Sokhiev conducts the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Sunday 1 April

Symphony Hall

Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
Tugan Sokhiev conductor
Thomas Trotter organ

Berlioz : Roman Carnival Overture 8’
Rachmaninov : Symphonic Dances 35’
Saint-Saëns : Symphony No 3, Organ 36’

encores :   and Bizet – Carmen Overture

Symphony Hall’s mighty organ takes the limelight in Saint-Saëns’s gloriously uplifting symphony. One of France’s most revered orchestras brings its trademark joie de vivre to a programme which also features Rachmaninov’s irresistible orchestral dances under the baton of their Music Director, the electrifying Tugan Sokhiev.

This is a fundraising concert, in aid of Performances Birmingham Limited
Charity Number: 1053937

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “And finally Saint-Saens’ mighty Organ Symphony which truly makes the most of Symphony Hall. With Birmingham City Organist Thomas Trotter at the keyboard, the sound swelled through the pipes, taking advantage of the venue’s amazing acoustics. ”     …

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

Tugan Sokhiev has lived and learned on his way to the very top”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The flutters soon disappeared, and the orchestra’s charismatic and expert principal conductor Tugan Sokhiev built a totally absorbing, spine-tingling reading, squeezing every oodle of tone from his remarkable string section. Thrills and spills were here a-plenty, but most memorable was the gentle ‘poco adagio’, chastely singing over Trotter’s beautifully-judged quiet organ chords.”     …          ***** 

C’est Fantastique!

Thursday 24 November 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Martin Fröst clarinet

Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 10′ Listen on Spotify
Martinsson: Concert fantastique (CBSO co-commission; UK premiere) 24′
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique 49′ Listen on Spotify

Fantastique by name – fantastic by nature! Witches, guillotines, dance-tunes and of course, unrequited love: Berlioz threw them all into his sensational Symphonie fantastique, and the result is still bringing the house down today. New CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner unleashes all his operatic flair, and joins one of the world’s finest living clarinettists in an entertaining new commission (inspired by Berlioz) from Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson.

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

Click here to find out more about composer Rolf Martinsson and his music.

Martin Fröst’s Encore – “Let’s Get Happy – by Göran Fröst

Sounds Interesting pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Conservatoire Showcase!

Butterworth: Two English Idylls;

Korngold: Overture to a Drama, Op. 4
Come early to hear the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, perform two tuneful mini-masterpieces from the year 1911. Free!

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…     “Fröst’s technical wizardry and engagingly extrovert musical personality make him the ideal interpreter of Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson’s Concert Fantastique which received its UK premiere with the CBSO conducted by Edward Gardner.

It was heartening to hear a contemporary work being greeted so warmly – deservedly so.”     …

Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Thursday 15 Apr 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Emmanuel Krivine conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet piano

Berlioz Overture, Roman Carnival 8’
Grieg Piano Concerto 28’
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique 50’

John-Yves Thibaudet

Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Symphonie Fantastique dramatises unrequited love. In this colourful score Berlioz depicted the fantasies of a spurned lover, ranging through a glittering ball, love in a meadow during the drowsy heat of the afternoon, an execution and a supernatural encounter in a churchyard at night.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Every year Classic FM asks you to vote for your favourite classical works in our Hall of Fame. One of the works I like to vote for each year is the Grieg Piano Concerto and one of my favourite recordings of it is by tonight’s soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.”

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

…”Jean-Yves Thibaudet is a bit of a dandy but there was nothing self-regarding about his forthright playing in the Grieg Piano Concerto. He thundered in the opening, stole in pianissimo in the romantic adagio, with fine support from the orchestra’s first horn, and gave the dancing final movement an endearing lilt.

His encore, of the second of Brahms’ six Op.118 pieces, was meditative, introspective and exquisitely performed.”

A Soirée with the Labéques

Thursday 18 February 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Gilbert Varga  conductor
Katia & Marielle Labèque  pianos

Berlioz: Overture – Le Corsaire 9′
Debussy: En blanc et noir 16′
Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos 20′
Ravel: Mother Goose Suite 18′
Ravel: Boléro 14′

It’s a real pleasure to welcome back to Birmingham the amazing Labèque sisters, for one of the most sparkling of all French pieces, Poulenc’s delightful double concerto. They also bring their uniquely gallic flair to Debussy’s masterpiece for two pianos and Ravel’s sumptuous Spanish fantasy brings the evening to an exuberant finish.

We are sorry to announce that Lionel Bringuier has been obliged to withdraw from tonight’s concert as he has had a fall and injured his arm. We are very grateful to Gilbert Varga who replaces him at short notice. This replacement has led to a change in the advertised programme, which is now as listed above.


Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Valery Gergiev  conductor
Sergei Semishkur  tenor
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre   
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and CBSO Chorus  

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution 47′
Berlioz: Grande Messe des Mortes (Requiem) 78′

A giant name – and a giant concert. Valery Gergiev is an artist whose sheer force of personality electrifies everything he conducts. So we’re thrilled that he’s bringing his legendary Mariinsky Theatre forces to join the CBSO and the CBSO Chorus in Europe’s greatest concert hall for two truly spectacular masterpieces – Prokofiev’s rousing commemoration of the 1917 revolution and Berlioz’s vast, roof-raising Requiem. With its huge chorus, four brass bands and massive orchestra, every performance of the Requiem is a special occasion – even when it isn’t being directed by one of the world’s greatest living conductors!

Absolutely awesome!

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“Choral projection in both works was exemplary, the collaboration between two great orchestras was totally without ego, and the CD-set of the Berlioz immediately on sale afterwards will preserve for all time this fabulous enterprise.”

Review by Richard Morrison, Times:

“I am still reeling. Squashed on the stage were 200 players and even more singers. Offstage bands blasted out from the upper tier. And the ensemble also included air-raid sirens, a team of accordions, gunfire and a man with a megaphone shouting speeches by Stalin.”

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

“The music is effectively bombastic but thin, yet it’s the sort of challenge Gergiev enjoys, and he marshalled its excesses so magnificently, that one almost believed it could be a piece worth cherishing.”

Review from John Quinn, MusicWeb International:

“This was a great occasion. It was a long evening but one that was very worthwhile and which showed that there’s nothing to beat the thrill of live music making. The Prokofiev performance was an interesting experience; the Berlioz was an unforgettable one.”

Review from Steve Beauchampé (Cantata) and Gary Whitehouse (Requiem), The Stirrer:

“It’s fervent, patriotic stuff, even if composed with seditious intent. As the final movement (The Constitution) reaches its rousing, intense climax, Gergiev stretches out his arms in celebration, soaking up the choral crescendo, and the rousing C Major chord with which Prokofiev tells us unequivocally: ‘It is over. It is done.’”

“I was hooked. Do not be mistaken. This is a work of spiritual depth and power that far transcends our mere mortality to present us with a profound vision of the Day of Judgement. It is dark, mysterious and vast.

…”Flawless and flowing, almost supernatural in its quality, its beauty was almost unbearable.”

Symphonic Dances: I

Thursday 24 September 2009 at 7.30PM

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Charlotte Hellekant  mezzo-soprano

Ravel: La Valse 13′
Berlioz: Les Nuits d’Été 32′
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances 35′

It may be his last work, but Rachmaninov’s orchestral showpiece is bursting with energy and great melodies, a tribute to the glamour of Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra. Ravel was also fascinated by recreating dance forms in his orchestral music, and his 1920 ballet La Valse is the most extreme example, the point at which the old Viennese waltz eats itself. Ravel’s love of orchestral colour owes a huge debt to Berlioz, whose beautiful song-cycle is sung by one of today’s leading mezzos.


Another wonderful concert from the CBSO. It was lovely to hear Andris’ thoughts on the music to come, and just nice that he chats with the audience, sort of makes you feel included, as though the audience presence is a part of the evening, the music, and not just incidental. I like Ravel’s La Valse, a waltz that is sort of collapsing in on itself, rich in emotion, with underlying familiar rhythms. The orchestra certainly brought out all the turbulent layers, so that I felt swept along and under it all in a way that never quite happens when listening to the CD!

I wasn’t familiar with Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Été having just listened to it on Naxos a couple of times a few days before the concert. It is a collection of poems sung by a mezzo-soprano, with a fairly large but subdued orchestra. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. Charlotte Hellekant (in a silk yellow gold dress that was like a shot of autumn sunshine on the stage) has a beautiful warm tone to her voice and acted out the words so it wasn’t a mere sing-along or technical performance but a communication and sharing. The orchestral accompaniment was sympathetic and brought out the shades, sadness and vulnerabilities in the poems. Quite lovely, and I’m not (yet) a big fan of opera singing!

I love Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and the CBSO with Andris Nelsons really gave a beautiful rendition tonight, with much poignancy. However energetic and dramatic Andris may be, he also manages to coax out the multi-faceted emotions, aching beauty and vulnerability of a piece, so that you feel taken on such a wonderful musical journey. The CBSO is full of truly talented and amazing musicians and all credit to them for finding and inviting Maestro Nelsons to join them, and for being brave enough to go where he may take them in the wonderful world of music.