Daniel Hope Celebrates…

… Yehudi Menuhin’s Centenary

Town Hall, Birmingham

Wednesday 18th May, 2016, 7:30pm

Orchestra l’arte del Mondo

Daniel Hope – violin

Mozart Divertimento KV 136
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 violins 10’
Mendelssohn Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor 22’
Mozart Divertimento KV 138
Pärt Darf Ich (version without bells) 3’
El-Khoury Unfinished Journey
Bach Concerto for 2 violins 17’

Encore with orchestra – Max Richter – Vivaldi Recomposed, Summer Third Movement

Daniel Hope’s encore – Johann Paul von Westhoff – Imitazione delle Campane

Please note the Kammerorchester Basel will no longer be playing in this concert, and Orchestra l’arte del Mondo will be performing with Daniel Hope. Please also note some changes to the programme. Customers will be contacted in January. Updated 18/12/15.

British violinist Daniel Hope isn’t one to hold back. In the year that Yehudi Menuhin would have turned 100, Hope leads performances of music intimately connected with his great teacher, from Bach to Bechara El-Khoury. Keep an open mind, and you’ll hear wonders.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Daniel Hope.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

 

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Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Daniel Hope plays the violin in a business suit and tie. But there’s nothing strait-laced about his platform manner. He bobs, he bounces, he bends almost double – turning round to face the members of the L’Arte del Mondo orchestra, nodding, and all the while spinning a rich, glittering stream of notes. He reminded me of someone and when, as an encore, he launched into a funkily re-composed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it clicked: Nigel Kennedy. Since both were once protégés of Yehudi Menuhin, maybe that’s not entirely coincidental.

In fact, the whole programme was chosen as a 100th birthday tribute to the late Lord Menuhin. L’Arte del Mondo are a spirited bunch who play standing up and make a beefy, buoyant sound despite their sparing use of vibrato. No ‘historically informed’ self-denial here, despite the token harpsichord. Two of Mozart’s early Salzburg divertimentos, directed by L’Arte del Mondo’s leader Werner Ehrhardt, sang and danced as boisterously as if they’d been played by a full symphonic string section rather than just 14 players.”     …

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “However there nothing lacklustre about the Vivaldi that followed, his Concerto for two violins in A minor. A common wavelength between Hope and co-soloist Andrea Keller (sub-leader of L’arte del mondo) was instantly established, a togetherness shared by the whole group. As Ehrhardt came more into prominence in the third Allegro movement of RV 522, the interaction and buzz between the three was exhilarating. The third item, like all of them in the programme directly linked to Menuhin, was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, brought to Menuhin’s attention in 1951 and recorded by him the following year. Written when Mendelssohn was only thirteen, it naturally does not have the widespread appeal of the E Minor, but is nevertheless of great academic interest. Very much about the soloist, Hope gave an assured performance, displaying the beautiful tone of his Guarneri in the andante and a sparkling gypsy-style kick to the closing allegro.

After the interval, a second Mozart divertimento KV 138, re-opened proceedings. The first (Allegro) movement reminded me of Bach’s Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K525a little anyway; the violas of Antje Sabinski and Rafael Roth in the (Presto) third movement demanded my attention. Next came the other side of Menuhin with Arvo Pärt’s Darf ich … (Can I… ). Without the bells, surely much of its tintinnabulation style is lost (despite the assurances in the programme notes). When Menuhin first received the piece, he asked the composer ‘Can I what?’ to which the reply came, ‘That’s for you say!’ Although only three minutes long, my answer was ‘… Empathise with you!’ An example of ‘East meets West’ followed: the Lebanese composer Bechara El-Khoury’s Unfinished Journey (the title of Menuhin’s autobiography) commissioned by Hope and the Gstaad Menuhin Festival in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Menuhin’s death. I found it utterly captivating, with Hope’s beautiful phrasing frustratingly underdeveloped at times – but symbolic of the title. There was also a sensation of expectation from the chattering tremolo string accompaniment, a feeling underpinned by the haunting perceptions of the closing muted bars. There are many iconic recordings by Menuhin and his pairing with David Oistrakh for the Bach Double Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043 is one of the most popular; this work closed the scheduled programme. Once more Keller partnered Hope; there were fireworks but I thought there might have been a few more of them, their rendition being more memorable for its adroit handling of the tempo changes.”     …

