The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 1 and 2

Wednesday 19 September 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Baiba Skride violin

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 25′ Listen on Spotify
Beethoven: Violin Concerto 42′ Listen on Spotify
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 34′ Listen on Spotify

The symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven are the greatest journey any conductor and orchestra can take together. All of human experience is contained in these nine life-changing masterpieces. Here, Andris Nelsons and the CBSO begin that journey with the joyous First and Second Symphonies: the sound of a bold young genius stretching his wings, and ruffling a few feathers. Birmingham favourite Baiba Skride is the soloist in the glowing serenity of Beethoven’s ravishing Violin Concerto.

To see the full Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, go to

Sponsored by BarclaysThe Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

Baiba Skride with the CBSO video clip here



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The Second Symphony ended the concert, and the performance had the authentic Nelsons hallmarks from the start – the tightly coiled energy powering every phrase, the carefully delineated detail, the effortless sense of an organic whole – enough to suggest that he will be more than ready to meet the bigger challenges to come later in the series. Between the two symphonies there was more Beethoven, with Nelsons’ fellow Latvian Baiba Skride as soloist in the Violin Concerto. If the performance lacked the excitement that Skride has brought to 20th-century works, its bittersweet mixture of exuberance and lyrical reflection seemed entirely right.”     …


Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

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…     “At the end of the first movement of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony, he made a chopping gesture for each emphatic chord, just as a child would if asked to imitate a conductor. He crouched down for the hushed passages, reached an imperious, trembling hand on high to fix a triumphant moment, and made great scooping gestures to mould a melody, as if he were sculpting it in clay.

It was riveting to behold, so much so it was actually hard to distinguish the sight of Nelsons from the sound of the music.”     …


Review by Anthony Arblaster, Independent:

Click here for full review

…     “If you vaguely supposed that the Beethovenian revolution only took off with the third symphony, the “Eroica”, this concert would have made you think again. It took in the first two symphonies, framing the later Violin Concerto. True, the First Symphony shows the powerful influence of Haydn, but there is plenty of the younger composer’s individuality in it, including his unique use of a drum roll in the slow movement, and a so-called minuet that is unmistakably a fully fledged, upward-rushing scherzo.”     …

The Spirit of Defiance

Thursday 7 June 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Baiba Skride violin

Gubaidulina: Violin Concerto (Offertorium) 40′ Listen on Spotify
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 52′

We regret that, due to ill-health, the pre-concert talk scheduled for 6.15pm has been cancelled.

The Soviet censors called it an “optimistic tragedy”. Shostakovich simply called it his Tenth Symphony. Dark, impassioned, packed with secret messages and featuring a terrifying musical portrait of Stalin himself, Shostakovich’s Tenth is one of the most powerful of all twentieth-century symphonies. Andris Nelsons’s first Birmingham performance of this modern masterpiece will be keenly awaited -and the young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride is fast becoming a Birmingham favourite too. Sofia Gubaidulina’s Bach-inspired Concerto, written in defiance of Soviet oppression, makes a wonderfully apt prelude to Shostakovich’s epic drama.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and associate conductor Michael Seal discussing Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Post-concert chat – c9.45pm
Stay late for a post-concert conversation with Andris Nelsons and Stephen Maddock.

Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Written originally for Gidon Kremer in 1980 it was fascinating to realise that tonight’s young Latvian soloist, Baiba Skride, was playing a 1734 Stradivarius on loan from Kremer. A brave lady to tackle such an intricate, taxing work with total confidence and breath-taking composure. Un-fazed by demanding cadenzas, swooping portamenti,exacting double-stopping, almost inaudible harmonics, relief came at last with exquisitely gentle long velvety phrases. Tolling bells eventually lulled the imagination with symbolic gestures towards orthodox faith, firmly discounting Russian dictatorship.

Andris Nelsons was obviously in his element conducting his first Birmingham performance of the Shostakovitch Symphony No 10: a significant showpiece subtly reflecting the uncertainty and fears prevalent at the time.”     …


Review by David Hard, Birmingham Post (for Saturdays’ concert which included the Shostakovich 10)

Click here for full review

…         Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10 (first heard on Thursday) went beyond exciting to become a stunning, overwhelming experience. Apart from the quality of the playing – awesomely sonorous and peppered with brilliant solos (a frequent Shostakovich metaphor for the conflict between individual and state) – Nelsons showed complete understanding of the work’s emotional agenda.

