Mozart’s C Minor Mass

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 26th June 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Malin Christensson  soprano
Christine Rice  soprano
Ben Johnson  tenor
Vuyani Mlinde  bass
John Tattersdill  double bass
CBSO Chorus  

Mozart: Symphony No. 40 26′
Mozart: Misero! O sogno – Aura, che intorno spiri 11′
Mozart: Per questa bella mano 7′
Mozart: Mass in C minor 51′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

When Mozart got married, he made a pact with heaven – and Mozart took his promises seriously. The result was the tremendous C minor Mass: a soul-shaking choral epic on the grandest possible scale. If you love Mozart’s Requiem, you’ll be knocked backwards when Andris Nelsons, the CBSO Chorus and a top-notch team of soloists come together for a concert that also features Mozart’s best-loved symphony and his only solo for double bass, featuring the CBSO’s popular section leader. Hearing is believing.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Sarah-Jane Brandon has sadly had to withdraw from these concerts. We are grateful to Malin Christensson for taking her place at short notice.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Mozart’s Requiem has the fame but his Mass in C minor perhaps has the more beautiful music. The wind band harmonies at the start of Et incarnatus est with Malin Christensson soaring gently above them was balm for the soul.

The Swedish soprano began the Kyrie tentatively, her trill sketchy, but relaxed and improved as the work progressed.

In Domine Deus she blended well with mezzo Christine Rice who was assured and agile in the demanding coloratura passages of Laudamus te, accompanied by crisp and energetic playing from the CBSO, astutely conducted by Andris Nelsons.

The CBSO Chorus was splendid and their intensity and dynamic range in Qui tollis made it the dark heart of the work: they’re a credit to choral director Simon Halsey.”     …

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The humour of Mozart cropped up again in Per questa bella mano, an unusual combination for bass voice, solo double bass and orchestra – the only time Mozart composed for the largest member of the string section and at K612 he left it rather late. But he had his reasons! By making the instrumental obbligato part extremely difficult, Mozart (according to one source) supposedly intended to humiliate his orchestra’s double bass player for having shown an interest in his wife Constanze; a more plausible reason for its composition was simply for its inclusion in a little known comic opera of 1791. CBSO section leader John Tattersdill, who has been with them since 1973, was never going to be embarrassed: his leaps and double-stopping were more than equal to the task. Even the centre platform grouping of a male vocalist, a conductor and a double bass player struck me as somewhat comical. The low register affirmation of love from an effortless Vuyani Mlinde was deliberate in tone yet resounding in projection; together with the emphasised movements of the virtuosic Tattersdill up and down his instrument’s long neck, the combination exuded parody.”     …

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Wagner’s Ring: Götterdämmerung

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Saturday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Alwyn Mellor Brünnhilde
Mati Turi Siegfried
Mats Almgren Hagen
Orla Boylan Gutrune
Eric Greene Gunther
Jo Pohlheim Alberich
Susan Bickley Waltraute
Katherine Broderick Woglinde
Madeleine Shaw Wellgunde
Sarah Castle Flosshilde

Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North
Richard Farnes conductor
Peter Mumford staging and design, lighting and projection design
Dame Anne Evans vocal consultant

Wagner Götterdämmerung 270’

This performance has a running time of c 6 hours including
two intervals of 30 and 75 minutes.

Act I 3.30pm – 5.45pm
Interval 75mins
Act II 7pm – 8.10pm
Interval 30 mins
Act III 8.40pm – 10pm

Opera North’s visually-stunning concert production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in recent British opera. ‘If the cycle continues at this level’ said The Spectator’s Michael Tanner of Das Rheingold ‘it will rank as one of the greatest ever’.

Today, in Götterdämmerung the final tragedy unfolds, as Siegfried falls amongst enemies, Brünnhilde’s love is betrayed and the gods themselves confront the end of a world.

An epically tremendous achievement
The Daily Telegraph ****

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended today’s concert:

The final opera in Wagner’s magnificent Ring Cycle doesn’t go out with a whimper. As the Ring gets returned to the Rhine, Wagner conjures up, with awesome power, Valhalla’s and the gods’ fiery destruction. But not before one of Wagner’s most dramatic and overwhelming scenes – Siegfried’s death and funeral march.

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

2.15pm Free pre-performance talk: Opera North’s Head of Music Martin Pickard in conversation with Stuart Leeks about the final installment of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. The talk takes place in the auditorium and is free to all ticket-holders for the performance. Opera North’s pre-performance talks are made possible by the generous support of the Friends of Opera North.