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Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times (££):

Click here for full review (££)

…     “He was an inspiring force throughout: dancing on tiptoe, engaging with the cellos one moment, spinning round to the leader the next. For the double concertos, Andrea Keller stepped out of the orchestra to take a solo spot. In Vivaldi’s A minor Concerto (from L’estro armonico) her sylph-like sound made an appealing contrast to Hope’s sweetness and bite. Less so, sadly, in the Bach D minor Concerto, in which poor tuning curdled the sound. Hope held steady against rocky ensemble in a gutsy Mendelssohn D minor Concerto and shone with bright purity in Pärt and El-Khoury. L’arte del mondo alone played two Mozart Divertimenti, with silvery grace in the D major K136 and heartier tone in the F major K138.”     …

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra

Perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Saturday 14th May, 2016, 7:30pm

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra

Pavel Kogan – conductor

John Lill – piano

Stephen Johnson Behemoth Dances 7’
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini 22’
Shostakovich Symphony No 5 44’

MSSO encores:

Rachmaninov – Vocalise

Vincent Youmans (orch. Shostakovich) – Tea for Two – Tahiti Trot

Mariano Mores – El Firulete

Rachmaninov’sPaganini Rhapsody is more than just that rapturous 18th variation; and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony is more than just one of the great symphonic blockbusters. And Pavel Kogan, John Lill and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra will show you why. Nothing compares to Russian music played by Russian performers, and for Kogan and his orchestra, it’s in the blood.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Stephen Johnson and Jonathan James.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

http://www.THSH.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Stephen Johnson is a much respected presenter and writer about music. As we discovered in Saturday’s concert from the remarkable Moscow State Symphony Orchestra he is also an accomplished composer.

Possibly the Russians took an interest in his Behemoth Dances because of Johnson’s passionate interest in the culture of their country. The scenario of this vibrant piece is based on a satirical Russian novel, but we don’t actually need to know that, as this well-imagined score speaks for itself.

Its gripping, urgent opening has something of William Walton’s brio about it, with bold, firmly-etched rhythms riding under confident orchestral sonorities. Darker interludes intervene, and there is particularly atmospheric use of the vibraphone.

Behemoth Dances’ bristling energy was generously conveyed by the MSSO under Pavel Kogan’s empowering baton, with the Hereford-based composer present to acknowledge the immense, well-deserved applause.”     …

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Review by Richard Ely, BachTrack:

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…     “A Russian orchestra will have a particular emotional investment to make in this symphony. Kogan’s forceful intent was demonstrated from the beginning, with strings plunging into the first movement’s exposition with the force of someone being thrown bodily into a vat of cold water. The developmental section was judged perfectly, so that when the martial theme emerged, propelled by the side-drum, it had exactly the jolting effect the composer intended; the movement’s conclusion provided another magical moment, where time became stationary, as concertmaster Alexandra Zhavoronkova’s violin and Elena Kazna’s celesta trailed off into silence.

The same thrust and concern for dynamics was evident in the scherzo, which had never sounded more like a death waltz, for all its sprightliness. But even in a work as veiled as this, there has to be a heart-on-the-sleeve moment and the Largo is the closest Shostakovich comes to unburdening his soul. Kogan and his orchestra played it for all its worth, finding intense feeling in the movement’s expressivo climax that held the audience so rapt that the beginning of the Allegro final movement had the effect of a slap across the face. The note of sour triumphalism on which the symphony ends was precisely caught in a performance of astonishing alacrity: the whole piece clocked in at just forty minutes!

The reception fairly took the roof off and we were treated to a generous three encores: Rachmaninov’s Vocalise was sensuously melancholic, Shostakovich’s Tea for Two gave us some necessary light relief (you need to see this piece performed to understand just how funny it is!) and the tango El Firulate by the recently deceased Argentinian composer Mariano Mores. A triumphant evening. “

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

Behemoth Dances. Who dances? You know, Behemoth, the huge demonic black cat who cakewalks through Stalin’s Moscow in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita spreading mayhem and magic; the spirit – as quoted by Bulgakov, and taken by Stephen Johnson as a sort of motto for his new orchestral work – “that always wills evil, but always does good”. A sardonic fanfare announces his appearance, before the orchestra whizzes away on a bustling, bristling spree. Woodwinds squeal and skirl, the surface glitters, and a piano throws in a few deadpan comments.

