Baiba Skride: Szymanowski

Thursday 4th February, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra



  • Mendelssohn  A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture, 11′
  • Szymanowski  Violin Concerto No.1, 23′
  • Shostakovich  Symphony No. 10 , 52′

Baiba Skride’s encore – Bach – Sarabande from Partita 2 in D Minor

The Soviet authorities called Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony an “optimistic tragedy”. But we can hear it as one of the mightiest symphonies of the 20th century: huge, dark, and driven by blazing emotion. It’s all a long way from the moonlit enchantment of Mendelssohn’s Shakespearean overture – or Szymanowski’s gorgeous, shimmering First Violin Concerto, played tonight by this season’s artist in residence, the wonderful Baiba Skride.

CBSO+ 6.15pm Conservatoire Showcase Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs Respighi’s majestic Pines of Rome and Mattei, a World Premiere by Conservatoire Composer Ryan Probert.



Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    ” He went on to sculpt Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony in big, sweeping gestures and a positively lurid palette of orchestral colours. True, it was alive with detail: Julian Roberts’s plangent bassoon solos, Rainer Gibbons’s oboe twisting palely in the gloom at the start of the finale, and pizzicato that ranged from fat and pungent to bitterly wry. But this was broad-brush Shostakovich, thrillingly physical and reeking of vodka and boot-leather. The ending drew cheers.      […]

[…]     Earlier, the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra gave a pre-concert performance under Michael Seal. Mattei , by Conservatoire composer Ryan Probert, created huge Technicolor sonorities (extra brass plus organ) from the slightest of musical ideas. Respighi’s Pines of Rome put the same forces to suitably roof-raising use; but it was the eloquence and sense of atmosphere in the quiet music (beautifully poised trumpet and clarinet solos, supported by ravishing string phrasing) that showed just what heights these students can attain under Seal’s direction. “





Il Trittico

Saturday 2nd March 2013

Giacomo Puccini’s Il Trittico

Puccini’s trio of operas inspired by the work of Dante

Birmingham Conservatoire

Michael Seal – Conductor

Director – Michael Barry


Il Tabarro –

Michele’s barge on the Seine in Paris


Michele – Wesley Biggs

Luigi – Bo Zhang

Tinca – Christopher Griksaitis

Talpa – Hedd Owen Griffiths

Giorgetta – Amelia Burns

Frugola – Urzsula Bock

Song Vendor – Edward Harrisson

Lover – Tamara Peters

Lover – Robert Tilson

Stevedores – Charles Allison, James Rowland, Harvey Seale, Andrew Wilson, Joe Zainul

Midinettes – Kendal Bradshaw, Sarah Gallop, Heather Heighway, Alexandra Soiza


Sour Angelica –

A convent


Suor Angelica – Elizabeth Ryder

Principezza – Ellie Edmonds

Abbess – Lucy Stabler

Monitor – Eleanor Hodkinson

Mistress of Novices – Victoria Adams

Genovieffa – Louise Martyn

Osmina – Jessica Friend

Dolcina – Rachel Crisp

Nursing Sister – Rosie Walker

1st Tourière – Yi Ling Chaing

2nd Tourière – Sarah Burke

Other nuns, lay sisters, novices, etc

Naomi Berry, Esther Beard, Davina Brownrigg, Helen Cooper, Antonia Gentile, Ellen Hunter, Rachel Jonas King, Alexandra Soiza, Daniella Varadi, Kirsty Williamson

Suor Angelica’s Child – Oscar Cawthorne

Virgin Mary – Chloe Keenan


Gianni Schicchi –

The Palazzo of Buoso Donati in Florence


Gianni Schicchi – Matthew Durkan

Lauretta – Sophie Pullen

Zita – Claire Barnett-Jones

Rinuccio – Gyula Rab

Gherardo – Brock Roberts

Nella – Sarah Richards

Gherardino – Antonia Gentile

Betto – Tom Ping

Simone – Samuel Oram

Marco – Tom Considine

La Ciesca – Victoria Aindow

Spinelocchio – William Gee

Notario – George Stuart

Pinellino – Daniel Wyman

Guccio – Harvey Seale

Buoso – Andrew Wilson


Gianni Schicchi – Samuel Oram

Simone – William Gee

Marco – Andrew Wilson




Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But the revelation tonight was Suor Angelica – usually viewed as the  problem piece of the three. With Elizabeth Ryder in the title role, it was  overwhelming. Her Senza mamma  was piercing in its controlled intensity, and her stand-off with the coolly  sadistic Principezza (powerfully characterised by Ellie Edmonds) became the  dramatic climax of the evening – lifted to a shattering level by the conducting  of Michael Seal.

