Autumn Classics

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Featuring

Programme

  • Dmitri Shostakovich   Festive Overture
  • Edward Elgar   Salut d’amour
  • Fritz Kreisler   Liebesleid,  and Tambourin chinois
  • Antonín Leopold Dvořák   Slavonic Dances, Op.72, No.1
  • Alexander Glazunov   The Seasons: Autumn
  • Leonard Bernstein   West Side Story: Overture
  • Robert Farnon   À la claire fontaine
  • Henryk Wieniawski   Légende, Op. 17,  and Polonaise Brillante Op. 4 No. 1
  • Camille Saint-Saëns   Danse macabre
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky   Swan Lake: Act I Finale
  • Colin Twigg   Anton and Antonio

**  Support the CBSO Benevolent Fund here  **

 

Autumn: season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But it’s also the time for a right old celebration, and in this delightfully entertaining concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Jennifer Pike plays some of the most mouth-watering miniature treats in the violin repertoire. And then we crack open the vodka, as Shostakovich, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky start the party, Russian style! www.CBSO.co.uk

The CBSO Benevolent Fund is a registered friendly society, no.735F, supporting CBSO players and staff.

Review by John Gough, Midlands Music Reviews:

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[…]     “Shostakovich’s opening ‘Festive Overture’ went off like a rocket, with deft articulation, cracking string playing, balalaika-like pizzicatos, and a blaze of fanfares at the close.

The pace varied constantly. Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was sweet yet purposefully phrased. The orchestra was joined by golden toned violinist Jennifer Pike in two Kreisler pieces, by turns dazzling and melting, producing an audibly contented sigh from the audience at the end of ‘Liebesleid’. She returned later with two attractive and entertaining pieces by Wieniawski.” […]

Dvořák’s New World Symphony

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Featuring

Programme

  • Dvořák Othello, 15′
  • Bartók Violin Concerto No. 1, 21′
  • Dvořák Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), 40′

Gidon Kremer’s encore – Weinberg – three Preludes

CBSO’s encore – Dvořák – Slavonic Dance 1, Op.46

Some pieces are classics for a reason – and Dvořák’s symphony “From the New World” sounds as fresh, as stirring and as gloriously tuneful today as when it was first heard, 125 years ago in New York. Guest conductor Omer Meir Wellber makes a keenly awaited return: he’s paired it with a choice of two passionate concertos, each played by one of the greatest stars on the current classical music scene. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Bratby, The Arts Desk:

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[…] “If Othello had ended suddenly, the opening phrases of the “New World” symphony sounded as if they’d always been playing, and Wellber had merely turned up the volume. That sense – of hidden, elemental forces, masterfully channelled – powered the whole performance. Initially, it was Wellber’s sheer control that impressed, as he swept each section of the symphony’s outer movements towards its culminating point. But then came the quieter moments – the loving way he moulded the string accompaniment around Marie-Christine Zupancic’s first movement flute theme, and Rachael Pankhurst’s fluid, dark caramel cor anglais solo, and then let each melody unfurl and gather pace like an improvisation.

And repeatedly, just as you felt things were humming along a little too slickly, Wellber would open the sluices. The brass ripped through the texture, and Dvořák’s windswept climaxes took on the proportions and power of Mahler. Wellber’s gestures had been almost elegant in the Bartók. Now he thrashed about with clenched fists, generating an electrical storm whose hectic, brooding atmosphere the encore – the Slavonic Dance Op.46 No.1 – did nothing to dispel. It was a shattering reading, and I’m tempted to say a necessary one – at the very least, a reminder from a conductor of a new generation that the enduring stature of this great symphonic tragedy owes nothing to Smooth Classics compilations, or a TV advert that no-one under 40 ever saw. “

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Review by Andrew Clements, The Guardian:

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[…] “The concert also introduced the orchestra’s new artist-in-residence, the violinist Gidon Kremer. Though much of his residency will centre on the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose centenary falls next year, in this first appearance he was the soloist in Bartók’s First Violin Concerto. We now hear much less of Kremer in Britain than we did a decade ago, but as this fine-grained performance showed, that’s very much our loss; he caught the quiet ardency of the concerto’s first movement perfectly, and even in the more extrovert Allegro managed to retain a degree of something personal and lyrical, leaving Wellber and the orchestra to provide the bigger emphases.” […]

 

Italian Symphony

Wednesday 8th June, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 

Programme

  • 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) 

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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.”     …

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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.”     …

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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.”

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.”

 

Dvořák’s Sixth

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Wednesday 14th October, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart Idomeneo – Ballet Music, 10′
  • Nielsen  Violin Concerto, 35′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 6, 41′
Pekka Kuusisto’s encore – Aulis Sallinen – Cadenza
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Love Dvořák’s symphony from the New World? Now discover his symphony from the old one! Dvořák’s Sixth is musical sunshine: from pastoral opening to jubilant finish, it’s 45 joyous minutes of folkdances, lullabies and autumn sunsets – perfect for the youthful energy of conductor Nicholas Collon, just as Nielsen’s tuneful Violin Concerto could have been written for our soloist Pekka Kuusisto. Mozart’s Idomeneo ballet launches the evening in majestic style.
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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:
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“Good to hear Dvorak’s sixth symphony, the equal of his last three in all but fame, especially when performed with such a winning mixture of tender lyricism, rhythmic vigour and bravado. With the CBSO brass and Elspeth Dutch’s outstanding horn section in full cry the finale powered away like a ship in full steam down the Vltava.The conductor Nicholas Collon’s pacing of the opening allegro was spot on and while the dynamic scherzo, with its cross-cutting rhythms, was exuberant Collon allowed the wind section to give full play to the trio’s Bohemian melodies.

