Italian Symphony

Wednesday 8th June, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 

Programme

  • Dvořák  Othello, 15′
  • Bruch  Scottish Fantasy , 30′
  • Dvořák  Romance , 13′
  • Mendelssohn  Symphony No. 4 (Italian), 26′

The tumult of Dvorak’s Othello Overture, the enchanting colours of his Romance, a treasure-trove of delightful folk melodies in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and, of course, Mendelssohn’s sparkling Italian Symphony. This is music bursting at the seams with passion: join us as Laurence Jackson and the CBSO bring it to life.

.In Memory of Walter Weller (30th November 1939 – 14th June 2015) 

Support the CBSO

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“What a joy to hear Laurence Jackson again. Barely six months after the CBSO’s former concertmaster moved to Australia he was back on his old stamping ground as the soloist in a concert planned long before he left. He may not have the swaggering glitter of some violinists (he’s too sensitive a musician to engage in vulgar histrionics), but his sweetness of tone and effortless technique are qualities many would die for.

Rather than a full-blown concerto we had to be content with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a demanding enough substitute technically, if somewhat blighted by its mundane thematic material. No matter: given the intelligence and beauty of Jackson’s playing – and the nuanced handling of the orchestral score under CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan – most of the work’s mawkish sentimentality was avoided (the duet passage between Jackson and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic was particularly delightful) while the sparkling scherzo and decorative conclusion held several charms.

And Jackson’s account of Dvořák’s Romance in F minor was delivered with even greater subtlety, matched by a felicitous accompaniment full of scrumptious detail.”     …

.

Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Chauhan interpreted these brilliantly, allowing the brass and woodwind to suggest the unfolding story while the strings set tone and atmosphere. In doing so he maintained emotive interest from the brooding start to the heroic yet tragic climax.  

Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op,46 came next, featuring the concert’s soloist, Laurence Jackson. I was instantly won over by his warm and velvety tone. His phrasing achieved both comfort and tension, and his interpretation was simultaneously intellectual and heartfelt, without the excessive sentimentality too often associated with works such as this. He made his technique look effortless, particularly his fluttering bird-song trills. Importantly, he did not feel the need to thrash the more rhythmical motif of the scherzo, nor force the pomp of the strident warlike motif of the Finale: Allegro Guerriero. His unity with the orchestra was tangible throughout, but two highlights stood out for me. First were some delightfully echoed and paired phrases with the flute. Second was in the finale where I was so transfixed that he was half-way through a cadenza before I became conscious that the orchestra had stopped playing. Chauhan brought them back in with a breath-like string pianissimo before the return to the militaristic motif brought an extremely enjoyable first half to an end.

Dvořák’s Romance in F Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.11, was the second work in the programme from the Czech composer. In some ways it felt like an encore piece that could have been squeezed into the first half. It was played with a smaller orchestra and had a more intimate feel than the Bruch. It gave Laurence Jackson another opportunity to indulge us, and for that alone I was grateful.”     …

.

Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony (1832) has never left the repertoire since its revival soon after its composer’s death, but it is still a work whose innovation can easily be overlooked. Chauhan certainly had the measure of the Allegro’s unbridled élan, the exposition repeat – with its seamless formal transition – duly (and rightly) observed, and with a tensile energy as carried through the development then on to a coda as clinched the formal design with telling resolve. The Andante’s stark processional was evocatively conveyed at a swift yet never rushed tempo, with the ensuing intermezzo was characterised by heartfelt string playing and deft horns. The Finale then had the necessary contrast, its alternating of saltarello and tarantella rhythms effecting a powerful rhythmic charge that held good to the forceful close.

An engaging concert, then, and an auspicious one for Chauhan, who is evidently a conductor going places (he makes his debut with the LSO in January). This CBSO concert originally to have been directed by Walter Weller, whose death last June robbed the wider musical world of a conductor of unfailing insight across the repertoire. His cycles of Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos (the latter with John Lill) with the CBSO bear witness to his traditional yet never hidebound approach, and this concert was appropriately dedicated to his memory.”

