Pictures at an Exhibition

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Thursday 29th May 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 Andris Nelsons  conductor
Håkan Hardenberger  trumpet

Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin 17′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Dean: Dramatis Personae (CBSO co-commission: UK premiere) 20′
Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition 34′
Listen on Spotify

When Maurice Ravel arranged Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, he created one of the few adaptations that’s better than the original! From its opening Promenade to the majestic Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the alltime great orchestral showpieces. Andris Nelsons unlocks a real jewel-box of a concert as Håkan Hardenberger, probably the world’s greatest trumpeter, gives the first UK performance of an imaginative new concerto by Brett Dean. History in the making…

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Summer Serenade, Thursday 5th June
Thomas Adès: New Horizons, Wednesday 11th June
Strauss and Shakespeare, Wednesday 18th June

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “It is a challenging work – and not just for the orchestra. I had to smile when I heard someone saying in the interval ‘well I doubt we’ll be hearing that on Classic FM’. But CBSO certainly gave it plenty of energy and Hardenberger showed why he is one of the most in-demand trumpet soloists today.

While Dean may not be easy listening, it has to be said that Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

A series of short pieces all strung together by a recurring Promenade, the piece was inspired by an exhibition of pictures by architect Victor Hartmann, a friend of Mussorgsky.

It is very much a musical journey with the composer walking round the pictures and responding to each one. There is plenty of variety, a touch of humour and lots of grandeur from the busyness of the Limoges market to the impressive Great Gate of Kiev.

And if the audience wasn’t sure which picture we were looking at, we were given a helping hand with surtitles informing us throughout the work.

Under the baton of CBSO musical director Andris Nelsons, the orchestra seemed just a little hesitant to really give full throttle to this work. But by the closing pieces, the somewhat crazed Baba Yaga and the dramatic Gate of Kiev, they had it more in their stride.

The orchestra revelled in Ravel’s Le Tombeau of Couperin – dancing back and forth between strings and woodwind. Although this piece is a memorial to French composer Francois Couperin, it is anything but funereal and gives little hint of the angst being experienced by Ravel at the time.”

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Review by DPM (same?), WeekendNotes:

Click here for full review

…     “The UK premiere of Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae was a well-chosen companion piece to the Mussorgsky as thematically it shared some common ground – the idea of a physical and personal journey encapsulated in music.

But while Pictures at an Exhibition is an illustrative stroll round a gallery, Dramatis Personae is a much more elemental search into the psyche. Dean’s central character is no longer the composer but a superhero, a single warrior, an individual.

Musically the two have less shared experience. Gone are Mussorgksy’s hummable tunes, replaced with a rush of instrumentation.

The piece depends very largely on the trumpet soloist and Brett could not have asked for a more able performer than Hakan Hardenberger whose adaptability has also seen him performing classical Haydn and contemporary Joni Mitchell with the CBSO this week.

Hardenberger, who also performed at the world premiere of Dramatis Personae, took to the piece with relish, clearly enjoying its challenges and the balance of interplay with the rest of the orchestra. At its conclusion, he left centre stage and took his place within the orchestra, a visual sign that the Superman’s battle is done.

Beginning the evening was Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Although this piece is a memorial to French composer Francois Couperin, it is quite a light-hearted and quixotic work which eased us into the rest of the programme. ”    

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

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…    “The last movement, The Accidental Revolutionary, is inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and exploits a jokey element already present in Dean’s witty percussion writing. Now it was the turn of the virtuoso trumpet to lead, with Nelsons jacking up a filmic tension and emphasising its Ives-like marching-band episodes. Solidarity is all: two trumpets first gently echoed the soloist on either side, but, by way of climax, Hardenberger joined the orchestra to blast from within the trumpet rank. It was positively operatic and fun.

No greater compliment could be paid to Dean, who knows his orchestra inside out, than that of framing his Concerto with Ravel’s finely orchestrated Le Tombeau de Couperin and Pictures at an Exhibition. As ever, Nelsons found new detail, inspiring fine playing.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The other Ravel transcription was that of Mussorgsky’s pianistically rugged Pictures at an Exhibition; this is such a magnificent orchestration that it beats me why so many others have bothered to try it themselves.

Nelsons’ freely-flowing beat (having learned the technique, now he can modify it as he will) drew grittiness, sonority, desolation, brilliance, devoutness and total dedication from his players – among whom the whimpering trumpet of Catherine Moore was outstanding.

And trumpets were to the fore in the work sandwiched between these two transcriptions, the Trumpet Concerto of Brett Dean, a CBSO co-commission here receiving its UK premiere – and what an enthusiastic reception it was given by the thrilled audience.

Hakan Hardenberger was the soloist, totally immersed in the music even when not playing, his colourings via an array of mutes vivid and atmospheric, his agility in all Dean’s demands consummate, and his relationship with the orchestra as collaborative as chamber-music – indeed so, when he is the centre of a stereophonically-staged trio with two of the orchestral trumpeters, and later when he goes back onto the risers to join them.”     …

*****

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