Bartók Uncovered

ThumbnailDiscover

Thursday 16th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Paul Rissmann  presenter

Bartók: Talk on Bartok Concerto for Orchestra 45′
Brahms: Three Hungarian Dances 12′
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra 35′
Listen on Spotify

Exiled to America, Béla Bartók re-invented himself, and his Concerto for Orchestra is far more than just one of the most entertaining showpieces ever created for a great symphony orchestra. In this specially-devised concert, presenter Paul Rissman uses illustrations, anecdotes and the full CBSO to unlock the puzzles, secrets and not-so private jokes of this 20th century landmark – before Edward Gardner conducts a complete live performance.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February & Saturday 7th February, 2015
Summer Showcase, Thursday 25th June, 2015

 

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Bluebeard’s Castle

Wednesday 2 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Edward Gardner  conductor
Michelle De Young  mezzo-soprano
Gábor Bretz  bass

Janácek: Sinfonietta 25′
Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (sung in Hungarian with English subtitles) 59′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

“In wars outside the blood runs redly / Here is something far more deadly / Ladies and gentlemen.” Bluebeard’s castle has seven doors. Judith is determined to open them all. But some questions are best left unanswered… Edward Gardner, music director of English National Opera, brings all his sense of theatre to Bartók’s dark fairytale, and brings up the curtain with Janácek’s ear-tingling Sinfonietta. Imagine 14 trumpeters blasting the roof off – now experience that ultimate sonic thrill in Europe’s most brilliant acoustic!

http://www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a piece that seems to work well in the concert hall, though Gardner added some clever theatrical touches to the performance. The prologue was spoken by a disembodied but amplified voice (surtitles being a definite boon throughout) then singers, Michelle DeYoung and Gábor Bretz emerged through a creaking door as the ominous lower strings opening played out on stage. The castle’s sighs were creepily reproduced through speakers in the hall, whilst the offstage brass situated in the upper rear balconies provided a thrilling sense of surround sound at the astonishing point in the score when the fifth door is opened to reveal Bluebeard’s kingdom in all its glory. At this point, the collective goose pimples were palpable!

The singing was of the very highest quality. DeYoung, partly because of her register, was consistently audible even in the loudest moments of Bartók’s colourful score while Bretz was occasionally overpowered in this respect. DeYoung’s expressions were a masterclass in their own right, constantly conveying Judit’s feelings as they cycled between foreboding, desperate hope and grim realisation. Bretz was a still, sinister presence on stage, thoroughly at ease singing in his native Hungarian.

Marshalled by Gardner, the CBSO gave their all. Bartók’s score growled and glistened as it should. This was a thoroughly engaging performance in which you could have heard a pin drop in the quieter moments, not least the telling silence that followed the final note before the rapturous applause began.”

*****

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Edward Gardner conducted a performance of staggering virtuosity from the CBSO, from ferocious brass and percussive power to subtle Debussy-like musical impressionism.

The radiant C major outburst as the castle’s fifth door opened – impressively supported by the thunderous organ – was exactly the coup-de-theatre Bartok wanted. Gábor Bretz (who also performed the prologue) was a young virile Duke for whom his new bride Judith’s attraction is as much erotic as pecuniary.

The Hungarian’s rock-steady bass was ideal for this largely declamatory role, but he used it with tenderness when needed. Judith can be just an annoyingly inquisitive shrew unless sung with the subtlety Michelle deYoung brought to the part, combined with a powerful voice never overwhelmed by Bartok’s huge orchestral forces.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Certainly the music is all that’s needed in a performance as fine as the one that closed the CBSO’s season at Symphony Hall, with the orchestra’s principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner. The orchestral sound was sumptuous, overwhelmingly massive when required, and other than delaying Bluebeard and Judith’s appearance on-stage until the recorded spoken prologue had finished, there was no attempt at any kind of concert-hall staging. Gábor Bretz and Michelle DeYoung stood and delivered superbly well. Bretz was not all the monstrous Bluebeard of myth, but a sadly resigned, rather touching figure, his mysterious nobility captured in the dark richness of his voice and its perfectly modulated diction; DeYoung, meanwhile, was passionate, impulsive, and naive rather than calculating.

