Andris Nelsons and Jonas Kaufmann

Wednesday 7 March 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Jonas Kaufmann tenor

Britten: Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia (Peter Grimes) 23′ Listen on Spotify
Mahler: Kindertotenlieder 23′
Strauss: Songs (Heimliche Aufforderung, Ruhe, meine Seele, Ich trage meine Minne, Morgen, Caecilie) 17′
Debussy: La mer 23′

Jonas Kaufmann’s encore – Strauss: Zueignung

Once in a generation comes a tenor who goes beyond a glorious voice and superstar charisma, and takes everything he performs to another level. When Jonas Kaufmann sang with Andris Nelsons at the 2010 Bayreuth Festival, one critic described his performance as“sublime”. So we’re thrilled to welcome Kaufmann to Birmingham, to perform the music that he sings better than anyone alive: the songs of Mahler and Strauss. It’s sure to be one of the high points of the season.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and CBSO violinist David Gregory discussing Debussy’s La mer.

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 Igor Toronyi-Lalic, Arts Desk:

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“There was a lovely narrative to tonight’s CBSO concert. The muggy oppressiveness of Britten’s Four Sea Pictures (and Passacaglia) appeared somehow explained by Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, then dissolved by the love letters that were the Strauss songs and then finally set free – psychologically and orchestrally – in Debussy’s La Mer. Parallel to this, the great German tenor Jonas Kaufmann was being washed out to sea; his Mahler and Strauss songs were being lapped at from both directions by Debussy and Britten’s portraits of the salty waters. ”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Framed by orchestral seascapes – Nelsons began with the Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Britten’s Peter Grimes and ended with a slightly overmoulded account of Debussy’s La Mer – Kaufmann sang Richard Strauss and Mahler. If the group of Strauss’s orchestral songs was straightforward enough – the four from his Op 27, together with Ich Trage meine Minne from Op 32, sung with almost casual ease, unfailingly lustrous tone and effortless beauty of line – the Mahler was much less predictable.”     …

Blog review by Intermezzo:

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…       “As Andris Nelsons plumped the CBSO into a plush cushion of sound behind him, the hall came alive. Kaufmann is a singer at the very top of his game right now, matching outstanding technical gifts with unbound passion for the music. How could anyone sing these songs better? The audience, predictably, erupted at the end – though some couldn’t wait that long and burst into spontaneous applause after a breathtaking Morgen. ”     …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

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…     “While in Morgen! the vision of the sea-shore is couched in terms of idyllic bliss, the works which framed the Mahler and Strauss offered portrayals of the deep full of metaphor and altogether more challenging. This was not the first time that Nelsons has programmed Britten’s Sea Interludes with Debussy’s La mer. The ‘Passacaglia’ was inserted between ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Storm’, which worked remarkably well and not simply because of creating a five-movement sequence to balance the five Rückert settings in the Mahler. The dark and quietly threatening opening to the ‘Passacaglia’, presaging the fatal cliff-fall of the boy John, Grimes’s apprentice, connected it to Kindertotenlieder. Similarly, the clarity with which Nelsons handled the instrumentation – flutes, celesta and the return of Christopher Yates’s haunting viola – at the end set up parallels which would then emerge tellingly in the Mahler. In La mer, the way Nelsons painted the ever-changing seascape had infinite sensitivity as well as stirring drama. The CBSO musicians responded with passionate dedication.”

Blog review by Andrew, Devil’sTrill:

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…     “Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (plus the Passacaglia, cleverly inserted before the final interlude) were perhaps a little tentative at times, but Debussy’s La Mer at the other end of the concert was the real standout. Conductor Andris Nelsons imparts a flexibility on the music only attainable by a conductor with the total attention of their orchestra: Nelsons certainly has that. ”     …

Review by Fiona Maddocks, The Observer:

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…     “This particular song, “Ruhe, meine Seele!” (Rest my soul!), opens on a discord and swells into a tempestuous dark night of the soul before finding uneasy calm. The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who attracted a capacity audience from far and wide for his Birmingham debut with the CBSO and conductor Andris Nelsons, poured his energies into this tiny psychodrama and delivered liquid gold – the only way, if hyperbolic, to describe the glistening, superlatively controlled, dark-hued tone which has made him an international superstar.”     …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb -SeenandHeard:

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…     “On this occasion the balanced programme gave equal prominence to both orchestra and soloist and it was the CBSO that opened proceedings with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes & Passacaglia from Peter Grimes. Nelsons conducting Britten was a new experience for me (it will be interesting to see what he makes of the impending performance of the War Requiem at Coventry as part of the Cathedral’s Golden Jubilee celebrations on May 30th). Britten was an outstanding creator of musical images and Nelsons and the CBSO painted many vivid pictures of a bleak East Anglian coast in my mind. In addition to an impression of the first light of day rippling over the North Sea waves, my overriding sensation of Dawn was of the Borough community – fishermen, cold and wet, at the start of yet another day’s hard graft. Sunday Morning contrasted those who were dutifully off to save their souls and others for whom there could be no day of rest. The shafts of light darting through the clouds were graphically portrayed in Moonlight, a heaviness and building of tension that reflected the mood of protagonist Grimes. The Passacaglia further concentrated my focus on this troubled character as the solo viola of Christopher Yates gave sensitive voice to the apprentice. The violent and unexpected turns of Britten’s Storm were galvanised by Nelsons using the full forces of the CBSO; I recalled Grimes’ line What harbour shelters peace?”     …


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…        “Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, a rarity for tenors, drew disembodied, baritonal timbres from Kaufman [sic], only rarely flowering into tenorial fulsomeness at phrases of the deepest exaltation in these ‘Songs on the Death of Children’; the remarkable acoustic permits such withdrawn tones even when accompanied by a large orchestra (though scoring often has the sparsity of chamber music).

Under Andris Nelsons, with whom Kaufman made his Bayreuth debut in Lohengrin in 2010, the CBSO played with a brittle refinement, burgeoning into consolation where necessary.”       … ***** 

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