Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto

Thursday 6 March 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Michael Seal  conductor

Gabriela Montero  piano

Bizet / Shchedrin: Carmen Suite 25′

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 32′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 46′

Gabriela Montero’s encore – Improvisation on the theme Madonna’s Like a Virgin!

Shostakovich   staked his life on his Fifth Symphony – and you can tell. From angst-torn opening   to all-too-triumphant finish, there’s no symphony more powerful – or more personal    – than this musical response to Stalin’s terror. Under Michael Seal, it’ll strike   home with devastating power: a gripping contrast to Rachmaninov’s hugely popular   piano concerto (of Brief Encounter fame) and Shchedrin’s hilarious Carmen   suite, based on Bizet’s original. Imagine Bizet’s opera after a Smirnoff too   many – it’s as outrageous as it sounds!


If you like this concert, you might also like:

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, Wednesday   12th March

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday   1st May

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Montero then offered to do an encore improvisation if an audience member could suggest a well known tune – and be prepared to sing it. Rather unexpectedly the suggestion was Madonna’s Like a Virgin which Montero then used as the basis for a short piece of lively piano composition.

There is no doubting Montero’s talent seen both in her mastery of Rachmaninov’s notoriously tricky concerto and her readiness to experiment with something so totally different.

Finally the orchestra gave full vent to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Written during a time of great repression, an embattled Shostakovich hoped this symphony would keep him safe in Stalinist Russia – which explains why it is slightly more traditional than much of his other work.

It is certainly powerful and gave CBSO plenty of opportunity to flex its muscles – whether it be searing strings, a gentle harp or a good old crash of the cymbals and a bang of the drums.

CBSO and Michael Seal perform Shostakovich’s Fifth again on Saturday for a Tuned In Concert in which the music will be preceded by an illustrated talk on the work.”    



Review by Jonathan Glen, BirminghamReview:

Click here for full review

“Tonight the Symphony Hall is witness to a duel between two great Russians. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is joined by Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriella Montero to take on Sergei Rachmaninov’s stirring 1901 Piano Concerto No. 2. It comes in stark contrast to Dmitri Shostakovich’s devastating 5th Symphony that rails against Josef Stalin’s oppressive regime during the 1940’s. But to prove there is at least variety in the CSBO’s repertoire, Shchedrin’s light-hearted take on Bizet’s Carmen is added to complete an eclectic night.

Michael Seal / www.michaelseal.com

Beginning with Bizet/Shchedrin, the sleepy, wistful opening soon gives way to Hispanic splendour. The piece exudes passion yet Shchedrin’s influence keeps the tone playful. Romantic themes unfurl, if only briefly, as this bombastic suite teases out the iconic moments from Bizet’s original.

Percussion is also key to this Latin affair, contributing significantly to the comical conclusion. Conductor Michael Seal is a man who seems to feel every moment of every movement but still finds time to jokingly goad his players, followed by reassuring smiles, to get exactly what he wants.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The suite from Carmen, Rodion Schedrin’s ballet score based on themes from Bizet’s opera was delightful. He uses only strings and a variety of percussion with amazing results – laugh-out-loud in places (like Malcolm Arnold’s musical jokes) but gorgeous in the divided strings of the Flower Song. Seal polished every musical episode until it glowed and hats off the to CBSO’s dextrous and versatile percussion section. Seal’s approach to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was direct, unfussy and immensely powerful – don’t worry about its alleged coded messages, just listen. The brassy finale was blistering while the largo was deftly handled with powerful yet restrained strings and everything illuminated by wind playing of great character. It was so good that I bought tickets for the repeat performance!”

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