For the great C major climax at the opening of the fifth door – the moment of the couple’s greatest closeness – the extra brass were arrayed around the auditorium. In the first half of the concert, they had been lined up behind the rest of the orchestra for Janáček’s Sinfonietta; it was a racy, celebratory performance, the perfect fizzy aperitif, for something as weighty and troubling as what followed.”

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Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Edward Gardner’s grasp of the opportunities for cranking up the tension of Bartók’s music were evident from the opening bars as the first vision of the castle came mysteriously into view against the ominous tones of the narrated introduction.

His ability to draw the listener into the darkness of Maeterlinck’s portrayal of the destructive frailties of the human mind were brought about through a gradual, entirely compelling yet at the same time almost imperceptible control of the deeply engrained psychological drama within both story and music, whilst the increasing sense of claustrophobia as the performance progressed proved to be masterful in its control of the shape of the music revolving, as it does, around the pivotal opening of the fifth door.

The magnificent vista over Bluebeard’s kingdom revealed by the opening of that fifth door was portrayed with breathtaking power by the orchestra and additional brass, whose antiphonal placing behind the stalls lent the musical picture an added sense of magnificence.

Colorado born soprano Michelle DeYoung emerged as an entirely convincing Judit, with the huge dynamic range of her voice capturing every nuance of the musical drama, at the same time finding the human frailty, initial wonder and the ultimate transformation of that wonder to escalating horror at the depths of Bluebeard’s inner darkness with a vivid sense of atmosphere and presence.”     …

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Review by Hilary Finch, Times ££

Click here for full review

 

 

Brahms Fourth Symphony

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Friday 26 April, 7:30pm

Symphony Hall

Budapest Festival Orchestra

Iván Fischer conductor

Bartók   Concerto for Orchestra 36’
Brahms Symphony No 4 in E minor 40’
Encores – Brahms Hungarian Dance 11
… folksy string quartet (inc Adam Romer from the CBSO dragged from audience)

Fischer and his remarkable orchestra are one of today’s most exciting musical partnerships. The Guardian spoke of ‘this extraordinary ensemble’s apparently limitless ability to take us by surprise’. Judge for yourself in Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra – a dazzlingly colourful showpiece – and Brahms’s stirring Fourth Symphony, resolute but mature and reflective.

For sheer blinding energy, nothing has come anywhere near the Budapest Festival Orchestra The Telegraph.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:

Who better than an all-Hungarian team to capture the spirit of their compatriot Bartók’s attractive and audience-friendly Concerto for Orchestra? And with Brahms’s greatest symphony completing the programme, what’s not to like?www.thsh.co.uk

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Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

…     “Formed only 30 years ago, the Budapest Festival Orchestra is now one of the top  three in the world, according to Esquire magazine. If you would prefer to trust  the judgment of a more specialist publication, Gramophone puts the BFO in the  world’s top 10.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Both performances had the presence and clarity that are among the hallmarks of an outstanding orchestra. Fischer took the concerto briskly. With hardly a pause between the movements, and a marvellous, laconic casualness to the interlude-like second and fourth movements, he managed to make the whole work seem urgent yet not driven; efficient without becoming perfunctory. The BFO’s excellence is founded upon its large body of wonderfully disciplined strings, so the fugue at the heart of the last movement was launched on a marvellously sinewy violin line. As that finale drew to a close, it was startling to hear the detail – every voice precise – in the spectral slithering that provides the calm before the storm of the final climax.”     …

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “Fischer took all the movements without pauses between, making the work feel much more like a coherent whole than I have considered it previously. Furthermore, his fluid beat and the refined playing gave this angular work many more smooth edges than I am used to hearing in it. The second movement, “Play of the Couples”, ushered in by the tapping of a snare-less side drum, could not have been much more playful. The bassoon couple, in particular, had riotous fun with their parts, raising more than a few smiles in both the orchestra and audience.

