Bach to the Future

30 November 2013 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Pekka  Kuusisto   director / violin

Reich: Triple Quartet 15′

Bach: Violin Concerto in E major 17′

Reich: Violin Phase 15′ Listen on Spotify
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 12′

Adams: Shaker Loops 28′

Vibrant, colourful, and   buzzing with energy: the American minimalist music of John Adams and Steve Reich   has swept through contemporary culture like a blast of pure oxygen. But there’s   nothing minimalist about its emotional power, and in this life-affirming programme   directed by the inspirational Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, it’s the perfect   complement to two of Bach’s most tuneful masterpieces. Three masters speak to   each other across three centuries: this is music to refresh heart and soul in   equal measure.

Due to the popularity of the Birmingham Christmas Market please allow ample time for your journey to Symphony Hall.

Pop up performance: The CBSO’s Leo Quartet performed Steve Reich’s   Different Trains

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Wednesday 26th February

Summer Serenade, Thursday 5th June

Thomas Adès: New Horizons, Wednesday 11th June



Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The director/soloist was Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, whose disarming charm and informality (including busking Scandinavian folk dances during platform rearrangements) was clearly a hit with the audience. His Bach interpretations were just as quirkily individual, tonally unforced and even pallid at times, with some phrases allowed to almost disappear into inaudibility – though in full flow he resorted to some very scratchy articulation, which the supportive, small CBSO string group led by Laurence Jackson wisely did not emulate.”     …

Britten 100: Centenary Concert

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Friday 22 November 2013 at 7.30pm

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

Simon Halsey  conductor

Nicholas Daniel  oboe

David Goode  organ

CBSO Chorus  

CBSO Youth Chorus  

CBSO Children’s Chorus  

Birmingham University Singers

Birmingham University Women’s Choir

Jubilate in C  3’

Six Metamorphoses after Ovid  12’

3 Two-Part Songs    7’

Friday Afternoons   20’

Hymn to St Cecilia   10’

Missa Brevis   10’

Prelude & Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria   5’

Rejoice in the Lamb 16′

“Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire.”   Britten’s originality never blazed more brightly than when it was most firmly   rooted in the English choral tradition. As the Orchestra tours to Japan, 100   years to the day since Britten’s birth, Simon Halsey directs the CBSO’s world-famous   choruses in some of Britten’s most striking choral inspirations – all interspersed   with his magical Six Metamorphoses for solo oboe. A universe in a grain   of sand: music to leave audiences stirred, beguiled and thoroughly entertained.

Due to the popularity of the Birmingham Christmas Market please allow ample time for your journey to Symphony Hall.

A taste of the CBSO’s celebrations of Britten in his centenary year

Britten 100


“Chorus of approval for CBSO stalwart    

Simon Halsey is celebrating 30 years as CBSO chorus director and an induction into the Hall of Fame.”

Birmingham Post Article by Roz Laws here.



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Now, in this all-Britten programme, the many choirs Simon has inaugurated under the auspices of the CBSO Chorus (the Youth Chorus, the Children’s Chorus – as well as the Birmingham University Singers and University Women’s Choir) delivered a brilliantly-arranged sequence of the composer’s choral music.

Projection, diction and disciplined responsiveness are perennial watchwords illuminating the performances of all these ensembles, and Halsey calls on these factors with such relaxed, expressive direction. And throughout, all the excellent soloists were drawn from the ranks of the various choirs. What a heartwarming triumph for all concerned.”  


Vengerov plays Mozart and Tchaikovsky

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 17th November

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Polish Chamber Orchestra

Maxim Vengerov violin/director

Mozart Violin Concerto No 4 in D 26’
Violin Concerto No 5 in A, Turkish 31’
Tchaikovsky (arr David Walter) Sérénade mélancolique 7’
Souvenir d´un lieu cher 20’
Valse-Scherzo 12’
Saint-Saëns – Havanaise
                             Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
Maxim Vengerov has been away too long, but after a remarkable comeback from long-term injury he’s playing with all the charisma and authority that have placed him among the greatest violinists of our time. This concert celebrates two opposite but equal sides of his artistry; the sweetness and brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s violin miniatures, set against two joyous concertos by the composer Tchaikovsky called ‘the Christ of music’: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.Classic FMs’ John Suchet says:

It’s not often that we experience the Polish Chamber Orchestra in Britain’s concert halls, so I urge you to watch this unique band under the directorship of violinist Maxim Vengerov. Out of the soloist spotlight for quite some time due to a shoulder injury, Vengerov is making a welcome return to the concert platform not only as violinist, but conductor. Tonight he and his orchestra play a feast of music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

