Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto

Thursday 6 March 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Michael Seal  conductor

Gabriela Montero  piano

Bizet / Shchedrin: Carmen Suite 25′

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 32′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 46′

Gabriela Montero’s encore – Improvisation on the theme Madonna’s Like a Virgin!

Shostakovich   staked his life on his Fifth Symphony – and you can tell. From angst-torn opening   to all-too-triumphant finish, there’s no symphony more powerful – or more personal    – than this musical response to Stalin’s terror. Under Michael Seal, it’ll strike   home with devastating power: a gripping contrast to Rachmaninov’s hugely popular   piano concerto (of Brief Encounter fame) and Shchedrin’s hilarious Carmen   suite, based on Bizet’s original. Imagine Bizet’s opera after a Smirnoff too   many – it’s as outrageous as it sounds!


If you like this concert, you might also like:

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, Wednesday   12th March

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday   1st May

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Montero then offered to do an encore improvisation if an audience member could suggest a well known tune – and be prepared to sing it. Rather unexpectedly the suggestion was Madonna’s Like a Virgin which Montero then used as the basis for a short piece of lively piano composition.

There is no doubting Montero’s talent seen both in her mastery of Rachmaninov’s notoriously tricky concerto and her readiness to experiment with something so totally different.

Finally the orchestra gave full vent to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Written during a time of great repression, an embattled Shostakovich hoped this symphony would keep him safe in Stalinist Russia – which explains why it is slightly more traditional than much of his other work.

It is certainly powerful and gave CBSO plenty of opportunity to flex its muscles – whether it be searing strings, a gentle harp or a good old crash of the cymbals and a bang of the drums.

CBSO and Michael Seal perform Shostakovich’s Fifth again on Saturday for a Tuned In Concert in which the music will be preceded by an illustrated talk on the work.”    



Review by Jonathan Glen, BirminghamReview:

Click here for full review

“Tonight the Symphony Hall is witness to a duel between two great Russians. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is joined by Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriella Montero to take on Sergei Rachmaninov’s stirring 1901 Piano Concerto No. 2. It comes in stark contrast to Dmitri Shostakovich’s devastating 5th Symphony that rails against Josef Stalin’s oppressive regime during the 1940’s. But to prove there is at least variety in the CSBO’s repertoire, Shchedrin’s light-hearted take on Bizet’s Carmen is added to complete an eclectic night.

Michael Seal / www.michaelseal.com

Beginning with Bizet/Shchedrin, the sleepy, wistful opening soon gives way to Hispanic splendour. The piece exudes passion yet Shchedrin’s influence keeps the tone playful. Romantic themes unfurl, if only briefly, as this bombastic suite teases out the iconic moments from Bizet’s original.

Percussion is also key to this Latin affair, contributing significantly to the comical conclusion. Conductor Michael Seal is a man who seems to feel every moment of every movement but still finds time to jokingly goad his players, followed by reassuring smiles, to get exactly what he wants.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The suite from Carmen, Rodion Schedrin’s ballet score based on themes from Bizet’s opera was delightful. He uses only strings and a variety of percussion with amazing results – laugh-out-loud in places (like Malcolm Arnold’s musical jokes) but gorgeous in the divided strings of the Flower Song. Seal polished every musical episode until it glowed and hats off the to CBSO’s dextrous and versatile percussion section. Seal’s approach to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was direct, unfussy and immensely powerful – don’t worry about its alleged coded messages, just listen. The brassy finale was blistering while the largo was deftly handled with powerful yet restrained strings and everything illuminated by wind playing of great character. It was so good that I bought tickets for the repeat performance!”

Carmen and Boléro

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Wednesday 16 October 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 Alain Altinoglu  conductor

Nora Gubisch  soprano

Bizet: Carmen – Suite No. 2 20′

Ravel: Shéhérazade 17′ Listen on Spotify
Bizet: Symphony in C 31′

Ravel: Boléro 14′ Watch on YouTube

The  nights are lengthening in Birmingham – but with some composers, it’s always summer!  Bizet’s Carmen suite isn’t just a parade of some of the best tunes in all  opera; it’s practically Spain in a bottle – and his Symphony in C is pure sunshine.  Conductor Alain Altinoglu dishes it up with a truly Gallic joie de vivre, and  joins his wife Nora Gubisch for Ravel’s wickedly seductive songs. Talking of seduction…  well, Ravel’s Boléro says it better than any words!