But this isn’t just a deliciously orchestrated successor to one of Walton’s comedy overtures. There’s something going on beneath the surface here: solemn chants, dark undercurrents, and a spreading, quietly insistent sense that we’re actually hearing something profoundly sad. And with Pavel Kogan conducting the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra – and if you didn’t know the composer lives in Herefordshire – you could be convinced that Behemoth Dances is showing you something remarkably like the Russian soul.

Stephen Johnson

And yes, this is the same Stephen Johnson (pictured) we know from Radio Three’s sorely missed Discovering Music – the authority on Bruckner, Shostakovich and Sibelius, the award-winning documentary-maker, and the writer of music criticism so lucid, so readable and so generous that it makes the rest of us feel like giving up. I can’t deny that part of the pleasure of this almost-premiere (it was first heard in Moscow last month) was seeing a fellow gamekeeper make such a terrific job of turning poacher. Johnson has been reticent about his composing, though he trained under Alexander Goehr. Hopefully no longer: Behemoth Dances shows that he has a voice, he has technique, and he can connect with an audience. The Birmingham audience cheered.”     …

 

 

 

The People United Will Never Be Defeated

Tuesday 10th May, 2016, 7:30pm

Town Hall, Birmingham

Artists

Igor Levit    piano
 

Programme

Beethoven
Sonata No 17 Op 31 No 2
Frederic Rzewski
The People United Will Never Be Defeated
A revolutionary anthem, a homage to Bach and a pianist who yells, whistles and slams the lid… this is Rzewski’sThe People United Will Never Be Defeated and if you’ve never heard it, you’re about to discover an experience unparalleled in 20th century music! It demands a truly exceptional pianist: with the phenomenal Igor Levit giving it his all, this isn’t just a concert: it’s a must-see event.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Igor Levit.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

Presented in the round. Stalls only. Unreserved seating. Choir Benches not available.

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“He played spotlit surrounded on four sides by a hushed and fascinated audience – like a green baize gladiator in the world snooker championships.

Indeed it was gladiatorial as the Russian pianist alternately charmed, beguiled, hammered and finally finessed into submission Frederic Rzewski’s epic The People United Will Never Be Defeated.

Levit has recently recorded it along with Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. It doesn’t have their musical substance but it’s a flamboyant, hugely demanding yet audience-friendly showpiece.

The intimate and intensely involving in-the-round layout was a huge success – when did we last get a standing ovation for a piano recital at the Town Hall? So why aren’t more solo and chamber music recitals presented this way?”     …

*****

 

Seven Last Words from the Cross

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package, SoundBite

and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Sunday 20th March, 2016 – 3pm

Town Hall

Britten Sinfonia
Britten Sinfonia Voices
Eamonn Dougan conductor

1.45pm Pre Concert conversation with Eamonn Dougan.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

Byrd Miserere mei 4’
Bach Cantata O Jesu Christ,mein’s Lebens Licht BWV 118 5’
Shostakovich arr. Barshai Chamber Symphony Op 110a 23’
James MacMillan Seven Last Words From the Cross 45’

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James MacMillan may well be the finest British composer since Britten, and his music – driven by passionate personal beliefs – simply burns to communicate. His Seven Last Words are already a modern classic; here they’re the climax of a powerfully-conceived Palm Sunday sequence from some of our foremost champions of contemporary music, the Britten Sinfonia and Chorus.

The Britten Sinfonia have a reputation for fascinating, captivating programmes, and for this concert have selected a powerful musical backdrop for the start of Holy Week – alongside Bach, Byrd and MacMillan at their most heart-rending, this brilliant ensemble are including Rudolf Barshai’s orchestral arrangement of Shostakovich’s breathtaking, agonising String Quartet No. 8, dedicated to the ‘to the victims of fascism and war.’