A collaboration with Opera North, Symphony Hall, Birmingham and The Sage, Gateshead.

Financially supported by the Opera North Future Fund and The Ring Fellowship.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “All of the cast are wonderful. Alwyn Mellor is a mighty Brunnhilde. She is gentle and endearing in love and mourning but gloriously terrifying when on the path of vengeance. You wouldn’t want to get in this Valkyrie’s way!

Also impressive is Mats Almgren as the scheming Hagen. Evil enough to sacrifice his half-brother and half-sister to his machinations, he is yet so believable they all fall for his flattery. But we also see his own vulnerability when he is forced to face his even more monstrous father Alberich (Jo Pohlheim), the Nibelung dwarf who stole the Rhinegold and then saw it stolen in his turn.

Mati Turi plays Siegfried as a bit of a simpleton. He may be a great hero of Germanic tradition but he does fall prey to Hagen’s tricks and bring about Brunnhilde’s revenge. And when the Rhinemaidens warn that the ring is cursed and beg him to return it, he simply shrugs off ‘women’s wiles’ and heads off for a drink instead. It takes death and Brunnhilde’s eulogy to reinstate him as the great hero.

And so, at the end, we also see the destruction of the Gibichung siblings Gunther (Eric Greene) and Gutrune (Orla Boylan) who gave in to the temptation offered by Hagen but could not foresee its terrible results.

As the fires burn on Siegfried’s funeral pyre and at the hall of the Gods, Valhalla, the screens are filled with red flames and the orchestra finally becomes silent.

In Birmingham the applause and standing ovations were tremendous – and richly deserved. This really has been an epic journey.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Everything, of course, is built upon the orchestra, teemingly textured with Leitmotiven we have learned to assimilate during the 14-plus hours of the tetralogy, and under the well-paced baton of Richard Farnes the Orchestra of Opera North provided a wonderfully warm, sonorous, detailed and subtle cushion for the uniformly brilliant soloists.

Many of the singers had come with the valuable experience of singing in Longborough Festival Opera’s Ring cycle: Alwyn Mellor the most touching Brunnhilde I have ever heard, subtle right to the end of her world-denouncing Immolation; Mati Turi a much more genial Siegfried than we usually suffer, and capable of disguising his voice in the horrid betrayal scene; and Lee Bisset was one of a trio of Norns with unexpected personality.

Of the other soloists, Eric Greene was a thoughtful, self-doubting Gunther, Orla Boylan a Gutrune much more three-dimensional than this normally wan cipher, and as their villainous half-brother Hagen Mats Almgren sang chillingly and had the look of one of the nastiest of Eastenders.  Susan Bickley’s Waltraute, so grippingly delivered,”     …

*****

 

 

 

 

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Review by Alfred Hickling, Guardian (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

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Review by Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk (Leeds Town Hall performance):

Click here for full review

 

 

Strauss and Shakespeare

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Wednesday 18 June 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Barbara Hannigan  soprano

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture 11′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Abrahamsen: let me tell you (UK premiere) 30′
Strauss: Symphonia Domestica 44′

Richard Strauss wasn’t one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. His extraordinary Symphonia Domestica is a no-holds-barred musical diary of a day with the Strauss family, from morning lie-in through to bathtime for baby! It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and utterly OTT, and Andris Nelsons can’t wait to conduct it. First, though, come two enchanting classics – one a much-loved favourite, one freshly-written for the soprano Barbara Hanningan, but both inspired by the magic of Shakespeare.            http://www.cbso.co.uk

 

Available on Radio 3 “Live in Concert” until 25th June 2014 – here

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The result is ravishingly and astonishingly beautiful. Abrahamsen’s vocal writing makes much use of stile concitato, the repeated-note emphases that hark back to Monteverdi, and also exploits Hannigan’s ability to rise effortlessly to the limits of the soprano range. And he surrounds the voice with glistening, deliquescent textures that can seem almost weightless until a growling line in the bass brings them fluttering to earth. The music sometimes seems as much an exercise in memory as the text, touching on familiar, tonal shapes and harmonies without being explicit and embracing microtones in the final section.

Hannigan soared above it all with consummate grace and ease, while Nelsons and the orchestra made every corner of the score shine. It’s a very special piece indeed.”

*****

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “When presenting one of Richard Strauss’ lesser known tone poems, it helps to have the composer’s greatest living interpreter in total command of an orchestra on top form. And so it was with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the Symphonia Domestica under Andris Nelsons.