Advertisements

Shostakovich’s Fifteenth

Wednesday 9th March, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Borodin  Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dances , 14′
  • Osvaldo Golijov  Azul (UK premiere) , 25′
  • Shostakovich  Symphony No. 15, 42′

An opera that launched a pop song, a symphony out of time, and a new rhapsody in blue… The young Birmingham conductor Alpesh Chauhan has a flair for fantasy, and this concert is drenched in it, from Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (think Stranger in Paradise) to the mysterious clocks that tick through the dying bars of Shostakovich’s last symphony. The CBSO’s own Eduardo Vassallo gives the UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s lush, baroque-inspired Azul..

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “As for Azul itself, it’s a 30-minute, single-movement arc for solo cello and an orchestra augmented by accordion, exotic percussion and occasional eerie touches of electronics. Golijov’s notion, apparently, is to “evoke the majesty of certain Baroque adagios”, with the cello less a virtuoso soloist than a leading voice, and the extra instruments serving as a kind of continuo section. In practice, this meant stretches of lush, harmonically static music broken by jagged, gradually building rhythmic ostinatos, fading at length to a horn-coloured sunset and a long, sliding final sigh.

Eduardo Vassallo - photo by Upstream PhotographyVassallo played with a sweet, glowing tone and evident commitment in music that didn’t sound particularly grateful for the cello (Golijov cites Berlioz’s Harold in Italy as a model). The lyrical opening section seemed to work best, making an effect somewhere between Tavener’s The Protecting Veil and one of those “Rainforest Moods” relaxation CDs they sell at garden centres. The audience gave it a standing ovation – almost unheard of at a CBSO concert.

But then, that was the spirit of the evening. Chauhan had set the mood with a flying, joyously balletic account of the Polovtsian Dances: springy, vividly colourful and delivered without a trace of self-indulgence. And laughter ran through the audience as he stepped down to adjust Vassallo’s music stand before Azul. “I was his student – some things never change,” he explained. As a product of Birmingham’s schools music service and a former cellist in the CBSO Youth Orchestra, this was something of a homecoming gig for Chauhan, and the warmth in the hall was genuine.

But that can’t account for the impression that Chauhan has made in recent seasons with orchestras as far apart as Scotland, Finland and Italy; nor is it enough to explain the sense of atmosphere and quiet power that he generated in Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony.”     …

 

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “For this UK premiere the solo part was played by the CBSO’s long-serving (since 1989) Argentinian principal cellist, Eduardo Vassallo. By a pleasing piece of symmetry Alpesh Chauhan, himself a cellist, is a sometime pupil of Mr. Vassallo, as he amusingly reminded the audience while helping his soloist to adjust his music stand before the performance began. (“I was his student: some things never change.”)

The work, which played for about 27 minutes in this performance, is in one continuous movement but divided into two sections. In the opening paragraphs the music was slow-moving and included long, high, soulful melodic lines for the soloist. The percussionists and the accordion supported the soloist with ear-tickling sounds; certainly Golijov’s sound palette is ingenious. I may be wrong but it seemed to me that for long stretches of the work Chauhan’s beat was largely a moderate 4/4, suggesting that Golijov does not here rely on frequent changes of metre, as is so often the case in contemporary music. But even if the pulse was fairly regular there was still considerable interest in the writing. At times, when the orchestral accompaniment had swelled to quite a significant level there seemed to me to be a Latin American feel to the music which I couldn’t quite identify. After the performance the penny dropped when my guest said he had detected a (benign) infludence of Villa Lobos. I agree, though the influence may not have been deliberate.

The second section began quietly with more sustained and intense lyrical writing for the soloist, this time against a rhythmically irregular accompaniment among the orchestral strings. Gradually the music grew in power and suggested to me a threnody. After a short cadenza-like passage for the soloist a remarkable passage of fast, vigorous music began. This was played by the soloist and the obbligato group. The soloist’s music was energetic in the extreme but it was the percussionists who really caught the eye –and the ear. They impelled the music forward with tremendously vital rhythms, deploying the full range of their assembly of instruments. At several points one of the percussionists was required to contribute wordless vocalizations. It was both fascinating and exciting to witness – I’m not entirely sure the section would have quite the same impact if experienced just through an audio recording. Eventually the orchestra joined in the frenetic dance. Then the music slowed and the accompaniment became quiet and warm though the cellist’s lines seemed plaintive. During the remaining minutes of the piece the music glowed though eventually Golijov introduced more dissonance, albeit not in an aggressive fashion. The piece reached its conclusion amid a welter of glissandi from the soloist and orchestra which gradually faded into silence.”     …

.

