Vaughan Williams’ Fifth

Thursday 5th May 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Bax  The Garden of Fand , 17′
  • Elgar Sea Pictures , 23′
  • Vaughan  Williams Symphony No. 5, 42′

A vision of peace in the depths of war, a pagan orgy beneath the waves of the Atlantic, or Edward Elgar revealing his deepest, darkest feelings? Forget everything you thought you knew about British music, and surrender to the emotion, as John Wilson joins Alice Coote to bring all his signature insight to three glorious masterpieces by three very different British masters.


Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A performance of this freshness, scope and sheer beauty is something else altogether. It’s partly about the sound. Wilson has a knack for making an orchestra glow, and the CBSO responded with ardour. The way the tone swelled with warmth in the first movement, as Vaughan Williams quotes his own ‘Alleluias’, sent waves of shivers down the spine.

It’s not just about sonority, though. In Elgar’s Sea Pictures , Wilson and the CBSO surged and flowed around Alice Coote’s smoky mezzo, giving her both space and support to draw some troublingly dark and intimate things from these much-misunderstood songs. And in Bax’s The Garden of Fand , Wilson shaped long, sweeping phrases, pushing the music urgently forward while bringing out all the swirling details and iridescent greens and purples of Bax’s art nouveau seascape. Incredibly, this is the first time the CBSO has played The Garden of Fand . From the streaming passion with which the violins sang the central lovesong, we shouldn’t have to wait 100 years for the second.

But still, the enduring memory of this concert will be the final bars of Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony. As the CBSO’s strings quivered with quiet rapture and Symphony Hall lit up with sound, Wilson offered the most eloquent possible ripost to those misguided souls who still pin labels like ‘pastoral’ and ‘placid’ on this visionary music. Heartbreaking – and sublime.”



Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “Wilson conducted like he was making up for lost time: driving the music forward in big, surging arcs, pointing up Bax’s thematic connections, relishing the deep harmonic undertow, and, in short, putting the emphasis of this symphonic poem firmly on the “symphonic”. That’s important to say because purely as sound, it was gorgeous. Wilson let all the art nouveau details of Bax’s Celtic seascape swirl and flow, voicing big climaxes so that you really could catch the iridescent gleam of the orchestration and visualise the “sky of pearl and amethyst” that the composer described in his typically florid programme note. Harps glinted, the bass clarinet gurgled and snaked, and in the central love song, the violins let fly with vibrato as wide as the Irish Sea, streaming with passion.

It genuinely did feel like the climax of a spiritual journey Not terribly English? Hardly: few conductors take more care than John Wilson over the sound they draw from an orchestra. The gloriously idiomatic results bring the house down every year at the Proms, when Wilson conducts his own hand-picked orchestra in reconstructed scores from classic Hollywood musicals. But relatively few have commented on the sound he creates when conducting British music with a conventional symphony orchestra. It sounds different, and yet familiar: the wide-grained, flexible string tone; the glowing softness of the woodwinds; the brass by turns mellow and bandstand-brazen. It’s the sound you hear on Barbirolli’s classic recordings with the Hallé, a sound last encountered in the hands of Vernon Handley and the RLPO some time in the 1980s.

That in itself is a little miracle. But it’d be a lifeless exercise in style without Wilson’s freshness and vision – a spontaneous natural musicianship, coupled (on the strength of this concert) to an impressive and deepening grasp of long-range form.”     …



Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Tuesday 3rd May, 2016 8pm

Pop legend Anastacia – the mega voice behind massive hits including I’m Outta Love and Left Outside Alone comes to Symphony Hall.

With over 30 million records sold worldwide, Anastacia is one of the most recognisable voices of our time and will celebrate her career with the new release. The record follows her last studio album Resurrection that reached the UK Top 10 – the fifth in her career – cementing Anastacia’s timeless status, with a voice that will continue to reach many for years to come. The Ultimate Collection sees the superstar return to her native label home of Sony Music, the label that were instrumental in catapulting Anastacia to global stardom, where she debuted and released her breakout smash hits starting with I’m Outta Love in 2000. 2015 has been a huge year for Anastacia so far; she is currently performing on her 80-date ‘Resurrection’ World Tour.

“I feel so blessed and humbled to be experiencing this exciting next chapter of my life. The idea for my ‘Ultimate Collection’ is to include something for everyone. I’m eternally grateful to be reunited with Sony, the record label that made all of this possible from day one. 15 years later I’m back, I’m home and I couldn’t be happier”.

with support Philippa Hanna


Review by Dan Earl, NativeMonster:

Click here for full review (and photos)

…     “Supported by a tight backing band, Anastacia took the time to introduce each member with a school room style ‘Hi Mrs …’ however it’s her powerful vocals that truly carry the performance. 

Tracks such as Heavy On My Heart, You’ll Never Be Alone and The Fantastic Four’s Everything Burns allowed her to remind us just how distinctive a voice she has, while Why’d You Lie To Me and Paid My Dues showed a rockier and livelier side. 

Even covering Foo Fighters Best Of You, the evening took in a plethora of tracks from different stages of Anastacia’s career before ending on biggest hits Left Outside Alone and One Day In Your Life which had people spilling into the aisles for a dance.   

Taking time in the evening to reflect on past illnesses, you get the impression that she is truly and sincerely thankful to still be performing on stage doing what she loves.

Clocking in at more than an hour and a half, fans couldn’t help but be reminded just how strong a back catalogue Anastacia has and, I’m sure that for as long as she’s performing, she’ll never be Outta Love. “