Yamada conducts Bernstein

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Ravel La Valse, 13′
  • Korngold Violin Concerto, 24′
  • Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, 18′
  • Bernstein West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, 24′

“This young man is full of music from head to toe” said one critic about Kazuki Yamada, and he’s become a real favourite with audiences and orchestra alike. With Bernstein’s electrifying Symphonic Dances, delicious decadence from Maurice Ravel, plus another Birmingham favourite – Baiba Skride – in Korngold’s luscious Violin Concerto, his first concert as our new Principal Guest Conductor is pretty much guaranteed to set the ears tingling.     http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Nick John Whittle, Bachtrack:

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[…]      “Of the final work of the evening a written description will not suffice. Rarely have I been more entertained at a classical concert than this by rendition of Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. An augmented CBSO, complete with all manner of percussive instrument, delivered something that altogether rose above the basal definition of ‘music’.

Special mention must be made of the percussion section whose relentless hammerings constituted the strong, jagged backbone of the magnificent beast. Complex tempi were delivered with accuracy – a breathtaking example of how best to deliver beat and rhythm and, for the young students of the audience who may baulk at the idea of just ‘beating drums’, here was an insight into the beauty and sexiness of rhythm.

Yamada is no despot by any means. He is part of the Big Picture, the final ingredient in the chemical reaction that turns concerts into celebrations. His connection with the orchestra was apparent, and his rapport with each section and each player was as plain as day. By his own admission he feels a connection with the CBSO that is almost “telepathic”; that much was obvious at tonight’s concert.”

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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[…]      “The playing sparkled and mixed the musical ingredients perfectly; a rainbow of carefully shaded and crisply delivered rhythms, street-wise New York pizzazz and just a dash of schmaltz. There were magical moments too, like the pizzicato strings for Maria and the all stops out Mahler-on-the-Hudson orchestration of Somewhere. Every section took a fully-deserved bow and Yamada, a diminutive bundle of bobbing energy, got a rightly raucous reception.

Korngold’s violin concerto got a sniffy critical drubbing when it was premiered in 1947 – as did almost everything tonal and tuneful – but is now getting the recognition it deserves. Vilde Frang gave a fantastic fulsomely passionate performance here two years ago but Baiba Skride’s more inward and subtle interpretation was equally satisfying. She started daringly slow and quiet, a mere wisp of sound heard from afar – music as Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity” – the central Romance warm but not over-heated and the finale’s humorous high-jinks (with characterful brass and wind playing) were delightful. ”     […]

 

 

 

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Tchaikovsky and Beethoven

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Skalkottas Four Images, 12′
  • Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, 33′
  • Koukos In Memoriam, 4′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 7, 38′

Yulianna Avdeeva’s encore – Tchaikovsky – Meditation

“I am the new Bacchus, pressing out glorious wine for the human spirit!” Beethoven wasn’t known for his modesty – but until you’ve heard his Seventh Symphony you’ve never known just how intoxicating music can be. It’s the only way to end a concert that begins with Skalkottas’s riotous Greek wine festival, and which features the virtuosic Yulianna Avdeeva in Tchaikovsky’s barnstorming concerto. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, Arcana FM:

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[…]     “Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto has never wanted for exponents, so credit to Yulianna Avdeeva for her engaging perspective on music to which the ‘war-horse’ epithet is too often applicable. The indelible opening melody was majestic without being portentous, with the imposing first movement convincingly held together so that the accrued momentum carried through to a searching take on its lengthy cadenza. There was no lack of deftness during the Andantino, replete with woodwind playing of real elegance, while the finale had energy to spare on its way to a surging peroration. This is an impressive interpretation in the making.     […]

[…]      Carydis then headed directly into Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, here given a reading that was always invigorating and often electrifying. Dynamic contrasts occasionally verged on the contrived, and the repeat of the scherzo’s hymnal trio was almost parodic in its stateliness, but these were outweighed by the power and incisiveness elsewhere. Carydis drove the CBSO hard in the finale, but the players admirably rose to the challenge – antiphonal violins to the fore as the coda reached its visceral culmination.  […]

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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“Febrile, furious and triumphantly joyous – this was the performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony one longs to hear. The Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis took risks, which is appropriate for a work which made Weber declare that Beethoven was “ripe for the madhouse”. In the Dionysian finale the CBSO became a musical juggernaut with Carydis pushing the accelerator to the floor and accepting the challenge of Beethoven’s notoriously optimistic metronome marking. I expected the wheels to come off but it’s tribute to the CBSO players that not only did they reach the finishing line in one piece but that they delivered a brilliantly articulated and weighted performance. In the wonderful Allegretto Carydis urged the strings to play with the utmost quietness – clarity aided by his dividing the fiddles left and right – making the most of the movement’s magic.”      […]

