Winter Dreams

Wednesday 11th November, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Ravel  Le Tombeau de Couperin, 17′
  • Shostakovich  Piano Concerto No. 2, 18′
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 1 (Winter Dreams), 45′

Anna Vinnitskaya’s Encore – Shostakovich – Ballet Suite No. 1 – Waltz-Scherzo
Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony sparkles with all the crispness of a winter morning. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin evokes a lost generation. And Shostakovich wrote his Second Piano Concerto as a birthday present for his son – but ended up with a smash hit. Youthful music deserves young performers; and if you heard Ben Gernon conducting The Planets last season you’ll know why this Shropshire lad is quickly winning a global reputation.

Award-winning CBSO Youth Orchestra alumnus Ben Gernon will be in conversation with CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock
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Key facts about the CBSO

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…”Tchaikovsky’s first symphony Winter Dreams is no great shakes structurally – but who cares when it teems with delightful tunes and musical felicities?Those weaknesses mean that to succeed it must be played for all it’s worth. It was here, with tyro Ben Gernon’s conducting worthy of comparison with Andris Nelsons’ white hot CBSO performance three years ago. Even the flamboyant Nelsons couldn’t match Gernon’s two-armed pectoral-clenching bodybuilder’s pose directed at the bass section, as he demanded even greater sonority from them in the finale. It worked!

If he succumbed to the temptation of lingering a little in the adagio it was understandable – the CBSO wind section’s gorgeous playing was worth lingering over. But he was ready when the mood changed: the sudden eruption of the horns, in excellent form, sounded like a summons from the deity.”     …


Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “This movement was realised exquisitely by pianist Anna Vinnitskaya and the orchestra. They moved as one in all the changes of harmony with only subtle hints of rubato, never over-egging the expression. The strings, in particular, produced a warm glow with a satisfying bass line. The segue into the lively finale was perfectly judged by Vinnitskaya and the orchestra navigated the tricky metre changes very well indeed considering the swift tempo, albeit on the edge of their seats. It made for great fun for all. It was a pity, therefore, that Vinnitskaya had opted for such a headlong tempo in the first movement. Gernon did well to keep the orchestra just about on track at that speed. No doubt many were thrilled by the ride, but I found it all rather breathless.

Gernon is to be congratulated if Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony was his choice of programming. It’s not often this gem of a piece gets a concert performance, especially when compared with the final three symphonies. Gernon has clearly taken the symphony to his heart, however, as he gave it total commitment, as did the orchestra. Importantly, he waited until the hall fell absolutely silent before ushering in the evocative opening to the first movement. This movement and the last were given punchy, taut accounts, ensuring Tchaikovsky’s more academic moments really felt like they were driving in the direction of the climaxes.

The wintry spell was cast by magically hushed strings and exceptional playing from the woodwind principals.”     …

Camerata Salzburg and Nicola Benedetti play Mozart

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Orchestral Music

Thursday 12th March

Symphony Hall

Camerata Salzburg
Ben Gernon conductor
Nicola Benedetti violin

Schönberg Waltzes for string orchestra 16’
Mozart Violin Concerto No 5, Turkish 31’
Bruckner Adagio from String Quintet in F major, arr for strings 13’
Mozart Symphony No 29 28’


Following his triumph in the 2013 Salzburg Festival conducting competition, Shropshire-born conductor Ben Gernon brings Camerata Salzburg, one of the world’s greatest chamber orchestras, to Birmingham.

Two of Mozart’s sunniest masterpieces are at the heart of this concert and with the hugely popular Nicola Benedetti as soloist, this promises to be a joyful evening of music.

