly has many Birmingham fans – he was greeted with cheers as soon as he walked onstage. Die Meistersinger is an incredible marathon for the orchestra and conductor – almost 5 hours of playing, with the final act lasting two hours without a break. They were superb throughout.”