These players wore their virtuosity lightly. This was most evident in the famously vulgar Shostakovich “Leningrad” Symphony quotation (which may have nothing to do with that piece, of course) in the fourth movement. Except here it was played without forced vulgarity, more knowingly tongue-in-cheek, with Fischer almost dancing along to the gaudy tune.

The frantic fugal writing in the whirling finale was easily discernible by virtue of the levity in the string playing as well as their enlightened seating arrangement. By the time we reached the headlong rush to the coda, it was obvious that Fischer had meticulously prepared and paced all the preceding sections expertly. I doubt I will hear a more colourful, more finely judged and performed rendition of this piece for some time.”     …

*****

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra was stunning, its rhythms and textures vibrantly  detailed with a wonderful spatial identity and timbre and the musical lurches  from one idea to another delivered with an almost insouciant sleight of hand –  the Shostakovich-inspired raspberries in the ‘Intermezzo interrotto’ were  especially delicious, as were the squeals of delight of the whirlwind Finale.  After such a signature Hungarian work (albeit one composed for American  audiences) Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 offered something totally different, and it  was clear from the songlike grace of the opening that it would be an intensely  lyrical interpretation.”     …

Benedetti plays Szymanowski

Wednesday 28 November 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Kazushi Ono conductor
Nicola Benedetti violin

Dvořák: The Wood Dove 19′
Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1 23′ Listen on Spotify
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra 35′ Listen on Spotify

Nicola Benedetti is surely one of Britain’s best-loved violinists – and no player is closer to Karol Szymanowski’s glittering First Violin Concerto, the piece with which she won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004. That’s the magic spell at the centre of this enchanted programme from guest conductor Kazushi Ono. First, though, there’s something scary in the woods in Dvorák’s sinister musical fairytale; then the whole CBSO takes the spotlight in Bartók’s life-affirming Concerto for Orchestra – music that wrings the heart even while it dazzles the ear.

Get a taste for the music here and watch Nicola Benedetti backstage at the Edinburgh Festival where she discusses her love of Polish composer Szymanowski. She will perform his Violin Concerto No. 1 with the London Symphony Orchestra as part of their series of Szymanowski concerts.    http://www.cbso.co.uk

Nicola Benedetti’s Encore – Bach – Sarabande from Partita D Minor

 

 

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Nicola Benedetti brought impeccable intonation to the solo line of Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto, a crucial element in such a crystalline work teeming with nocturnal imagery, perfumed with the aura of fin-de-siecle decay.

Gently oscillating melodic lines were matched by more energetic passages, Benedetti’s bowing so chippingly effective. But she was also able to command a persuasive stillness, always supported by the CBSO’s expressive collaboration. Her Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita made a welcome palate-cleanser of an encore – the best music we heard all evening.”     …

Sunlight and Shadows

Wednesday 24 October 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Valeriy Sokolov violin

Smetana: The Bartered Bride – Overture 7′
Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2 36′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 38′

Bohemian rhapsodies: when Smetana’s overture to The Bartered Bride burst into fizzing dancing life, so did Czech music. CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner directs a concert of warm sunshine and dark shadows, finishing with the symphony that may not be Dvorák’s best-known – but might just be his greatest. In between comes Bartók’s powerful Second Violin Concerto: Hungarian passion, deep feeling and ear-tingling musical fireworks, played tonight by a young soloist who’s been described as “breathtaking”.   www.cbso.co.uk

 

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.2 impressed even more, although for entirely different reasons. Gardner drew such sensitivity and character from the orchestra, and so many subtleties from the kaleidoscopically transparent score (the delicacies of the Andante involving woodwind, harp and celesta were quite magical), there were times when you almost stopped listening to the soloist.

