Opening Concert: The Rite of Spring


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  • 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.



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“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:

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…     “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:

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…     “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.”     …

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