Mahler’s Tenth

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 31st March, 2016 – 7:30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Webern Six Pieces Op. 6 (chamber version)
    Brahms Four Songs for Women’s Voices,
    Op. 17
    Mahler Symphony No. 10
    (completed by Deryck Cooke)

Mahler never quite finished his Tenth Symphony, but when musicologist Deryck Cooke finally pieced together the sketches, he uncovered a lost masterpiece – in which cries of love and cries of pain finally resolve in music of shattering honesty and piercing beauty. Nicholas Collon uncovers its secrets tonight, and sets it alongside miniatures from Brahms and Webern – each one a tiny, concentrated world of poetry and emotion.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “And so to the Mahler, a work which perhaps would never have been written had the dying composer not realised his wife was having an affair with the next creative artist in her collection. It is maudlin, self-repeating from previous works, but also has a visionary quality which begs the listener’s forgiveness.

Collon allowed the music to make all its own points, as Mahler would have intended. He drew a wondrously rich string tone, summoned the brass to awesomely terrifying outbursts, and presided over a myriad of vital instrumental solos.

Chief among these must come the many contributions of concertmaster Zoe Beyers, and, too, the lengthy flute solo in the finale from Marie-Christine Zupancic. We have heard all such things earlier in Mahler’s authentic symphonic output, but this does not detract from how valid they sounded within this context.”

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “There was a real authority about the CBSO’s playing under Collon, the sense of an orchestra continuing to explore a work it knows inside out. Beyond the English Midlands, Cooke’s score may not have quite secured the place in the canon it deserves. No other completion of the 10th I’ve heard seems anything like as convincing, so true to the world of late Mahler as what Cooke, with the assistance of Berthold Goldschmidt and Colin and David Matthews, produced. This performance was a reminder of how important a musical document it is.

Occasionally, the account was perhaps a little glib. Both scherzos have more menace in them than Collon suggested, and parts of the huge first movement seemed doggedly persistent rather than genuinely aspirational. But from its crepuscular opening onwards he caught the mood of the finale perfectly, right through to the radiance of the coda, when the strings return to the untroubled world of the Fifth Symphony’s adagietto.”

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “In the first scherzo Mahler constantly changes the time signature, giving the music a very unstable feel. Here the playing of the CBSO was incisive and displayed no little brilliance.  Collon handled the Ländler-like trio very well, using rubato very skilfully so that the music sounded very idiomatic. When the scherzo material reappeared he drove the movement to an exciting conclusion.

The short third movement, entitled ‘Purgatorio’ is a strange piece of writing. As I listened to the performance it seemed to me that the music offers echoes of the Seventh Symphony. Collon showed a fine feeling for Mahlerian style and he brought out the colours in the orchestration very vividly.

He took the second scherzo attacca. (In effect, since the finale also follows without a break, this meant that we heard the three movements that constitute Part II of the symphony as an unbroken span.) In some ways this fourth movement sounds to me the most Mahlerian of all – I’m thinking especially of the middle three symphonies and the Ninth. Here passages that require – and were given – real bite alternate with warm, sentimental music. The mood and colours of the music seems to be constantly changing – the former the responsibility of Mahler, the latter the product of Mahler’s invention as realised by Cooke’s orchestration. The CBSO played the movement with great virtuosity. The hushed coda, dominated by the percussion, was spookily effective.

If the end of the fourth movement was spooky then the beginning of the long finale was positively eerie; the dull bass drum thuds and doleful tuba distilled an atmosphere as baleful as even the start of the finale of the Sixth. And then, out of the darkness emerged the wonderfully tender flute melody, cushioned by soft violas and cellos. As voiced by the CBSO’s principal, Marie-Christine Zupancic, the melody was fragile yet soothing. Had Mahler’s sketches been left to gather dust we should have been deprived of this, arguably his most heart-stopping melody; what a loss that would have been. The consoling melody was then taken up and developed most beautifully by the violins. The paragraphs that followed were shaped with intensity and understanding by Collon and the CBSO responded to his leadership with wonderfully glowing playing.  Later, in the faster episodes there was urgency and bite from the orchestra but it’s for the heart-easing lyrical passages that I will long remember this performance.  The last few minutes of the movement seem suffused by acceptance and, perhaps, by a recollection of temps perdu. Collon conducted these closing pages with fine yet controlled intensity and was rewarded with luminous playing, especially from the strings and golden-toned horns. One last anguished outcry and then the symphony ends in tranquillity.