They impressed again at the opening of the adagio which sounded like one of Mozart’s magical wind serenades.”     …

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Schubert, Strauss and Dvořák

Thursday 11th June, 7.30pm

Programme

  • Schubert  Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) , 22′
  • Strauss  Horn Concerto No. 2 , 20′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 7, 38′

We are sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert at Symphony Hall due to an acute ear infection. We are pleased to announce that CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan has kindly agreed to conduct at very short notice. This evening’s concert programme remains unchanged.

If you enjoy Dvořák’s New World symphony, just imagine the music he wrote when he was happily at home! Dvořák’s Seventh is stormy, passionate and filled with the kind of tunes you just can’t stop humming. Tonight it’s served up with Strauss’s bubbly second horn concerto (starring the CBSO’s own Elspeth Dutch), and Schubert’s Eighth: a symphony that couldn’t be more perfect even if he’d finished it.

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After being called in at little over 24 hours notice for his full CBSO debut last week, Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan talks with Steve Beauchampé

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     ” The CBSO’s principal hornist, Elspeth Dutch, was an ideal exponent for the work. She knows Symphony Hall’s acoustic well and how to make her horn sing both with and above the orchestra. She made the opening arpeggio seem effortless and produced a lovely, legato sound.

Chauhan was an excellent accompanist and ensured the CBSO strings provided a soft cushion of sound to support Dutch. It’s interesting that Strauss gives quite a prominent role for the orchestral horns in the concerto and their dialogue with Dutch towards the end of the first movement was nicely done. The wistful second movement is somewhat reminiscent of music from Der Rosenkavalier and Dutch was once again mellifluous here. The rondo final movement is a great test of agility for the soloist with its tricky leaps and jumps and complex rhythmic dovetailing with the orchestra. After the briefest of awkward starts Dutch and the orchestra gave us a delightful romp through this fun music, finishing with a tremendous flourish.

It is often argued that Dvořák’s Symphony no. 7 in D minor, one of his finest achievements, is his most serious work in the genre but I would wager that proponents of such a view have not spent much time listening to his first three – not too many people do. Certainly, of the symphonies most often performed, it does not possess the sunny character of the Fifth and Sixth, the quirky originality of the Eighth nor the outright folksy-ness of the Ninth. It is likely that Dvořák was under the influence of his friend, Brahms, at the time the Seventh was composed and the mastery of symphonic argument supports this.

Chauhan’s interpretation was, in many ways, fresh and invigorating. He plotted a swift course through the first movement, driving us headlong into the symphony’s turbulence without flinching.”     …

Symphonie Fantastique

Wednesday 29th April, 7.30pm

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

Programme

  • Dvořák Cello Concerto in B minor, 40′
  • Berlioz Symphonie fantastique , 59′

All you need is love! When Hector Berlioz couldn’t get the girl of his dreams, he wrote her a symphony: a huge, crazy, opium fuelled riot of supernatural fantasies and star-crossed passion. It’s quite simply… well, fantastic! And Dvořák took a boyhood romance and a vision of Niagara Falls, and poured them into the most ardent cello concerto ever written. Jian Wang tells the story tonight.
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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:
Click here for full review
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  “Before conclusions, it was soloist Jian Wang in the spotlight for the Dvořák Cello Concerto; by any standards this was a dazzling exhibition. After the opening statement on clarinets and bassoons, the crescendo of Znaider was ferocious if perhaps a little uneven. As the first subject is tossed around in the allegro, the contribution from the lower strings seemed more pronounced than I have noticed before, but it was an interpretation that was decidedly pleasing to my ear. The horn delivered the gorgeous second subject and after some typical Dvořákian string gaiety, Wang forcefully entered, displaying his talents to the full: a velvet caress at the bottom end, a delicate touch on the ‘A’ string, a fluidity to the semiquavers and an aggression when required in the codas. I wondered what make his instrument was – the programme merely said it was on loan. His dynamic control and use of vibrato portrayed a formidable technique, and his ability to sit back, adjust his spectacles, and enter from a relaxed position at the precise moment, was uncanny. As Dvořák interweaved his two subjects in the central section, the CBSO players exuded a sense of utter jubilation, a mood confirmed by the return to the opening theme that closes the movement.

The cello again allows others to open the second movement, adagio, ma non troppo. This time it was a wonderful combination of Oliver Janes on clarinet and the bassoons who discharged one of Dvořák’s touchingly melancholic tunes, made all the more poignant by the Chinese virtuoso’s entry. The discussion between soloist and the woodwinds was animated; broken by a sudden outburst from the orchestra and amplified by the brass and percussion sections, it heralds the lied ‘Leave me alone’, inspired by the composer’s love for Josefina Cermakova. There was now an intensity to Jang’s playing that infused the auditorium, a line of melody that was remarkably painted. The interplay between Jang and Marie-Christine Zupancic on flute was another magical moment, as was the bird-like interjections of Rainer Gibbons on oboe. The finale, allegro moderato, contains a complex three-part rondo, begun enthusiastically by the soloist. But the main message of Jang and the CBSO was one of recapitulation, highlighting the glorious way Dvořák treats his native folk songs. The well-deserved appreciation for Jang brought a snippet of an encore from a Bach cello suite.”     ….