CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy

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Saturday 26th July 2014 at 7.00pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Orchestra Academy

Michael Seal  conductor

Kodály: Dances of Marosszek 12′
Strauss: Metamorphosen 26′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) 47′
Listen on Spotify

Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony blew classical music sky-high. Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen is a cry of anguish in a world devastated by madness. This is music of extremes: ardent, eloquent, and pulsing with emotion – in other words, perfect for the 50 committed young musicians of the superb CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy. Kodály’s fiery Transylvanian dances light the touchpaper: prepare to be blown away.

“These marvellous young players are invincible”

Please allow extra time to travel to this concert if you are coming by road. The A38 St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels through Birmingham will be completely closed to all traffic from 10pm on Friday 18 July until 6am on Monday 1 September 2014. More information is available from brumtunnels.co.uk.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Michael Seal conducted a strong sinewy performance where details were clear – the slow movement’s plaintive oboe lament and the basses’ stabbing interventions for example – but always suborned to the overall narrative drive.

The players clearly relished Beethoven’s dramatic thrusts and parries but also excelled in the jolly bucolic trio with its virtuoso hunting calls – fine work by the horns – and the skittish dancing finale.

The symphony’s funeral march stalks eerily through the bass line at the close of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, his string threnody to the destruction of his beloved Dresden, the tainting of German culture by the Nazis and perhaps his own ill-fated collaboration with them.

The bass section captured perfectly how the music crumbles into dust as Beethoven’s accusatory shade appears.”     …

*****

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The Royal Opera: Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

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

Sunday 6th July

Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Karita Mattila Ariadne/Prima Donna
Roberto Saccà Bacchus
Jane Archibald Zerbinetta
Ruxandra Donose The Composer
Markus Werba Harlequin
Sir Thomas Allen The Music Master
Ed Lyon Dancing Master
Ashley Riches Wig Maker
Jihoon Kim Lackey
Wynne Evans Scaramuccio
Paul Schweinester Brighella
Jeremy White Truffaldino
David Butt Philip Officer
Sofia Fomina Naiad
Karen Cargill Dryad
Kiandra Howarth Echo
Christoph Quest Major Domo

Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos 130’

This concert has a running time of c 2 hours 35 minutes including one 25 minute interval.

The Royal Opera’s visits to Symphony Hall are always highlights of the season, and with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting a cast that includes Karita Mattila and Sir Thomas Allen, this performance of Strauss’s brilliant chamber opera, in the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, should be something genuinely special. In baroque Vienna, a grand opera company and a panto troupe are forced onto the same stage: what happens next is uproarious, unpredictable – and ultimately sublime.

This production has already attracted some fantastic reviews. Read The Guardian’s 4* review here and the Financial Times’s 4* review here.

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

Richard Strauss’s opera is a clever piece of commentary on the role of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art – as well as a hilarious and sometimes slapstick dig at Viennese upper class society. The music, as you’d expect from Strauss, is ravishing – and you might want to keep your ears peeled for some death-defying vocal acrobatics in Part II courtesy of the fiery Zerbinetta…

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

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The three nymphs held the trials and tribulations of Ariadne together. They entered rear centre, first Karen Cargill as Dryad and Sofia Fomina as Naiad, to be joined by Kiandra Howarth as Echo. I thought Aussie Howarth, another Jette Parker Young Artist, deserves special mention for her delightful contribution, achieving the appropriate vagueness to her character. Overall the nymphs emanated an ethereal aura, in keeping with their function. This included their angelic guardianship role over Ariadne whilst also expressing her innermost thoughts: her states of tenderness, hatred, traumatism and bliss all emerged. One celestial highlight was their Töne, töne, süsse Stimme (Sing on, sing on, sweet God) one of Strauss’ best loved tunes. Not that Mattila didn’t display these emotions as well, if not better; she was stunning, a prima donna in every sense. Although there was no semblance of a cave, with head slightly bowed, she was a stationary sleepwalker, abandoned by Theseus. How could this hero reward the woman who saved him from Crete and the Minotaur with such a fate? The languor of the situation was made absolute by the silvery harps of Lucy Wakeford and Hugo Webb. I wondered whether Mattila might have donned a shawl/mantle, as referred to in the magnificent libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but it was superfluous. Her bearing said it all. Mattila was the best Ariadne I have seen and heard, she was Ariadne. When occupying centre stage, which was for considerable periods, she exuded class and presence. There was no need for Pappano to hold back his players whilst she was singing; she effortlessly rose above them with passion and quality – and over the whole register required of her. When she was longing to meet with death, in Wo war ich? Tot? (Where was I? Dead?) I was on the edge of my seat! When she first hears the voice of Bacchus, there was no turn of the head at this double mistake in identity; her catatonic state was so intense it took a while to break it – a nice touch in direction I thought as liberation was still someway off. Comparable to the great Wagnerian ones, the love duet between Mattila and Roberto Saccà as Bacchus, was as wunderbar as the lines of Hofmannsthal. Indeed Saccà, albeit in a lesser role, was as good as Mattila, his heldentenor delivery both forceful and true.”     …