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Wednesday  15 January

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday  6 March

Pictures at an Exhibition, Thursday  29 May




Review by Verity Quaite, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Ravel’s Shéhérazade filled the remainder of the first half, bringing an effective contrast to the earlier piece. Inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite of the same name, Ravel’s Shéhérazade comprises settings of three poems by Tristan Klingsor. Capturing a mystic, orientalist sense of the East, Ravel’s orchestration subtly underpins the vocal line, always supporting and never overshadowing. The CBSO carried off their role of accompanists perfectly, never overpowering mezzo-soprano Nora Gubisch and instead really allowing her to shine.  A supremely confident and expressive performer, the chemistry between Gubisch and the orchestra seemed just right, perhaps in part due to the chemistry and understanding between Gubisch and her husband, conductor Altinoglu.

Bizet’s Symphony in C followed the interval, bringing the programme a delightful symmetry. Though technically fine, as with the Carmen Suite No.2 the orchestra seemed to take a while to warm up. As the performance progressed, it did become far more involving and captivating. Ravel’s Boléro got off to a very hesitant start with a tentative entry on the snare drum. This was recovered, however, with each soloist’s entry bringing strength to the piece and thanks to Altinoglu’s tireless energy. The oboist, bassoonist and in particular saxophonist added a seductive flare and gave the piece some personality. By the entry of the timpani, Altinoglu had won the orchestra and audience round and the performance really stepped up a notch. It culminated in what can only be described in a cacophony of sound – an exuberant and fitting end to the concert.

This was an occasion where the orchestra really appeared to be enjoying themselves and the difference in made to my own enjoyment of the concert was vast. Each musician was rapt and every single member of the orchestra poured all their concentration and effort into the finale.”     …



Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Not so here: this punctilious Frenchman came up with several surprises, including a nicely manicured by-the-book reading of Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 2 which, although displaying more patina than passion, allowed for some rewarding solo opportunities from leader Laurence Jackson and principal trumpet Jonathan Holland.

And Altinoglu’s support for his wife, mezzo Nora Gubisch, in Ravel’s Shéhérazade was quite exemplary, matching her warm, sculpted tone and clear articulation with an attention to instrumental detail that fully complemented the work’s sensuousness.”     …

Bryn Terfel

Friday 7th June

Symphony Hall

Manchester Concert Orchestra

Bryn Terfel bass-baritone

Gwawr Edwards soprano

Caryl Hughes mezzo-soprano


Mozart            Don Giovanni:  Overture

Madamina il catalogo è questo

Donizetti        Linda di Chamounix: O luce di quest’ anima

Mozart             Le nozze di Figaro: Overture

Bizet               Carmen: Toreador Song

Offenbach      Les Contes d’Hoffman: Allez! Pour te livrer combat…scintilla, diamant

Gounod          Faust: Faites lui mes aveux

Delibes           Lakmé: Sous le dome épais (Flower Duet)

Verdi               Falstaff: Ehi! Paggio! … L’onore!

Verdi               Nabucco: Overture

Verdi               Don Carlo: Ella giammai m’amo

Wagner           Tannhäuser: O du mein holder Abendstern

Rossini           La Cenerentola: Non piu mesta

Gounod          Roméo et Juliette: Je veux vivre

Mozart             Don Giovanni: Fin ch’han dal vino (Champagne aria)

Lerner and Loewe     Camelot: How to Handle a Woman

Loewe and Lerner     My Fair Lady: I Could Have Danced All Night

D’Hardelot     Because

Bock and Harnick     Fiddler on the Roof: If I Were a Rich Man

Richards        Cymru Fach (Dearest Wales)


Rossini           Duetto buffo di due gatti (Meow Song)

Hughes (Welsh lyrics)    Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night)

A commanding presence in the international music world, the acclaimed and award winning operatic powerhouse
Bryn Terfel performs specially chosen arias by  Mozart, Rossini and Gounod. www.thsh.co.uk




Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “More Verdi for “Ella giammai m’amo” from Don Carlo, in which Terfel’s heartfelt outpourings were matched by laments on the principal cello, rightly acknowledged during the applause.  Following several helpings of Italian and French, the evening’s one German offering was “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Terfel masterfully inhabiting the role of Wolfram while atmospheric strings shimmered like a shroud over the land.