As I said earlier, many distinguished Mahler conductors have resisted performing this performing version by Deryck Cooke – or, indeed, the various versions by other hands. With all due deference, I have to say I think they are wrong. Cooke never made any pretence that what he had done was to “complete” Mahler’s score. Using highly informed conjecture and great musicianship he and his colleagues gave us a way – not the way – to hear the music that Mahler had composed. If we ignore the Tenth we surely have an incomplete picture of Mahler in his last years. If we embrace it, however, we expand and enrich our understanding of one of the twentieth century’s most important and influential symphonists. This evening’s very fine performance demonstrated very clearly how rewarding an experience Mahler’s Tenth can be.

I left Symphony Hall full of admiration for the performance by Nicholas Collon and the CBSO. But above all I left full of gratitude to Deryck Cooke and his three collaborators. Through their dedicated work our Mahler horizon was expanded significantly.”

 

 

Benjamin Grosvenor: Grieg

  • Thursday 25th February, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Elgar  Falstaff , 35′
  • Grieg  Piano Concerto , 30′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 3, 37′

Benjamin Grosvenor’s encore – Dohnányi – Capriccio Op.28 No.6
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Benjamin Grosvenor’s playing has been called “a kind of miracle”, and last time he performed with the CBSO, this 23-year old British pianist held Symphony Hall spellbound. You’ve probably heard Grieg’s Piano Concerto before – but never quite like this! It’s the glowing heart of a concert that begins with Elgar’s colourful portrait of Shakespeare’s fat knight and ends in the romantic sunset of Brahms’s ardent Third Symphony..

 

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joined the orchestra for Grieg’s Piano Concerto. It’s easy to understand the work’s enduring popularity, not least because the thematic material is so memorable. I realised that it had been some time since I heard the work and I was glad of that because the work came up very freshly here. That said, I think it would have sounded fresh anyway; such was the nature of this performance. I’ve seem Jac van Steen conduct on several occasions in the past and one of many things that has impressed me is the clarity of his direction. Prior to this evening, however, I don’t recall that I’ve seen him conduct a concerto but that clarity was much in evidence and I’m sure it helped tremendously in shaping a keen and responsive account of the orchestral accompaniment.

Grosvenor himself was very impressive. In the first movement he proved himself well equipped for the bravura passages but I was even more taken with the poetry in his playing. The cadenza offered an excellent illustration of both facets. He began it with reflective musing and then gradually increased the power of his playing so that there was a sense of the heroic as the cadenza reached its climax. The lovely slow movement began with gorgeous string playing; the sound was velvety and deep. Grosvenor was delicate and pensive in the early pages of the movement and then later invested the music with plenty of romantic expression. There was fine energy in the dancing music with which the finale opens. Later that tune was gorgeously introduced by principal flute, Marie-Christine Zupancic, her tone making the music sound like a draught of clear spring water. When his turn with the tune arrived Grosvenor relished it, yet there was no self-indulgence to his playing. After a return to the energetic material the apotheosis of the Big Tune had suitable grandeur but was not overblown either by Grosvenor or his conductor.

Following this excellent performance I noticed that it was not just the audience who showed their appreciation: Jac van Steen and the CBSO applauded Grosvenor with genuine enthusiasm. He gave us short, dexterous encore”     …

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “Especially welcome was the inclusion of Elgar’s symphonic study, Falstaff. Elgar was an admirer of Richard Strauss’ works, his tone poems in particular. When I hear Falstaff I can’t help but think of the similarities between the antics of Falstaff and Don Quixote from Strauss’ eponymous tone poem. In both works the protagonist is mostly represented on the cello and this is surely no coincidence. Elgar’s Falstaff is the more serious portly knight from Shakespeare’s Henry IV rather than the comical character featured in the The Merry Wives of Windsor. Though the composer denied overt programmatic content, the music is structured around various episodes featuring Sir John Falstaff and his companion, Prince Hal – heir to the throne.