But the quietly imposing presence and dazzling technique of Valeriy Sokolov made that quite impossible. The young Ukrainian’s vibrant warmth was, as it should be in Bartok’s most melodious outpourings, tinged with elegiac poignancy, while the more virtuosic elements of the piece sparkled with agility.”     …

Images of 1912

Thursday 9 February 2012 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Ingrid Fliter piano

Bartók: Four Orchestral Pieces 22′
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 34′
Debussy: Images 35′

Ingrid Fliter’s encore –

It’s all about colour. In 1912, Debussy swapped the piano for the orchestra, and created a whole new universe of sound. Dreams of Spain, the sensual awakening of spring and even an English folk song- they all found their way into the glowing impressionist landscape of Images. CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner creates Debussy’s world anew, and shows how, over in Hungary, Béla Bartók was just as much in love with ravishing orchestral colours. Rising Argentinean star Ingrid Fliter takes the spotlight in Beethoven’s darkest piano concerto. www.cbso.co.uk

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL CONCERT SEASON 2011/12

Fri 21 Oct 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor
Sir John Tomlinson Bluebeard
Michelle DeYoung Judith
Juliet Stevenson narrator
Nick Hillel director

Debussy Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un faune 10’
Janáček Sinfonietta 23’
Bartók Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (semi-staged) 60’

Please note Measha Brueggergosman will be replaced by Michelle DeYoung.

Fresh from last year’s breathtaking Tristan und Isolde, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia celebrate their return to Symphony Hall with the blazing fanfares of Janácek’s sunny Sinfonietta. But then we step into the darkness of Bluebeard’s castle for a world premiere production: a groundbreaking video installation transforms the Hall into the lair of one of classical music’s greatest villains. Sir John Tomlinson plays the formidable duke whose new bride discovers shocking secrets hidden behind seven doors, each evoked by Bartók’s spine-tingling score.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert: “Bartók’s great psychological thriller is high up on my list of works that I’d encourage first-time opera-goers to give a try. A gripping evening awaits…” www.thsh.co.uk 

Article on Sir John Tomlinson, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:
“It was growing up in the heart of industrial Britain which steered one of the great Wagnerians of our time to a career in music.” …

Read More:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/10/21/taking-wagner-to-deeper-levels-65233-29622426/#ixzz1bSwH9m20

 

Article about the production by Jessica Duchen, Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/electronic-nightmares-on-bluebeards-battlements-2366466.html

 

Philharmonia players blog about Duke Bluebeard’s Castle:

http://philharmonia.co.uk/bartok/blog

The Making of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle:

http://www.esapekkasalonen.co.uk/video/the-making-of-bartoks-duke-bluebeards-castle 

 

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/oct/24/philharmonia-salonen-bartok-review

…     “The parade of images – weeping walls, bloodstained jewels, luxuriant blooms and a final sad parade of the silhouettes of Bluebeard’s former wives – is fine as far as it goes, but entirely superfluous when the performance is as good as it was here. Salonen conjured every orchestral colour from the Philharmonia with tremendous panache – the huge C major climax at the opening of the fifth door was sumptuous – while DeYoung and Tomlinson focused the drama superbly, she a wonderful mix of naivety and obsession, he remarkable in his portrait of cruel implacability and sheer, despairing loneliness.”

 

Review by Elmley de la Cour, Birmingham Post:

Click:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/10/28/review-duke-bluebeard-s-castle-philharmonia-orchestra-at-symphony-hall-65233-29664730/

…     “But musically it was excellent. Michelle DeYoung dealt nimbly with Judith’s declamatory lines.

John Tomlinson’s Hungarian sounded wonderful, and, shrouded in his cloak, was every inch the mysterious, tortured duke.

Esa-Pekka Salonen navigated clearly through the work’s abounding details, and the orchestra played well for him, particularly the phalanx of strings.”     …

 

Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard MusicWeb:

Click:

http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2011/10/28/triumphant-new-semi-staged-production-of-bartok%e2%80%99s-duke-bluebeard%e2%80%99s-castle/

…     “Nick Hiller’s production and dramatic visuals proved to be nothing short of a triumph, enthralling totally from the very start, whilst it is well nigh impossible to imagine a more chilling, atmospheric and powerful performance than that given by Sir John Tomlinson, Michelle DeYoung and the forces of the Philharmonia. With the production now set to go on tour, this is a Bluebeard not to be missed.”