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

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…     “Leading the comedy cast is Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta who is happy to flirt with anyone if it helps her achieve her aim. We see the masterstroke of Strauss in Zerbinetta though because while she appears a superficial butterfly, her words belie a deeper desire to be truly loved and to love in return, creating a parallel with Ariadne.

Karita Mattila is the Prima Donna engaged to play Ariadne. She is imperious and supercilious in the first act but really comes into her own in the second as she takes on the role of the abandoned Ariadne. Here is a woman singing her soul out as she shares her loneliness and begs to die.

Her agony ensures the juxtaposition when the comedy troupe come onstage is all the stronger. She may be in the depths of despair but Zerbinetta and her friends tell us a woman can jump from one man to another with ease.

There are moments of real comedy genius in Ariadne auf Naxos and that humour comes out of the disjoint between the two companies and their outlooks. When the opera company stress that Ariadne is alone and broken-hearted on her island the comic return that it’s a good job they are going to come along to keep her company. Their complete lack of awareness of the spirit of opera makes every opera-goer in the audience smile.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is conducted with plenty of enthusiasm by Sit Antonio Pappano who teases out the subtleties of Strauss’s music but also ensures gusto when needed.

The concert production doesn’t appear to lack anything by being performed without sets – if anything it concentrates the audience’s attention on Strauss’s lyrical wit.”

Friday Night Classics: A Gershwin and Bernstein Gala

FRIDAY NIGHT CLASSICS: A GERSHWIN AND BERNSTEIN GALA

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Friday 4 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael England  conductor
Leila Benn Harris  vocalist
Caroline Sheen  vocalist
Norman Bowman  vocalist
Victor Sangiorgio  piano

We are sorry to announce that Martin Yates has had to withdraw from this concert. We are grateful to Michael England for taking his place.

Gershwin:
Girl Crazy – Overture
Gershwin Medley • Summertime
I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise
I’ve Got a Crush on You
Promenade (Walking the Dog)
Swanee • The Man I Love
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Fascinatin’ Rhythm • Rhapsody in Blue

Bernstein:
West Side Story: Mambo | Balcony Scene
Something’s Coming | Somewhere |
A Boy Like That

Candide: Overture

On the Town: Lonely Town |
Times Square 1944 |
I Can Cook Too |
Some Other Time |
Wonderful Town: A Little Bit in Love |
New York, New York

 

New York, New York! George Gershwin wrote the soundtrack to the Jazz Age Big Apple. Lennie Bernstein turned its mean streets into thrilling song and dance. Together, they add up to one fabulous night out on the Fourth of July in the greatest city on earth… Birmingham, of course! We’re talking songs like Summertime and Fascinatin’ Rhythm, and shows like West Side Story and On the Town, not forgetting the theme tune of Manhattan itself, Rhapsody in Blue. So let’s go – it’s a helluva town!

Produced in association with West End International Ltd.

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Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Why? Because the three soloists, Leila Benn Harris, Caroline Sheen and Norman Bowman, made a much bigger impression in the second half of the programme when they were singing to Bernstein’s music . . . particularly the selection from West Side Story, including Tonight, Somewhere and A Boy Like That.

But, had there been an individual prize, it would surely have gone to the superb pianist, Victor Sangiorgio. Born in Sicily, he moved to Western Australia when he was four and gave his first public performance a year later.

At the end of the first act, he played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with a quality that earned rapturous applause from a large audience.

