Britten Centenary: Peter Grimes

Part of A Boy Was Born and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Thursday 26th September 2013

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Vladimir Jurowski conductor

Stuart Skelton Peter Grimes

Pamela Armstrong Ellen Orford

Alan Opie Captain Balstrode

Pamela Helen Stephen Auntie

Malin Christensson, Elizabeth Cragg Nieces

Michael Colvin Bob Boles

Brindley Sherratt Swallow

Jean Rigby Mrs Sedley

Mark Stone Ned Keene

Brian Galliford Reverend Adams

Jonathan Veira Hobson

London Voices

Daniel Slater director

Britten Peter Grimes 150’

This concert has a running time of c.3 hours including one 20 minute interval.

In 1945, Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes blew through British music like a blast of fresh salt air, and this elemental drama of a man standing alone against a tight-knit community is still arguably his finest achievement. In Britten’s centenary year, Vladimir Jurowski conducts the London Philharmonic and a wonderful cast in a concert performance of an opera that never loses its power – or its heart.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:

There’s little argument that Peter Grimes is Britten’s greatest opera, if not his most brilliant work: a haunting and disturbing opera yet one that’s rich and frequently very beautiful. Birmingham may be landlocked, but there’s no doubt this incredible cast will transport you straight to the wild shores of Suffolk among the embittered, suspicious townsfolk of the fictional Borough.

www.thsh.co.uk

.

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

“Britten’s operas are everywhere this centenary year, so the prospect of a concert-hall outing for Peter Grimes, even one with Vladimir Jurowski conducting the London Philharmonic, wasn’t necessarily something to get too excited about. But sometimes even performances of works that you know very well, and have heard and seen countless times, can take you completely unawares and emerge with unexpected force. This was one of those occasions.

This turned out to be more than a concert performance, too, but a semi-staging in costume (casual, more or less present-day) – directed very economically and effectively by Daniel Slater with a set made of ropes by designer Alex Doidge-Green – that made full use of the Symphony Hall platform. The sound was wonderfully vivid, and every morsel of Jurowski’s interpretation – its cool, precise clarity interspersed with climaxes of frightening intensity – came across fiercely.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“It has become traditional for Symphony Hall to present a blockbusting event to launch each year’s new Birmingham International Concert Season.

This time it was a concert performance of Britten’s Peter Grimes as part of the composer’s centenary celebrations, and the result at the end of a lengthy evening was a standing ovation.

In fact there was much resourceful stage-movement (Daniel Slater the shrewd director) in front of, around, and behind Vladimir Jurowski’s excellent London Philharmonic Orchestra, Tim Mascall masterminded atmospherically subtle lighting, and Alex Goidge-Green’s design dressed the large company in approximately contemporary gear and made effective use of a tow-rope ranged across the stage.

The chorus is a huge protagonist in this opera of bullying persecution (as are so many of Britten’s), and London Voices were enthusiastically in character, each in individual role.

It’s just a pity that they were clutching scores all the time.

In a large cast, Stuart Skelton was simply heartbreaking as a shambling, bewildered Grimes, implying derangement in this lonely fisherman, his vocal flexibility allied to despairing body-language.”     ,,,

.

.

Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Knitting it all together were the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski their Principal Conductor, another immense contribution. Jurowski’s opera experience (Komische/Glyndebourne) showed with his sympathetic accompaniment of the soloists, while his handling of the six interludes generated a rich symphonic poem characteristic. In Dawn, the flutes of Florian Aichinger and Stewart Mcilwham combined exquisitely with the strings led by Peter Schoeman to produce the familiar composite timbre that opens the first of the Four Sea Interludes. Jurowski painted a graphic picture from Britten’s tonal and atonal mix. The LPO gave a cacophonous reproduction of the Storm themes in Interlude II, noted for Britten’s use of the Phrygian mode to symbolise the inner angst of Grimes. Watching Jurowski handle the constantly changing rhythms of Sunday Morning revealed a conductor on peak form. The Passacaglia provided further musical evidence of the multi-faceted personality of Grimes, its complex ground bass affording a background for the dark viola solo of Hung-Wei Hang. The upper woodwind spikes penetrated the stuttering chorale of Moonlight while the Fog cadenza had sanity-destroying eeriness.

