Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Volume 4 is out NOW!

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 4

Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 with Jennifer Pike (violin)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – incidental music, Op. 61 with

Rhian Lois (soprano I), Keri Fuge (soprano II)

CBSO Youth Chorus

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Click here to buy online (all volumes available here)

Or visit the Symphony Hall Gift shop

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Shostakovich CD

Shostakovich: Symphony No.7 (CBSO/Nelson)

Shostakovich, Dmitri

Symphony No 7 – “Leningrad”

Available now – buy online here


Amazon review here


Watch –

“…exclusive access to Birmingham’s classical music sensation Andris Nelsons.”   

*** here ***


Review by Norman Lebrecht, Sinfini Music:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons is the first, in my experience, to detach the music from its history. In concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, he dares to play for beauty. By underlining the delicacy and internal contrasts of the music, especially in the middle movements, Nelsons racks up tension by stealth. Ice-cool woodwinds add a surreal sense of isolation, while a rich body of strings hints at the totalitarian subjugation of individuality. Recorded in November 2011, the sound is outstanding and the playing world-class.”     …



Review by Simon Thompson, MusicWeb:

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…     “The finest thing about it is the orchestral playing, which is really very good indeed. There is a collective sense of adventure right from the bounding energy of the first phrases, strings surging upwards, buoyed up by rakish brass and timps. It is the strings who continually impress throughout. They are at their best in the Adagio, which is spectacularly good. The broad string sigh that opens the main theme pulsates with feeling and soulfulness that make it stand out as truly remarkable. It reminds you that this movement, above all the others, is Shostakovich’s love letter to his home city, a starry-eyed vision of the Nevsky Prospect and the Neva River by twilight. The cello tone that picks up the second theme at the end of the movement is simply delicious. The winds are just as special, and the frequent solos show up the CBSO players in the best possible light. Listen, for example, to the optimistic wistfulness of the flute that introduces the second theme after the first movement’s first subject has subsided. Then there’s that doleful bassoon lament that pours out its grief after the climax of the first movement has subsided. The “invasion theme” – and let’s call it that for the sake of argument; I know not everyone agrees – gives each section a chance to show off what it can do. The orchestral climaxes are thrilling when they come, but just as impressive is that sense of a collective identity, pulling together as an orchestra to give this work all they can.”     …

Review by Dan Morgan, MusicWeb:
Click here for full review (scroll down, is below Simon’s)
…     “Recorded live at two CBSO concerts last year, this Seventh is very closely miked. That, together with less than impeccable ensemble – especially in that remorseless first movement – makes for pretty uncomfortable listening. The soundstage is rather compressed too, and balances are far from natural; moreover, in those brutal climaxes there’s evidence of overload, which is very disappointing indeed. Technical issues aside, Nelsons seems to revel in the music’s banalities, and his phrasing of the Boléro-like march is very odd indeed.

The Moderato is much better though; it’s bright and airy, rhythms are nicely sprung and those brazen interludes are well judged. There’s some characterful woodwind playing as well; now this is much more like it. What a pity it doesn’t continue in this vein. The start to the Adagio isn’t as anguished as it can be – in mitigation it’s not overwrought – and the string sound is much too fierce for my tastes. Otherwise the movement is sensibly paced and its strange mood is carefully calibrated. For all that there’s a nagging sense of ‘nearly but not quite’, that jaunty tune heralding a return to ear-shredding brashness. No, Nelsons’ overall shaping and projection of this music is just too awkward and arbitrary for my tastes, and that robs the symphony of its dark and compelling narrative.”     …


CBSO Sale and CD release

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s


January Sale is now on!

 See here for details

Get 25% off CBSO tickets, for one week only, from Saturday 14 to Sunday 22 January (inclusive; terms and conditions apply).


In other news Anthony Hopkins’ CD, recorded with the CBSO is released today.

Anthony Hopkins: Composer

See here for more info!

CBSO / Andris Nelsons Tchaikovsky Symphony No 4 and Francesa da Rimini

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 & Francesca da Rimini

Out on 3rd October 2011

Available NOW from THSH Shop Birmingham Symphony Hall


“Andris Nelsons, the CBSO and Tchaikovsky have become synonymous, not least on disc, and the latest in their series of recordings will be eagerly awaited after this week’s performances set down for the Orfeo label.

The tone-poem Francesca da Rimini, sometimes seen as a poor relation to the more obvious story-line of Romeo and Juliet, was delivered with searing engagement under Nelsons. He unleashed a whirlwind circle of Dante’s hell, reassembling it at the end, but not before the Francesca’s wonderful narrative (Joanna Patton rising triumphantly to the solo clarinet’s challenges), crowned by fluttering flutes decorating the cellos’ final declaration of doomed, forbidden love. This was an urgent, gripping reading, and so was Nelsons’ account of Tchaikovsky’s tremendous Fourth Symphony, brilliantly responsive to its structure, ebbing and flowing in emotional intensity, and a tribute all the time to the immense trust and love between conductor and orchestra. So many instrumental delights (hopefully some, such as skirling woodwind scarcely heard at the heart of the first movement will undoubtedly be picked up the recording): apocalyptic brass, bassoon and oboe solos to get under the skin, and a massed string pizzicato sounding like one giant balalaika.”

