Handel’s Orlando

Harry Bicket and The English Concert perform

Handel’s Orlando

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Opera highlights

Friday 26th February, 2016

Town Hall

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Iestyn Davies Orlando
Erin Morley Angelica
Carolyn Sampson Dorinda
Sasha Cooke Medoro
Kyle Ketelsen Zoroastro

Handel Orlando 165’

Torn between love and glory, the knight Orlando gives way to madness – and rampages through a world of lovers, sorcerers and all-powerful spirits.Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando is a true extravaganza, performed tonight by Harry Bicket and The English Concert – plus Carolyn Sampson, and Iestyn Davies in the title role.

The proposed finish time for this concert is 9.50pm
(due to the long duration there are two intervals of 20 minutes and 15 minutes)

Please note: the date of this event has now changed
This concert will now take place on Friday 26 February 2016. Existing bookers will be contacted in due course with new details and tickets, should they not be able to attend the new date they will be entitled to a refund. > Posted 17/6/15

.

Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times (££):

Click here for full review (££)

…     “Iestyn Davies took the title role with ease and effortless style and his slow Sleep Aria, accompanied by two dusky violas, theorbo and cello, was spellbindingly beautiful. Erin Morley’s velvety soprano and lively expressions made her a warm, complex Queen Angelica, adored by Orlando but in love with Medoro, a role that needs the richness and depth given by mezzo Sasha Cooke. As the powerful magician Zoroastro, Kyle Ketelsen’s burnished bass-baritone was the ideal foundation for this group of well-contrasted voices.

At the emotional heart of this performance was the unlucky-in-love shepherdess Dorinda, sung with fresh, sweet lightness by Carolyn Sampson. Her Act II Nightingale Song, with solo violin as songbird, was a standout moment, only to be topped by her dazzling Amor è qual vento in Act III, in which she sings of the anguish of love.”

*****

 

Benjamin Grosvenor: Grieg

  • Thursday 25th February, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Elgar  Falstaff , 35′
  • Grieg  Piano Concerto , 30′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 3, 37′

Benjamin Grosvenor’s encore – Dohnányi – Capriccio Op.28 No.6
.
Benjamin Grosvenor’s playing has been called “a kind of miracle”, and last time he performed with the CBSO, this 23-year old British pianist held Symphony Hall spellbound. You’ve probably heard Grieg’s Piano Concerto before – but never quite like this! It’s the glowing heart of a concert that begins with Elgar’s colourful portrait of Shakespeare’s fat knight and ends in the romantic sunset of Brahms’s ardent Third Symphony..

 

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joined the orchestra for Grieg’s Piano Concerto. It’s easy to understand the work’s enduring popularity, not least because the thematic material is so memorable. I realised that it had been some time since I heard the work and I was glad of that because the work came up very freshly here. That said, I think it would have sounded fresh anyway; such was the nature of this performance. I’ve seem Jac van Steen conduct on several occasions in the past and one of many things that has impressed me is the clarity of his direction. Prior to this evening, however, I don’t recall that I’ve seen him conduct a concerto but that clarity was much in evidence and I’m sure it helped tremendously in shaping a keen and responsive account of the orchestral accompaniment.

Grosvenor himself was very impressive. In the first movement he proved himself well equipped for the bravura passages but I was even more taken with the poetry in his playing. The cadenza offered an excellent illustration of both facets. He began it with reflective musing and then gradually increased the power of his playing so that there was a sense of the heroic as the cadenza reached its climax. The lovely slow movement began with gorgeous string playing; the sound was velvety and deep. Grosvenor was delicate and pensive in the early pages of the movement and then later invested the music with plenty of romantic expression. There was fine energy in the dancing music with which the finale opens. Later that tune was gorgeously introduced by principal flute, Marie-Christine Zupancic, her tone making the music sound like a draught of clear spring water. When his turn with the tune arrived Grosvenor relished it, yet there was no self-indulgence to his playing. After a return to the energetic material the apotheosis of the Big Tune had suitable grandeur but was not overblown either by Grosvenor or his conductor.

Following this excellent performance I noticed that it was not just the audience who showed their appreciation: Jac van Steen and the CBSO applauded Grosvenor with genuine enthusiasm. He gave us short, dexterous encore”     …

.

Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Especially welcome was the inclusion of Elgar’s symphonic study, Falstaff. Elgar was an admirer of Richard Strauss’ works, his tone poems in particular. When I hear Falstaff I can’t help but think of the similarities between the antics of Falstaff and Don Quixote from Strauss’ eponymous tone poem. In both works the protagonist is mostly represented on the cello and this is surely no coincidence. Elgar’s Falstaff is the more serious portly knight from Shakespeare’s Henry IV rather than the comical character featured in the The Merry Wives of Windsor. Though the composer denied overt programmatic content, the music is structured around various episodes featuring Sir John Falstaff and his companion, Prince Hal – heir to the throne.

Jac van Steen wasted no time in establishing Falstaff’s character in musical terms with a confident, swaggering start. It was a joy to see a conductor so very much at home with this orchestra and an orchestra so much at home in this repertoire. Various members of the orchestra excelled in bringing the cowardly knight to life, from a particularly throaty contrabassoon to rude-sounding horns. Later, in the Boar’s Head episode it wasn’t hard to imagine drunken goings on with cantankerous solos from the principal cellist and bassoonist. Van Steen paced the piece excitingly throughout, yet he still found time to appreciate these delicious details in the score.