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(Review by Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette, for same programme but at Leeds Town Hall:

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Italian Moments

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Romeo and Juliet Overture, 21′
  • Rachmaninov  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 24′
  • Puccini  Intermezzi from Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, 13′
  • Respighi  Feste Romane, 24′

Pavel Kolesnikov’s encore – Chopin  Waltz in A Minor

North meets south, and whether it’s Tchaikovsky’s star-crossed lovers embracing under the Italian night sky or Respighi’s roof-raising vision of Roman excess, this is a concert full of big emotions and spectacular colours. Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan has become a star in Italy: he knows not to hold back. And nor will the superb young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, in Rachmaninov’s hugely popular Rhapsody.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Midland Music Reviews:

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[…]     “The programme had its roots entirely in Chauhan’s adopted country, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture.in which the conductor wove a haunting string web of regret before launching into a well-paced tumult — and commendably bringing his left hand into play only for telling moments.

Pavel Kolesnikov was a perfect collaborator with the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, now effervescent, now thoughtful in his punctuation of these colourful textures. The piece emerged as the sinfonia concertante for orchestra and piano that it actually is.

Orchestra and conductor really came into their own in the Intermezzi from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, sumptuous in tone, strings phrasing like soloists, and everything delivered with an ardour which surely had the composer smiling down on us.”     […]

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Review by Robert Gainer, Bachtrach:

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[…]    “But Chauhan and the CBSO were saving the best until last. Respighi’s Feste Romane is a symphonic poem of serious magnitude. I’m surprised the strings had room to bow, or the trombones space to slide, given how tightly the musicians were packed on the stage. The third in Resphigi’s Roman trilogy, Feste Romane comes in four movements, each depicting aspects of Ancient Rome. The first opened with a wonderfully coherent trumpet fanfare that celebrates the occasion of gladiatorial combat. There was no subtlety in Chauhan’s presentation, nor should there have been. Who ever heard of a subtle gladiator? This was blood and guts and glory in Nero’s Rome and the CBSO were on fire. Everything was coming together: the power of the deep brass; the tension of the tempestuous strings; the driving tumult of bass drum and timpani. Even as the tempo and volume subsided to reflect a more ponderous depth of feeling in strings and woodwind, the forward motion of the first movement was inescapable and inevitably returned to reiterate the opening fanfares.

The remaining three movements continued in a similar vein, indeed, if anything became increasingly frenetic, especially in the brass and percussion. Yet there were moments of respite when we were treated to more unusual orchestrations. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of percussive chimes and the mandolin passage in the third movement. The fourth movement was as tight and absorbing as anything I have experienced at Symphony Hall, a truly climactic finale.”     […]

 

Autumn Classics

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Featuring

Programme

  • Dmitri Shostakovich   Festive Overture
  • Edward Elgar   Salut d’amour
  • Fritz Kreisler   Liebesleid,  and Tambourin chinois
  • Antonín Leopold Dvořák   Slavonic Dances, Op.72, No.1
  • Alexander Glazunov   The Seasons: Autumn
  • Leonard Bernstein   West Side Story: Overture
  • Robert Farnon   À la claire fontaine
  • Henryk Wieniawski   Légende, Op. 17,  and Polonaise Brillante Op. 4 No. 1
  • Camille Saint-Saëns   Danse macabre
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky   Swan Lake: Act I Finale
  • Colin Twigg   Anton and Antonio

**  Support the CBSO Benevolent Fund here  **

 

Autumn: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But it’s also the time for a right old celebration, and in this delightfully entertaining concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Jennifer Pike plays some of the most mouth-watering miniature treats in the violin repertoire. And then we crack open the vodka, as Shostakovich, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky start the party, Russian style! www.CBSO.co.uk

The CBSO Benevolent Fund is a registered friendly society, no.735F, supporting CBSO players and staff.

Review by John Gough, Midlands Music Reviews:

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[…]     “Shostakovich’s opening ‘Festive Overture’ went off like a rocket, with deft articulation, cracking string playing, balalaika-like pizzicatos, and a blaze of fanfares at the close.

