Thursday 14th January, 2.15pm


  • Ravel  Mother Goose Suite, 16′
  • Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4, 24′
  • Rimsky-Korsakov  Scheherazade, 45′

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, a cruel king… and a Russian composer. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is like opening a wonderful book of musical stories: there’s adventure, magic and – of course – love, all told in music of glittering splendour and gorgeous colour. Guest conductor Andrew Gourlay retells the tale today, along with Ravel’s own little book of musical fairytales, and Rachmaninov’s jazziest concerto. So, if you’re sitting comfortably…


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

(for Saturday 16th performance of same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “He and the orchestra were joined by Ukrainian Alexander Romanovsky for Rachmaninov’s elusive Fourth Piano Concerto, a work where everything is stripped to the bone. It’s a piece whose atmospheric gestures would soon be taken up by film-music composers (gorgeously dark lyricism from the CBSO strings), but here Romanovsky concentrated on the music’s remarkable cogency, bringing a strong rhythmic impulse and a mercurial pianism redolent of Rachmaninov himself. His Chopin Nocturne encore was a perfect choice, rich-toned and warmly pedalled.

We ended with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a composition short in musical content but brilliant in terms of colour and opportunities for display, showing off the skills of so many CBSO soloists under Gourlay’s flexible, empowering direction.

And of course the princess of all of these was concertmaster Zoe Beyers, her narrations eloquent and subtly phrased, poignant in their underlying desperation (Scheherazade is spinning tales to prolong her own life, after all), and all the time neatly dovetailed into her orchestral duties.”     …


Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack:

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…     “It was also a kiss (on the hand!) that stood at the end the performance of the second piece this afternoon – a superbly played Fourth Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov at the hands of Alexander Romanovsky. The CBSO’s sound immediately had more punch, was more immediate, and set the mood for the piano’s opening chords. Romanovsky spelled those out a bit too obviously, but soon played flowingly, coherently, effortlessly in the highly virtuoso passages, yet retaining a pithy sound. Romanovsky revelled in the jazzy opening of the middle movement as the orchestra revelled in its dreamy three-note-motif as if there was nothing musically more important to say. It was a thing of beauty, as was the third movement, played at breakneck speed, yet utterly focussed and with great accuracy.

What more could there possibly be said about Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade? This is music that paints an image with broad strokes in primary orchestral colours. It is a fascinating piece that makes the listener a first-hand witness to the Sultan’s experience listening to his Sultana’s intricate tales, gracefully spun by the violin. Zoe Beyer’s tone was engaging, tender, with small, quick vibrato, and captured the storyteller to a tee, creating an unobtrusive, calm and quiet presence. It entered into trusted dialogue with the flute while the orchestral waves around Sinbad’s ship rose and rolled covered by spray, and like the programmatic tales, it kept the listener captivated throughout.”     …

A London Symphony with the Hallé

Wednesday 14 March 2012 at 7.30pm

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

The Hallé
Sir Mark Elder conductor
Andrew Gourlay conductor*
Imogen Cooper piano

Strauss: Wind Serenade* 10′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456 29′
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony 43′

Vaughan Williams didn’t just get his inspiration from skylarks and folksongs. He took traffic sounds, street-cries and the Westminster chimes, and turned them into A London Symphony – complete with cabbies, nightclubs and fog. It’s a gloriously colourful showcase for Sir Mark Elder and The Hallé – one of the great musical partnerships of recent years – and with Imogen Cooper bringing her unique poetry to Mozart’s lovely B-flat Piano Concerto, we’re looking forward to an evening of really magical music-making.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…      ” There was no hiding that dimension of anguish in Elder’s superbly comprehensive account, whether in the paroxysms of the first movement – the Hallé brass wonderfully secure – or in the last slow fade of the finale. Even the moments of ebullience in the scherzo seemed to take on a sardonic edge.”     …

Review by John Gough, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “This was a wonderfully responsive evocation of the capital, full of vitality. (I have never heard better playing of the quicksilver scherzo). Full, too, of poetic feeling and a tragic awareness of a world on the brink of catastrophe. Everything was here from ultra quiet string textures and distinguished solos, rising in the finale to brass playing ecstatic in its power and nobility.”       *****