Jac van Steen wasted no time in establishing Falstaff’s character in musical terms with a confident, swaggering start. It was a joy to see a conductor so very much at home with this orchestra and an orchestra so much at home in this repertoire. Various members of the orchestra excelled in bringing the cowardly knight to life, from a particularly throaty contrabassoon to rude-sounding horns. Later, in the Boar’s Head episode it wasn’t hard to imagine drunken goings on with cantankerous solos from the principal cellist and bassoonist. Van Steen paced the piece excitingly throughout, yet he still found time to appreciate these delicious details in the score.

Grieg’s Piano Concerto is so well known as a concert hall favourite and showpiece that it helps to be reminded what a rich and substantial piece of music it is. Benjamin Grosvenor dispatched those famous opening chords in a serious yet unpretentious manner that was to characterise his interpretation of the piece. After a buoyant orchestral introduction, Grosvenor was off like a rocket. This first movement was always mobile, never rhetorical in his hands. He is an especially attentive musician, always taking care to listen to players accompanying him in the orchestra.”     …

 

 

Nicola Benedetti: Szymanowski

Wednesday 27th January, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Haydn  Symphony No. 92 (Oxford), 28′
  • Szymanowski Violin Concerto No. 2, 20′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 4, 40′

Nicola Benedetti’s encore – Bach – Sarabande from Partita 2 in D Minor


Brahms said that he wanted his Fifth Symphony to sound like Haydn. He never got that far – because his magnificent Fourth Symphony said all he wanted to say! Lahav Shani brings out all its tragedy and triumph, but only after he’s shown you exactly what Brahms was talking about, in Haydn’s joyous “Oxford” Symphony. Nicola Benedetti, meanwhile, begins our mini-cycle of Szymanowski violin concertos with the ravishing, fantastical Second.Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Benedetti was here for the first episode in the orchestra’s survey of both Szymanowski Violin Concertos (perversely, here we were hearing the Second; the First comes on February 4, Baiba Skride playing).

Her bright-toned Strad weaved a sweetly melancholic thread, allied to biting bow-work which reinforced the music’s strong similarities to the two violin concertos of Prokofiev. She even managed a squinge of discreet re-tuning during the impressive central cadenza before moving towards the wonderfully exhilarating ending. After this her encore (the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Partita) grounded us perfectly.

Shani drew sumptuous sounds from the CBSO, an orchestra well versed in Szymanowski, thanks to the long-term advocacy of Sir Simon Rattle.

We had begun with the music of another Rattle protege, Haydn, no less, and his Symphony no.92. Its nickname “the Oxford” alerts the listener to its many learned winks and nudges, but all the time it fizzes with energy, and charms with smiling melodies.”   …

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

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…    “The concerto is scored for a remarkably large orchestra, including five percussionists, a tuba, contrabassoon and orchestral piano. Szymanowski’s use of the latter in his violin concertos is particularly notable as few composers, even in the twentieth century, employed the orchestral piano in their concertos. Whilst the composer’s first concerto tends towards the impressionistic, the second is more assertive. It opens with a grumbling in that orchestral piano in an almost bluesy style. Benedetti adopted a suitably sultry tone in this first movement, managing to be heard even against the fullest orchestral accompaniment.

The movements in the concerto are contiguous but clearly distinct. The first two and last two movements are punctuated by a jaw-dropping cadenza almost entirely consisting of double-stopping. Benedetti traversed this with astonishing assuredness, even calmly tweaking her tuning along the way. The cadenza concludes, startlingly, with a huge crash from the orchestra, which conductor Lahav Shani timed to perfection. The third movement is rather militaristic and Benedetti was visibly enjoying the orchestral mayhem going on around her. She also noticeably engaged with her orchestral colleagues, particularly the leader. Benedetti was in total command of this concerto, as were Shani and the orchestra. ”     …

 

Academy of St Martin in the Fields

with Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis

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

Saturday 9th January

Symphony Hall

Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Joshua Bell violin/direction
Steven Isserlis cello

Dvořák Silent Woods from From the Bohemian Forest Op 68 7’
Beethoven Symphony No 5 31’
Schuman Violin Concerto, mv. II (codetta by Britten)
Brahms Double Concerto 34’

 

The original virtuoso chamber orchestra, with two of the world’s most respected soloists – when Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis join the Academy of St Martin and the Fields, you’d expect some seriously stylish playing. But from the grandeur of Brahms to Beethoven’s most famous symphony, there’ll be drama too. A stirring programme from some truly exceptional performers.

