Tchaikovsky’s Fifth

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Wednesday 25th May, 2016, 7:30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Tchaikovsky  The Tempest , 21′
  • Glazunov  Violin Concerto , 20′
  • Tchaikovsky  Symphony No. 5, 48′

Something incredible happens when a Russian maestro conducts Russian music; and former Bolshoi music director Alexander Vedernikov has Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in his blood. Expect grand passions, tender moments, and melody after wondrous melody in a concert that features a rare performance of the luscious violin concerto by the “Russian Mendelssohn” Alexander Glazunov – plus Tchaikovsky’s gloriously uninhibited take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.


Review by Clive Peacock, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The recurring main theme, which links the four movements, sometimes dubbed the ‘fate theme’, offered Oliver Jones’ the opportunity to open the movement with beautiful clarinet playing, echoed by Joshua Wilson’s delightful bassoon efforts. Both returned towards the end of the movement in the most dramatic form. This gives way to one of Tchaikovsy’s most beloved themes, a poignant and seductive horn melody led by Elspeth Dutch before a dramatic interruption from Matthew Hardy’s fierce timpani playing, something he also achieved at the beginning of the evening during Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest

During an evening of huge plusses with outstanding individual performances, the CBSO was well led by Zoe Beyers, firmly established as a very successful leader of the orchestra. With a Russian conductor, Alexander Vedernikov, very much at home with an all-Russian programme, the strong CBSO audience following was in for a treat. It is a sheer joy to listen to – and watch – the crisp pizzicato playing of the cello desks and those of the double basses.

Dance-like themes open the minor key third movement – probably his fateful theme seeking happiness. Vedernikov showed his supreme confidence in the CBSO’s capability, allowing Beyers to lead the playful runs in the strings before taking back the leadership for the furiously driven fourth movement with the many delicate shaded woodwind passages acknowledged with nods of approval by a very pleased conductor. He deliberately sought the hands of the several brass, wind and string players at the end of a superb performance.”     …


Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto


Thursday 8th January 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor
Nikolai Lugansky  piano

Rachmaninov: Vocalise 6′
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 44′
Listen on Spotify

Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 3 41′

Nikolai Lugansky’s encore – Rachmaninov: Etude-Tableau Op.33 No.8

It’s been called the “Everest of piano concertos”, and it’s true – for difficulty, grandeur and pure heart-on-sleeve romance, Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto is hard to top. Nikolai Lugansky, an old friend here in Birmingham, takes on that challenge today, and former Bolshoi music director Alexander Vedernikov brings all his theatrical flair to Tchaikovsky’s delightful Third Suite – half ballet, half symphony: all Tchaikovsky.

Listen to the concert online here – BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert – available for four weeks

Support the CBSO


Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “He lavished care on the opening Elegie, the ballet-influenced melodies eliciting some sumptuous string playing led by Laurence Jackson who made a telling solo contribution later in the suite.

There was an aptly sinister edge to the Valse melancolique, with its bass line nagging away like a toothache – as disturbing as the sixth symphony’s limping waltz. The fourth movement’s variations were individually etched, with Sarah Harper’s cor anglais meltingly beautiful, with a roof-raising final Polonaise.

Nikolai Lugansky has recorded Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto with the CBSO and has performed at Symphony Hall to great acclaim – and he triumphed again.

The huge demands on the soloist were traversed by Lugansky with playing that was passionate but never hectoring, elegant but not over-cool and with a diamond-sharp precision that, especially in the cadenzas, had my head shaking in disbelief.”     …



CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Wednesday 11 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor

Elisabeth Leonskaja  piano

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′

Grieg: Piano Concerto 30′

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 45′

Elisabeth Leonskaja’s encore – Chopin Nocturne – Op.27 No.2

The horns blast out a savage fanfare; the trumpets scream in reply… Hold tight, because this is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and you’re about to witness one of the most inspired composers of all time wrestling with his demons in music of overwhelming rawness and passion. It’s thrilling and, as the former music director of the Bolshoi, conductor Alexander Vedernikov has this music pounding through his veins. First, though, in this concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, he joins another living Russian legend, pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, for the altogether gentler pleasures of Grieg’s irresistibly tuneful piano concerto. Great music, for a great cause.

