Italian Symphony

Wednesday 8th June, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra



  • Dvořák  Othello, 15′
  • Bruch  Scottish Fantasy , 30′
  • Dvořák  Romance , 13′
  • Mendelssohn  Symphony No. 4 (Italian), 26′

The tumult of Dvorak’s Othello Overture, the enchanting colours of his Romance, a treasure-trove of delightful folk melodies in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and, of course, Mendelssohn’s sparkling Italian Symphony. This is music bursting at the seams with passion: join us as Laurence Jackson and the CBSO bring it to life.

.In Memory of Walter Weller (30th November 1939 – 14th June 2015) 

Support the CBSO


Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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“What a joy to hear Laurence Jackson again. Barely six months after the CBSO’s former concertmaster moved to Australia he was back on his old stamping ground as the soloist in a concert planned long before he left. He may not have the swaggering glitter of some violinists (he’s too sensitive a musician to engage in vulgar histrionics), but his sweetness of tone and effortless technique are qualities many would die for.

Rather than a full-blown concerto we had to be content with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a demanding enough substitute technically, if somewhat blighted by its mundane thematic material. No matter: given the intelligence and beauty of Jackson’s playing – and the nuanced handling of the orchestral score under CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan – most of the work’s mawkish sentimentality was avoided (the duet passage between Jackson and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic was particularly delightful) while the sparkling scherzo and decorative conclusion held several charms.

And Jackson’s account of Dvořák’s Romance in F minor was delivered with even greater subtlety, matched by a felicitous accompaniment full of scrumptious detail.”     …


Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

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…     “Chauhan interpreted these brilliantly, allowing the brass and woodwind to suggest the unfolding story while the strings set tone and atmosphere. In doing so he maintained emotive interest from the brooding start to the heroic yet tragic climax.  

Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op,46 came next, featuring the concert’s soloist, Laurence Jackson. I was instantly won over by his warm and velvety tone. His phrasing achieved both comfort and tension, and his interpretation was simultaneously intellectual and heartfelt, without the excessive sentimentality too often associated with works such as this. He made his technique look effortless, particularly his fluttering bird-song trills. Importantly, he did not feel the need to thrash the more rhythmical motif of the scherzo, nor force the pomp of the strident warlike motif of the Finale: Allegro Guerriero. His unity with the orchestra was tangible throughout, but two highlights stood out for me. First were some delightfully echoed and paired phrases with the flute. Second was in the finale where I was so transfixed that he was half-way through a cadenza before I became conscious that the orchestra had stopped playing. Chauhan brought them back in with a breath-like string pianissimo before the return to the militaristic motif brought an extremely enjoyable first half to an end.

Dvořák’s Romance in F Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.11, was the second work in the programme from the Czech composer. In some ways it felt like an encore piece that could have been squeezed into the first half. It was played with a smaller orchestra and had a more intimate feel than the Bruch. It gave Laurence Jackson another opportunity to indulge us, and for that alone I was grateful.”     …


Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony (1832) has never left the repertoire since its revival soon after its composer’s death, but it is still a work whose innovation can easily be overlooked. Chauhan certainly had the measure of the Allegro’s unbridled élan, the exposition repeat – with its seamless formal transition – duly (and rightly) observed, and with a tensile energy as carried through the development then on to a coda as clinched the formal design with telling resolve. The Andante’s stark processional was evocatively conveyed at a swift yet never rushed tempo, with the ensuing intermezzo was characterised by heartfelt string playing and deft horns. The Finale then had the necessary contrast, its alternating of saltarello and tarantella rhythms effecting a powerful rhythmic charge that held good to the forceful close.

An engaging concert, then, and an auspicious one for Chauhan, who is evidently a conductor going places (he makes his debut with the LSO in January). This CBSO concert originally to have been directed by Walter Weller, whose death last June robbed the wider musical world of a conductor of unfailing insight across the repertoire. His cycles of Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos (the latter with John Lill) with the CBSO bear witness to his traditional yet never hidebound approach, and this concert was appropriately dedicated to his memory.”

Czech Philharmonic perform Mahler

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

Friday 24th April, 7:30pm

Symphony Hall

Czech Philharmonic
CBSO Chorus
Jiří Bělohlávek conductor
Sarah Fox soprano
Jana Hrochová Wallingerová mezzo soprano
Josef Špaček violin

Bruch Violin Concerto No 1 24’
Mahler Symphony No 2, Resurrection 8

Mahler’s epic Resurrection Symphony has a very special place in the hearts of Birmingham audiences, and the opportunity to hear it played by an orchestra steeped in Mahler’s native central European tradition makes this one of the undoubted highlights of our season.

Birmingham’s own, world-renowned CBSO Chorus joins the Czech Philharmonic’s veteran music director Jiří Bělohlávek.

You can listen to a specially created playlist by clicking here .


Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

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…     “This was an excellent programme choice, a highly popular work from a German contemporary of Mahler, but centred on the romantic tradition that contrasted perfectly with the symphony’s soul searching solemnity. The virtuosic challenges were met by the Czech Philharmonic’s young leader, Josef Špaček. From the outset the conductor and orchestra were on top form, gauging the tempo, balance and warmth of sound perfectly. Špaček did not so much play over the orchestra, but worked within it, delivering an astoundingly mature performance for one still under thirty. His tone is rich and full and he was able to meet the technical demands of the concerto without any unnecessary fuss.

Rather than egotistically showcasing his lightning dexterity, Špaček is an unassuming musician who explores the finer nuances of the music and causes the listener to concentrate more on his interpretation than his skill. This was particularly noticeable in the Adagio where his phrasing matched and complemented the collective with lyrical precision. Špaček ensured the audience got more than a programme-filler with this concerto, and their response to him signalled that he completely won them over.

After the interval a lone figure looked down at the stalls from the magnificent organ over the rows of the choir seats accommodating the CBSO Chorus. They, in turn, sat above all conceivable manner of timpani, percussion, gongs and harps overseeing the large stage crammed full to the brim with the sections of the orchestra. At the centre, Jiří Bělohlávek somehow had to control this colossal cast. Furthermore he had to do so before a concert hall that has seen other great conductors, such as Andris Nelsons, deliver this piece to great acclaim. Indeed, the symphony has a special significance to Birmingham Symphony Hall, being the first piece ever performed here at its inaugural concert by the CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle. Could the Czechs, promising so much before the interval, deliver on the expectations that they had aroused?

The opening chord from the violins immediately dispelled any doubt, creating a tension that Bělohlávek never let up for a moment. The basses were strident and bold in their entry and the long first movement was underway. The balance between sections was consistently good throughout, regardless of the dynamics which went from a barely audible pianissimo to thunderclap fortissimo at the flick of Bělohlávek’s fingers. Here was a man in total control of a unified world class orchestra. There are no weak areas in orchestras of this quality, however one could not help but be impressed with the French horns as they paired sympathetically with the other instruments, reflecting through tone and timbre the ever-changing moods and dramatic dynamics of the piece. ”     …


Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Bělohlávek allowed a two-three minute break before the second movement, in keeping with Mahler’s wishes (although perhaps slightly more than he had planned in order to settle everyone down after the annoying ripple of applause that greeted the two soloists). The triple-time of the Andante moderato was overtly stated by the baton of the ex-BBC SO maestro, the initialLändler theme clearly stated without any need for flamboyancy of stick; it was given a delightful airiness by the sonorous strings led by Irena Herajnová. Creating a contrast to the unresolved tension of the previous Todtenfeier as Mahler intended, there were further idyllic glimpses into the past life of our hero. A wallowing contentment among the Czech Philharmonic players infectiously penetrated the auditorium, culminating in the fluffiest of finishes from the pizzicato strings and the two harps.

The importance of the string section was underlined in the third movement, In ruhig fliessender Bewegung (with quietly flowing movement) yet the carefree attitude of youth had developed one of uncertainty and disenchantment. Based upon the song ‘St Antony and the Fishes’ its poetic makeup was peppered with cymbal crashes, piccolo squeaks and woodwind palpitations, together with a heroic reminder to the Titan of Symphony No 1.

Jana Hrochová Wallingerová instilled the necessary prayer-like atmosphere to the ‘Urlicht’ (Primal Light) a song from Des Knaben Wunderhorn; her opening O Röschen Rot! (O little red rose) was simply and sincerely stated, yet conveying vulnerability as befits man returning to God. While the attentive auditorium held their breath for the first four lines, the solo was given some heavenly oboe accompaniment. Then as the pace quickened with Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg (There came I upon a broad path) it was the turn of leader Herajnová to add a luxurious lustre to the mezzo voice.

Judgement Day arrived with an almighty orchestral amalgam of sound for the fifth movement, In tempo des Scherzos – Langsam: Mysterioso. After the fade, expertly engineered by Bělohlávek, the first call from the off-stage horn was heard. A wonderful kaleidoscope of instrumental colour and texture from the orchestral ensemble followed, creating a feeling being in limbo. The dead were summoned with an amazing crescendo from the seven-strong percussion section, cut off with pinpoint precision. The return of the ‘March’ theme produced some fantastic ‘surround’ sound, superbly galvanised by Bělohlávek. The far-off brass, both left and right, plus fluidic tremolo from flute and piccolo introduced the hushed CBSO Chorus; initially seated as is their want, they delivered an intensity to Klopstock’s Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n (Rise again, yes, rise again) – a hair-tingling moment. Again the combined sound as Sarah Fox joined choir and orchestra was admirably balanced by Bělohlávek. As the drama of the resurrection was played out to Mahler’s additional text, Wallingerová’s O glaube, mein Herz, O glaube (O believe, my heart, O believe) was passionately rendered and Fox’s nicht bright and clear. Their two voices blended well for the duet O Schmerz (O pain) convincing in their conquest over death. Rising to sing Sterben werd’ ich (I shall die) – who could sing this mighty statement sitting down? – the full complement of performers glorified this ‘Resurrection’ in uplifting fashion.”

