Kissin and London Symphony Orchestra

Kissin and London Symphony Orchestra play Tchaikovsky

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Wednesday 18th December

Symphony Hall Birmingham

London Symphony Orchestra

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor

Evgeny Kissin piano

Rimsky-Korsakov Dubinushka 4’
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 32’
Prokofiev Symphony No 5 46’

Evgeny Kissin’s encore – Tchaikovsky – Waltz

The LSO have always brought out their best for guest conductors, but no one galvanises them quite like Tilson Thomas. The Arts Desk

Evgeny Kissin needs no introduction; the shock-headed prodigy has long since matured into a performer with unparalleled artistry and precision. Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra, meanwhile, rekindle an unforgettable partnership that stretches back over almost forty years.

This blend of virtuosity and understanding will be brought to a programme of music by some of the most renowned Russian composers; Tchaikovsky’s epic first concerto, Rimsky-Korsakov’s folk-inspired Dubinushka and Prokofiev’s ‘symphony of the greatness of the human spirit.’

World War II was still raging as Prokofiev composed his Symphony No 5 in a Soviet Union safe haven. This was a time of national elation, as the Soviet Union anticipated victory over Nazi Germany. As Prokofiev raised his baton to conduct the first performance of the symphony in January 1945, the audience could hear gunfire that celebrated the news that the army had crossed the River Vistula in its march into Germany.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

The legendary pianist Nicolai Rubinstein once declared to Tchaikovsky that his first piano concerto was ‘bad, trivial and vulgar’. Don’t let this put you off as Rubinstein was quick to change his mind.One of the first pieces of music to sell over a million recordings, it is edge-of-the-seat stuff, full of sweeping melodies and electrifying passages.



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Rimsky-Korsakov’s festive miniature Dubinushka was a tasty hors d’oeuvre but the main musical course was Prokofiev’s great wartime fifth symphony. This was a magnificent performance, the opening movement almost Mahlerian in its evocation of a world emerging from silence into bustling life. The scherzo was zany, frantic and brilliantly played with Andrew Marriner’s clarinet absolutely captivating. Tilson Thomas, like just about every conductor except Dorati, took the adagio slower than Prokofiev’s metronome marking but, given his epic approach to the symphony, it was still very intense and moving. The finale – socialist realism meets the Marx Brothers – was uproarious.”


Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony

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  • Pure Emotion

Saturday 14 December 2013 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andrew Litton  conductor

Benjamin Grosvenor  piano

Rachmaninov: The Rock 13′

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No.2 23′

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique) 45′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Benjamin Grosvenor’s encore – Saint-Saëns – Le Cygne

Tchaikovsky   didn’t stint on emotion, and with his shattering Pathétique Symphony,   he wrote out his very soul. Music simply doesn’t get more overwhelming than   this, so we’ve paired it with a complete contrast: Saint-Saëns’s outrageously   entertaining Second Piano Concerto, played tonight by the brightest new star   of British piano playing, the 21-year old Benjamin Grosvenor, who opened the   BBC Proms last year.

“The Pathétique is Tchaikovsky at his best: full of   drama and great tunes, with the most tragic final movement… Cello and Double   Bass heaven!” (Catherine Ardagh-Walter, Cello)

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



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Benjamin Grosvenor’s performance encompassed its various moods with ease; cleanly articulated thunderous chords alternating with coquettishly delicate passagework and Saint-Saëns occasional vamp-till-ready passages were adroitly made to sound better than that. The CBSO under Andrew Litton (himself a fine pianist) gave excellent support.

Litton has long been a perceptive conductor of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, as his recordings of their complete symphonies testify. The former’s youthful tone poem The Rock was given a splendid performance from its bass-led opening – black as the pit of Acheron – to the contrasting skittish woodwind section with some delightful playing from Marie-Christine Zupancic (flute). Litton built up the final delayed when-will-it-modulate section into an ecstasy worthy of Scriabin.”     …

Nelsons Conducts Brahms’ Third

Thursday 5 December 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Isabelle Faust  violin

Wagner: Siegfried Idyll 20′

Britten: Violin Concerto 32′

Brahms: Symphony No. 3 37′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Isabelle Faust’s encore – Bach – Sarabande D minor Partita

Two   chords ring out, the orchestra gathers its strength – and with the force of   a summer storm, Brahms’s Third Symphony crashes upon you. “Free but happy” was   Brahms’s motto for this music, and there’s a whole lifetime of tenderness and   wonderful Isabelle Faust contemplates one of Britten’s finest works – and which   opens with the most beautiful gift any composer ever gave to his beloved?

c9.45pm: Post-concert chat Stay on for a post-concert conversation with Andris Nelsons and Stephen   Maddock.

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

Part of Birmingham’s celebrations of Britten’s centenary year:

If you like this concert, you might also like:

CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday   23rd February

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday   1st May

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This was the Violin Concerto, a substantial, searching composition which drew an urgently communicative reading from soloist Isabelle Faust.

There was no “listen to me” element in her performance (though we did have to get past the pink liquorice-allsort outfit in which she presented herself).

Tone was painfully sweet where appropriate, attack was proudly articulate (what fantastic strength of bowing), and the music’s disturbed lyricism (Prokofiev was often evoked) always engaged with such an impact.

Andris Nelsons and his orchestra collaborated with so much empathy (the poised, swaying strings at the first movement’s recapitulation live in the memory), and telling instrumental colour, flute, trumpets among others.

The silence within the hall at the conclusion was so eloquent.

Framing this jewel were Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Brahms’ Third Symphony.

String cushioning in the Wagner gem was velvety and subtly-nourished, Nelsons’ patient, often suspenseful pacing evoking gorgeous Alpine landscapes.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Before the symphony, Nelsons had given a final nod to a couple of this year’s important anniversaries. He’d begun with a beautifully paced account of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, which managed to be convincingly intimate, with exquisite pianissimos, despite using the majority of the CBSO’s strings, before moving on to what turned out to be the evening’s highlight. No doubt there have been many performances of Britten’s Violin Concerto this year, but few, I imagine, can have been as searching and startlingly fresh as Isabelle Faust‘s, with its savage, selfless precision, rasping double stopping and sense of always knowing exactly what the destination of this disquieting musical journey really was. Nelsons and the orchestra aided and abetted her every step of the way. Faust’s encore, the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita, effortlessly poetic and conversational, was an extra treat.”



Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “This is surely radical music in a way that Wagner simply could or would not appreciate. Brahms, perceived by the older composer to be straitjacketed by form, in fact transcended it by freeing himself of the traditional constraints of barlines and somehow making them imperceptible to the listener.

Such mastery was on full display in this performance by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under their music director Andris Nelsons. This compositional genius inspired the musicians to give of their very best. The strings played with immense warmth; there was not a rough edge to be found. Nelsons moulded the exposition into one long arc. The opening exclamatory chords were fired off without any broadening and sounded almost ecstatic when they were repeated.

The inner movements had the warm glow they should have, and the secret to Nelsons’ winning way with this piece became ever more apparent: Brahms’ music needs to flow without being inpeded, and that is exactly what was allowed to happen in this performance. Nelsons has not always allowed his Brahms to flow in this way before, having tended to massage this phrase and that on previous occasions. In the orchestra, all departments were on tremendous form, but the woodwind players, displaying a creamy tone and huge reserves of unforced expressiveness, really came into their own in these movements.

The epic final movement was pitched at just the right tempo: flowing but with a solid foundation, underpinned by a powerful double bass section that was rightly encouraged throughout.”     …