The Planets: CBSO Youth Orchestra

ThumbnailCBSO 2020Raise the Roof

Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7.00pm

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

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Ben Gernon  conductor
John Mark Ainsley  tenor
CBSO Youth Chorus

Turnage: Passchendaele CBSO co-commission – UK premiere) 10′
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge 23′
Holst: The Planets (including Matthews Pluto) 54′
Listen on Spotify

Since 2004, the CBSO’s world-class Youth Orchestra has been pushing back the frontiers of what young musicians can achieve. Tonight, in a special 10th anniversary celebration, CBSO Youth Orchestra alumnus Ben Gernon conducts our superb young players in Holst’s spectacular The Planets, and unwraps a unique birthday present: a powerful new work, inspired by the year 1914, from one of Britain’s greatest living composers.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, Thursday 4th December, 2014
Elgar’sEngima Variations, Wednesday 10th December & Saturday 13th December, 2014
Mahler’s First Symphony: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 22nd February, 2015

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The premiere was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele, co-commissioned with help from long term CBSO supporters John Cole and Jennie Howe, and written in commemoration of the horrific events of the First World War.

Beginning with awe-inspiring trombone intonations, progressing through magical woodwind intimations and persuasive strings, it continues through a brass summons to a percussion-led outcry, all the while with a seamlessly arching line of anger and grief.

It was so moving to hear this Youth Orchestra paying homage to the doomed youth of a century ago, and moving, too, to witness the authoritative conducting of young Ben Gernon, himself a CBSOYO alumnus.

Fittingly, the programme’s other two composers had in fact served in the Great War. Vaughan Williams was represented by his Housman song-cycle On Wenlock Edge, its clattery orchestration sometimes blessedly subsiding into hushed tones which the musicians conveyed with the utmost sensitivity.

John Mark Ainsley was soloist, his particular kind of tenor timbre, questing and ruminative, well-suited to this period piece, ” …



Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “And what did one hear? Magnificent ensemble and dazzling precision, all units pulling together. Some enchanting, atmospheric violin solos from young leader Charlotte Moseley in the second movement, and then another whiff that sounded as beautifully wan as Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherazade is a work one might indeed compare The Planets to, in dimension and concept). The two solo oboe passages wrapped round solo clarinet in the same (second) movement sounded like pure Delius – i.e. not just mightily well played, but acutely scrumptious and characterful..The whole thing, like so much Debussy or Roussel, is a masterclass in orchestration: who would have noticed that just one trumpet (Matthew Frost, I think) plays at the start of ‘Jupiter’: so utterly assured, the effect, even amid quite thick textures, is extraordinary.

 Gernon’s success was keeping what might have been a rather bawdy, rumbustious romp so elegantly under control. As a result, detail spoke loud. There was no mush. The violin sound was precise, lucid, focused – the seconds as well as the top line, some expressive moments in the violas, and particularly some hugely rewarding, sonorous sounds from double basses and cellos, playing separately or as one. Pure magic and growing mystery from harps, singly or paired (as in ‘Saturn’), and Jing Yi Goh’s immensely attentive celesta (by the time we reached ‘Neptune’, it was starting to sound like Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang, which dates from time that Holst first conceived the war-coincident work).”     …


Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “It is in fact one of the trademarks of this orchestra that they’re up for the challenge of new commissions, and they tackled Passchendaele with a maturity beyond their years. There was as much assurance in the full, multi-textured, angry orchestral sound as there was in the solo and ensemble fanfares and more reflective moments. Within the space of ten minutes, plaintive melodies on trombones were answered by orchestra; clashing percussion gave way to more melodic strings; a sinking, labouring feeling was punctuated with horns and gongs, shifts in the time signature creating a sense of tension and unease; outbursts gradually subsided and led back through the wind section to a poignant trumpet solo. A sense of calm rather than peace, to which the audience responded with thoughtful rather than ecstatic applause.     […]

[…]    After the interval Gernon and the orchestra seemed much more at home with The Planets, enjoying the build-up from a menacing opening into an explosive frenzy in their depiction of Mars, the Bringer of War. Hard to believe that Holst had already started writing this movement before hostilities started in 1914.

The contrasts between the more energetic and slower movements were skilfully handled, as were the expressive dynamics and contributions from solo violin, cello, woodwind and lively percussion team. The CBSO Youth Chorus, with a 20-year history, shone as ethereal voices offstage, breathing an extra dimension into the already captivating atmosphere of Neptune, the Mystic, like wind. With the inclusion of Colin Matthews’ additional movement Pluto, the Renewer, the voices were employed again to bring the music back to Holst’s own final chord.  An effective end to a highly entertaining birthday party.”