A foray into the world of musical theatre gave us a few songs in English, including a fabulous “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler on the Roof, although Terfel claimed to have only sung it in Welsh before!  Lilting Welsh folksong Cymru Fach rounded off the official programme, Terfel, Edwards and Hughes joining together in exquisite harmony, evoking hills, valleys, emotion and pride.  Dearest Wales indeed.”     …



Review by David Harte, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And he’s a very fine singer, even when shouting top notes, as he did in Leporello’s Catalogue aria (Don Giovanni) and the Toreador’s Song from Carmen. The Diamond aria from Les Contes d’Hoffman and Falstaff’s tirade to Bardolph and Pistol, however, were more subtly moulded to Terfel’s ebullient delivery, and he threw off Don Giovanni’s tongue-twisting Champagne aria with terrific precision.

The evening’s high spots were undoubtedly ‘Ella giammai m’amo’ from Verdi’s Don Carlo (with a gorgeous cello solo) and ‘O du mein holder Abendstern’ (Tannhäuser), sung with poker face integrity and demonstrating just how sensitive Terfel can be when not striving for effect.”     …

Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert

Tuesday 12 June 2012 at 7.30pm

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

Symphony Hall

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Simon Halsey conductor*
Christine Rice mezzo-soprano
Bryn Terfel bass-baritone
CBSO Chorus

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′
Elgar: The Music Makers Op.69* 38′
Bizet: Les Toréadors from Carmen 4′
Donizetti: Udite, udite, o rustici from L’elisir d’amore 7′
Hazell: Folk songs from the British Isles 10′
Puccini: Te Deum from Tosca 5′
Ravel: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé 16′

Symphony Hall has been called one of the wonders of the musical world. Tonight, we toast its coming of age in the company of three more: Andris Nelsons, Simon Halsey, and the one and only Bryn Terfel. Halsey conducts the CBSO and its Chorus in the final, deeply personal masterpiece that Elgar wrote for Birmingham, before Terfel and Nelsons take the platform for a selection of arias, specially chosen to showcase Symphony Hall’s world-beating acoustic. Need we say more? A night to remember – make sure you’re there.

21st Annniversary Symphony HallThese concerts are promoted by THSH as part of the Birmingham International Concert Season / Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Festival. A special seating plan and different discounts apply. Please check when booking by phone / in person. The concerts are not available as part of a Symphonic Selection Concert Package but can be booked in addition at the same time. www.thsh.co.uk

BBC Midlands Today film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

ITV Central film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

Video Wall Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert – Click here


Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates 21st Birthday”, by Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

Birmingham concert venue Symphony Hall has celebrated its 21st birthday – after hosting 7,500 events attended by ten million people.

A concert featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus marked Tuesday’s milestone as part of a seven month-long series of anniversary celebrations.

An array of top artists also paid tribute to the city centre venue, which was opened by the Queen on June 12, 1991.

Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey conducted Tuesday night’s anniversary show featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.”      …


“Simon Rattle’s Greatest Achievement”, by Norman Lebrecht:

Click here for full post

“Twenty-one years ago last night, Birmingham got its first dedicated concert hall and Britain its best. Symphony Hall was an acoustic revelation, a marvel of transparency and flexibility, as well as a space that felt infinitely warm and welcoming. It was, at the time, the most exciting modern hall in Europe and it remains one of the three or four most pleasing.”     …

“Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates  21 Years”, by Catherine Vonledebur, Birmingham Mail:

Click here for full article

…     “Officially opened by The Queen on June 12, 1991, the 2,262 seat Symphony Hall has held more than 7,500 events and attracted over 10 million visitors.

