The Labèque Sisters Play Poulenc

Wednesday 30 January 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Nicholas McGegan conductor
Katia & Marielle Labèque pianos

Poulenc: Suite Française 12′
Mozart: Concerto in E flat for Two Pianos, K.365 26′
Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos 19′
Mozart: Symphony No. 39 25′

Katia and Marielle Labèque: the ultimate sister act! They’re a byword for gallic charm, musical wit, and that irresistible, sparkling je ne sais quoi. And tonight’s concert lets them loose on some of the most delightful music ever written for two pianos and orchestra: Mozart’s youthful romp, and Poulenc’s champagne-cocktail of a double concerto. Conductor Nicholas McGegan accompanies with a glint in his eye. Fifty years after the composer’s death, he treats us to another mouthwatering Poulenc rarity, plus a Mozart symphony that positively glows with warmth.   www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “There could be no more adept performers of these wonderful works than Katia  and Marielle Labeque, siblings (as were Mozart and his sister Nannerl, who  premiered the Salzburg piece), and Parisiennes, capturing all of the Poulenc’s  street-cred (Mozart with Gallic dust on his shoes).

Nicholas McGegan was the conductor, bubbling with geniality and enjoying  every minute of his collaboration with the sparky sisters.”

Nelsons Conducts Tchaikovsky

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Thursday 24 January 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons conductor
Simon Trpceski piano

Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel 16′ Listen on Spotify
Chopin: Piano Concerto No.1 39′ Listen on Spotify
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 (Polish) 44′

Simon Trpčeski’s encore – Chopin – Waltz

Save 25% in our January Sale. Book tickets for this concert between 19 – 27 January inclusive, and save 25% off full-price tickets. Terms & Conditions apply – click here for full details of the concerts included in the sale and the T&Cs.

Are you sitting comfortably? Because three composers want to tell you a story. Tchaikovsky surrenders to a Polish dance-rhythm, and ends up writing the happiest of all his symphonies. The teenage Chopin writes a delirious love-letter in the form of a piano concerto. And a raspberry-blowing Richard Strauss simply refuses to be serious in this portrait of a famous prankster. The sensational Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski joins Andris Nelsons and the CBSO for a night of love, laughter, and melody without limits. www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This was in Chopin’s First Piano Concerto, and coming new to this shamefully under-rated work, Trcepski [sic] found a chamber music-style relationship with the orchestra, confident in Nelsons’ empathetic acuity. It was wonderful to see how the conductor’s beat scooped up the well-attuned rubato of the pianist’s arabesques.

There was an almost improvisatory fluency in Trcepski’s [sic] playing, natural and unforced, and the effect was of communing not just with himself but also with the sharing audience. And the sight of his body-language responding to the dance-like finale, arms swaying on hips when he was not playing, was infectious and heartwarming.

Particularly outstanding in the orchestral contribution were the bassoon solos of Gretha Tuls, and the beefy basses in the finale.”     …

A Boy Was Born: A Spring Symphony

Thursday 17 January 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Susan Gritton soprano
Kelley O’Connor alto
Allan Clayton tenor
CBSO Chorus
CBSO Youth Chorus
CBSO Children’s Chorus

Bridge: The Sea 19′ Listen on Spotify
Elgar: Sea Pictures 23′
Britten: A Spring Symphony 45′

It’s deepest winter in Birmingham, but at Symphony Hall, it’s spring! Benjamin Britten took a garland of poems, a children’s choir and a fistful of folksongs, and threw together his magical Spring Symphony: 45 irresistibly fresh minutes of blossoming tunes and rising sap. Principal guest conductor Edward Gardner has lined up an all-star team, and paired it with two bracing British seascapes to enter Britten’s 100th birthday year on the crest of a wave.

Explore Birmingham’s celebrations of Britten’s centenary here.

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Review by Andrew H. King, BachTrack:

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…     “Opening the concert, this suite provided an excellent opportunity to show off both the Symphony Hall acoustic and the CBSO. Elegant woodwind solos, particularly the extended flute solos of “Moonlight”, echoed as clear as crystal around the hall whilst the brilliant brass climaxes of “Storm” sought to deafen each audience member against the often boisterous gush of the strings. Of particular interest was the clarity of both the harp writing and performance; harps may easily get lost in the texture of large orchestral works if not suitably placed – but tonight every gliss and delicately fingered passage rang out with delicious accuracy. The performance and the music itself were a rare treat – one that I should like to see repeated.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Orchestral response was pungent, flexible and versatile under Gardner’s assured direction, and at last we reluctantly approached the conclusion, a Mastersingers-like melee, cow-horn included, introducing the glorious “Soomer is icoomen in”.

There were smiles on so many faces as we ventured out into the night to see what winter had to throw at us.”