Many concert performances of opera are just that: great sounds (particularly within such wonderful venues this Birmingham one) but without a feel for the action. Although there were no sets as such, director Daniel Slater introduced sufficient nautical elements to ensure his production of Peter Grimes really came alive. The ongoing movement of both the Borough community and featured residents (free of any unwieldy scores) had clearly been thoroughly rehearsed, resulting in a smooth and natural sequence of events that moved the narrative forward. There was judicious use of props – particularly the boy’s jumper and a heavy gauge white rope. The use of the capstan rope made any visible picture of Grimes’ fishing vessel unnecessary: in I.i Balstrode took the posture of anchor-man in a tug-of-war to haul in the boat and at III.ii when persuaded to scuttle the craft, the rope slithered off stage, gathering speed as the boat was claimed by Davy Jones. The sight of Grimes crossing the stage carrying the body of the boy in his arms was another dramatic highlight.

This was an exhilarating opening to the 2013/14 Birmingham International Concert Season. This was indeed concert opera with a difference, and in a different class. What a shame the Symphony Hall was not filled to capacity.”

.

.

Review by Alexander Campbell, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

“This, the first event of the Birmingham International Concert Season, proved to be exceptional both from a musical and dramatic perspective bringing facets of Benjamin Britten’s operatic masterpiece prominently to the fore. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, in Symphony Hall’s bright and clear acoustic, provided some outstanding playing and many felicities that might lie dormant in an opera-house pit were here brought into strong relief. Britten’s careful use of percussion effects registered as they seldom do even on recordings. Even the ‘Interludes’ sounded freshly minted.  There was excellent use of the acoustics for the off-stage band at the start of the final Act, and likewise the distant voices that interrupt or augment Grimes’s delirium in the same Act. Vladimir Jurowski’s pacing was exemplary; he seemed to relish the lighter moments of the work giving them space, and yet there was no absence of the elemental – for the weather plays a critical role as a protagonist in this piece. The Borough’s inexorable descent into vengeful fury was tellingly handled.

The cast was strong. Stuart Skelton‘s Peter Grimes, familiar from ENO and a concert performance at the BBC Proms, is surely becoming the definitive interpreter of his generation. He sings the role beautifully – quiet and introspective when needed (‘The Great Bear and Pleiades’) and with a clarion voice for the character’s more forceful moments. He benefits from a strong and credible physical presence too. From the interpretive perspective it is hard to recall a Grimes so obviously traumatised by the experience of losing his first apprentice and so ill-equipped to deal with the emotional fallout. His depiction of Grimes’s desperate need for emotional support and his frustrated inability to allow those who do care to provide it is vocally and physically expressed. Every utterance was clear and weighted as part of a complex and devastating portrayal.”     …

Advertisements

Totally Tchaikovsky

Wednesday 25 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Daniel Müller-Schott  cello

Tchaikovsky: Marche Slave 10′

Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations 19′

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony 56′

Daniel Müller-Schott’s encore – Britten: Declamato

Tormented   by forbidden desires, Byron’s Manfred takes to the mountains to battle his demons.   Tchaikovsky knew exactly how he felt, and poured everything into 50 minutes   of the rawest, most personal and most passionate music he ever wrote. The results   are tremendous: is this the greatest symphony you’ve never heard? It’s certainly   a powerful contrast to the stirring Marche Slave and the jewel-like Rococo   Variations; Andris Nelsons loves them all equally.   www.cbso.co.uk

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “This Manfred, undoubtedly one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest works, but so little-known (I blame ancient critics and Russian conductors impatiently anxious to make cuts – here it was complete), is an hour of heart-wrenching emotional engagement based on Byron’s poem of self-inflicted remorse after forbidden love, with ultimate redemption, and who better than Nelsons and his amazingly responsive orchestra to do it full justice.

Rhythms were taut (brilliantly percussion-driven), a singing lyricism from strings and woodwind delivered this cornucopia of Tchaikovsky’s most gorgeous melodies, and orchestration, from silvery harps, through rasping brass to nobly assertive organ cast more magic than can be described.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “This performance from the CBSO and Nelsons was one of finest things I have witnessed from their partnership to date. The playing was of the very highest order, from the opening, emphatic, bass woodwind statement of the recurring main theme to the unexpectedly muted chords that end the piece. Romantic, particularly programmatic, music seems to suit Nelsons well. His ability to lovingly mould and shape phrases and to power dramatic moments in the music to expressive extremes is just what this oft-overlooked symphony needs. The despairing climax towards the close of the first movement emerged shockingly out of silence and I have never heard such fury summoned at its finish before.