The pace varied constantly. Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was sweet yet purposefully phrased. The orchestra was joined by golden toned violinist Jennifer Pike in two Kreisler pieces, by turns dazzling and melting, producing an audibly contented sigh from the audience at the end of ‘Liebesleid’. She returned later with two attractive and entertaining pieces by Wieniawski.” […]

Dvořák’s New World Symphony

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Featuring

Programme

  • Dvořák Othello, 15′
  • Bartók Violin Concerto No. 1, 21′
  • Dvořák Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), 40′

Gidon Kremer’s encore – Weinberg – three Preludes

CBSO’s encore – Dvořák – Slavonic Dance 1, Op.46

Some pieces are classics for a reason – and Dvořák’s symphony “From the New World” sounds as fresh, as stirring and as gloriously tuneful today as when it was first heard, 125 years ago in New York. Guest conductor Omer Meir Wellber makes a keenly awaited return: he’s paired it with a choice of two passionate concertos, each played by one of the greatest stars on the current classical music scene. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Bratby, The Arts Desk:

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[…] “If Othello had ended suddenly, the opening phrases of the “New World” symphony sounded as if they’d always been playing, and Wellber had merely turned up the volume. That sense – of hidden, elemental forces, masterfully channelled – powered the whole performance. Initially, it was Wellber’s sheer control that impressed, as he swept each section of the symphony’s outer movements towards its culminating point. But then came the quieter moments – the loving way he moulded the string accompaniment around Marie-Christine Zupancic’s first movement flute theme, and Rachael Pankhurst’s fluid, dark caramel cor anglais solo, and then let each melody unfurl and gather pace like an improvisation.

And repeatedly, just as you felt things were humming along a little too slickly, Wellber would open the sluices. The brass ripped through the texture, and Dvořák’s windswept climaxes took on the proportions and power of Mahler. Wellber’s gestures had been almost elegant in the Bartók. Now he thrashed about with clenched fists, generating an electrical storm whose hectic, brooding atmosphere the encore – the Slavonic Dance Op.46 No.1 – did nothing to dispel. It was a shattering reading, and I’m tempted to say a necessary one – at the very least, a reminder from a conductor of a new generation that the enduring stature of this great symphonic tragedy owes nothing to Smooth Classics compilations, or a TV advert that no-one under 40 ever saw. “

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Review by Andrew Clements, The Guardian:

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[…] “The concert also introduced the orchestra’s new artist-in-residence, the violinist Gidon Kremer. Though much of his residency will centre on the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose centenary falls next year, in this first appearance he was the soloist in Bartók’s First Violin Concerto. We now hear much less of Kremer in Britain than we did a decade ago, but as this fine-grained performance showed, that’s very much our loss; he caught the quiet ardency of the concerto’s first movement perfectly, and even in the more extrovert Allegro managed to retain a degree of something personal and lyrical, leaving Wellber and the orchestra to provide the bigger emphases.” […]

 

Andris Nelsons Conducts Bruckner

Thursday 12th January, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Maxwell Davies Trumpet Concerto, 28′
  • Bruckner Symphony No. 4 (Romantic), 64′

The air seems to shimmer, and a horn calls softly in the mist. The loveliest opening to any symphony ever? Decide for yourself as Andris Nelsons unfolds the glowing peaks and sweeping vistas of Bruckner’s Romantic symphony – and sets it against the windswept seascapes of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Trumpet Concerto, played by one of the world’s greatest living trumpeters. Nelsons’s first concert in Birmingham since 2015 is certain to be a highlight of our season.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Hardenberger’s contribution scuttered with tripping articulation and sang with generous phrasing, and Nelsons (let’s not forget he began as a trumpeter) breathed as one with his soloist.

If this offering was a revelation, the performance of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony which followed was a glorious affirmation of Nelsons’ stature as a conductor of this Wagner-revering composer.

We were made subconsciously aware of the huge arc of the work’s architecture, from the shimmering opening (and Elspeth Dutch’s evocative and immaculate horn solo) right to the very ending, almost rainbow-bridge in its grandeur, and with Nelsons achieving a cut-off which left us stunned in midair.

Along the way there was so much to admire: the empathetic interweaving of Dutch and Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute; the magisterial timpanism of another returnee, Peter Hill; Nelsons’ firm grip over the score’s characteristic two+three rhythms; the sturdy brass chorales (trumpeter Alan Thomas yet another welcome returnee).