“Maxim Vengerov: new and turbo-charged
The virtuoso Russian violinist talks to Adam Sweeting about fame, family, and his return from career-threatening injury”
Click here for full article – Telegraph
Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:
Click here for full review
…     “Vengerov, well supported by the Polish Chamber Orchestra, seemed more at home with Tchaikovsky, floating some silken sounds in the Serenade melancolique with fast fingering and crisp playing in the Valse-Scherzo.
Glazunov’s familiar orchestration of the three-part Souvenir d’un lieu cher, with its rich wind writing, sounds like genuine Tchaikovsky so David Walter’s arrangement for string orchestra appeared threadbare although it allowed the solo violin more prominence.
Vengerov seized the opportunity with a particularly luscious Meditation. The best playing was reserved for the two showpiece encores (again in sadly reduced orchestration): Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise, with Vengerov using judicious but juicy portamento, and the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso with dazzling scales and multiple-stopping played with panache. It was almost like having the young Vengerov back.”
Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:
Click here for full review
…     “Violin Concerto no. 5 in A major, “Turkish” is so called because of the oriental ideas introduced in its wild and flamboyant finale. There’s something operatic about the style of the piece, with soloist as protagonist, halting proceedings and taking them off in new directions. The audience was transfixed by Vengerov’s cadenza in the first movement. The gorgeous melody of the central Adagio contrasted to fine effect with the swooping drama of the Finale, with a renewed sense of vigour from the orchestra and accented bowing from the lower strings adding a striking visual dimension.
After the interval came a selection of Tchaikovsky miniatures. Sérénade mélancolique in B flat minor was the epitome of melancholy, with occasional forays into more optimistic territory but with an overriding mood of sadness. There were some lovely cameos, with excellent contributions from viola and cello. Applause was cut short at Vengerov’s request, as he clearly wished all the Tchaikovsky pieces to flow from one to the next. This was an interesting approach since the three pieces of the suite Souvenir d’un lieu cher – the product of Tchaikovsky’s recovery period following his marriage breakdown – could clearly have stood as a single entity rather than being sandwiched quite so seamlessly within bookends. Also in a way it seemed a shame to curb the audience’s adulation, but the net result was that the final flourish of the Valse-Scherzo, a cocktail of sparkling mineral water and full-bodied vodka, issued the challenge: “now you can clap!”  And we did.
And so to those Saint-Saëns encores.  Still in dance mode, we were given Havanaise, the Cuban rhythms soulful and sultry, Vengerov displaying skill and emotion in equal measure, followed by the showmanship of Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. The audience would gladly have lapped up even more, but as we finally conceded that it really was over, I noticed that the orchestra members were busily congratulating one another with handshakes. Civilisation as we know it.” 

Dudamel Conducts Mahler

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Friday 15th November

Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra

Gustavo Dudamel conductor

Mahler Symphony No 7 77’

This concert has a running time of c 1 hour 20 minutes with no interval.

Lively, charismatic and driven by a burning urge to communicate, Gustavo Dudamel is quickly becoming one of the artists who define classical music in our time. On only his third visit to Symphony Hall, he conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in the symphony Gustav Mahler called his ‘song of the night’: music of horn-calls and twilit processions, set in a world of dreams, nightmares, and roof-raising joy.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

A mighty Mahler symphony conducted by a mighty maestro, this is one concert not to be missed. Described as the hottest conductor on the planet, young Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel has engulfed the musical world with his boyish charm and precocious talent. Hear him tonight take on Mahler’s tantalizing Seventh Symphony.



Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The orchestra tore into the rambunctious opening of the finale. Again, Dudamel didn’t interfere with the flow of this triumphant passage and he had the very end of the movement in sight, holding the unexpected chord that foils the first fanfare passage long enough so that we knew what was coming at the coda. Coherence was the name of the game, once again, with each bombastic episode seeming to join with the last rather than seeming repetitive and disjointed as is sometimes the case. At one point the timpanist couldn’t suppress giggles at this almost absurdly hyperactive music. Perhaps this music is absurd – but then, as Alfred Brendel recently pointed out on Desert Island Discs, the world is absurd. Mahler’s well-known wish was certainly to capture the world in each of his symphonies.

The return of the first movement’s main theme was preceded by crackling electricity in the playing of the orchestra, and as the coda approached there were smiles all around from the players as they realised what a special performance they had executed. The chord of harmonic oblivion that Dudamel had signposted at the beginning of the movement hung in the air once more, like the absurd world suspended in a bubble, which he obligingly popped with Mahler’s triumphant final note.”



Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb

Click here for full review

…     “The central scherzo carries the marking Schattenhaft, which I believe can be translated as ‘shadowy’. I think that perhaps it’s only when you see a live performance that you fully realised just how difficult this music is to play. The scoring is full of weird shrieks and broken rhythms; fragments of music are hurled around the orchestra. The music is full of all sorts of nocturnal goings-on. Dudamel was the master of the score here, controlling everything very tightly and positively, ensuring that all the elements of Mahler’s piquant orchestration were realised. The Philharmonia backed him to the hilt with some marvellously precise playing

The second Nachtmusik could not be more different in character to the second movement. Marked Andante amoroso it’s a piece that finds Mahler in nostalgic and sentimental mood. The movement was distinguished by much excellent solo playing from the orchestra’s leader, Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay. Here, textures were admirably clear – the mandolin and guitar parts registered nicely. Dudamel’s reading was clear-eyed and once again he brought out, without any artificial spot-lighting, a lot of detail, such as the long, low clarinet trill near the end. However, I didn’t feel there was a great deal of warmth or affection in the reading; it seemed to me to be rather objective.