As with Harold in Italy, the Manfred Symphony features two relatively lightweight inner movements. The second movement is a scherzo vividly depicting Alpine fairies with tricky arabesques passed around the orchestra, which were deftly handled by the CBSO musicians. This movement is technically very difficult to bring off for a number of reasons but you wouldn’t have guessed it from this performance. The sumptuous central tune was a delight in the hands of the principal clarinet and then the violins. Leader, Lawrence Jackson’s highwire, filigree solo finished the movement in style.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The scenario, after Byron’s dramatic poem, was suggested to Tchaikovsky by Balakirev. Apparently he was unenthusiastic about the idea at first but a reading of the poem fired his imagination. The first movement depicts the desolate Manfred wandering in the Alps. Nelsons set his stall out from the outset: this was to be a vivid, dramatic reading – and quite right too. So the introduction, in which we first hear Manfred’s theme, was lugubrious and dark, the orchestral tone deliberately heavy. The ensuing moderato music was exciting. However, there’s far more to Manfred than doom and gloom: Tchaikovsky penned some wonderful lyrical music to represent Astarte, Manfred’s dead sister, and the first appearance of the music associated with her memory was exquisitely delivered by the CBSO’s muted strings. In fact this performance of the first movement was an ideal mix of passion and finesse. Nelsons made a deliberately long –and very effective – pause before launching into the searingly dramatic coda in which Manfred’s theme is poured out by massed strings over syncopated horn figures. The power that Nelsons brought to this passage was staggering and epitomised the dramatic thrust of his reading.

The second movement includes a good deal of delicate, highly original scoring, all of which was well pointed by the CBSO. Later, effectively acting as the trio section, comes a lovely theme, first heard on the first violins accompanied by the harps. This is a melody that would grace any of Tchaikovsky’s great ballets and it was winningly played – and lovingly phrased by Nelsons. There’s a subsequent appearance of the Manfred theme which gives the violas a moment in the sun – the CBSO violas took full advantage. At the end leader Laurence Jackson and his fellow first violins allowed the music seemingly to vanish into thin air.  Much of the third movement features beguiling pastoral music for which the tone was set right at the start by Gareth Hulse’s delightful oboe solo. In these pastoral stretches we heard fresh, cultivated paying. There are forceful, passionate outbursts too and hereabouts Nelsons was in full cry, urging his players on and getting an ardent response.”     …

Opening Concert: Anne-Sophie Mutter Plays Dvořák

OPENING CONCERT: ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER PLAYS DVORAK

  • Thumbnail
  • Raise the Roof

Saturday 21 September 2013 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Anne-Sophie Mutter  violin

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture 14′

Dvořák: Violin Concerto 32′

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring 32′

Anne-Sophie Mutter’s encore – JS Bach – Sarabande in D Minor

With some artists, just the mention of their name is enough. So Andris Nelsons and the entire CBSO are thrilled to welcome Anne-Sophie Mutter to Birmingham. “Seeing her perform is an experience that can make you gasp” wrote one critic, and that’s   just the centrepiece of a concert that begins with the overture that sparked   Nelsons’s love of music, and ends with the elemental power of Stravinsky’s shattering    Rite of Spring. Take a deep breath: this should be unforgettable.   www.cbso.co.uk

.

.

Review by Patsy Fuller, Coventry Telegraph:

Click here for full review

“This scorcher of a concert was like a dazzling fireworks display on a warm, late-summer night.

With so much firepower it’s hard to single out what was most exciting.

Was it the superb performance of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto by the poised and passionate virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter? Or the pulsating delivery of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring; brooding, threatening and totally riveting.

And just for starters, there was Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture; majestic and full of drama.

But what made this concert so very explosive was the man at the helm – the CBSO’s music director Andris Nelsons with his remarkable talent for drawing out every nuance of emotion from every note of music; and demanding – and getting – nothing but the best from his musicians.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “In a season awash with performances of Stravinsky’s ballet score – its centenary was celebrated in May – this one stood out. Nelsons caught the essence of the ritualised drama right from a mysterious opening, and with a flickering baton encouraged colourful solos from his wind section especially. In the acoustics of Symphony Hall, every member of this pounding orchestral machine made their mark. But the heavily lumbering lower strings seldom have such presence, and the hauntingly lyrical passages were full of wistfulness.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Mutter stood surprising far back and very close to the conductor’s podium, so for audience members in certain positions in the hall she would have been visually eclipsed by Nelsons. This would have been a shame, as it was as much a joy to watch her involvement with the piece as to hear her virtuoso execution of it. The control of pianissimo passages was delightful, as were the foot-tapping dance rhythms of the finale, supported by finely balanced and exciting playing from the CBSO. Taking her applause, which included cheers and whistles, Mutter offered Nelsons her cloth for his fevered brow, raising a chuckle all round.

