Duruflé’s Requiem

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Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simon Halsey conductor
Karen Cargill mezzo-soprano
Benedict Nelson baritone
Robert Johnston harp
CBSO Youth Chorus

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro 11′
Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine 5′
Satie (orch. Debussy): Gymnopédie No. 1 3′
Franck: Panis Angelicus 4′ Listen on Spotify
Satie (orch. Debussy): Gymnopédie No. 3 3′
Fauré: Pavane Op.50 6′
Debussy: Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane 9′
Duruflé: Requiem 41′ Listen on Spotify

Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem – written to console the living – is drenched in pastel colours and haunting melodies. If you like Fauré’s Requiem, we think you’ll fall in love with Duruflé’s exquisite homage. It’s the loveliest blossom in a perfumed bouquet of French miniatures: from the delicate grace of Fauré and Satie, to the sensuous beauty of Debussy and Ravel, this is an evening to savour.   www.cbso.co.uk

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 David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Duruflé’s ‘Requiem’ was a challenging choice for these young singers, but one they rose to and accomplished with considerable aplomb. In fact, hearing this lovely work sung with such tonal openness and clarity of utterance made it sound almost newly minted.

It was certainly not a typical ‘youth choir’ performance, but an often beautiful one – the Agnus Dei, Domine Jesu Christe (Benedict Nelson the fine baritone soloist) and ascending-to-heaven In Paradisum were particularly memorable – with, in the Sanctus and ‘Dies illa, dies irae,’ moments of thrilling drama. And mezzo Karen Cargill (with cellist Ulrich Heinen) gave us a Pie Jesu as gorgeous and sensual as a love duet.”     …

The Planets

Wednesday 15 February 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Sarah Fox soprano
Pamela Helen Stephen mezzo
Kostas Smoriginas bass
CBSO Chorus

Dukas: La Péri 19′
Szymanowski: Stabat Mater 23′ Listen on Spotify
Holst: The Planets 55′ Listen on Spotify

Strange new worlds… Holst’s Planets Suite isn’t just famous for great tunes like Jupiter and Mars; it’s a musical odyssey to infinity and beyond, filled with sounds of jaw-dropping strangeness and beauty. It’ll be a dazzling showcase for the CBSO’s superb young principal guest conductor Edward Gardner – and he’ll be our guide on two more fantastic journeys: Szymanowski’s ravishing Stabat Mater written in the 1920s, and the sensuous oriental dreamscape of Dukas’s La Péri, part of our celebration of the year 1912. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…    “Gardner’s accounts of all three works were startlingly vivid, and every section of the CBSO played superbly for him. His account of La Péri, complete with the rather incongruous opening fanfare that some conductors omit, was the biggest treat, its textures glitteringly iridescent, its climaxes overwhelming. The Syzmanowski was held slightly in check and emerged as refined rather than robust, though the clarity of the soloists – soprano Sarah Fox, mezzo Pamela Helen Stephen and bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas – was obviously one of the benefits of Gardner’s care for every texture and line. The CBSO Chorus even managed to get some of the words of the Polish text across.

There was a brisk directness about The Planets, too, as if Gardner were intent on demonstrating how fundamentally un-English Holst’s score really is.”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Then, for the ensuing “poeme danse” the orchestra came up trumps with sinuous, writhing woodwind, strings voluptuously yearning and fluttering (the violins crowning the wonderful main theme with the most glorious rendering of its countermelody I have ever heard), percussion colourful and teasing.

The ending is quietly magical, as is that of Szymanowski’s ‘Stabat Mater’, a work whose medievalism actually imparts a timeless quality, and whose clearly-defined musical units make it cohere like a mosaic.

Gardner, such an enthusiast for Polish music, brought his natural operatic flair to this account, presiding over penetrating yet thoughtful contributions from vocal soloists Sarah Fox, Pamela Helen Stephen and Kostas Smoriginas, and relishing the legendary expertise of the CBSO Chorus, not only in the often Mussorgkyan and Stravinskyan choral textures, but also in their impeccable Polish delivery.”     …

Conductor Edward Gardner delights in the energy of the CBSO – Click here for Birmingham Post Article by Christopher Morley

Images of 1912

Thursday 9 February 2012 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Ingrid Fliter piano

Bartók: Four Orchestral Pieces 22′
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 34′
Debussy: Images 35′

Ingrid Fliter’s encore –

It’s all about colour. In 1912, Debussy swapped the piano for the orchestra, and created a whole new universe of sound. Dreams of Spain, the sensual awakening of spring and even an English folk song- they all found their way into the glowing impressionist landscape of Images. CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner creates Debussy’s world anew, and shows how, over in Hungary, Béla Bartók was just as much in love with ravishing orchestral colours. Rising Argentinean star Ingrid Fliter takes the spotlight in Beethoven’s darkest piano concerto. www.cbso.co.uk

A First for Brahms

Saturday 4 February 2012 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrés Orozco-Estrada  conductor
Akiko Suwanai  violin

Kodály: Dances of Galánta 15′ Listen on Spotify 
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto 34′ Listen on Spotify 
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 45′ 

They called it “Beethoven’s Tenth”, but when you hear the glorious melody that crowns Brahms’s First Symphony, you’ll know that it could only be by one man. That’ll be the stirring finish to this Birmingham debut from the acclaimed young Colombian maestro Andrés Orozco- Estrada, who’s made a major splash in Vienna. First, though, enjoy the gorgeous tunes and show-stopping fireworks of Tchaikovsky’s much-loved Violin Concerto. The superb Japanese virtuoso Akiko Suwanai makes an eagerly-awaited return to Birmingham.