Andris Nelsons © Marco Borggreve

Andris Nelsons
© Marco Borggreve

 It was another of Strauss’s tone poems (Don Juan) in which Nelsons first demonstrated his affinity for the composer and established himself as the orchestra’s first choice for music director back in 2008. He is now in the process of recording a complete cycle of the tone poems with the orchestra. There is no doubt that Nelsons is able to conjure pure magic in this repertoire – he somehow becomes the music and even his crudest gestures evoke a most unanimous and convincing response from the orchestra.

Not one to shy away from self-portraits, Strauss followed up his autobiographical and fantastical epic Ein Heldenleben with a rather more mundane depiction of his home life in the Symphonia Domestica. The composer, his wife (Pauline) and his baby (Franz) all get their own leitmotifs (the former having the proudest of them all, of course). This performance was enhanced by surtitles gently informing the audience of the events occurring throughout the Strauss family’s evening, night and morning. Baby Strauss’s lullaby was gorgeously depicted on the oboe d’amore by Jennifer Galloway while his shrill cries were illustrated with brilliant woodwind trills and piercing trumpet notes.

The first part of the piece has the character of a first class cartoon soundtrack and every detail was vividly realised by the orchestra, the E flat clarinet playing by Joanna Patton being a real highlight. The CBSO strings were at their sumptuous best in the rather more adult-themed central love scene, in which it is clear that baby Franz is well and truly asleep. Nelsons encouraged a glorious tutti sound from the orchestra both here and in Strauss’ preposterously grandiloquent coda. I found myself marvelling at the spectacle of Strauss’ riotously colourful score, which is too clever by half in the hilarious double fugue ‘quarrel’ scene. I doubt I’ll ever hear this more convincingly done .”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “More such ethereal goings-on had opened the concert with an account of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826) that, if it marginally undersold the more expressive and heroic facets, was alive to those fantastical aspects that are to the fore throughout much of its length.

After the interval, Nelsons continued his traversal of Strauss’s orchestral output with the least-often heard of the composer’s later tone poems. Perhaps the indulgent scenario of Symphonia Domestica (1903) has militated against its being taken seriously, though such a narrative need not impede appreciation of one of Strauss’s most immediately enjoyable scores – its four main sections a day in the life of a bourgeois couple as well as the nearest approximation to a four-movement symphony in his maturity. So the exposition of amiably contrasted themes is put through its developmental paces in a lively scherzo, then a lullaby initiates the ‘love scene’ which acts as an extended interlude prior to the finale that reprises the main ideas with a cumulative excitement spilling over into the effervescent coda.

For all its equanimity, Symphonia Domestica is among Strauss’s most contrapuntally exacting scores and, while not all its textural problems were clarified here (a pity, too, that the quartet of saxophones did not make its insinuating presence felt more keenly), the balance between short-term incident and long-term cohesion was impressively brought off – making one look forward to its release on Orfeo in due course.”      …

 

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Review by Geoff Brown, Times (££):

Click here for full review

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard – for matinee performance, which included the Strauss:

Click here for full review

…     “But how much there was in Strauss. The whispers of Glockenspiel that sound the hours (seven-seven) for little Franz’s overnight dormition; the fabulous lilt at the start (like Don Quixote) of cellos (under Eduardo Vassallo), then oboes (Rainer Gibbons and Emmet Byrne, particularly tremendous on this occasion with both oboe d’amore (Jennifer Galloway) and cor anglais (Jill Crowther).

Add Jackson’s fabulously expressive solos (they are Sakari standard); the exquisite descending Wiegenlied – which links, organically, with other sections; and a hard-worked E flat and  bass clarinet (Joanna Patton, Mark O’Brien) – more telling than the four saxophones, which got to my ears got slightly clouded till near the end. When the tuba (Graham Sibley) gets his own bow, you know there’s been, in Nelsons’ view, some pretty extraordinary chemistry. He should know. He generates it.”

 

 

Thomas Adès: New Horizons

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Wednesday 11 June 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Adès  conductor
Nicolas Hodges  piano

Ravel: Mother Goose (complete) 28′
Barry: Piano Concerto (CBSO co-commission: UK premiere) 20′
Coll: Piano Concertino (UK premiere) 10′
Adès: Tevot 22′
Listen on Spotify

As both internationally-renowned composer and visionary conductor, Thomas Adès is one of the most compelling figures in the contemporary arts, bringing a unique insight to everything he performs. Today, Ravel’s fairy-tale ballet and his own orchestral tour de force Tevot (composed for the Berlin Philharmonic) book-end two fantastic premieres from renowned contemporary pianist Nicolas Hodges: the exuberant Concertino by the young Spanish composer Francisco Coll, and a new Piano Concerto by musical maverick and allround entertainer Gerald Barry. Be ready for anything – except the routine!

