War and Peace

ThumbnailPure Emotion

Thursday 6th November 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Lahav Shani  conductor

Francesco Piemontesi  piano

Prokofiev: Overture to War and Peace 6′
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 34′
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 46′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Composed in wartime Russia and premiered to the sound of gunfire, Prokofiev’s Fifth was considered by the composer to be a “symphony of the greatness of the human spirit”. But, like his opera War and Peace, it’s also a stirring chronicle of a nation’s final push to victory. They’ll make a powerful Birmingham debut for the award-winning young conductor Lahav Shani; between them, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto will be an oasis of calm.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Nelsons conducts Bruckner’s Seventh, Thursday 27th November & Saturday 29th November, 2014
Mahler’s First Symphony: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 22nd February, 2015
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March & Saturday 28th March, 2015

Support the CBSO

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…    “The stakes were higher in the second half, featuring as it did one of Prokofiev’s most frequently performed symphonies: the Fifth. The clever programming meant that the overture, lasting little over five minutes, inevitably left the audience wanting more of the deliciously inventive Russian’s soaring melodies, masterful orchestration and cheeky dissonances. The orchestration was aided no end by another Shani masterstroke: trumpet vibrato. Strident enough to bring a grin to this reviewer’s face and yet tastefully in keeping with an authentic ‘Soviet’ approach, it was also symbolic of an orchestra transformed, electrified.

The symphony as a whole was ideally paced. Tempi were flowing and felt natural. All of Prokofiev’s miraculous orchestration registered, particularly the counterpoint in the lower brass. The tubist, bass and E flat clarinettists were particular stars. Shani placed greater emphasis on the grinding dissonances rather than encouraging the more patriotic elements in the music as can sometimes be the case. The swiftly taken first movement coda generated tremendous excitement, featuring icily powerful tam-tam strokes, and was capped with a breathtaking final chord.

There’s no doubting Shani is a risk-taker and what chutzpah for him to display this on his first concert with this orchestra, not to mention his first in the UK. The lively sardonic second movement scherzo and fourth movement gallop brought out a more animated conducting style, with the dapper conductor now reminiscent of a dancing Bernstein. In the third movement, Shani and the orchestra succeeded in transforming the seemingly innocent opening triplet figure in the violins into a terrifying presence later in the movement’s devastating climax. The symphony concluded in a thrillingly demonic fashion, bringing the house down. Only one more word seems appropriate: wow!  “

*****

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Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Pianist Francesco Piemontesi gave a gutsy, in-your-face, technically brilliant performance.

A reduced orchestra still overpowered the soloist, but piano cadenzas were scarily astonishing.     […]

[…] Symphony No 5 is hauntingly poignant with wonderful tunes on full strings, lovely woodwind – particularly clarinet – plus characteristic parallel octave spaces between solo instruments, contrasting with brilliance and grotesque roaring through the texture to terrifying heights.” …

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