Mediterranean Classics

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Wednesday 22nd October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alain Altinoglu  conductor
Renaud Capuçon  Viola

Rossini: An Italian Girl in Algiers – Overture 8′
Berlioz: Harold in Italy 42′ Watch on YouTube

Stravinsky: Apollo 29′
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2 16′
Listen on Spotify

Pirates of the Mediterranean, hard-drinking bandits, and Greek gods who know how to party… just another night in with the CBSO! The French conductor Alain Altinoglu caused quite a stir last season; tonight he’s devised a concert with a Mediterranean flavour, from Berlioz’s Byronic fantasy to the Olympian grace of Stravinsky’s art-deco ballet, and the sensuous, shiver-down-the-spine beauty of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Pure hedonism: go on, indulge!

6.15pm – Conservatoire Showcase Granville Bantock: Pagan Symphony Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs a neglected work by one of the CBSO’s founders.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Spanish Night, Thursday 22nd January, 2015 
American Classics with Freddy Kempf, Wednesday 28th January, 2015 
Schubert, Strauss & Dvorak, Thursday 19th February, 2015

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

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…     “In fact, Capuçon’s playing had a sweep and passion that proved hard to resist.

Paganini was famously disdainful of the work. He had encouraged Berlioz to write a piece to showcase his newly-acquired Stradivarius viola in 1833 but he was unimpressed by the number of tacet bars the soloist has while the large orchestra unleashes its collective might in the score’s whipcrack tuttis. This is most apparent in the last movement, particularly after the clever introduction – surely a tribute to the opening of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its recall of the thematic material from all that has come before – when the soloist steps aside for the riotous music of the brigand’s orgy. If Capuçon fell short at all it was in the string crossing passage at the centre of the Pilgrims’ March second movement; others have made this sound more magical.

Altinoglu, for his part, clearly has an affinity for the music of his compatriot composer. He maintained a steady trajectory through the more symphonic outer movements ensuring Berlioz’s spiky rhythms were meticulously articulated. Not for Altinoglu the abandon of the late Sir Colin Davis in this repertoire, but that is not to say that he and the orchestra held back. Climaxes were unleashed but in a more controlled fashion. No doubt this is a result of Altinoglu’s technique: his gestures are small and precise, only becoming more animated when required. Every gesture appeared helpful to the orchestra and likely explains the commitment and security that was on display in every department of the orchestra, from front desk to back.”     …

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The later movements, too, revealed why Capuçon received a spectacular ovation with the Symphony Hall audience. Here the fabulous flute had exactly the right kind of mystery over (or under) the viola’s arpeggio-ing, which the soloist kept so beautifully quiet. Miracles, too, from the descanting flute department over the viola’s return in the section that followed the pilgrims. There were nicely delicate brass touches too to relish in the second movement, and the pilgrims’ exit, left to Harold to mimic with his arpeggios resolving the intermittently  elusive key in alt, felt just wonderful. Two successful middle movements, in fact.

Designed as a rip-roaring Hollywood Finale, the last movement thrilled with its brigandish assaults, though even here Berlioz manages to take the viola down to pianissimo, as the orchestra shouts out cackling laughs straight out of Weber in the brass. The strings excelled themselves in this finale – as stylish in their spirited braggadocio as previously rocky at the start. With Laurence Jackson, soon afterwards to be heard as solo, at the helm, they really can achieve rich and wonderful effects. Even when battling the trombones’ threats, the strings remained stylish – taking Harold’s side, perhaps. But one of the loveliest moments is when Harold, feeling isolated, virtually duets with himself. Double-stopping was rarely so touching, or so narrative-enhancing. It’s a lonely end, even amid the hubbub.

Everything was building towards Daphnis and Chloe – not the whole work, so no sweeping choruses and shattering, choir-upholding sequences. But this was Suite No 2, and it’s the sort of repertoire Altinoglu revels in, as Rattle did here before him. Again Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute solo – she is a fine successor to the CBSO’s great, now veteran Colin Lilley – was crucial in the scenes for Chloe. This was the work Ravel was supposed to write for Diaghilev in 1910 (the Firebird took its place; and it only hit the stage in between the next two Stravinsky ballets, reaching its audience in 1912). The CBSO woodwind have some ravishing passages, some of them fused with strings, and here, in repertoire they have recorded, the entire orchestra responded to Altinoglu’s sympathetic, sensitive lead. Daphnis is one of the most gentle of Greek myths, one of those one terms bucolic. The rural feel has more than an echo of Berlioz about it; and so too does the unbuttoned finale, which Fokine whipped up into a dramatic whirl, well up to Berlioz’s Harold and Symphonie Fantastique.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Concluding the concert, the Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé (1912) confirmed Altinoglu’s prowess in a performance as was more than the sum of its parts. The intensifying expressive contours of ‘Daybreak’ built to a radiant culmination, after which the increasingly animated discourse of ‘Pantomime’ featured dextrous woodwind-playing as found contrast in the mounting abandon of ‘Danse générale’ – so bringing the evening to an uninhibited close.