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 Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post (for matinee concert which had Beethoven’s Egmont Overture instead of Kodály)

Click here for full review

…    “Originally deemed impossible to play, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto held no problems for this violinist, the youngest-ever winner of the international Tchaikovsky Competition.

Intonation was not always perfect, but then this was a performance not a test; a joy to hear with splendid orchestral support: wonderful double-stoppings, sparks flying in passionate interchanges, heart-stopping pianissimos with woodwind and horns. A riveting performance.”     …

Scott of the Antarctic Centenary Concert

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Conquering the Antarctic

Friday 3 February 2012, 7:30pm

Symphony Hall

Vaughan Williams Excerpts from Scott of the Antarctic 30’
(narrator: Hugh Bonneville)
Cecilia McDowall Seventy Degrees Below Zero 25’
(world premiere)
Vaughan Williams Sinfonia Antartica 41’
(with photos from the 1910 Antarctic Expedition)

In association with the Scott Polar Research Institute.
Scott of the Antarctic Centenary Concert is supported by Arts Council England, Colwinston Charitable Trust, The RVW Trust, The Richard Hickox Fund for New Music, The Summerfield Charitable Trust and Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.

City of London Sinfonia
Ladies of the Holst Singers

Stephen Layton conductor

Hugh Bonneville narrator

Katherine Watson soprano

Robert Murray tenor

This landmark concert retraces the steps of Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in music, images and words. Excerpts from Vaughan Williams’s film score for Scott of the Antarctic (1947) are interwoven with moving readings from Scott’s diary, read by Hugh Bonneville, and the world premiere of a piece setting words from Scott’s poignant final letter, ‘To my widow’. A stunning selection of Herbert Ponting’s original expedition photos will be projected during the Sinfonia Antartica.

Click Here to view City of London Sinfonia’s blog post Conquering the Antarctic – In Pictures

Click Here to view City of London Sinfonia’s blog post Who was Captain Scott?

Click Here to hear an interview with UK composer Cecilia McDowall and poet Sean Street

Review by John Watson, Express and Star:

Click here for full review

…     “The performance on Friday by the City Of London Sinfonia, conducted by the excellent Stephen Layton, was dominated by the masterly compositions of Ralph Vaughan Williams. It also featured the premiere of a work by Cecilia McDowall, honouring the bravery of the ill-fated Captain Scott and his expedition team.”     …

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard (for same programme but in Cheltenham – though we had organ in Birmingham!):

Click here for full review

…     “The title of Seventy Degrees Below Zero is a phrase used in Scott’s letter – he and his companions were having to contend with such temperatures. Miss McDowall, who was present, has produced an eloquent and affecting work, which I should like to hear again. Her music received splendid advocacy from Robert Murray who was strongly supported by Layton and his orchestra.

After the interval came Sinfonia Antarctica and here the devisers of the programme achieved something of a coup. As RVW’s music was being played a series of black and white photographs were projected onto a screen behind the orchestra. These photographs were taken during Scott’s 1910-12 expedition by Herbert Ponting, the expedition’s official photographer. The images were remarkable in their clarity despite their age and to say that they were evocative would be a massive understatement. Whether the pictures were of landscapes, wildlife or the members of the expedition they brought the Antarctic wastes and the brave men who pitted themselves against that environment vividly to life. The images changed every twenty seconds or so and I would guess we saw at least 150 as the symphony unfolded. In no way did the pictures distract attention from the music; rather the music and pictures complemented and enhanced each other.”     …

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It could not be possible without Vaughan Williams’ ‘Sinfonia Antartica’; and the City of London Sinfonia’s atmospheric performance, magnificently structured by Stephen Layton and extremely well played (though a larger string section was needed for total impact).

 The female chorus (Holst Singers) and super soprano soloist, Katherine Watson, certainly provided a bonus, as did the visual counterpoint of photographs taken during the expedition, although the selection and pacing of these often bore little relevance to the music’s specificity.”     …

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian (for same programme but in Cardiff):

Click here for full review

…     “Scott’s diaries and letters, found on his body and incredibly affecting, were read aloud by Hugh Bonneville during the first half of the evening. Extracts from Vaughan Williams’s score for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic set the scene. Bonneville’s delivery was shipshape and, while amplification detracted from the intimacy, the realisation that Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian team had beaten them to the Pole drained us all.”     …

Blog post by “Telescoper” (for same programme but in Cardiff)

Click here for full post