Elgar’s Cello Concerto

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Thursday 23rd April 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Alban Gerhardt  cello

Elgar: Cockaigne 15′
Elgar: Cello Concerto 26′
Listen on Spotify

Bridge: Lament for strings 5′
Tippett: Symphony No.2 35′

Alban Gerhardt’s encore – Bach – Prelude Cello Suite in D

“Stout and steaky” was how Elgar described his Cockaigne overture – and this uproarious portrait of Edwardian London is a far cry from the heartbreak and poetry of his famous Cello Concerto, written in the aftermath of the Great War. Edward Gardner joins Alban Gerhardt to dig deep into this very British masterpiece – and then offers a joyous cure for melancholy: the “abounding, generous, exuberant beauty” of Tippett’s vibrant Second Symphony.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Alban Gerhardt was soloist in the Cello Concerto, eschewing any of the mannerisms which have crept into traditional readings and instead grasping the work by the notes themselves. The opening tugged itself out of despair and moved towards desolate resignation, and, for all the rubato empathetically matched by Gardner’s orchestra, there was always an underlying sense of pulse and seamless flow.

Gerhardt revealed plenty of intricate detail along this sad journey of introspection, aggressive pizzicati railing against the music’s sense of loss, and indeed intensifying emotional links with Elgar’s Violin Concerto.

The spirit of Elgar’s Sospiri hovered over Frank Bridge’s Lament for Strings which opened the second half, wispy string solos hovering over the music’s deep sense of grief. The BBC were broadcasting this live, and I hope this miniature will be preserved on CD.

As certainly should be the amazing performance of Tippett’s Second Symphony which followed. From its pounding, Stravinskyan opening, upper strings dancing so joyously, through the hieratic gestures of commanding horns, the Midsummer Marriage timbres of piano, harp and visionary solo strings, this was a confident, cogent account, Gardner attuning his orchestra perfectly to Tippett’s idiosyncratic soundworld.”     …

*****

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

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…    “Here the burning conviction that the CBSO’s principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner, brought to the score was obvious – he captured Tippett’s tumultuous energy and brightness, a myriad threads drawing the listener into a web of sound. In the Symphony Hall acoustic, the aura of the slow movement, with harp and piano providing the glistening background to the trumpet’s forthright theme, was wonderfully realised: a sense of calm expansiveness countered the surface complexity. With his firm grasp of overall trajectory, Gardner maintained the gradual accretion of nervous tension through the dancing scherzo and into the finale, never losing sight of the magical moments of vibrancy which recall his opera The Midsummer Marriage. The CBSO were on blistering form.

Gardner’s wholly English programme had begun with Elgar’s overture Cockaigne; the conductor treated it like a tone poem, revealing terrific detail and an exuberant warmth reminiscent of Strauss. It was a suitable foil for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and soloist Alban Gerhardt’s unusually reflective interpretation made the contrast between the two works all the more striking. Gerhardt’s suppleness of tone meant that Elgar’s vulnerability came through clearly, the cello voice occasionally choking slightly as if in despair – no stiff upper lip here, but rather compassion and resignation.”     …

A Boy Was Born: A Spring Symphony

Thursday 17 January 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner conductor
Susan Gritton soprano
Kelley O’Connor alto
Allan Clayton tenor
CBSO Chorus
CBSO Youth Chorus
CBSO Children’s Chorus

Bridge: The Sea 19′ Listen on Spotify
Elgar: Sea Pictures 23′
Britten: A Spring Symphony 45′

It’s deepest winter in Birmingham, but at Symphony Hall, it’s spring! Benjamin Britten took a garland of poems, a children’s choir and a fistful of folksongs, and threw together his magical Spring Symphony: 45 irresistibly fresh minutes of blossoming tunes and rising sap. Principal guest conductor Edward Gardner has lined up an all-star team, and paired it with two bracing British seascapes to enter Britten’s 100th birthday year on the crest of a wave.

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

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Review by Andrew H. King, BachTrack:

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…     “Opening the concert, this suite provided an excellent opportunity to show off both the Symphony Hall acoustic and the CBSO. Elegant woodwind solos, particularly the extended flute solos of “Moonlight”, echoed as clear as crystal around the hall whilst the brilliant brass climaxes of “Storm” sought to deafen each audience member against the often boisterous gush of the strings. Of particular interest was the clarity of both the harp writing and performance; harps may easily get lost in the texture of large orchestral works if not suitably placed – but tonight every gliss and delicately fingered passage rang out with delicious accuracy. The performance and the music itself were a rare treat – one that I should like to see repeated.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Orchestral response was pungent, flexible and versatile under Gardner’s assured direction, and at last we reluctantly approached the conclusion, a Mastersingers-like melee, cow-horn included, introducing the glorious “Soomer is icoomen in”.

There were smiles on so many faces as we ventured out into the night to see what winter had to throw at us.”

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Review by Hilary Finch, Times = £££

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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.