Nelsons Conducts Beethoven’s 9th

Thursday 23 August 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
CBSO Chorus
Lucy Crowe soprano
Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano
Toby Spence tenor
Georg Zeppenfeld bass

Brahms: Nänie 15′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) 67′ Listen on Spotify

From tragic opening to climactic, world-embracing “Ode to Joy”, Beethoven’s Ninth has never been just another symphony – it’s an emotional experience with the power to change lives. Every performance is a special occasion, but Andris Nelsons’ first Birmingham performance of the Ninth promises to be in a class of its own, and a landmark in his artistic partnership with the CBSO. This isn’t only an extraordinary upbeat to our new season, it should be one of Birmingham’s musical events of the year. Be sure to book early.

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Also known as the Choral Symphony, the Ninth is powerfully life affirming, with its music echoing and enriching the message of Schiller’s Ode to Joy which is the climax of the work.

And there was no doubt this was a joyous performance. CBSO music director Andris Nelsons, conducting the Ninth in Birmingham for the first time, seemed to love every minute, egging the orchestra on to rise to the challenge of the piece.”     …

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “When the long arching string melody was interrupted by fierce timpani and brass the shock was palpable, as if we were being peremptorily summoned back from delightful dream to mundane reality.

This performance was filled with many such memorable moments, in the opening movement of immense power and a scherzo both sinister and bucolic.

 The finale surged and thundered, helped by four excellent soloists – Lucy Crowe (soprano), Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano), Toby Spence (tenor) and Georg Zeppenfeld (bass) – and the hundred-strong CBSO Chorus. Hearing this chorus in full cry is a tonic for the soul – they really did deliver a “kiss for the whole world” as Schiller’s text requests.”     …     ***** 
Blog post by Alex Jones:
Click here for full post
…     ” Nelsons is a brilliant conductor, I couldn’t take my eyes off him; he conducted the orchestra with his whole body: his face was bright with emotion, expressions changing with each bar, sometimes stern, sometimes pleading, sometimes joyous, often he would clench his baton in his fist and literally jump up and down like a mad general, the next moment he would be leaning over his score reaching into the string section as if he was pulling the music out of the instruments himself; energetic and personal summed him up – he was living the score, feeling the nuances, experiencing them and translating them into sublime sounds – amazing.”     …

The CBSO at the BBC Proms

Tuesday 21 August 2012 at 7.30pm

Royal Albert Hall, London +44 (0)20 7589 8212

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′
Howard: Calculus of the Nervous System (UK premiere) 15′
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C major ‘Leningrad’ 75′

This concert’s curtain-raiser is a scintillating overture which kick-started a new era in Russian music. In Calculus of the Nervous System, which has already taken Vienna by storm, Emily Howard draws upon her interest in the inner world of Ada Lovelace, pioneering mathematician daughter of Lord Byron, considered a prophet of the computer age.

Shostakovich completed his titanic Seventh Symphony as German armies advanced deep into the motherland. More recently it has also been seen as one of his exercises in tactful subversion, depicting a Leningrad whose intellectual life Stalin had already shattered.

Review by Tim Ashley, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The power of Nelsons’ interpretation lay in his understanding of the score’s emotive nature and intent. This is music that demands we be thrown off balance and drawn into total identification with its world, and Nelsons, conducting with unswerving passion, achieved precisely that. Passion alone, however, can lead to flaws of pace in this work, and beneath Nelsons’ energy lurked secure control of its structure and trajectory. The emotional high point, tellingly, came not during the convulsions of the first movement, but in the third, in which echoes of Russian orthodox church music suggest a ritualised outpouring of communal grief. An exhausting, elating experience, and absolutely unforgettable.”     …

Review by Michael Church, Independent:

Click here for full review

…     “If Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra made a good fist of this, they excelled themselves with Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” symphony, which came over in as majestic a blaze as I have ever heard. Wonderful wind soloists, superb strings, percussion letting loose the dogs of war: a magisterial performance which richly deserved its ovation.” 