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Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

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…     “Thankfully the piano stool was absent as the audience returned to their seats for a second half featuring the second movement Langsam of Robert Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor (WoO, codetta by Benjamin Britten), and Johannes Brahms Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor. The first of these two pieces, written immediately before Schumann’s suicide attempt, is rarely performed. Bell did not waste the opportunity to demonstrate the tender romantic lyricism of his playing and he wrought out of his strings a bitter-sweet melancholy befitting of both the piece and his reputation.

The best was yet to come though, as the Brahms concerto featured partnership playing at the very highest level. The orchestra provided a faultless canvas upon which Isserlis drew light and shade beneath Bell’s wonderful detail. Sat centre-stage with his distinctive mop of hair doing its own thing, one could clearly see that Isserlis was joyously living this music with every fibre of his being and his enthusiasm was contagious. The musical understanding the two soloists share was audibly manifest, their phrasing was seamlessly matched, and their cohesive interplay and interpretation will be the lasting memory of the performance.”

 

Baiba Skride: Schumann

Thursday 5th November, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Wagner  Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1, 10′
  • Schumann  Violin Concerto, 30′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 1, 45′

Brahms’s first symphony begins with the pounding of a broken heart, and ends with the kind of melody that comes once in a lifetime. It’s a gripping way for rising star Omer Meir Wellber to make his Birmingham debut. First though, he raises the curtain with Wagner’s magical, mystical Prelude to Lohengrin, and introduces artist in residence Baiba Skride in the dark poetry of Schumann’s only Violin Concerto.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“If anyone needed converting to Schumann’s enigmatic Violin Concerto, this was the performance to do it, with soloist Baibe Skride so persuasive in her advocacy.

This CBSO Artist in Residence made light of the work’s awesome technical difficulties, multiple-stopping despatched with ease, and instead drew all our attention to the music’s tortured poetry, written at a time when the composer was so poignantly close to insanity.

Her Stradivarius, on loan from another great champion of the work, Gidon Kremer, sang with a dark, wiry tone, confiding hushed intimacies and communicating as in chamber music with the CBSO’s pastel strings. Winds, too, made memorable contributions, not least horns in the finale, which, truth to tell, had begun heavily-footedly under Omer Meir Wellber’s generally empathetic direction. And Wellber should never again cross in front of the soloist to congratulate the concertmaster during the applause.”     …

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

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…   “The Lohengrin Prelude had felt a little too much like an exercise in static, if sweet-toned, phrase-making – the long line was missing. But here it was, at the opening of Brahms’s First Symphony: back with a vengeance. If the impression so far had been of a meticulous, thoughtful conductor with a hyperactive podium style, from the first bars of the symphony it was clear that Wellber had some seriously large-scale musical ideas – and the power to realise them.

On the strength of this performance, Wellber conceives the symphony as one huge, single-movement span – from expansive opening right through to a finish which, judging from the savage splendour of his brass-torn final bars, it’s doubtful that he sees as any sort of resolution. The conflicts of the first movement lumbered angrily up from the bass line of the second, and this must have been one of the least relaxed performances imaginable of Brahms’s third movement intermezzo. The finale followed almost without a break: the drive and bite with which Wellber lashed into the string figuration of Brahms’s introduction – so often played purely for romantic atmosphere – felt like the tail-end of a development section that still had everything to fight for.