The CBSO played with their usual admirable skill throughout, and earned a special tribute from conductor England who praised ‘the versatility of this extraordinary orchestra’.”      …

Bluebeard’s Castle

Wednesday 2 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Edward Gardner  conductor
Michelle De Young  mezzo-soprano
Gábor Bretz  bass

Janácek: Sinfonietta 25′
Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (sung in Hungarian with English subtitles) 59′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

“In wars outside the blood runs redly / Here is something far more deadly / Ladies and gentlemen.” Bluebeard’s castle has seven doors. Judith is determined to open them all. But some questions are best left unanswered… Edward Gardner, music director of English National Opera, brings all his sense of theatre to Bartók’s dark fairytale, and brings up the curtain with Janácek’s ear-tingling Sinfonietta. Imagine 14 trumpeters blasting the roof off – now experience that ultimate sonic thrill in Europe’s most brilliant acoustic!

http://www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a piece that seems to work well in the concert hall, though Gardner added some clever theatrical touches to the performance. The prologue was spoken by a disembodied but amplified voice (surtitles being a definite boon throughout) then singers, Michelle DeYoung and Gábor Bretz emerged through a creaking door as the ominous lower strings opening played out on stage. The castle’s sighs were creepily reproduced through speakers in the hall, whilst the offstage brass situated in the upper rear balconies provided a thrilling sense of surround sound at the astonishing point in the score when the fifth door is opened to reveal Bluebeard’s kingdom in all its glory. At this point, the collective goose pimples were palpable!

The singing was of the very highest quality. DeYoung, partly because of her register, was consistently audible even in the loudest moments of Bartók’s colourful score while Bretz was occasionally overpowered in this respect. DeYoung’s expressions were a masterclass in their own right, constantly conveying Judit’s feelings as they cycled between foreboding, desperate hope and grim realisation. Bretz was a still, sinister presence on stage, thoroughly at ease singing in his native Hungarian.

Marshalled by Gardner, the CBSO gave their all. Bartók’s score growled and glistened as it should. This was a thoroughly engaging performance in which you could have heard a pin drop in the quieter moments, not least the telling silence that followed the final note before the rapturous applause began.”

*****

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Edward Gardner conducted a performance of staggering virtuosity from the CBSO, from ferocious brass and percussive power to subtle Debussy-like musical impressionism.

The radiant C major outburst as the castle’s fifth door opened – impressively supported by the thunderous organ – was exactly the coup-de-theatre Bartok wanted. Gábor Bretz (who also performed the prologue) was a young virile Duke for whom his new bride Judith’s attraction is as much erotic as pecuniary.

The Hungarian’s rock-steady bass was ideal for this largely declamatory role, but he used it with tenderness when needed. Judith can be just an annoyingly inquisitive shrew unless sung with the subtlety Michelle deYoung brought to the part, combined with a powerful voice never overwhelmed by Bartok’s huge orchestral forces.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Certainly the music is all that’s needed in a performance as fine as the one that closed the CBSO’s season at Symphony Hall, with the orchestra’s principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner. The orchestral sound was sumptuous, overwhelmingly massive when required, and other than delaying Bluebeard and Judith’s appearance on-stage until the recorded spoken prologue had finished, there was no attempt at any kind of concert-hall staging. Gábor Bretz and Michelle DeYoung stood and delivered superbly well. Bretz was not all the monstrous Bluebeard of myth, but a sadly resigned, rather touching figure, his mysterious nobility captured in the dark richness of his voice and its perfectly modulated diction; DeYoung, meanwhile, was passionate, impulsive, and naive rather than calculating.

For the great C major climax at the opening of the fifth door – the moment of the couple’s greatest closeness – the extra brass were arrayed around the auditorium. In the first half of the concert, they had been lined up behind the rest of the orchestra for Janáček’s Sinfonietta; it was a racy, celebratory performance, the perfect fizzy aperitif, for something as weighty and troubling as what followed.”

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Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Edward Gardner’s grasp of the opportunities for cranking up the tension of Bartók’s music were evident from the opening bars as the first vision of the castle came mysteriously into view against the ominous tones of the narrated introduction.

His ability to draw the listener into the darkness of Maeterlinck’s portrayal of the destructive frailties of the human mind were brought about through a gradual, entirely compelling yet at the same time almost imperceptible control of the deeply engrained psychological drama within both story and music, whilst the increasing sense of claustrophobia as the performance progressed proved to be masterful in its control of the shape of the music revolving, as it does, around the pivotal opening of the fifth door.

The magnificent vista over Bluebeard’s kingdom revealed by the opening of that fifth door was portrayed with breathtaking power by the orchestra and additional brass, whose antiphonal placing behind the stalls lent the musical picture an added sense of magnificence.

Colorado born soprano Michelle DeYoung emerged as an entirely convincing Judit, with the huge dynamic range of her voice capturing every nuance of the musical drama, at the same time finding the human frailty, initial wonder and the ultimate transformation of that wonder to escalating horror at the depths of Bluebeard’s inner darkness with a vivid sense of atmosphere and presence.”     …

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Review by Hilary Finch, Times ££

Click here for full review