The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 8 and 9

Thursday 27 June 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Lucy Crowe  soprano

Mihoko Fujimura  mezzo-soprano

Ben Johnson  tenor

Iain Paterson  bass

CBSO Chorus

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 27′ Listen on Spotify
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) 67′ Listen on Spotify

It’s been an incredible journey, and tonight Andris Nelsons, the CBSO and our world-class Chorus arrive at Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the summit of any Beethoven cycle – and some say, the whole of classical music. But there’s a world of experience to live through before we get to that final, transcendent Ode To Joy, and Beethoven’s explosive little Eighth Symphony launches a concert that’s sure to be one of the most talked-about events in Birmingham this year.

A fresh look at Beethoven’s Symphonies – Andris Nelsons & the CBSO Part of The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, click here to see the full Cycle guide.

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.

Listen online – available for a week




Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A fluid generosity of beat, unperturbing eye-contact between conductor and players, and sometimes no baton-wielding at all, generated a lithe, open-hearted account of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, apparently the composer’s “little favourite”; though this could never be described as a runt, despite the huge presence of the Eroica symphony and the Ninth.

And the latter,  the first and greatest of all choral symphonies, was delivered with amazing momentum (perhaps we missed a little awe in the cosmic opening movement ) and a genuine awareness of its yearning lyricism.

This is a work fuelled by the horns, whether sturdily proto-Wagnerian, warmly supportive, or, in the adagio , reaching out into the ether, and the CBSO players proved proudly in their element.

As did timpanist Peter Hill, casting great boulder-clouts (Bruckner would remember them 50 years later) in the scherzo , delicately chording at the end of the adagio.”     …




Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “A long pause was taken before the slow movement. The opening chords were feather-light before opening out with gorgeous warmth. The woodwind achieved a similar warmth when they took the theme. Again, beating was a side-issue for Nelsons, whose concern for phrase shaping produced some wonderful moments. When the famous theme of the fourth movement appeared, he maintained a soft legato which gave a tremendous sense of innocence and optimism. Even with the multiple orchestral layers being added, the strong impression was of hope, rather than joy.

The great sense of joy finally burst out to shattering effect at the 6/8 time chorus after an intense fugue. The CBSO Chorus were magnificent, attending to clear diction whilst providing a vast wave of sound. There was a subtle push on “Brüder” to emphasise Schiller’s call for brotherhood. The coda was as thrilling an end to the cycle as could be hoped for, taken at a quick prestissimo and earning a huge ovation, especially for the chorus and their director, Simon Halsey. Even a sleeping guide dog was roused into tail-wagging enthusiasm during the last pages.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The choral finale was kept on a tighter rein, as if it had more than enough theatrical grandeur of its own. With a fine quartet of soloists – Lucy Crowe, Mihoko Fujimura and Ben Johnson, led off by bass-baritone Iain Paterson – and the CBSO Chorus as secure as ever, the sheer impact of Schiller’s Ode was never in doubt. The Eighth Symphony had been a different matter: the way it sprang bristling into life signalled immediately that this was not a work to be treated lightly, or one that would be out-muscled by its more monumental sibling in the second half. Nelsons and his superb orchestra made sure that every bit of its rhythmic and harmonic detail packed a punch.”



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…      “No 9 may be very familiar but it still never ceases to grab an audience by the throat when it is performed live. From the first notes it dives in and never lets go. Through an intense first movement, into a lively second, a more serene third and then into the choral fourth movement, it showcases Beethoven’s brilliance.

Conducted by music director Andris Nelsons, the orchestra was comfortable and confident with the symphony’s challenges, rising to the occasion with plenty of vigour.

The soloists, soprano Lucy Crowe, mezzo Mihoko Fujimara, tenor Ben Johnson and bass-baritone Iain Paterson, blended perfectly with each other and the CBSO Chorus who were busy singing their hearts out.

By its close we were in little doubt that the CBSO and Nelsons have truly grasped Beethoven in all his complexities, depth and wonder.”




Review by Richard Morrison, The Times (£££):

Click here for full review


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