Review by Kimon Daltas, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “One barely earned interval later, the main event – and right from the off, the symphony makes demands of the winds especially, both exposed and in ensemble. Ferocious fortissimos notwithstanding, it deals mostly in sparse textures and gradual build-ups, so there is nowhere to hide when your turn comes. The CBSO was more than equal to the task, and a number of exceptional soloists rose from the ranks to deliver Shostakovich’s sometimes winding, sometimes impish and angular melodies. Whether piccolo, bassoon or cor anglais, and from a screeching E flat clarinet to its rasping bass cousin, a vast orchestral and expressive palette emerged with tremendous surety. Not to leave the strings out – the leader’s aerial solo in the first movement set the tone, and the extended strings-only sections later in the work showed what a rich core this orchestra has.

There is plenty of down time in this symphony – moments where you’re waiting for the next thing to happen but a direction has yet to emerge. Andris Nelsons kept the intensity throughout, and richly deserved the audience’s cheers.”

Blog by Robert Hugill:

Click here for full post

…     “Both the middle movements are intended to be unsettling, with relatively conventional first sections followed by rather demonic passages. Here the CBSO were in full character, with Nelsons whipping them up into a fine frenzy. There was a superbly evil solo from the E flat clarinet and a well realised passage where Shostakovich gives the solo line to the bass clarinet, accompanying it by flutes and harp. Here, and in many other places, Nelsons showed himself very acute when it came to Shostakovich’s distinctive aural palate.”     …

Blog review by Edward Seckerson:

Click here for full review

…     “Nelsons’ subtle way with the inner movements brought ghostly and ethereal beauty, the wide compass between the E-flat and bass clarinets accentuating the spectral extremes of the second movements gentle and only briefly disturbed dance of death and one truly heartstopping moment in the third movement where strings recall the Stravinskian chorale of its opening.

Those pianissimi are of such import in this music and the long slow climb to the coda of the last movement lifted us from the intensely private to the unashamedly public. The affirmation, for all its filmic rhetoric, was – as it always is – mighty.”

Blog by Starcourse:

Click here for full blog

“Terrific performance of the Leningrad Symphony last night at the Proms, with Andris Nelsons conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Nelsons has an ebullient and distinctive conducting style which was well suited to this work, and to the Glinka Ruslan and Lyudmila overture which began the concert. The CBSO was playing its socks off in the Shostakovich, as well it might given that it is such a monumental masterwork.”     …

Blog by HikerBiker:

Click here for full blog

…     “Andris Nelsons and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra brought this all out of the music, they survived with panache the dramatically exposed solo passages and the no less demanding unison sections. The split brass (soloists high up above the violins audience left) punched clear, clean and hard whilst the orchestral brass partnered finely with the rest of the platform.

A standing ovation with foot stamping was the audience’s reaction, Andris Nelsons acknowledging the many orchestral soloists in turn.”     …

Review by Chris Caspell, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…      “Nelsons set a jaunty pace from the start; more allegro than Allegretto. Full-blooded, take-no-prisoners playing by the unison strings at the start signalled good things to come; this was a well thought out performance. However, issues of balance were a problem. The side drum was far too loud at the start of the ‘invasion’ theme (it is marked ppp) and in loud passages it was impossible to hear anything but the brass – even the xylophone was lost! The two middle movements gave Nelsons an opportunity to wring the pathos out of intimate passages. Of particular note the oboe and cor anglais solo were beautifully phrased.”     …

Review by Matthew Lynch, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO’s performance under Nelsons was simply electric. From the outset the strident opening benefitted from the orchestra’s impressive string sound, while the second subject was still and sensitively played. The woodwind solos were all beautifully controlled, but not lacking any of the necessary spring and excitement. Special mention must go to the E-flat clarinet player, Joanna Paton, and piccolo player, Andrew Lane, whose playing was especially gripping.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this performance was the dynamics. The pianos were breathtakingly quiet, while every crescendo gave the impression it could continue indefinitely. The central section of the first movement is a long marching “invasion” and crescendos inexorably towards the movement’s climax. The CBSO filled the hall, making the floor rumble with sound, while maintaining perfect balance. So often these moments can become one big roar of brass, but that wasn’t the case here. Nelsons managed to direct a performance that not only had wonderful moments, but felt like an organic whole over the work’s full 75 minutes, an impressive achievement for any conductor. Anyone who ever had doubts about the CBSO’s future should see this concert as proof that they continue to impress greatly.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But the ruminations of subsequent movements meander mercilessly, though the delicacy of the CBSO woodwind, flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic absolutely outstanding in her constant exposure, did make eloquent points.