An encore was prefaced with the soloist’s invitation to “lower your heart rate a little…”, and she gave us an exquisite rendition of J.S.Bach’s Sarabande in D minor, with a long final note that defied belief.

A hundred years and a million miles since its original riotous reception, tonight’s Rite of Spring received instead tumultuous acclaim. This tour de force, full of complex technical innovations in its day, seems to be a minefield of coordination of the massive orchestral forces, which paid off with truly exciting results. Texture galore, from the initial lone bassoon through the layering of other soloists, groups, whole sections and full orchestra, with a strong emphasis on pulse. It’s music that cries out to be heard (and seen) live – the cellists’ heads thrusting to repeated, pounding, accented beats will be a lasting visual memory.”     …

.

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “In years to come Nelsons’ first and second performances of Stravinsky’s revolutionary masterwork will no doubt go down in the CBSO annals as defining moments of his conducting career – and I’ll be very surprised if Orfeo’s recording doesn’t provide a new benchmark of excellence.

Yes, there was much primeval pounding and snarling in this Rite but also many erotically charged passages of perfumed orientalism and sensuality. And, such was the power and beauty of the playing it induced at the end a sense more of glorious fulfilment than merciful release – perfect in every way.”

*****

Opening Concert: The Rite of Spring

OPENING CONCERT: THE RITE OF SPRING

  • Thumbnail
  • CBSO 2020
  • Raise the Roof

Thursday 19 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Kristine Opolais  soprano

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture 14′

Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder 25′

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring 32′

When    The Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris in 1913, it caused a riot.   We don’t expect you to react quite so violently, but 100 years on Stravinsky’s   revolutionary ballet will still make an electrifying opening to our season.   Andris Nelsons conducts it for the first time, and joins his wife Kristine Opolais   in music close to both their hearts – Wagner’s star-crossed Wesendonck Lieder,   and the piece that first made him fall in love with music: the overture to Tannhäuser.   www.cbso.co.uk

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Apparently the BBC Radio 3 live broadcast of this CBSO concert was arranged at the last minute.

My heart doesn’t bleed for disappointed London Symphony Orchestra groupies who get more than enough of their metrocentric fix anyway, but what a bonus for everyone else, sharing with my ancient ears the most exciting account of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring I have ever heard.

Stravinsky, Monteux, Bernstein, Karajan (if one must), Fremaux, Rattle, Oramo, Zander in his extraordinary performance high on adrenaline, all have their qualities, but this, Andris Nelsons’ first-ever outing with the work in this its centenary year, knocked them all into a cocked hat.

This was an approach relishing the ballet’s visceral energy, its fragile lyricism and its amazingly imaginative scoring.

Nelsons even convinced us that the opening of Part II (here following on immediately, without a discernible break) was not so much of an impressionistic meandering, more a tension-building scene-setting.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The sense of something new was there from the very first moments. Instead of the usually smooth, suave sound for the opening solo, Nelsons had evidently asked his principal bassoon to make it rather coarse-grained and earthy, and that set the tone for what followed: a sound world full of boldly reimagined textures and vivid details, especially in the wind writing. Not everything worked – the tempo for the Spring Auguries section seemed just too fast for the effect to be forebodingly weighty enough, while sometimes, as in the Glorification of the Chosen One, the wind overpowered important details in the strings – but a lot more seemed just right.”     …

.

.

Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The majestic strains of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture were prefaced by a gloriously phrased woodwind chorale in which scrupulous attention to the subtle rise and fall of the dynamics lent the playing a luminous quality that was to permeate every bar of the performance. With Nelsons at one moment resting one hand nonchalantly on the rail of the podium and at others, leaning into the violin section as if to accentuate every note of their cascading rhythmic figurations whilst physically hammering out the triplets in the trombones radiant statement of the pilgrims chorale with a clenched fist, Nelsons’ was a Tannhäuser that made full use of the lush acoustic of Symphony Hall and in doing so gloriously accentuated the grand romantic excesses of Wagner’s blazing paean to human sensuality.

