A Boy Was Born : Osborne Plays Britten’s Piano Concerto

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  • CBSO 2020

Wednesday 6 February 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov conductor
Steven Osborne piano

Sibelius: The Bard 6′ Listen on Spotify
Britten: Piano Concerto 34′
Oswald: B9 part 1 (World premiere of the orchestral version) 15′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 6 27′

Steven Osborne’s encore – Ravel – extract Mother Goose suite

“Other composers mix cocktails,” said Jean Sibelius, “but I serve pure, cool water.” And he never served anything purer or more beautiful than his radiant Sixth Symphony, or more mysterious than The Bard. A question, and a deeply moving answer: guest conductor Ilan Volkov gives us both, and joins pianist Steven Osborne in Britten’s sparky pre-war Piano Concerto. And John Oswald remixes Beethoven’s first five symphonies in fifteen minutes, flat. New music simply isn’t meant to be this much fun!

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

pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Conservatoire Showcase!
Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem
Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs Britten’s powerful orchestral showpiece.



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The concert ended with another of Sibelius’s most beautiful and enigmatic works, the Sixth Symphony, in which Volkov seized on the few moments when its poise and tranquillity are ruffled to extract what drama he could. Yet the perfectly seamless unfolding was never threatened, and the CBSO played with a fabulous attention to every detail and harmonic nuance. They were equally impressive in Britten’s concerto, sometimes the adversary to soloist Steven Osborne, sometimes his partner in crime. Osborne has absolutely nailed the work’s mixture of heartless exhibitionism and brittle ebullience, and he played it with glittering panache and awesome brilliance.”



Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “The concerto demonstrates the clear influences of Ravel on the British composer in its gleaming orchestration. Elsewhere, we feel the influence of Prokofiev in elements such as the sardonic waltz second movement and its somewhat cheeky ending. Osborne’s virtuosity was matched by a more serious and reflective mood in the slow third movement, which segued into the grimly comical march of the finale. In the closing pages Osborne’s hands became a blur in a jaw-dropping display of rapid-fire double octaves. Osborne gave a nod of acknowledgement to Ravel in his sweet encore from the Mother Goose suite.

The concert closed with an astonishing performance of Sibelius’ Symphony no. 6, lesser known by audiences than some of his more popular symphonies. This orchestra has an impeccable Sibelius pedigree, having undertaken complete cycles of the symphonies with both Sir Simon Rattle and Sakari Oramo.”     …




Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “And for those who attended the pre-concert performance by the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra the best came first.

Under the empowering direction of Michael Seal, this remarkably accomplished orchestra gave an account of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem that went far beyond being just a free taster. From the broodingly anguished first movement (so like Shostakovich) and blisteringly exciting, demonic Dies irae scherzo, to a finale in which all tensions were released in its consolatory fulfilment, this was a fully formed and terrifically well executed reading.

So was Britten’s Piano Concerto, which provided the centrepiece of the main CBSO concert with conductor Ilan Volkov. This is Britten at his most high-spirited and extrovert (echoes of Prokofiev and Malcolm Arnold abound), who takes no prisoners and forces the soloist – here the wonderfully muscular, no holds-barred Steven Osborne – to jump over many finger shredding hurdles.”




Review by Hilary Finch, Times:  ££

Click here for full review

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Tue 5 – Sat 9 Feb

New Adventures’ 25th birthday culminates with the world premiere of Matthew Bourne’s latest re-imagining of a ballet classic.
Sleeping Beauty sees Bourne return to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete the trio of ballet masterworks that started with Nutcracker! and the international smash hit, Swan Lake.Our story begins in 1890 at the christening of Princess Aurora, a time when fairies and vampires fed the gothic imagination, before moving forward in time to the modern day.Featuring designs by Olivier Award winners Lez Brotherston (Set and Costumes), Paule Constable (Lighting) with Sound Design by Paul Groothuis, which will take the audience into the heart of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score in specially recorded surround sound.Matthew Bourne’s haunting new production is a Gothic Romance for all ages; a supernatural love story that even the passage of time cannot hinder.

Sound Design by Paul Groothuis Lighting Design by Paule Constable Set and Costume Design by Lez Brotherston Directed and Choreographed by Matthew Bourne

WATCH… …Channel 4’s report on the brand new production HERE. …The BBC’s report HERE. …Matthew Bourne talk to the BBC about his wide appeal HERE.READ… **** Review from The Guardian HERE. …The Sunday Times’ interview with Matthew Bourne HERE.
****’ ‘WONDERFUL. Bourne’s clever gothic re-write has discovered something beguiling and true’ The Guardian‘A production with a beating heart and a twinkle in its eye’ Daily Telegraph‘A tightly choreographed delight’ Metro‘The great showman of British dance, with an instinctive understanding of what audiences want’ Daily Telegraph

‘Demolishing conventions, bestriding art forms from ballet to musical comedy to film, Bourne’s work isn’t just high-brow or low-brow. It’s all-brow’ Time Magazine






Review by Roger Clarke, BehindTheArras:

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…     “A novel feature was the use of two travelators, those moving pavements that do the walking for you at airports, moving in opposite directions at the rear of the stage, producing fascinating movement all helping to emphasise we are in a land of make believe and fairy stories.

As always long time collaborator Les Brotherston’s sets are just dazzling whether the opulent black and gold velvet draped palace, with columns holding up a ceiling detail stretching  right across the flies, to the elegant garden party with its stately home on the hill.

There is a wonderful star lit forest that has grown up in the palace grounds during the century of sleep or the neon, scene of a dreamlike sleepwalking scene, one of Bourne’s favourites, and, down-market, the tacky headquarters of the bad fairy lot – all beautifully lit by Paule Constable.”     …