There was a huge emotional release at the end, from audience, players, and from Andris Nelsons himself, whose gestures and body-language signified so much joy at being back in what had once been his “home”.”

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “But he can still charge a melody with meaning, whether powering through a rainshower of bells, grinding against the altogether more menacing sheen of the CBSO’s trumpet section, or chanting a muted prayer amidst keening violins in Maxwell Davies’s central vision of St Francis preaching to a wheeling flock of Orcadian gulls and skuas.

If that was something of a surprise success, there was every reason to expect a lot from Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, the “Romantic”. Nelsons’s credentials in Wagner might be presumed to give him a headstart in Bruckner, and in the Alpine clarity of Symphony Hall’s acoustic (sorry, London) it’s possible to create a truly colossal range of dynamics. No fear: Nelsons’s grasp of Bruckner’s symphonic architecture is too sophisticated for such cheap wins. With a modest, precise-looking beat he let the music stride forward in eloquent, articulate paragraphs, allowing incidental motifs and twists of harmony to find their own space, and pointedly declining to overemphasise the first movement’s more spectacular geographical features. It felt almost classical.

this performance of a Bruckner symphony was still, remarkably, a kind of chamber music The Andante evoked Schumann in its inwardness and warmth: Nelsons has the ability to create forward momentum amid a feeling that there’s all the time in the world. He tied the tempi of the scherzo’s slower passages back to the earlier movements, and only with the first climax of the finale did he finally unleash the full power and scale of sound that this orchestra can create in this hall – an overwhelming moment of arrival. From that point on, not even Nelsons could bring absolute coherence to Bruckner’s stop-start ramble of a finale, but the journey towards those mighty final chords was certainly beautiful. Rich string textures built from the basses up, luminous woodwinds and cellos and violas that can sing – really sing – the heart out of Bruckner’s yearning second groups: we’ve come to expect all this when Nelsons conducts the CBSO. The honeymoon never really ended between this band and this conductor. On this showing they’re still rather more than just good friends.”     …

Beethoven’s Fourth

Wednesday 28th September, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Wagner Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music , 24′
  • Sibelius Violin Concerto , 31′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 4, 32′

Jack Liebeck’s encore – Francisco Tarrega – Memories of the Alhambra
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At the court of the goddess Venus a young poet enjoys pleasures beyond his wildest imaginings. Finland’s greatest composer relives his childhood dreams of being a great violinist. And Beethoven cuts loose in the brightest, lightest symphony he ever wrote. It’s all about the stories: and violinist Jack Liebeck and former Opera North music director Richard Farnes know exactly how to make them spring, tingling, into life.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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 …     “Once conductor Richard Farnes unleashed the fortissimo chords that send the movement roaring on its way there was a vast improvement. Basses ground away gruffly, the upper strings soared and suddenly the music began to resemble the composer Robert Simpson’s description of its “compact supple movement” and “dangerous lithe economy.”

The danger lurked just below the slow movement’s seemingly placid surface while on top Oliver Janes’ lovely clarinet sang mournfully. The scherzo’s manic energy was infectious while Farnes and the players clearly relished the finale’s Haydnesque high jinks. Similarly, the performance of the Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser impressed most in the extrovert passages where the percussion section excelled – castanets in Wagner!

It’s the fashion now for many soloists, seeking to make an instant impact during their entry in Sibelius’s violin concerto, to play it barely audibly in an attempt at making it ethereal.

Jack Liebeck played it straight and mezzo-forte just as the composer requested and this set the pattern for a strong, sinewy performance which didn’t try to make the work more “poetic” than it is. ”     …

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Review by Richard Ely, Bachtrack:

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…     “By contrast, Farnes’ stately canter through Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony almost did. This was a winning performance with the right kind of attention paid to balance and dynamics and the orchestra, for the first and only time this evening not seeming hemmed in by the sense of properness that had afflicted the earlier items. Described by Robert Schumann as a “slender Greek maiden” (between the Nordic giants of the Third and Fifth symphonies), this is a work that can struggle to make an impact because it lacks the assertive character of its immediate neighbours. Farnes didn’t seek to make apologies for the Fourth’s ‘small scale’ character in a reading that balanced the darker elements that hang over the opening moments with the lighter ones that overtake them as the work progresses. The acceleration into the Allegro vivace of the first movement was expertly handled and there was a glowing account of the Adagio as well as an ideally contrasted repetition of the Trio section in the Scherzo.  ”     …

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