Grieg’s Piano Concerto is so well known as a concert hall favourite and showpiece that it helps to be reminded what a rich and substantial piece of music it is. Benjamin Grosvenor dispatched those famous opening chords in a serious yet unpretentious manner that was to characterise his interpretation of the piece. After a buoyant orchestral introduction, Grosvenor was off like a rocket. This first movement was always mobile, never rhetorical in his hands. He is an especially attentive musician, always taking care to listen to players accompanying him in the orchestra.”     …

 

 

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Rachmaninov’s Second

Sunday 21st February, 7.00pm

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Programme

  • Prokofiev  Scythian Suite , 20′
  • Rachmaninov  Symphony No. 2, 55′

Conductor Jac van Steen has a special rapport with the CBSO Youth Orchestra – and if you’ve heard them play Rachmaninov before, you’ll know to expect absolute commitment, glorious playing and pure, unbuttoned emotion when our fabulous young players tackle the ultimate Russian romantic symphony. Though after van Steen has unleashed them on the pagan frenzy of Prokofiev’s electrifying Scythian Suite, pulses should already be racing!

Tchaikovsky’s Sixth

Wednesday 17 February, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture, 9′
  • Prokofiev Sinfonia concertante, 37′
  • Tchaikovsky  Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique), 45′

“Pathétique” means “full of emotion”: simple as that. And from first bar to last, Tchaikovsky’s epic Sixth Symphony brims with anguish, longing and unforgettable Tchaikovsky tunes. The charismatic young Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare won’t stint on the passion; nor will his wife Alisa Weilerstein – soloist in Prokofiev’s huge, brooding “symphony concerto”. Hector Berlioz lights the fuse amidst a riot of Italian sunshine.

.

Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…    “From the opening notes it was clear we were in for a warm, emotional time of it. By the end of the first movement, with interventions from different quarters of the orchestra but basically an improvisation for the cellist, you could sense that Weilerstein held the audience in the palm of her hand. The middle movement also held the gems of a heart-rendingly lyrical melody and a captivating extended cadenza, as well as some noteworthy wind highlights. 

Theme and variations was the order of the day for the final movement, with a relentless sensation of impetus throughout.  The cello played the stately main theme, contrasting with a more light hearted cadenza. This in turn led to a little comic relief courtesy of bassoon then cameo for soloist and a sextet of solo strings, which they all clearly enjoyed. Countless high arpeggios on the cello concluded this passionate interpretation and the audience responded equally warmly. 

If Prokofiev hadn’t long to live after Sinfonia Concertante was finished, Tchaikovsky’s death came even harder on the heels of his Symphony no. 6 in B minor, “Pathétique”. He famously commented on being pleased with this symphony: “I give you my word of honour that never in my life have I been so contented, so proud, so happy in the knowledge that I have written a good piece”, but he died just over a week after its première, rumoured to be suicide although never proven.

Unusual in its mood, since minor key symphonies in the 19th century were generally darkness-to-light journeys, this remains dark, reflected in the “Pathétique” label which conveys deep feeling and suffering. By the end of the finale, the music fades away into the darkness from which it emerged in the first place. A sense of struggle is highlighted by dynamic extremes and it’s full of powerful emotion. But there are plenty of beautiful lyrical melodies, as well as opportunities to showcase the various orchestral forces, with the balance well-handled by Payane – the violas were under the spotlight for a couple of passages, and rightly basked in their applause afterwards. The whole indulgent performance got an enthusiastic reception from the packed Symphony Hall audience.”

 

 

Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 and 5

Saturday 13th February, 3.00pm

Programme

  • Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1, 37′
  • Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, 38′

“If I had to take one Beethoven concerto cycle to a desert island,” wrote one critic of Rudolf Buchbinder’s recordings of Beethoven’s piano concertos, “it might just be this.” In this second instalment of his Birmingham Beethoven cycle, conductor/pianist Rudolf Buchbinder tackles the mighty “Emperor” concerto itself: music without limits, performed with supreme understanding by a living legend amongst pianists.

.

Support the CBSO

Baiba Skride: Szymanowski

Thursday 4th February, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 

Programme

  • Mendelssohn  A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture, 11′
  • Szymanowski  Violin Concerto No.1, 23′
  • Shostakovich  Symphony No. 10 , 52′

Baiba Skride’s encore – Bach – Sarabande from Partita 2 in D Minor

The Soviet authorities called Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony an “optimistic tragedy”. But we can hear it as one of the mightiest symphonies of the 20th century: huge, dark, and driven by blazing emotion. It’s all a long way from the moonlit enchantment of Mendelssohn’s Shakespearean overture – or Szymanowski’s gorgeous, shimmering First Violin Concerto, played tonight by this season’s artist in residence, the wonderful Baiba Skride.

CBSO+ 6.15pm Conservatoire Showcase Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs Respighi’s majestic Pines of Rome and Mattei, a World Premiere by Conservatoire Composer Ryan Probert.

 

.

Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    ” He went on to sculpt Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony in big, sweeping gestures and a positively lurid palette of orchestral colours. True, it was alive with detail: Julian Roberts’s plangent bassoon solos, Rainer Gibbons’s oboe twisting palely in the gloom at the start of the finale, and pizzicato that ranged from fat and pungent to bitterly wry. But this was broad-brush Shostakovich, thrillingly physical and reeking of vodka and boot-leather. The ending drew cheers.      […]

[…]     Earlier, the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra gave a pre-concert performance under Michael Seal. Mattei , by Conservatoire composer Ryan Probert, created huge Technicolor sonorities (extra brass plus organ) from the slightest of musical ideas. Respighi’s Pines of Rome put the same forces to suitably roof-raising use; but it was the eloquence and sense of atmosphere in the quiet music (beautifully poised trumpet and clarinet solos, supported by ravishing string phrasing) that showed just what heights these students can attain under Seal’s direction. “

.