With scarcely a pause for breath Dudamel launched into the finale, the orchestra’s timpanist, Andrew Smith, making his presence felt – as he should in this movement.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

     “Who but Mahler would have thought of opening with a horn call but transforming a romantic cliché into something fresh and disturbing by assigning it to a rasping tenor horn?

He wanted it to sound like “nature roaring” and the Philharmonia’s player gave us just that, using the “big tone” Mahler demanded. The romantic trumpet calls and wind trills sounded magically distanced; the second night-music movement’s violin and mandolin solos were sweet but never sickly.

At the introduction of the beautiful second theme of the first movement Dudamel couldn’t resist slowing down despite Mahler’s insistence on maintaining tempo but this was a minor indulgence. He launched into the last movement without a pause but the sudden timpani assault was the sort of theatrical gesture Mahler might have relished.”

Nelsons Conducts Brahms’ Fourth

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Wednesday 6 November 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Valeriy Sokolov  violin

Wagner: Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1 9′

Sibelius: Violin Concerto 31′ Listen on Spotify
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 40′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Valeriy Sokolov’s encore – Bach:  Sarabande – Partita No 2 in D Minor

Brahms’s   Fourth Symphony begins with a sigh – and ends with a tempest. It might have   been his last symphony, but Brahms wasn’t going gently into the night, and Andris   Nelsons will bring everything he has to a musical tragedy of Shakespearean power.   It’s a long journey from the serene beauty of Wagner’s Lohengrin Prelude,   but with Valeriy Sokolov as the soloist in Sibelius’s lyrical Violin Concerto,   there’ll be no shortage of drama along the way.

“Valeriy Sokolov’s debut performance with the CBSO was  really special – don’t miss his return for Sibelius!” (Amy Fawcett, Viola)

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Nelsons conducts Brahms’s Third, Thursday 5thDecember

CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 23rd February 2014

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday 1st May 2014



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons was judicious to near-perfection. The strings had earlier shown they were on top form in a wondrously rapt Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner’s Lohengrin. In the Brahms finale they surged and carolled threatening to overwhelm the formal constraints but were held back by a hairsbreadth.

Nelsons is adept at the big sweeping moments but quieter details like Marie-Christine Zupancic’s ethereal flute lines were never allowed to be obscured. Pacing was excellent with a tender andante which never sagged and a high-stepping volatile scherzo: from first to last a really memorable performance.

The young Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov excelled in the first and last movements of Sibelius’s concerto. Warm rich playing, notes pinged in the middle, rapid double stopping that really sounded like two instruments and all the rest of the virtuoso armoury was on display.”     …

CBSO Youth Orchestra

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Sunday 3 November 2013 at 3.30pm

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

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Ilan Volkov   conductor

Allison Bell  soprano

Debussy: La Mer 23′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube
Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi 27′

Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 31′

Sibelius’s   Fifth Symphony was inspired by a flight of swans. Debussy was drunk on the beauty   of the sea. And the young Messiaen put all his love for his new wife into nine   blissful songs. Gorgeous colours and big, big emotions: exactly what the CBSO   Youth Orchestra does best. So join Ilan Volkov and our superb young players   and share the joy of discovery, as together they bring this glorious music vibrantly   to life.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

The Organ Symphony, Thursday 30th January 2014

CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 23rd February 2014

Andris and Håkan in Concert, Wednesday 28th May 2014



Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A singer without Allison Bell’s power and projection might have been overwhelmed by so much orchestral posturing (which Volkov admittedly did little to minimise), but this remarkable soprano coped with everything thrown at her, grabbing every opportunity for expressive display and, notably in the Alleluias of the first song, rejoicing in the sheer voluptuousness of the music.

After such hot stuff the exposed scoring of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 left the players with little room to hide. Volkov’s cogently paced reading, though, was very persuasive, even if some individual contributions lacked added value. The finale in particular had a compelling sense of progression – and those wonderful hammer blows were perfectly executed.”  

Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 1 November 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor

Claire Rutter  soprano

Barry Norman  presenter

Including music from:   Verdi: The Force of Destiny (Jean de Florette)

Catalani: Ebben? Ne andrò lontana (Diva)

Puccini: O mio babbino caro (A Room with a View)

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)

Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)

Herrmann: Salaambo’s Aria (Citizen Kane)

Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)

Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)

Korngold: Glück das mir verblieb (The Big Lebowski)

Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (Trading Places)

Strauss: Blue Danube Waltz (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Britten: Playful Pizzicato (Moonrise Kingdom)

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull)

Puccini: Madam Butterfly (Fatal Attraction)

Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)

Encore: Rossini: William Tell Overture

You know that moment at the cinema when   you realise that you’ve heard that tune before – but you can’t quite put your   finger on it? Well, tonight, movie legend Barry Norman reveals all, in the sensational   3D-sound of the CBSO. You might think of the music of Sibelius, Puccini and   Barber as the soundtracks to Die Hard, Fatal Attraction and Platoon   – but it sounds even better when you hear it for real!