The Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Andris Nelsons Conducts Symphony No. 8

Thursday 16 September 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Marina Shaguch  soprano
Erin Wall  soprano
Carolyn Sampson  soprano
Katerina Karnéus  mezzo-soprano
Mihoko Fujimura  mezzo-soprano
Sergei Semishkur  tenor
Christopher Maltman  baritone
Stephen Gadd  bass
CBSO Chorus & Youth Chorus   
CBSO Children’s Chorus   
Hallé Choir

Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) 85′

Please note Matthew Best has withdrawn from this concert. We are grateful to Stephen Gadd who has agreed to replace him at short notice.

“Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. These are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving.” With its vast orchestra, and even huger chorus, Mahler’s mighty “Symphony of a Thousand” lives up to its nickname. But it’s much more than just the most spectacular symphony ever written; it’s an exultant hymn to the joy of creation itself, and every performance is a special occasion. You’ll be thrilled, you’ll be moved – and you’ll be blown backwards, as Andris Nelsons, the CBSO, three great choruses and a star-studded team of soloists launch Birmingham’s centenary Mahler Cycle in truly epic style.

Sung in Latin & German with English surtitles.

Blog Review by Norman Lebrecht:

“Britain’s second largest city launched its first Mahler cycle last night with a heart-stopping concert of the eighth symphony, shrunk to 600 performers. That was the most the hall could sensibly accommodate but the result was a performance of rare intimacy in which the conductor Andris Nelsons seemed to reach out and almost touch the banks of singers posted at the back of the stage, both sides and the overlooking balconies. It was 100 years to the week since Gustav Mahler gave the world premiere in Munich.”  ….

Review by Andrew Clark, Financial Times:

…..”The soloists were well balanced, with notable contributions from Erin Wall, Sergei Semishkur and the divine Carolyn Sampson. Birmingham’s Mahler cycle could not have made a better start. (4 star rating)”     Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”He opened the CBSO’s 90th birthday season with no less a challenge than Mahler’s Symphony no.8, the Symphony of a Thousand (and it seemed to be very nearly that, with choristers ranging halfway round both sides of the upper gallery – what a hall this is to accommodate such grandiloquence), the introduction to a huge MahlerFest marking both the composer’s 150th birthday and the centenary of his death. The result was magnificent.” …

Blog review by Intermezzo:

“Was it worth travelling all the way to Birmingham and back for just 90 minutes of music? You bet.” …

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

… “Conductor Andris Nelsons’s natural command of his forces – not quite the thousand associated with the symphony, but massive nevertheless – allowed him to exploit the potential of Symphony Hall’s phenomenal acoustic to the full. It was not just the sensation of being wrapped around by voices that was spine-tingling, or the ethereal beauty of Carolyn Sampson’s Mater Gloriosa, and then blazing brass from the hall’s highest galleries that made for a remarkable aural experience, but hearing the hundreds of voices at their infinitesimal quietest and feeling the gentle vibrations of sound permeate air.” …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb-International:

…”In the Scherzo, the emphasis switched between the multiple choral sections – Angels, Cherubs, Younger Angels and More Perfect Angels, each contributing to the journey of Faust’s soul to paradise – with Nelsons at his busiest. The energy he exuded for 90 min never flagged. In Mahler 8 the conductor cannot hope to cue every entry, but Nelsons seemed to give it a damn good try. One delicious moment amidst these invocations, was the break from leader Laurence Jackson that introduces the First Alto contribution from Katarina Karneus. Sergei Semishkur, a Mariinsky soloist as Doctor Marianus (another hermit and reputably based on Anselm the 11th century Archbishop of Canterbury) handled his high tessitura with ease, including a resounding top B. Interspersed during this solo, the cellos led by Ulrich Heinen added a contrast of pure cream, both in Heinen’s solo and when playing together. At Semishkur’s sublime Jungfrau, rein im schösten Sinn (Virgin of the highest purity) the first violins delicately underlined the feeling of innocence. With presumably only room for two harps on the crowded Birmingham stage, stalwart Robert Johnson introduced another glorious Mahler moment from the first violins, this time backed by the harmonium.” …