BBC Music Magazine Editor | Oliver Condy

 

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Review by Simon Cummings, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Having ambled thus far at the edge of the abyss, our communal plunge into it now began. Conductor and singers left the stage for Rudolf Barshai’s famous transcription for string orchestra of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet. Reborn as a Chamber Symphony, it highlights even more emphatically the weird, troubling drama of a work written when its composer was fully intending to commit suicide. The myriad quotations from Shostakovich’s earlier works send mixed signals: a final revisiting of cherished creations, or a self-loathing act of blunt ridicule (parody, after all, being second nature to Shostakovich)? Either way, there was the profound sense of a composer in the confessional, articulated with an authentic sense of discomfort by Britten Sinfonia. In a work that offers essentially nothing resembling a respite, the players brought a lightness of delivery through the faster movements that for a time kept at bay the dread at its core. But only for a time; through a concluding pair of Largo movements, Shostakovich places his pulse into ever more quicksand, where everything – even a fugue – becomes increasingly concentrated and claustrophobic. As the music came full circle, the players managed to make returning ideas the antithesis of a recapitulation; we were back where we started, stupefied and numb, and the way they lingered upon the work’s agonized final cadence – music that almost cannot bear to end – was horribly effective and very moving indeed.

Eamonn Dougan and Britten Sinfonia Voices returned for the second half featuring a rare performance of James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross. A 45-minute meditation on this subject needs to be punishing, and it is, for performers and audience alike. Even more than the Shostakovich, this is music in extremis, where thoughts and feelings are pushed beyond the limits of rationality, resulting in a complex blend of sweetness and agony. Dougan’s judgement and skill were genuinely brilliant here, drawing out the nuances in MacMillan’s shifting palette yet never allowing even the slightest hint of indulgence – even in the tricky third movement, which in the wrong hands takes on the saccharine viscosity of condensed milk. In this performance, that sweetness finally made sense as a kind of delirious ecstasy, but even this was dismissed as soon as it had spoken. Furthermore, Dougan often moved between movements with minimal pause, which not only strengthened the work’s continuity but provided valuable distance from being rendered as a kind of ‘concert liturgy’. MacMillan’s Seven Last Words are rooted in collisions, multi-layered textures that present a serious challenge in respect of clarity and diction. Of the former, it was the most transparent performance I have yet experienced, rendering the askew symmetry of the central movement (one of MacMillan’s best creations) into a lucid, lyrical ascent and decline, and making the aghast final sections heart-stoppingly vivid. Regarding the latter, Britten Sinfonia Voices’ diction was perfect: singing, whispering, even borderline hollering, every word they uttered was audible, the increasingly desperate message all too clear. Having stopped our hearts, the conclusion then broke them, hammer blows precipitating the already desiccated music’s disintegration into wisps and fragments, forgotten as soon as they were heard.”  …

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Review by Geoff Brown, The Times (££)

Click here for full review (££)

…     “For the next step, Dougan, voices and most of the musicians’ chairs left the platform, leaving leader Jacqueline Shave and the strings to scorch our ears in the valedictory rage of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, arranged from his Sixth String Quartet. Furiously precise rhythms rubbed against lyrical anguish draped in black velvet; every twist in the kaleidoscope was felt in our heart and bones.

All forces then fused in MacMillan’s Seven Last Words, originally commissioned for BBC television, though its music, piercingly direct, surely makes images redundant. Dougan and his team displayed masterly control, never letting dramatic pauses weaken fervour or momentum as the composer mused in anger and tenderness on Christ’s words from the cross.

Singing without blemish; playing that leapt straight from the heart: here was a sterling performance of a work that cries out to people of any faith or none.”     …

 

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Performs Mahler Symphony No. 5

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package, SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Saturday 12th March, 2016

Symphony Hall

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko conductor
Simon Trpčeski piano

6:15pm Pre-concert conversation with Vasily Petrenko.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

Grieg Lyric Suite Op 54 17’
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 33’
Mahler Symphony No 5 72’

Simon Trpceski’s encore  with cellist Louisa Tuck – Rachmaninov – Vocalise

Oslo Philharmonic’s encore – Schubert – Moment Musical no. 3 in F Minor (for strings)

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Long acclaimed as Scandinavia’s finest orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra has found a fresh energy under its dynamic new music director Vasily Petrenko. In Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Petrenko and the Oslo Phil will make a compelling pairing; in Rachmaninov, meanwhile, Petrenko and pianist Simon Trpc˘ eski have already been hailed by critics as a ‘dream team’!