Review by Clive Peacock, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Responsibility for compiling this vast array of instruments, including cajon, dumbek, darabuka, djembe and waterphone falls to Aidy Spillett, percussion section leader, who shot to prominence in 1998 as winner of the BBC Young Musician prize, later to become director of the vibrant, exciting percussion quartet 4-MALITY.

Golijov’s five part composition opened with flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic accompanying a strong cello lead before the introduction of the high-powered percussion unit positioned close to the conductor, whilst the double basses provided an ethereal contribution from a concentric arc positioned close to the choir stalls and behind the wind section. Vassalo demonstrated exceptional concentration in the blissfully played Silencia, the longest part, supported by extraordinarily sensitive interpretations of moods by the percussionists, accompanied by accordion player, Mark Bousie. During this part, conductor Chauhan was happy to put his baton down to allow the sublime cello sound to float above the clever innovative percussion before regaining control with a full orchestral flourish. Strings played ricochet with bows in the left hand and downward glissandi with the right, serving to produce high energy waves calling to alien life occurring beyond the Symphony Hall’s entranced audience. Chauhan, Vassallo and the Spillett team received the well-deserved standing ovation from many moved by the remarkable earthling performance.

Quotations from Rossini and Wagner litter Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony. Extracts from the William Tell overture and fate leitmotivs from Die Walküre and Siegfried signal a premonition to listeners, written just four years before the composer’s death. Chauhan has a wonderful feel for the music, dispensing with his baton to rely on hand movements to do his bidding. This he achieves most spectacularly in the third movement as first the violins and, later, the brass sections combine with the percussion unit to produce a sharp scherzo. With Wagner leitmotivs again evident in the last movement, Chauhan contrived to bring this puzzling symphony to a delicate, yet very competently delivered conclusion.”

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Borodin’s evocative Polovtsian Dances conjured all their accustomed magic under Alpesh Chauhan’s balletic (not for nothing has he worked closely with Andris Nelsons) conducting, sculpting vibrant colours from the CBSO, and knowing when not to over-conduct. If the opening was paced a little hectically, the players coped well.

Then came the much-awaited UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul for cello and orchestra, ten years after it came into the world in Tanglewood, Massachusetts — a long delay. And it’s understandable why, with the work’s extravagant percussion contingent and its detailed demands concerning orchestral layout.

None of which were observed here, despite the many paragraphs devoted to it in Boosey and Hawkes’ unhelpful programme-note, which also failed to explain the meaning of the title.

Eduardo Vassallo was the committed, hard-working soloist, crossing a million miles across his strings, his cello singing a song which found its deliverance in a wonderful extended cadenza with a group of continuo percussionists placed close by (the only concession to the layout stipulations).”     …

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The performance, though, was a fine one. The cello soloist was the CBSO’s principal Eduardo Vassallo, and the orchestra’s assistant conductor Alpesh Chauhan, who began his musical career in the CBSO Youth Orchestra, took charge. Russian music provided the frame: Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, from the opera Prince Igor, and Shostakovich’s final, death-haunted symphony, the 15th, in which Chauhan caught the edge of sardonic humour and bleakness perfectly – even if he made the finale’s puttering close a bit more prosaic than it ought to be.”

Summer Showcase

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 25th June, 2.15pm

Programme

  • Strauss  Suite in B flat major for 13 winds, 25′
  • Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, 20′
  • Reich  Music for Pieces of Wood, 8′
  • Cage  First Construction in Metal, 9′
  • Mussorgsky (arr. Howarth)  Pictures at an Exhibition, 30′

Our orchestra is made up of 83 extraordinary artists, and today they step into the limelight. The CBSO woodwinds share Strauss’s delightful Suite, and our strings play their hearts out in Shostakovich’s white-hot Chamber Symphony. Then the percussion section sets up a rhythm in two stunning contemporary classics – and a spectacular, all-brass version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition proves that a great orchestra is the sum of some seriously impressive parts!
.