Often intense and disturbing, especially in the long opening Moderato (which Nelson took nearly 25 minutes to unfold) and coruscating militaristic second movement, it was all so powerfully shaped, paced and thrillingly executed that, when the finale’s moment of triumph eventually came, we felt both drained and gloriously uplifted.”


Autumn Sunshine

ThumbnailWednesday 2 November 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Baiba Skride violin

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn 19′
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major 24′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 6 41′

Everyone loves Dvorák’s New World Symphony – but if that’s the only Dvorák symphony you know, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. His Sixth must be one of the happiest symphonies ever written – a glowing Bohemian landscape filled with lilting tunes, stirring trumpets and gentle poetry. Andris Nelsons gives it the deluxe treatment. First, though, comes a spirited tribute to a bygone age by Dvorák’s great friend Brahms, and a welcome return for the enchanting young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride, in Mozart’s fresh-as-a-daisy Fourth Concerto.

This concert is being broadcast by BBC Radio 3

Birmingham Post article about Baiba Skride, by Christopher Morley:

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “On either side came works by composers who were great friends and mutual admirers. Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn was given with an appreciative awareness of its many-faceted timbres and moods, its tracery and interweaving spanning delicately bouncy bass lines and delicate wind tones.

This account could well be my highlight of the year.

Dvorak’s delicious Symphony no.6 was springy, exultant, its paeans to Nature so spontaneously sculpted by Nelsons.”     … cont…

Russian Masters

Saturday 6 February 2010 at 7.00pm

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

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Baiba Skride  violin

Liadov: Kikimora 7′
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1 36′
Stravinsky: The Firebird 44′

Stravinsky’s The Firebird is one of the most popular of all ballet scores, conjuring a sumptuous fairy-tale world of glittering colours, enchanted melodies and blood-curdling thrills. It’s already become something of a signature-work for Andris Nelsons, so if you haven’t yet heard his interpretation, prepare to be astonished – and to be delightfully surprised by Liadov’s Kikimora, another Russian fairytale from the man who was originally supposed to write The Firebird. We welcome back the superb young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride, as soloist in Shostakovich’s powerful First Concerto.

Utterly brilliant evening, fantastic, mesmerising playing from Baiba Skride and The Firebird was done beautifully by the CBSO.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”On Saturday it was the turn of another Russian concerto, dark and bitter, the Shostakovich no.1. Suppressed and sombre, then bursting into manic activity, it demands from Skride huge efforts of sustained concentration and superhuman physical energy, and she supplied both in abundance.

Her command of line was well sustained, and her virtuosity spectacular – but always at the service of this tremendous score. And her empathy with her old school-chum Nelsons and his wonderful band was effortless.”  …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb:

…”Many however remain loyal to a particular work and Shostakovich’s 1st attracts considerable support. This rendition from Baiba Skride, Nelsons and the CBSO was ravishing in every sense. Dedicated to David Oistrakh, it impressed upon him at the time ‘absolute symphonic thinking’. In this performance on Feb 6th 2010, the four movements were indeed inextricably bound together. I used to think the opening Nocturne went on a bit, but such was the intensity of Skride’s soliloquy that the feeling of restless contemplation she created wasn’t a bar too long. ” ….

Review by Anna Picard, Independent:

…”Scintillation is relatively easy for an orchestra as confident and well-blended as the CBSO and a gifted, energetic young conductor. More impressive was the sense of chronic sickness and creeping despair in the veiled opening of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto and the expertly metred, gradual intensifying of tone. Soloist Baiba Skride and the orchestra moved as one from the grotesque brilliance of the Scherzo to the pallid sorrow of the Passacaglia. Both this and the Stravinsky feature on the CBSO’s tour to Germany next month, and it will be interesting to hear how Nelsons’ interpretation develops between now and 25 March, when The Firebird returns to Symphony Hall.”