“…cascades of sound fragments, insanely loud and soft scales, polyrhythmic adventures and massive chord chunks are hammered by the London pianist Nicolas Hodges with elegant authority…” (Süddeutsche Zeitung – Wolfgang Schreiber)

“The world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Piano Concerto came less hermetically, carried rather with wit and from the playing of the top form pianist Nicolas Hodges with the BR Symphony Orchestra.” (Münchner Merkur – Anna Schürmer)

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Strauss and Shakespeare, Wednesday 18th June

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Article by Christopher Morley in conversation with Nicholas Hodges, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

…     “Soloist on both occasions was the pianist Nicolas Hodges, who says of Barry’s Concerto: “Like Gerald Barry, his Piano Concerto is quick-witted, gripping and provocative. It’s like Baroque on speed. It’s too much fun.”

He adds: “After university, as a little-known young pianist, I was eager to commission him, but it didn’t work out. Two decades later, I happened to be in Los Angeles and managed to catch his opera The Importance of Being Earnest. Backstage afterwards I plucked up the courage to ask him again, and this time it was a Yes!”

Nicolas Hodges connections with the CBSO go back a long way.

“It’s always great to be back in Birmingham,” he says.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…      “Best I can say is that the performance came over with the clarity of Mozart.

Ades began his programme with Ravel’s Mother Goose ballet, beautifully shaped and glowing, concertmaster Laurence Jackson touchingly communicative in all registers, double-basses wonderfully grunting under Ades’ fluid, flickering baton.

But best of all was Ades’ own Tevot, scored for a huge orchestra (seven percussionists, no less), resonances of Mahler and Holst, and its textures and sonorities scything with accents. It ends with warm triumph, like Roy Harris’ Third Symphony of nearly a century ago. This was the only piece in this programme I’d genuinely welcome hearing again.

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “At the centre of this concert, framed between Ravel’s Mother Goose ballet and Adès’s own Tevot, were two UK premieres, both works for piano and orchestra composed for Nicolas Hodges, who was the soloist here.

Gerald Barry‘s Piano Concerto is typically irreverent, but typically affectionate too. It takes conventional concerto rhetoric and stands it on its head, cramming it into a 25-minute single movement as a careering series of no-holds-barred confrontations between the piano, with its weaponry of forearm clusters, torrents of repeated notes and rare precious moments of utter calm, and an orchestra that can muster rampaging brass, raucous woodwind and, at the breathtaking climax, a torrential toccata, with a couple of antiphonal wind machines thrown in too. It’s surreal, funny, and just a bit breathless, but it’s also a genuine virtuoso vehicle for Hodges, who played it with his usual unfussy brilliance.”     …

Summer Serenade

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 5th June 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Laurence Jackson  director / violin

Grieg: Holberg Suite 20′
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 24′
Dvořák: Nocturne in B major 9′
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings 29′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Once upon a time, serenades were played in the open air. This afternoon, you’ll almost feel the summer sunshine as the CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson becomes first amongst equals in some of the loveliest music ever penned for a pocket-sized orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s endless melodies and Grieg’s mock-baroque revels frame the teenage Mozart’s most perfect violin concerto; timeless elegance, gentle humour, and tune after tune after tune. All you have to do is relax!

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Bluebeard’s Castle, Wednesday 2nd July

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The Serenade had been preceded by the swaying textures of Dvorak’s tiny, little-known Nocturne, and the programme had begun with Grieg’s endearing Holberg Suite, making us immediately aware of this ensemble’s capacity to deliver, clarity, transparency (I heard here marvels in Grieg’s deployment of the string orchestra I’d never noticed before) and a huge range of sonorities and dynamics.

All of this had been performed with the players standing. They only became seated, plus a neat little wind section, when Laurence Jackson took centre stage as soloist/director of Mozart’s G major Violin Concerto. His reading was urbane but never limp-wristed, his endearing diffidence of manner put spotlight on his perfection of tone and intonation, and the relaxed ease of his bowing.

And natural, unflashy body-language testified to immense trust in his attentive colleagues. There were smiles all round throughout this lovely concert.”

*****