Alpesh Chauhan to stay at CBSOarticle by Christopher Morley

.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “For the brass Elgar Howarth’s imaginative arrangement of Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition showed just what exciting sounds can be drawn from an expanded palette of brass colours (especially when played with such firm-of-lip panache) and a conductor alert to good balance.

The two percussion items were less rewarding. Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood might be an intriguing rhythmic exercise, but quickly outstays its 8-minute duration; and the huge array of instruments in John Cage’s First Construction (in Metal), which Chauhan conducted with military four-in-a-bar precision, certainly tickled the ears although, by today’s standards, its inventiveness seemed disappointingly limited.

Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for strings, however, was quite different. With its four-note motif an ever-present symbol of the composer’s torment and despair, and the cello solos of Eduardo Vassallo singing songs of forlorn memory, this was a stunningly moving performance, made even more so by the unobtrusive direction of concert master Laurence Jackson. When musicians listen so intently to each other who needs a conductor?”    

Schubert, Strauss and Dvořák

Thursday 11th June, 7.30pm

Programme

  • Schubert  Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) , 22′
  • Strauss  Horn Concerto No. 2 , 20′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 7, 38′

We are sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert at Symphony Hall due to an acute ear infection. We are pleased to announce that CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan has kindly agreed to conduct at very short notice. This evening’s concert programme remains unchanged.

If you enjoy Dvořák’s New World symphony, just imagine the music he wrote when he was happily at home! Dvořák’s Seventh is stormy, passionate and filled with the kind of tunes you just can’t stop humming. Tonight it’s served up with Strauss’s bubbly second horn concerto (starring the CBSO’s own Elspeth Dutch), and Schubert’s Eighth: a symphony that couldn’t be more perfect even if he’d finished it.

.

After being called in at little over 24 hours notice for his full CBSO debut last week, Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan talks with Steve Beauchampé

.

Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     ” The CBSO’s principal hornist, Elspeth Dutch, was an ideal exponent for the work. She knows Symphony Hall’s acoustic well and how to make her horn sing both with and above the orchestra. She made the opening arpeggio seem effortless and produced a lovely, legato sound.

Chauhan was an excellent accompanist and ensured the CBSO strings provided a soft cushion of sound to support Dutch. It’s interesting that Strauss gives quite a prominent role for the orchestral horns in the concerto and their dialogue with Dutch towards the end of the first movement was nicely done. The wistful second movement is somewhat reminiscent of music from Der Rosenkavalier and Dutch was once again mellifluous here. The rondo final movement is a great test of agility for the soloist with its tricky leaps and jumps and complex rhythmic dovetailing with the orchestra. After the briefest of awkward starts Dutch and the orchestra gave us a delightful romp through this fun music, finishing with a tremendous flourish.

It is often argued that Dvořák’s Symphony no. 7 in D minor, one of his finest achievements, is his most serious work in the genre but I would wager that proponents of such a view have not spent much time listening to his first three – not too many people do. Certainly, of the symphonies most often performed, it does not possess the sunny character of the Fifth and Sixth, the quirky originality of the Eighth nor the outright folksy-ness of the Ninth. It is likely that Dvořák was under the influence of his friend, Brahms, at the time the Seventh was composed and the mastery of symphonic argument supports this.

Chauhan’s interpretation was, in many ways, fresh and invigorating. He plotted a swift course through the first movement, driving us headlong into the symphony’s turbulence without flinching.”     …

Shostakovich Uncovered

ThumbnailDiscover

Wednesday 11th February 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Alpesh Chauhan  conductor
Paul Rissmann  presenter

Shostakovich: An introduction to Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 40′
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905) 60′
Listen on Spotify

Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony is an epic musical tale of tyranny and revolution – or is it? In this special concert, presenter Paul Rissmann uses illustrations, anecdotes and the full CBSO to explain Shostakovich’s hidden agenda – and unlock the story behind the music. Then Andris Nelsons conducts a full performance of this most gripping of 20th century symphonies.

6.15pm: Conservatoire Showcase Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy, Op.54 Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs Scriabin’s spectacular fourth symphony.

Support the CBSO