Alert and urgent, masterfully paced, and with a  near-perfect balance between singers and orchestra, it was hard to believe that  this was Seal’s first ever full-length opera. An on-form student orchestra  responded with some really sumptuous playing.”


A Boy Was Born : Osborne Plays Britten’s Piano Concerto

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  • CBSO 2020

Wednesday 6 February 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov conductor
Steven Osborne piano

Sibelius: The Bard 6′ Listen on Spotify
Britten: Piano Concerto 34′
Oswald: B9 part 1 (World premiere of the orchestral version) 15′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 6 27′

Steven Osborne’s encore – Ravel – extract Mother Goose suite

“Other composers mix cocktails,” said Jean Sibelius, “but I serve pure, cool water.” And he never served anything purer or more beautiful than his radiant Sixth Symphony, or more mysterious than The Bard. A question, and a deeply moving answer: guest conductor Ilan Volkov gives us both, and joins pianist Steven Osborne in Britten’s sparky pre-war Piano Concerto. And John Oswald remixes Beethoven’s first five symphonies in fifteen minutes, flat. New music simply isn’t meant to be this much fun!

Explore Birmingham’s celebrations of Britten’s centenary here.

pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Conservatoire Showcase!
Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem
Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs Britten’s powerful orchestral showpiece.



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The concert ended with another of Sibelius’s most beautiful and enigmatic works, the Sixth Symphony, in which Volkov seized on the few moments when its poise and tranquillity are ruffled to extract what drama he could. Yet the perfectly seamless unfolding was never threatened, and the CBSO played with a fabulous attention to every detail and harmonic nuance. They were equally impressive in Britten’s concerto, sometimes the adversary to soloist Steven Osborne, sometimes his partner in crime. Osborne has absolutely nailed the work’s mixture of heartless exhibitionism and brittle ebullience, and he played it with glittering panache and awesome brilliance.”



Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The concerto demonstrates the clear influences of Ravel on the British composer in its gleaming orchestration. Elsewhere, we feel the influence of Prokofiev in elements such as the sardonic waltz second movement and its somewhat cheeky ending. Osborne’s virtuosity was matched by a more serious and reflective mood in the slow third movement, which segued into the grimly comical march of the finale. In the closing pages Osborne’s hands became a blur in a jaw-dropping display of rapid-fire double octaves. Osborne gave a nod of acknowledgement to Ravel in his sweet encore from the Mother Goose suite.

The concert closed with an astonishing performance of Sibelius’ Symphony no. 6, lesser known by audiences than some of his more popular symphonies. This orchestra has an impeccable Sibelius pedigree, having undertaken complete cycles of the symphonies with both Sir Simon Rattle and Sakari Oramo.”     …




Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And for those who attended the pre-concert performance by the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra the best came first.

Under the empowering direction of Michael Seal, this remarkably accomplished orchestra gave an account of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem that went far beyond being just a free taster. From the broodingly anguished first movement (so like Shostakovich) and blisteringly exciting, demonic Dies irae scherzo, to a finale in which all tensions were released in its consolatory fulfilment, this was a fully formed and terrifically well executed reading.

So was Britten’s Piano Concerto, which provided the centrepiece of the main CBSO concert with conductor Ilan Volkov. This is Britten at his most high-spirited and extrovert (echoes of Prokofiev and Malcolm Arnold abound), who takes no prisoners and forces the soloist – here the wonderfully muscular, no holds-barred Steven Osborne – to jump over many finger shredding hurdles.”




Review by Hilary Finch, Times:  ££

Click here for full review

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.”     …

Conservatoire Showcase!

Thursday 10th February 6:15pm

Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal: Conductor

Ethel Smyth: The March of the Women

Bridge: Suite – The Sea

The Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs two forgotten British Classics from 1910 – 1911. (CBSO: 2020)

Free pre-concert, concert.