CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

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Sunday 11 May 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sir Simon Rattle  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 44′
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 45′

When Sir Simon Rattle comes home to Birmingham, it’s always a special occasion. But with Sir Simon giving his services gratis in support of the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, this concert should be truly out of the ordinary – as he joins old friend Peter Donohoe in Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto, and conducts Brahms’s stirring First Symphony the way only he can. The world’s greatest music, made in Birmingham.

*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.

 *** To donate to the CBSO Benevolent Fund – see http://www.cbsobenfund.org.uk/ *** (“Donate” Paypal/credit card button, bottom of page)

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “This work needs giant technique to deliver it with conviction and Donohoe played it as if visited by the spirit of Rachmaninov. His thunderous percussive power was able to match the orchestra at its most forceful, yet the filigree passagework danced gracefully. Rattle helped the CBSO strings spin luscious lines in the central Adagio intermezzo, with the violas capturing something unmistakably Russian and soulful. Donohoe introduced the contrasting capriciousness with glee. The fire and passion of the closing part of the last movement brought the performance to a magnificent climax. Not surprisingly, the audience erupted.

It felt as though only Brahms could match such drama, and the CBSO played his First Symphony with a richness and expansiveness of sound that was gloriously all-enveloping. Rattle also coaxed out extremes of pianissimo as well as an easy fluidity. To the finale, he gave first an immense nobility and then a great urgency of purpose. It was all heady stuff.”

*****

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “The second movement Adagio revealed the extent to which Rattle had transformed the sound of the orchestra for this concert. The string sound was sumptuous and the conductor never ceased to coax yet more depth of tone from the players. Dark clouds were cast by an impressive viola section from which Donohoe emerged, in complete command of the movement, soulful without being overly sentimental. The eruption into the finale was as exciting as it ought to be and Rattle, barely needing to make reference to the score, used deftly concise movements in order to marshal his orchestral forces in step with the soloist. Donohoe conjured delightfully feather-light moments and was matched by some fantastic pianissimo playing in the orchestra. There was a palpable crackle of energy in the orchestral response as the concluding march gathered pace and the smiles of the players spoke volumes: this was a memorable performance.     […]

[…]     A master of this hall, Rattle barely glanced at the horns and brass, knowing that they need little encouragement to be heard. Throughout, the conductor’s attention was always galvanising the string sound. The second movement was a major beneficiary of this approach, again with small details like the hand-stopped horn note at the start all of a piece with Rattle in charge. The third movement was the dreamy interlude it should be. Brahms turned the late Classical notion of a scherzo and trio on its head in this symphony: the central section here becoming frenzied and exciting in comparison with the outer sections. Rattle continued straight into the final movement without pause. He and the orchestra built up the psychodrama effectively until the first thunderclap moment heralds the glorious horn melody, played here by Katy Woolley (Principal Horn of The Philharmonia). The movement became a riot of symphonic detail in Rattle’s hands before shockingly collapsing at the second thunderclap as Brahms commands. The coda was taken at an exciting but dignified gallop, with the triumphant brass chorale mercifully broadened only slightly for effect before a rapturous finish.”

*****

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Both he and Donohoe were on fire in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto (Donohoe’s 149th performance, he told me, of what he regards as the most difficult concerto in the repertoire). Donohoe’s delivery of the solo part was formidable, crisply articulated, dynamics beautifully judged (though what state the piano was in at the end I can’t imagine), and leonine at the crowning conclusion. Rattle’s orchestra collaborated as supportive listeners, always surging and well-balanced. And many people agreed with me that this was a performance which should have been commercially recorded.

Then came Brahms’ First Symphony, Rattle conjuring a huge string sound, sonorously-phrased, concertmaster Laurence Jackson leading, a firm bass foundation (perhaps an influence from Rattle’s Berlin), and wonderful wind solos. The brass chorale in the finale was arresting.

And all of this on minimal rehearsal time, as all services were free. I want Rattle for Conductor Emeritus, and will be writing more about that.”

*****

 

 

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