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    The concerto was Rachmaninov Two, the soloist the much-loved Simon Trpceski (…)playing with a confident rubato and empathy with his collaborators. This was a joint triumph for pianist and orchestra (full-throated strings, eloquent woodwind), Trpceski bringing warmth as well as glitter to rippling passage-work, and always a freshly-minted response to this well-worn work.

Applause from a packed auditorium came in huge waves, rewarded with a lovely encore, Trpceski modestly accompanying cello principal Louisa Tuck in Rachmaninov’s poignant little Vocalise.

Petrenko drew a tight, compact sound from the OPO for Mahler’s mighty Fifth Symphony. Strings dug deep, and the brass soloists (horn, trumpet, trombone), so important throughout this work laden with symbolic imagery, were a constantly commanding presence.”     …

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Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 3

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

and Competitions highlights

Tuesday 1st March, 2016

Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy conductor
Vikingur Ólafsson piano

Rachmaninov The Rock 18’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 2 21’
Rachmaninov Symphony No 3 39’

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Víkingur Ólafsson’s encore – Rameau – Le Rappel des Oiseaux

A song of exile; bittersweet, jazzy and heartbreakingly lyrical. Vladimir Ashkenazy adores it, and few living conductors match his understanding and empathy for this music.If you don’t already know Rachmaninov’s Third,this performance with the Philharmonia might just make you fall in love.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But there was nothing comical about their partnership in Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, Ashkenazy collaborating with experienced insight, Olafsson ruminative and fiercely attacking by turns (and his thumbs must be among the most elastic in the business), taking self-possessed ownership of a work which remains bitty, for all its thematic unity.

At the top of its musicianly form, the Philharmonia responded thrillingly to the score’s proto-Wagnerian orchestral writing, with full marks to the cello soloist.

Olafsson gave us a delightful encore in the shape of a miniature by Jean-Philippe Rameau. When’s the last time we heard anything of that baroque master in Symphony Hall?

Both pianist and conductor had the courtesy to turn and acknowledge the audience in the choir-stalls; not all performers do that. And Ashkenazy, brimming with enthusiasm, gave virtual embraces to the entire audience and his orchestra after the two Rachmaninov works which framed this memorable evening.

The Rock, a Tchaikovskyian rarity (indeed, much admired by that composer) was warmly, engagingly delivered, with frolicsome flute and clarinet solos, and a genuine sense of ongoing narrative.”     …

Handel’s Orlando

Harry Bicket and The English Concert perform

Handel’s Orlando

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Opera highlights

Friday 26th February, 2016

Town Hall

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Iestyn Davies Orlando
Erin Morley Angelica
Carolyn Sampson Dorinda
Sasha Cooke Medoro
Kyle Ketelsen Zoroastro

Handel Orlando 165’

Torn between love and glory, the knight Orlando gives way to madness – and rampages through a world of lovers, sorcerers and all-powerful spirits.Handel’s 1733 opera Orlando is a true extravaganza, performed tonight by Harry Bicket and The English Concert – plus Carolyn Sampson, and Iestyn Davies in the title role.

The proposed finish time for this concert is 9.50pm
(due to the long duration there are two intervals of 20 minutes and 15 minutes)

Please note: the date of this event has now changed
This concert will now take place on Friday 26 February 2016. Existing bookers will be contacted in due course with new details and tickets, should they not be able to attend the new date they will be entitled to a refund. > Posted 17/6/15

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Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times (££):

Click here for full review (££)

…     “Iestyn Davies took the title role with ease and effortless style and his slow Sleep Aria, accompanied by two dusky violas, theorbo and cello, was spellbindingly beautiful. Erin Morley’s velvety soprano and lively expressions made her a warm, complex Queen Angelica, adored by Orlando but in love with Medoro, a role that needs the richness and depth given by mezzo Sasha Cooke. As the powerful magician Zoroastro, Kyle Ketelsen’s burnished bass-baritone was the ideal foundation for this group of well-contrasted voices.

At the emotional heart of this performance was the unlucky-in-love shepherdess Dorinda, sung with fresh, sweet lightness by Carolyn Sampson. Her Act II Nightingale Song, with solo violin as songbird, was a standout moment, only to be topped by her dazzling Amor è qual vento in Act III, in which she sings of the anguish of love.”

*****