*The CBSO Benevolent Fund, registered friendly society 735F, exists to support CBSO players and staff, past and present, at times of ill-health or other hardship.



**Great music for a great cause!**

*** Angie’s Story: CBSO Benevolent Fund – click here ***



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Grieg’s Piano Concerto suffers by its popularity and accessibility to soloists of the third and fourth order. Here instead we relished the remarkable Elisabeth Leonskaja, her steely, well-wrought pianism poised and taut, accents crisply turned, her chording judiciously weighted and balanced, and virtuosity never obtruding itself. This was a reading mixing gesture and intimacy, and what a success it was in this collaboration with Vedernikov’s willing orchestra (flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic delivering evocative solos).

Encores are generally anathema to me, but in this instance Chopin’s D-flat Nocturne was perfect, allowing us to hang onto Leonskaja’s artistry just a little longer.”     …


Leonskaja Plays Grieg

Saturday 3 November 2012 at 7.00pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Vedernikov conductor
Elisabeth Leonskaja piano

Sibelius: Karelia Suite 14′ Listen on Spotify
Grieg: Piano Concerto 30′
Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1 41′ Listen on Spotify

Elisabeth Leonskaja’s encore – Mozart’s piano Sonata no.12 KV 332 in F Major – Adagio

An angry snarl, an ominous chant, and a doom-laden fanfare – and that’s just the start! When the young Sergei Rachmaninov launched his First Symphony, he didn’t pull his punches. It’s an epic tragedy of fate and desire, poured out in music that burns with passion, and Russian guest conductor Alexander Vedernikov is sure to give it his all. Sibelius’s cheerful Karelia Suite is quite a contrast – and in the hands of the superb Elisabeth Leonskaja, Grieg’s ever-popular Piano Concerto should sparkle like new.



Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “She exuded an intriguing combination of business-like focus on the task in hand and passion for the music and her instrument. The result was a rare bell-like quality. Ms Leonskaja’s sensitive and masterful playing was complemented by a very watchable attitude that was completely at one with the music, including an endearing flourish of the arms at the end of fast passages, fists clenched, so powerful that it threatened to propel her into the front row.”     […]

[… ]    “Just when we thought the evening couldn’t get any more dramatic, guest conductor Alexander Vedernikov, formerly of the Bolshoi, demonstrated a remarkable affinity with compatriot Rachmaninov and directed the players through a blistering performance of his Symphony no. 1 in D minor. Vedernikov’s expressive arms seemed to reach for the roof and his over-the-collar hair bounced with vigour. The programme notes included the headings “A night in hell… From the ashes… Defying destiny… Grand passions”, and the music was correspondingly angst-ridden.”     …

Russian Classics

Thursday 27 May 2010 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor
Steven Osborne  piano

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Festival Overture 16′
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2 20′
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 45′

Music director of Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theatre since 2001, Alexander Vedernikov makes his CBSO debut with a trio of very different Russian masterpieces. Rimsky’s colourful overture celebrates the Russian Orthodox Easter in a riot of bells and orchestral brilliance, while Prokofiev’s superb post-war symphony strikes a more serious mood in music of great intensity and power. His sometime friend Shostakovich is also famous for his serious symphonies, but this tuneful piano concerto finds him in a lighter mood, and is played for us by the versatile Scottish pianist who has entertained CBSO audiences in music from Mozart to Messiaen.

Alexander Vedernikov’s encore – Beethoven- Bagatelle

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”The same could be said in a way of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony, but here this rent-a-ballet score leads to a desolate, profound experience. Steely woodwind, full-throated strings, fearless horns stood out in a willing orchestra welded so skilfully and idiomatically by Vedernikov as he marshalled the music to its grim conclusion.

Rating: 5/5″

Review by Roger Jones, MusicWeb:

…”Prokofiev’s final symphony is a towering achievement which deserves to be heard more often in this country. Vedernikov managed to inspire the CBSO to play with vigour and commitment to produce a performance which was utterly overwhelming in its impact.”