Since then, thousands of legendary artists have graced its stage from Bruce Springsteen to Yehudi Menuhin, Liza Minnelli to Grace Jones, Ravi Shankar to Morrissey, as well as some of the world’s greatest classical soloists and orchestras. Andrew believes it is the most important 20th Century building in Birmingham and helps make the city worth living in.”     …


 “Hall’s Milestone is Music to the Ears”, by Chris Willmott

Click here for full article

…     “The milestone was marked with a special evening concert on Tuesday and Wednesday from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey, and featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

The performances included Elgar’s The Music Makers and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe suite.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…      “Nelsons top and tailed the evening with orchestral showpieces, beginning with a blisteringly fast run through the overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, in which not a note was out of place. He ended with a wonderfully poised account of Ravel’s second Daphnis et Chloé Suite, exactly capturing its mixture of hazy sensuousness and brutal brilliance.

Nelsons also marshalled support for the concert’s star turn – Bryn Terfel at his most relaxed.”     …

Review by Jerald Smith, Express and Star:

Click here for full review

…    “This anniversary celebration provided a dazzling display of talent, most notably from Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel who showed how a gifted performer can work an audience.

He began with a swaggering version of the Toreador Song form Bizet’s Carmen and followed with Udite, Udite, O Rustica from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore which extracted the maximum amount of humour from the aria.”     …

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “Finally, Nelsons and his orchestra came into their own with the Second Suite from Daphnis et Chloé – another timely selection since this piece was played at the inaugural concert in Symphony Hall in April 1991 and, moreover, the Ballets Russes première was given on 8 June 1912. This was, quite simply, the performance of the evening. ‘Dawn’ was superb. The shimmering start was magically balanced by Nelsons. We heard chattering birds depicted by the CBSO woodwind section and voluptuous washes of orchestral colour, everything expertly controlled by the players and from the rostrum. When it came, the Daybreak was overwhelming, the CBSO Chorus showing why you can only do this music full justice in a performance that includes the choral parts. Nelsons held back the release of this climax in a masterly fashion to enhance its impact. The central ‘Pantomime’ was dominated by the superlative flute playing of Marie-Christine Zupancic, but if her virtuosity stood out due to the prominence of the flute part it was complemented by that of many of her colleagues in a dexterous and subtle performance of this ravishing but technically demanding music. The concluding ‘Danse Genérale’ was thrilling. Nelsons galvanised his players – and singers – into a virtuoso account of Ravel’s tumultuous, hedonistic music. In a few days time one of Nelson’s predecessors, Sir Simon Rattle, brings the Vienna Philharmonic to Symphony Hall. On this showing – which we know is far from untypical – the CBSO has little to fear from any comparisons.”     …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “The Ravel was the outstanding performance. Nelsons realised everything that is sensuous and lushly expansive in the score, while bringing an exquisite poise to the subtleties of Ravel’s orchestral palette and a lilting insouciance to the dance elements. The CBSO came into its own. Conductors and soloists were presented with bouquets, so metaphorical ones now to the flute section: to Marie-Christine Zupancic for her stunning solo, Andrew Lane for his piccolo playing, CBSO stalwart Colin Lilley for his alto flute solo, and not forgetting Elizabeth May. That their lines emerged with such vibrancy should also be a tribute to that Symphony Hall acoustic.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    If Symphony Hall doesn’t have its music makers, then who has? And ‘Music Makers’ was the main work in the CBSO’s first concert in the newly-refurbished Town Hall, elderly sister to the blushing young Symphony Hall.

Simon Halsey conducted, drawing from his world-class CBSO Chorus diction of consummate clarity and well-weighted tonal balance, and, often concentrating on the orchestra (the Chorus had already been well-trained beyond concern), revealing wonderful detail and securing flowing, often surprisingly swift, and appropriate tempi.