Never mind; this was a performance built on utmost patience and control, and amazing, cherished trust between orchestra and conductor. And the Prom audience, including many charabanc’d members of the CBSO supporters’ club and bigwigs from Symphony Hall, responded with a huge ovation.”     … 


Andris Nelsons extends contract with CBSO

@TheCBSO : “We are delighted that #Andris Nelsons is extending his contract with @TheCBSO, moving to an annual rolling renewal from 2014/15 onwards.”

@TheCBSO : “Lovely piece about #Andris on @BBCMTD tonight (click here for video) thanks to @Ben_Sidwell

CBSO: We are delighted to announce that music director Andris Nelsons, one of the world’s most sought after conductors, has signed an extension to his contract with the CBSO into 2015 and beyond.” More details here

Norman Lebrecht interviews Andris Nelsons – podcast available to download here

Gramophone article – click here

Norman Lebrecht blogs – click  here

Classic FM – click here article – click here

Birmingham Post article – click here

Summer Prom: National Youth Orchestra

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12… more events…

Wednesday 1 August

Symphony Hall

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Vasily Petrenko conductor
Joanna MacGregor piano
Cynthia Millar ondes Martenot

Programme includes

Varèse Tuning Up 5’
Nico Muhly Gait (BBC commission) 20’
Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie 75’

encore -Anna Meredith – Hands Free

– (video here)

Described by The Times as ‘the most uplifting orchestra in the world’, the vast National Youth Orchestra comprises 165 of the country’s most talented teenage stars. Hear them here first with their equally exuberant Principal Conductor Vasily Petrenko, pianist Joanna MacGregor and ondes Martenot expert Cynthia Millar. Together they awaken the wonders of Messiaen’s uplifting testament to time and love, the breathtaking musical kaleidoscope that is Turangalîla-Symphonie.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert: “Vasily Petrenko is one of the UK’s fastest-rising conducting stars. He’s already worked wonders with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and he’s expected to do the same for the fabulous National Youth Orchestra. Bringing together musicians from every corner of the country, tonight’s concert has a true Olympic feel.”

Before the performance, see the NYO’s Creative Hub perform compositions by talented teenage composers at 6pm.

Full report on the youngest ever leader of the National Youth Orchestra – here


Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The other great exuberant showpiece in this work is the last movement, ‘Final’. After some seventy minutes of demanding performance the NYO still had reserves of energy, enthusiasm and, one suspects, pure adrenalin, to deliver a performance of this movement that was full of vitality and sheer joie de vivre. Petrenko, conducting with the clarity and energy that had galvanised his players throughout the evening, inspired them to bring the symphony to a triumphant conclusion. The ovation from the audience was richly deserved.

The NYO brings this programme to the BBC Proms on Saturday next, 4 August (19:30). The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be well worth hearing.”

Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

Click here for full review

…     “This was a whirlwind performance, tubas, trombone and trumpets blasting out thrillingly, cymbals crashing with a celestial grandeur the composer would have loved. At the end, the swooning, elastic, electronic cries of the ondes martenot rode these torrents of sound like a storm-tossed Neptune surfing the waves. As an encore the NYO performed part of Anna Meredith’s HandsFree, in which instruments are abandoned and the body – clapping, stomping, hissing, clicking – becomes music, ending with nearly 200 teenagers thrusting their arms in the air in perfect unison.”    …


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “This ten-movement kaleidoscope puts huge demands of concentration and stamina as well as technique upon the players, and these musicians rose to the challenge magnificently under the irresistible personality of conductor Vasily Petrenko’s direction. Stentorian brass, sensuous woodwind, strings both sumptuous and flickering, percussion clicking, shimmering, affirmative, all worked triumphantly in the cause of this amazing, life-enhancingly erotic piece (will someone please unearth a recording of its 1948 premiere under Leonard Bernstein?).

The two ever-present soloists, Joanna MacGregor’s pianism florid and discreet by turns, Cynthia Millar bringing a lifetime of experience in this piece with the gallimaufry of kit which makes up the Star Trek-sounding Ondes Martenot, knew how to balance their contributions to the work of the orchestra, and acknowledged their young colleagues genuinely at the end.”     …


Review by Nick Breckenfield, ClassicalSource, (for performance at Royal Albert Hall – Prom 29)

Click here for full review