Instead of a talk, the pre-concert slot brought a rare revival of Pagan Symphony (1928) by Granville Bantock. The second of his four designated Symphonies, its single-movement trajectory comprises six sections which, between them, correspond to the customary four movements. Thus the tranquil introduction gains impetus as it heads into an ebullient Allegro, the momentum spilling over into a hectic scherzo whose climax in an unaccompanied percussion ‘break’ and the score’s most arresting passage. From here brass fanfares prepare for a sustained slow movement whose would-be voluptuousness is complemented by a final section which brings the work to a rousing close.

It hardly needs adding that Bantock’s paganism is of a distinctly English kind, nor that the work’s ambition rather outstrips its achievement, but the music evinces a virtuosity to which the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, under the watchful direction of Michael Seal, did justice (Duygu Ince coping ably with the often Straussian demands of the leader’s role). A long-time resident of Birmingham, Bantock would doubtless have expressed his approval.”

Carmen and Boléro

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Wednesday 16 October 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 Alain Altinoglu  conductor

Nora Gubisch  soprano

Bizet: Carmen – Suite No. 2 20′

Ravel: Shéhérazade 17′ Listen on Spotify
Bizet: Symphony in C 31′

Ravel: Boléro 14′ Watch on YouTube

The  nights are lengthening in Birmingham – but with some composers, it’s always summer!  Bizet’s Carmen suite isn’t just a parade of some of the best tunes in all  opera; it’s practically Spain in a bottle – and his Symphony in C is pure sunshine.  Conductor Alain Altinoglu dishes it up with a truly Gallic joie de vivre, and  joins his wife Nora Gubisch for Ravel’s wickedly seductive songs. Talking of seduction…  well, Ravel’s Boléro says it better than any words!

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Wednesday  15 January

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday  6 March

Pictures at an Exhibition, Thursday  29 May

www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Verity Quaite, BachTrack:

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…     “Ravel’s Shéhérazade filled the remainder of the first half, bringing an effective contrast to the earlier piece. Inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite of the same name, Ravel’s Shéhérazade comprises settings of three poems by Tristan Klingsor. Capturing a mystic, orientalist sense of the East, Ravel’s orchestration subtly underpins the vocal line, always supporting and never overshadowing. The CBSO carried off their role of accompanists perfectly, never overpowering mezzo-soprano Nora Gubisch and instead really allowing her to shine.  A supremely confident and expressive performer, the chemistry between Gubisch and the orchestra seemed just right, perhaps in part due to the chemistry and understanding between Gubisch and her husband, conductor Altinoglu.

Bizet’s Symphony in C followed the interval, bringing the programme a delightful symmetry. Though technically fine, as with the Carmen Suite No.2 the orchestra seemed to take a while to warm up. As the performance progressed, it did become far more involving and captivating. Ravel’s Boléro got off to a very hesitant start with a tentative entry on the snare drum. This was recovered, however, with each soloist’s entry bringing strength to the piece and thanks to Altinoglu’s tireless energy. The oboist, bassoonist and in particular saxophonist added a seductive flare and gave the piece some personality. By the entry of the timpani, Altinoglu had won the orchestra and audience round and the performance really stepped up a notch. It culminated in what can only be described in a cacophony of sound – an exuberant and fitting end to the concert.

This was an occasion where the orchestra really appeared to be enjoying themselves and the difference in made to my own enjoyment of the concert was vast. Each musician was rapt and every single member of the orchestra poured all their concentration and effort into the finale.”     …

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Not so here: this punctilious Frenchman came up with several surprises, including a nicely manicured by-the-book reading of Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 2 which, although displaying more patina than passion, allowed for some rewarding solo opportunities from leader Laurence Jackson and principal trumpet Jonathan Holland.

And Altinoglu’s support for his wife, mezzo Nora Gubisch, in Ravel’s Shéhérazade was quite exemplary, matching her warm, sculpted tone and clear articulation with an attention to instrumental detail that fully complemented the work’s sensuousness.”     …