Christine Rice was the mezzo soloist, her tones warm and compassionate, her lower registers conveying rocklike solidity, her emotional involvement total.”     …


Review by Katherine Dixson, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The second half began with the audience exploding into applause once a certain larger-than-life Welshman set foot on – no, took possession of – the stage. Bryn Terfel’s programme was perfectly judged, with fun, laughter, flirtatiousness, intrigue, menace and drama, as well as a sense of place with a sequence of British folk songs. The power of his voice and command of the music was a given, but what I hadn’t bargained for was the sheer force of his personality. His rapport with the audience was phenomenal, with eye contact, gesture and overwhelming warmth. Clearly, he enjoyed working with the other performers, and a lovely detail at the end of the Toreador’s Song was his saluting the men’s chorus by the flick of an imaginary matador’s cape. Bryn and Andris struck up quite a partnership in the aria ‘Udite, udite’ from L’elisir d’amore. ‘Dr Dulcamara’ brought on an innocuous bottle of beer which he playfully discarded near the conductor’s feet, only to bring out a fearsome brew from his back pocket. With apparently effortless ease the tongue-twisting catalogue of ailments was dispatched, upon which the serious bottle was cracked open and downed in one, Andris watching intently (thirstily?) and directing the orchestra to sustain the note until the last drop . A pantomime drunken high five between soloist and conductor added to the general glee. ”     …

Friday Night Classics: A Night at the Opera

Friday 29 April 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Stuart Stratford conductor
Susana Gaspar soprano
Ji Hyun Kim tenor
Daniel Grice baritone

Mozart: The Marriage of FigaroOverture

Bizet: CarmenPrelude and Aragonaise from Suite No.1 ;    Les Toréadors;    Micaëla’s Aria

Bizet: The Pearl FishersAu fond du temple saint

Wagner: LohengrinPrelude to Act III

Dvořák: RusalkaSong to the Moon

Tchaikovsky: Eugene OneginLensky’s Aria

Mozart: Don GiovanniLà ci darem la mano


Rossini: The Barber of SevilleOverture

Rossini: La CenerentolaCome un’ape

Donizetti: L’elisir d’amoreUna furtiva lagrima

Gounod: Roméo et JulietteJuliette’s Waltz Song

Verdi: AidaTriumphal March

Puccini: La BohèmeAct IV duet;    Quando me’n vo

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo

Rachmaninov: AlekoAleko’s Cavatina

Verdi: La TraviataBrindisi

(Sung in original languages with English surtitles)

This evening’s fabulous array of opera-house favourites has it all: love, magic, flirtatious ladies, ‘gentlemen’ with one too many conquests to their name, and a fair few characters meeting rather unpleasant endings – some more well-deserved than others. The world of opera is not one known for understatement, so expect passions to run high as the CBSO and three world-class soloists treat you to a programme packed with great music. And following the announcement of the Royal Wedding taking place earlier on this very day, the CBSO joins in the celebrations with Mozart’s effervescent Marriage of Figaro Overture as the curtain-raiser.

Please note Ana James has withdrawn from the concert on Friday 29 April. We are grateful to Susana Gaspar who has kindly agreed to take her place at short notice.

The schedule and programme remains unchanged. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:


…     “Three world class soloists – Portuguese soprano Susana Gasper, Korean tenor Ji Hyun Kim and British baritone Daniel Grice – turned on the style with some of those much loved arias, and the orchestra impressed with the Trumphal March from Verdi’s Aida.

Gaspar, who replaced Ana James at short notice, excelled in Dvorak’s Rusalka – Song to the Moon, while Kim and Grice thrilled the audience with the beautiful duet, Au Fond du Temple Saint, from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.”     …

Friday Night Classics: You Call the Tunes

Friday 21 May 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Michael Seal  conductor
Simon Bates  presenter
Michael Wade Lee   tenor
Mark Holland   baritone

Tonight the CBSO plays the peoples’ favourites in a concert packed with Midlanders’ most-loved classical and operatic music.

Voting for the concert programme closed on 31 March, programme includes:
Holst: The Planets – Mars and Jupiter
Grieg: Peer Gynt – Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King
Verdi: Rigoletto – La Donna è mobile
Bizet: Carmen – Les Toréadors
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Rossini: The Barber of Seville – Largo al Factotum
Puccini: Turandot – Nessun Dorma
Bizet: The Pearlfishers – Au fond du temple saint
Ravel: Boléro

It’s a tantalising programme of opera house favourites, luminously indulgent works to relax to and revel in, and rousing pieces using the immense sound of the full Orchestra to mammoth effect.

* We’re very sorry to announce that Sue Perkins has become unable to appear in this concert due to filming commitments which could not be moved. We’re delighted that Simon Bates, popular Classic FM presenter, will now present this concert.  www.cbso.co.uk