Bruch’s Violin Concerto

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Wednesday 8th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin

Smetana: Má vlast – Vltava • Sárka 22′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 25′
Listen on Spotify

Dvořák: Symphony No.8 38′
Listen on Spotify

Autumn sunshine: cellos and horns sing a quiet hymn, a bird sings cheerfully, and in a flurry of drums and trumpets, Dvorák’s Eighth Symphony is on its way. Symphonies simply don’t get much happier than this – and violin concertos don’t get much more popular than Bruch’s First, performed by the CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson. Smetana’s tuneful trip down the River Vltava starts our journey today.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Russian Classics, Wednesday 12th November
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February 2015 & Saturday 7th February 2015
Haydn in London, Wednesday 6th May 2015 & Thursday 7th May 2015

Support the CBSO



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.

The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.

The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.

It was a performance of grace and good taste…”      …

Joshua Bell plays Bruch and Beethoven

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events

Sunday 14 October

Symphony Hall

Please note this replaces the previously advertised programme:

Beethoven: Overture, Egmont, Op 84      9′

Beethoven: Romance No 2 in F Major, Op 50     9′

Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op 46     30′

Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 in A Minor, Op 56. Scottish    40′


The 21-year old Joshua Bell made his first concerto disc in 1988 with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under its founder, Sir Neville Marriner. Twenty-four years later, he’s now one of the world’s most acclaimed violinists.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of today’s recommended concert:

This is the American violinist’s first year as Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Joshua Bell says the role is an amazing opportunity: ‘It’s a dream come true… They’re such an exciting orchestra, they really play on the edge of their seats.’




Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review  (may need to scroll down)

…     “In Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy Bell and the Academy interplayed the contrasts of lilting folk tunes with intricate detail and strong melodies with gentle moments of finely held calm. The complexity of the piece gave Bell his moments to shine, reminding us of why he is so highly regarded as a soloist.

Finally we were given a treat with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, the Scottish Symphony. Taking his inspiration from a visit to Scotland, Mendelssohn captures not only echoes of Hebridean tunes but also those swirling mists of the glens and mightiness of the lofty mountains.

As Bell maintained the musical conversation with his fellow artists, we were swept away through a range of emotional responses.”

Bruch’s Violin Concerto

Thursday 27 September 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller conductor
Yossif Ivanov violin

Weber: Euryanthe – Overture 9′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 26′ Listen on Spotify
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 50′

Tchaikovsky always wore his heart on his sleeve, and no question – in his Fifth Symphony, you can hear it. Deep sorrow, exuberant joy and pure, uninhibited passion…they’re all there, poured out in some of the most glorious tunes Tchaikovsky ever wrote. Conductor Walter Weller shares a lifetime’s experience, and introduces an extraordinary new star. Bruch’s First might be the world’s favourite violin concerto – but just wait until you hear it played by Yossif Ivanov!


Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Prefaced by softly rumbling timpani and gentle woodwind, the violin enters with a spellbinding long note on the open G string. This opening Allegro moderato movement evokes an atmosphere of improvisation, and it was captivating to witness Ivanov’s variations in tempo after a tantalisingly slow introduction. While the solo violin made a thorough exploration of anything and everything to do with G minor, the orchestra quietly supported in the background, then they were given their moment in the spotlight and responded with joyful vigour. The precision of the brass was electrifying as they heralded the reintroduction of the soloist for the Adagio. Once again, I was smitten by Ivanov’s control of the long notes, which materialised apparently from nowhere and threatened to go way beyond what the length of a bow would legitimately allow. Then came the wonderfully contrasting Finale, with the dancing Hungarian sprung rhythms and double-stopped chords, during which one couldn’t help but smile.”     …



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was appropriately crepuscular in colour, sonorities built bass-upwards, upper strings only allowed to let rip in passages such as the finale’s excitingly-propelled motor-rhythms. Despite a few fluffs, wind solos were effectively eloquent, Jonathan Barrett’s delivery of the andante’s famous horn solo gloriously expansive, Gretha Tuls’ bassoon alert with personality.”     …

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Friday 15 October 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Alina Pogostkina  violin

Rossini: William Tell – Overture 12′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 26′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 36′

Encore – Dvořák: Slavonic Dances No.2 in E minor, Op.72

It might be the world’s favourite violin concerto, but even if you already
know and love it (and who doesn’t?), there’s always something
appealingly fresh about Max Bruch’s First. And never more so than in
the inspirational hands of the young Russian violinist Alina Pogostkina.
But don’t take our word for it. Come and hear it for yourself, at the heart
of this shamelessly entertaining programme. There’s also a rare
chance to hear the gloriously beautiful bits of the William Tell overture
that didn’t feature in The Lone Ranger, plus the lilting dance-tunes and
joyous trumpets of what is – hands down – Dvorák’s happiest
symphony. And if that all sounds a bit too enjoyable, remember that all
proceeds from this concert go to an excellent cause: the CBSO’s
Benevolent Fund (Registered Friendly Society 735F).

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

… “At its core was Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto, played by the young Russian violinist Alina Pogostkina with fetching warmth and grace, and a romantic richness entirely free of schmaltz.”  …

Rating 5/5