Throughout it all, Wellber unlocked the full, lustrous sonic depth of the CBSO string section – a rare achievement since Nelsons’s departure. If there remained something claustrophobic about his vision (and it was particularly frustrating to hear leader Laurence Jackson and principal horn Elspeth Dutch’s solos locked rigidly into tempo) it was unquestionably compelling. The audience responded with cheers, and the orchestra remained seated when Wellber gestured it to stand, handing all the credit to the young Israeli. It’s been an open secret in Birmingham for some weeks that there is already a clear front-runner for the CBSO’s music directorship. Last night, that contest got a lot more interesting.”

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Review by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer:

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…     “Wellber plainly loves this piece. From the first bar he was a man possessed, mercilessly driving the bleak majesty of the pounding first movement and drawing some wonderfully incisive playing from the strings. Conducting without a score, he pounced on every nuance, highlighting the smallest detail in woodwind and brass, and always, always pushing onward that insistent, doom-laden rhythm.

He allowed the sun to break through briefly when the woodwind sang their warm chorale at the start of the third movement but there was much heart-searching to do before we finally reached the broad landscape of the “joy” theme, Brahms’s conscious tribute to Beethoven and a seizing of his laurels, taking the symphonic form in a new direction.

Wellber worked the orchestra intensely hard in this finale and they responded magnificently; I’ve not heard Brahms played as well as this in years. The CBSO is searching for a replacement for the revered Andris Nelsons. Wellber might just be their man.”

*****

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Brahms’ Fourth: Youth Orchestra Academy

Sunday 26th July, 7.00pm

Featuring

Programme

  • Lindberg Aventures, 12′
  • Strauss Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme – suite, 36′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 4, 40′

“Astonishing” was one critic’s verdict on the CBSO Youth Orchestra’s recent 10th anniversary concert. Now the superb young players bring the birthday celebrations to a close with a concert that looks both forwards and back. Brahms’s mighty Fourth Symphony draws its strength from Bach, while Richard Strauss’s delicious Le Bourgeois gentilhomme brings the baroque spirit dancing into the 20th century. First, though, take a joyride through four centuries of orchestral favourites with one of our most brilliant living composers.

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Highlights included the gentle oboe joined by other winds and horns in the overture; flutes bringing out the dance-like quality of the minuet; the exuberance and confidence of the piano/trumpet combination painting the fencing master’s antics; leader Charlotte Moseley weaving in and out with the tailor’s precision stitches making sure the gentleman is suitably clad; an affecting, poignant muted sarabande; and the sheer joie de vivre of the dinner party itself, falling scales passed around the instruments like infectious laughter. The audience lapped it up and Seal applauded his players before turning to acknowledge the warm reception himself.

After the interval the stage was once more filled to the brim for Brahms’ Symphony no. 4 in E minor. As it happens, my last review also featured this piece, played by the Dresden Philharmonic, so how would these less experienced players fare by comparison? Let’s just say they didn’t just fill the stage, they owned it! The CBSO YOA tackled Brahms’ massive structure of a work with maturity beyond their years and really came into their own. From the confident, majestic attack and warmth of the strings, through fine handling of tempo changes to the first movement’s passionate close, they showed both discipline and musicality. The second movement allowed us a good wallow, the unanimity of the lower strings’ pizzicato paired with the poised line of brass and wind. In the third movement they brought out both a playful and martial feel, confident answering chords moving on apace. Full marks to the flute solo in the final movement, as well as the clarinet and eloquent trombones. Turning the corner into the clamorous closing stages, with staccato urgency and energy, this enthusiastic and talented orchestra rounded off a fine night of music-making. The audience may not have been full, but we enjoyed it fully.”

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Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

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…     “A totally accessible, rarely performed, R Strauss’s ‘Le Bourgeois Gentilehomme’ suite charmed and delighted all. The reduced baroque orchestra has many exposed personal solos, from tender oboe, cello and viola to a sturdy bass trombone. As ever Strauss enjoys stretching his horns to the full, added to which the six percussionists tactfully made their mark with good effect. Smiling music for all, especially the braying sheep and twittering interruptive birds!