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Review by Hilary Finch, Times = £££

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Winter Words from Ian Bostridge

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Part of A Boy Was Born… more events…

Wednesday 16 January

Town Hall

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Ian Bostridge tenor
Julius Drake piano

Schubert Twelve songs from Winterreise (A Winter’s Journey) 35’
Ives Memories; Thoreau; 1, 2, 3; Remembrance (A sound of a distant horn); Feldeinsamkeit 12’
Britten Winter Words 22’

Encore – Britten – Waly Waly

Benjamin Britten wrote Winter Words for the tenor Peter Pears, and the duo were legendary interpreters of Winterreise, Schubert’s dark journey of the soul in a bleak winter landscape. Ian Bostridge – one of today’s greatest interpreters of the music of both composers – continues that tradition and performs twelve songs from Winterreise next to Britten’s matchless settings of Thomas Hardy.   www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “As Bostridge insisted at the beginning of the recital, the 12 Schubert songs that he and Drake were performing from Die Winterreise were not an extract from the complete song cycle, but its original version: Schubert set the first 12 Müller poems and performed them to his friends before discovering the texts of the other 12 to create the cycle we know today. If this ur-Winterreise lacks the emotional punch provided in the later version’s second half, it still makes a wonderfully rounded and satisfying whole, which Bostridge pointed up with his usual subtlety, intelligence and discriminating vocal colour.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Ian Bostridge began his programme with Schubert’s first thoughts on Winterreise and ended with Britten’s Winter Words, (this was part of THSH’s A Boy was Born Britten Fest) and chilled and harrowed us in the process.

The tenor combines a creamy, otherworldly timbre with hypnotic, compelling body-language, prowling around the piano, gripping its rim as he leans and sways – all of this entirely natural and instinctive, no suspicion of contrivance – all of this conveying the sense of an artist totally possessed by his subject.”     …

The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 4 & 5

Wednesday 9 January 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orhestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Carolyn Sampson soprano

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 32′ Listen on Spotify
Beethoven: Ah, Perfido! Scene and Aria 15′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 36′ Listen on Spotify

Everyone knows the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; if that’s all you know, you’re in for a thrilling surprise, as Andris Nelsons’ Beethoven odyssey arrives at the most famous symphony of all time. Prepare to be electrified – and to be delighted by the Fifth’s prettier, funnier sister, the exuberant Fourth Symphony. Plus a chance to hear Britain’s brightest young soprano in Ah, Perfido!: a whole opera crammed into just 15 show-stopping minutes!

To see the full Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, go to www.birminghambeethoven.co.uk.

Sponsored by BarclaysThe Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

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*****  “A fresh look at Beethoven’s Symphonies – Andris Nelsons and the CBSO” – Youtube video here   *****

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Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

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…     “That quality was equally evident in the other, far less famous symphony by Beethoven on the programme, his Fourth. Often conductors amplify the mysteriousness of the slow introduction by giving it a veiled, brooding colour. Nelsons did it through clever pacing, so that each surprising turn in the harmony registered with the force of a small explosion.

The orchestra responded magnificently to Nelsons’ gestures. Chris Richards was especially eloquent, his solo clarinet lines floating regretfully over the orchestra’s tip-toeing pizzicati in the slow movement. The most affecting moment of the evening came between the symphonies, in Beethoven’s great evocation of female fury, Ah, Perfido! Soprano Carolyn Sampson may not have conjured as splendidly defiant a tone as some sopranos. But she made the change of heart to quiet, broken-hearted pleading seem absolutely real, which is what really counts.”

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Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

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…     “The third movement opened at a steady tempo with gravelly basses, before the horns’ striking entry (Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s likening of this to the horns crying “Fools!” came to mind). The tense quiet in the lead-in to the finale was held until very late, which made the sudden eruption of the finale all the more triumphant. Nelsons conducted the brassy chords with punches aimed at the top of the hall’s organ, all the while maintaining unfailingly perfect coordination in attack. From there to the end the music surged unstoppably, pouring out joy to the end. The applause began before the last chord had even finished, and richly deserved it was too.

The two symphonies were separated by Beethoven’s scene and aria Ah! perfido, a work of his twenties which shows rather different, more Mozartian vocal writing to his later works. The strings found a lighter sound, well matched by soprano Carolyn Sampson, who sang with beautiful tone. Her heavy vibrato may not have been to all tastes, but she showed excellent control. One had to wonder, though, whether this was more than a palate-freshener, albeit a very pleasant one.

All in all, this was a superb instalment in what is turning out to be an excellent cycle. Nelsons spoke movingly before the concert about how inspiration can be taken from Beethoven’s journeys from dark to light, and tonight was utterly convincing in this respect.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Expressive body-language is one of Sampson’s great strengths, allied to vocal delivery now dramatic, now melting, always with delicacy and well-placed golden tones. Nelsons and the CBSO’s collaboration was well-attuned.

Where the Fourth Symphony is modest and diffident, the Fifth is brash, in-your-face, and takes no prisoners. Its famous beginning here was as taut as a whiplash, muscular and business-meaning, and Nelsons’ interpretation reminded us that those four portentous notes never quite go away.”     …    *****