In contrast, the Wesendonck Lieder that grew out of Wagner’s fascination with his muse and alleged lover Mathilde Wesendonck, possessed an air of restrained coolness that allowed Nelsons’ wife and fellow Latvian, soprano Kristine Opolais, to deliver the texts of Mathilde Wesendonck with a refreshing simplicity of phrase and line. The gentle innocence of the opening song The Angel, the subtle colouring of voice and string textures in Stand thou still! and the passionate but never cloying strains of the final song Dreams were beautifully realised in textures of crystalline clarity. But it was the despair and desolation of the central song Im Treibhaus (In the Conservatory), delivered with limpid, heartbreaking restraint that hinted at rather than drove home the sense of despair, that will live longest in the memory.”     …

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Wednesday 11 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor

Elisabeth Leonskaja  piano

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′

Grieg: Piano Concerto 30′

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 45′

Elisabeth Leonskaja’s encore – Chopin Nocturne – Op.27 No.2

The horns blast out a savage fanfare; the trumpets scream in reply… Hold tight, because this is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and you’re about to witness one of the most inspired composers of all time wrestling with his demons in music of overwhelming rawness and passion. It’s thrilling and, as the former music director of the Bolshoi, conductor Alexander Vedernikov has this music pounding through his veins. First, though, in this concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, he joins another living Russian legend, pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, for the altogether gentler pleasures of Grieg’s irresistibly tuneful piano concerto. Great music, for a great cause.

*The CBSO Benevolent Fund, registered friendly society 735F, exists to support CBSO players and staff, past and present, at times of ill-health or other hardship. http://www.cbso.co.uk

.

.

**Great music for a great cause!**

cbsobenfund.org.uk

*** Angie’s Story: CBSO Benevolent Fund – click here ***

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Grieg’s Piano Concerto suffers by its popularity and accessibility to soloists of the third and fourth order. Here instead we relished the remarkable Elisabeth Leonskaja, her steely, well-wrought pianism poised and taut, accents crisply turned, her chording judiciously weighted and balanced, and virtuosity never obtruding itself. This was a reading mixing gesture and intimacy, and what a success it was in this collaboration with Vedernikov’s willing orchestra (flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic delivering evocative solos).

Encores are generally anathema to me, but in this instance Chopin’s D-flat Nocturne was perfect, allowing us to hang onto Leonskaja’s artistry just a little longer.”     …

*****

The Music of A. R. Rahman

 

Wednesday 4 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Matt Dunkley  conductor

Noreen Khan  presenter

Shin DCS  tenor

Roopa Panesar  sitar

Lisa Mallett  flute

Lilly-Jane Young  soprano

Sandor Stürbl  tenor

CBSO Chorus  

Suite from Warriors of Heaven and Earth

Theme from Lagaan

Chaiyya Chaiyya – with Shin DCS and Roopa Panesar

Suite from The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey

Cry of the Rose from Roja – with Lisa Mallett

Suite from Robot (Enthiran)

Nahi Samne from Taal – with Shin DCS

Suite from 127 Hours

Suite from Lord of the RIngs  – with Lilly-Jane Young and Sandor Stürbl

*interval*

Theme from Bombay – with Lisa Mallett

A Tribute to Indian Composers – medley featuring R K Sekhar, M S Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy, Naushad Ali, Ilayaraja, Madan Mohan, Salil Chowdhury, Lakshmikant-Pyarelal, Jatin-Lalit, Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, A R Rahman, R D Burman

Suite from Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Theme from Swades – with Mark Bousie, accordion

Suite from Subhash Bose: The Forgotten Hero

Changing Seasons from Ravaan – with Shin DCS

Suite from Meenaxi: Tale of Three Cities

Suite from Slumdog Millionaire – with Roopa Panesar, encore with Shin DCS

He’s been called “the Mozart of Madras” – and composer A. R. Rahman is a true   living legend. His 100-plus film scores include Indian classics such as Lagaan,    Bombay, Roja and Dil Se, whilst Slumdog Millionaire, 127   Hours and Elizabeth: The Golden Age have brought his irresistible   brand of melody to audiences around the world. Tonight, with conductor Matt   Dunkley and presenter Noreen   Khan we bring you a spectacular full orchestral tribute to A. R. Rahman   and his music, from the film scores such as Bombay and The Lord of   the Rings. You’ll never hear them sound better than in the sensational acoustic   of Birmingham’s world-famous Symphony Hall.

Lilly-Jane Young and Sandor Stürbl can also be seen in Peter   Pan: The Never Ending Story featuring classic songs and a score by composer/conductor   Matt Dunkley. Playing at the NIA Academy arena from 20 -22 September.

www.cbso.co.uk

Supported by DBS Law Ltd