Then to the true meat of this evening: Brahms’ Symphony No 4. The full orchestra swept in with gutsy strings and splendid woodwind solo snippets. Although do take care with truly clean violin entries, even one hesitation shows through. Determined pizzicatos threatened to overwhelm at times but otherwise a truly passionate rendering of this challenging work. Brahms used a (beautifully played here) solemn flute as a soloist in the passacaglia until eventually trombones come into their own with their chunky solemn quasi sacred moment.”     …

Dresden Philharmonic perform Mendelssohn and Brahms

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

Sunday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Dresden Philharmonic
Michael Sanderling Principal Conductor
Bertrand de Billy Principal Guest Conductor
Kurt Masur Conductor Laureate
Frauke Roth General Director
Arabella Steinbacher violin

Beethoven –   Egmont Overture   9’

Mendelssohn –   Violin Concerto   23’

Brahms –  Symphony No 4     39’

Arabella Steinbacher’s encore – Prokofiev – Solo Violin Sonata, First Movement

Dresden Philharmonic’s encore – Rossini – William Tell Overture, Final

Dresden is a hallowed name in the world of classical music, and its conductor Michael Sanderling, too, comes from a fabled musical family. Together, Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic dig down to the very roots of the German symphonic canon; masterpieces by Beethoven and Brahms frame Arabella Steinbacher’s gloriously fresh take on Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Violin Concerto.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

Arabella Steinbacher is one of the leading violinists of her generation, famed for her passionate performances of Classical and Romantic concertos. This programme promises to showcase that passion, as Arabella performs Mendelssohn’s brilliant and much-loved Violin Concerto, joined by the Dresden Philharmonic.

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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..     “The actual opener was Beethoven‘s Egmont Overture, the slow introduction being an heroic and effective vehicle for the Dresden Philharmonic‘s rich, poised sound.  Under Michael Sanderling’s sensitive direction, and with well-handled dynamics, they evoked the drama of the story, ranging from turmoil to anguish to triumph.  The knocking effect of the string passages was very compelling, as was the closing section with full orchestra swelling with excitement.  The whole pivoted on a sudden pin-drop expectant silence.  It was a fine display of teamwork, so they could have afforded to look a little less serious.

The highlight of the evening was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, with Arabella Steinbacher‘s performance a joy to experience.  Composed for Mendelssohn’s friend Ferdinand David, who like the composer became influential in the musical life of Leipzig, the concerto is full of memorable melodies and themes.  Tonight’s interpretation demonstrated how it combines lyric ease – it simply flowed and the audience was swept along effortlessly – with virtuosity.  From the first passionate notes, Steinbacher owned the stage whilst displaying a sensitive rapport with conductor and orchestra.  There was a sense of the audience responding to her smiling disposition – we like to see our performers enjoying themselves.

There was also collective breath-holding in the crowd during the cadenza, which Steinbacher took at a stylishly unhurried pace, really making the silences count.  Some beautiful orchestral playing in the minor key led to a subtle transition by winds then strings from the Allegro into the Andante.  This movement  embodied a sense of serenity, with lovely climbing phrases which somehow felt life-affirming.  Known as a “song without words” it truly did sing its gorgeous melody.  Steinbacher brought a further joyous atmosphere to the final high-spirited movement, which fairly bounded along with a dancelike forward momentum, and was warmly applauded.  She then gave us a lovely encore in the shape of the first movement of Prokoviev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 115.  During a rendition that was both soulful and energetic, her violin seemed to be an extension of her body.”        …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The Dresden Philharmonic plays at a higher default decibel level than most other orchestras I’ve heard in over half a century (Chicago excepted). Sometimes it makes for uncomfortable listening when a concert-room has as probing an acoustic as we have in Symphony Hall.

So the opening of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture almost shocked me out of my seat, strings raspingly heavy as they dug into those portentous chords, conductor Michael Sanderling’s orchestral layout favouring double-basses making the sound-picture swing strongly to the left. I recovered in time to admire the fierce nobility of the horns as this developed into a well-defined reading.

Arabella Steinbacher was soloist in the ineffable Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, her tone rich, intonation glacially pure, her bow wielded almost like a weapon. This was a performance of huge personality, tempi deliberately unsentimentalised, musical paragraphs well contrasted, and with a first movement cadenza which was articulated in the manner of the great solo violin works by Mendelssohn’s beloved Bach.”     …