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post 4th June 2011

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CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Richard Strauss CD

R. Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie

Strauss, Richard –

Eine Alpensinfonie, Op.64 and Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils

To be released 28th March 2011, though some copies available from THe SHop at Symphony Hall, now!

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Review by Geoffrey Norris, Telegraph:

“From the dark opening to the sunlit blazes on the mountaintop, Nelsons’s approach to Strauss’s Alpine Symphony is sharply defined, the textures malleable yet tightly controlled and the music animated with passion. The CBSO plays gloriously both in the symphony and in the sultriness and wild excess of Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils.” Rating: * * * *

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Tchaikovsky CD

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6  and 

Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture

CD released 8th November 2010

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6; Romeo & Juliet (CBSO/Andris Nelsons)

Presto Classical:

…”This performance offers the full and varied palette of Tchaikovsky’s lush and glowing orchestration, from the brusque accents in the wind and gnarled embellishments in the strings in the faster sections to the downright ecstasy of the broad melodic passages. […]

[…] And indeed, the CBSO and Andris Nelsons make Tchaikovsky’s passion and melancholy so compelling that listening makes one forget one’s reserve, leaving one both deeply impressed and moved.”

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Igor Stravinsky CD

Stravinsky – The Firebird and Symphony of Psalms

CD released 26th April 2010

Stravinsky - The Firebird & Symphony of Psalms

Review by Geoffrey Norris, Telegraph:

“The vibrant Russian colouring of The Firebird and the austerity of the Symphony of Psalms make for an uncommon coupling, but Nelsons and his Birmingham forces are wise to the marked differences of style. The volatility of The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet for Diaghilev, is excitingly airborne in Nelsons’s hands, with plenty of the luminous orchestral detail that reveals Stravinsky as the direct heir to Rimsky-Korsakov.” …..

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Review by Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer:

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Richard Strauss CD

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

to be released 11th January 2010, though some copies available from THe SHop at Symphony Hall, now!

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”After hearing this extraordinary account of the Rosenkavalier Suite I literally had to stop for breath after so much visceral, almost physical excitement, about which more anon. So be advised.   …

In this performance Nelsons and the CBSO give us a roller coaster ride through a kaleidoscope of emotions where hedonism, regret and reflection all combine in an irresistible creamy concoction.

And, forgive the imagery, that is where we begin, with a prelude in which orgasmic horns, foaming, quivering woodwind, and strings wedging inwards towards each other depict the final ecstasies of the gracious Marschallin and her young lover Octavian.  …


…. And it is her complex character that the solo violin has to represent, and Jackson does this with virtuosity, brightness of articulation, and a remarkable sweetness and depth of tone.

The opening of Ein Heldenleben is notoriously difficult to bring off, with its unison strings needing to phrase and breathe as one. Nelsons achieves this magnificently….. and proceeds to unfold the music’s picaresque paragraphs with a firm strength of vision and grasp. “…

Review by Geoff Brown, The Times:

“Still, those clapping hands were deserved, for this account of Strauss’s orchestral epic, edited from two Birmingham concerts last June, stands as one of the most sumptuous and refined ever put on to disc.  …

… Subtle it isn’t, but the conviction of Nelson’s troops is overwhelming enough to bring sweat to your brow. The whooping horns at the start rival any sound from the orchestral aristocrats of Berlin or Vienna. The CBSO is just as impressive in delicate mode. …

…This level of achievement can come only when orchestra and conductor feel the work as one and are in the grip of genuine excitement, not duty.”

Review by Geoffrey Norris, Telegraph:

“These stirring performances come from concerts in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and testify to the rapport the Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has established with the CBSO. Passion, glowing sonority and sophisticated texture are embodied in the playing of the suite from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. The dramatic denouements exude exhilarating energy, with wonderfully whooping horns at the start and a real feel for theatrical thrust after. The orchestral timbres in Strauss’s more delicately scored passages are delineated with a sharp ear, blending or emerging in polished, shapely soloistic fashion.”…

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…”I’ve certainly been missing something: these performances of Ein Heldenleben and the Rosenkavalier Suite, taken from concerts in Symphony Hall, Birmingham last year, stand comparison with almost any versions already in the catalogue. The sound is wonderfully clear and detailed and the playing sumptuous, and Nelsons quite obviously revels in the sentimental excesses of both works.” …

Review by Hugo Shirley,

…”It’s the sheer quality of the playing that makes the greatest impression in the first, the Rosenkavalier Suite, captured in wonderfully clear and airy sound. Nelsons admits in a booklet interview that he is yet to conduct the opera in the theatre and this is apparent in his approach to the suite, which is performed as an unashamed show-piece.  …

…The contributions of Laurence Jackson on solo violin are outstanding, too, and he makes light of the role’s technical difficulties to give an unusually tender and sympathetic account of the ‘hero’s companion’. ” …

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