Tchaikovsky and Beethoven

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Skalkottas Four Images, 12′
  • Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, 33′
  • Koukos In Memoriam, 4′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 7, 38′

Yulianna Avdeeva’s encore – Tchaikovsky – Meditation

“I am the new Bacchus, pressing out glorious wine for the human spirit!” Beethoven wasn’t known for his modesty – but until you’ve heard his Seventh Symphony you’ve never known just how intoxicating music can be. It’s the only way to end a concert that begins with Skalkottas’s riotous Greek wine festival, and which features the virtuosic Yulianna Avdeeva in Tchaikovsky’s barnstorming concerto. http://www.CBSO.co.uk

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, Arcana FM:

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[…]     “Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto has never wanted for exponents, so credit to Yulianna Avdeeva for her engaging perspective on music to which the ‘war-horse’ epithet is too often applicable. The indelible opening melody was majestic without being portentous, with the imposing first movement convincingly held together so that the accrued momentum carried through to a searching take on its lengthy cadenza. There was no lack of deftness during the Andantino, replete with woodwind playing of real elegance, while the finale had energy to spare on its way to a surging peroration. This is an impressive interpretation in the making.     […]

[…]      Carydis then headed directly into Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, here given a reading that was always invigorating and often electrifying. Dynamic contrasts occasionally verged on the contrived, and the repeat of the scherzo’s hymnal trio was almost parodic in its stateliness, but these were outweighed by the power and incisiveness elsewhere. Carydis drove the CBSO hard in the finale, but the players admirably rose to the challenge – antiphonal violins to the fore as the coda reached its visceral culmination.  […]

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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“Febrile, furious and triumphantly joyous – this was the performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony one longs to hear. The Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis took risks, which is appropriate for a work which made Weber declare that Beethoven was “ripe for the madhouse”. In the Dionysian finale the CBSO became a musical juggernaut with Carydis pushing the accelerator to the floor and accepting the challenge of Beethoven’s notoriously optimistic metronome marking. I expected the wheels to come off but it’s tribute to the CBSO players that not only did they reach the finishing line in one piece but that they delivered a brilliantly articulated and weighted performance. In the wonderful Allegretto Carydis urged the strings to play with the utmost quietness – clarity aided by his dividing the fiddles left and right – making the most of the movement’s magic.”      […]

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(Review by Geoffrey Mogridge, Ilkley Gazette, for same programme but at Leeds Town Hall:

Click here for full review)

 

 

 

Italian Moments

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Romeo and Juliet Overture, 21′
  • Rachmaninov  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 24′
  • Puccini  Intermezzi from Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, 13′
  • Respighi  Feste Romane, 24′

Pavel Kolesnikov’s encore – Chopin  Waltz in A Minor

North meets south, and whether it’s Tchaikovsky’s star-crossed lovers embracing under the Italian night sky or Respighi’s roof-raising vision of Roman excess, this is a concert full of big emotions and spectacular colours. Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan has become a star in Italy: he knows not to hold back. And nor will the superb young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, in Rachmaninov’s hugely popular Rhapsody.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Midland Music Reviews:

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[…]     “The programme had its roots entirely in Chauhan’s adopted country, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture.in which the conductor wove a haunting string web of regret before launching into a well-paced tumult — and commendably bringing his left hand into play only for telling moments.

Pavel Kolesnikov was a perfect collaborator with the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, now effervescent, now thoughtful in his punctuation of these colourful textures. The piece emerged as the sinfonia concertante for orchestra and piano that it actually is.

Orchestra and conductor really came into their own in the Intermezzi from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, sumptuous in tone, strings phrasing like soloists, and everything delivered with an ardour which surely had the composer smiling down on us.”     […]

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Review by Robert Gainer, Bachtrach:

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[…]    “But Chauhan and the CBSO were saving the best until last. Respighi’s Feste Romane is a symphonic poem of serious magnitude. I’m surprised the strings had room to bow, or the trombones space to slide, given how tightly the musicians were packed on the stage. The third in Resphigi’s Roman trilogy, Feste Romane comes in four movements, each depicting aspects of Ancient Rome. The first opened with a wonderfully coherent trumpet fanfare that celebrates the occasion of gladiatorial combat. There was no subtlety in Chauhan’s presentation, nor should there have been. Who ever heard of a subtle gladiator? This was blood and guts and glory in Nero’s Rome and the CBSO were on fire. Everything was coming together: the power of the deep brass; the tension of the tempestuous strings; the driving tumult of bass drum and timpani. Even as the tempo and volume subsided to reflect a more ponderous depth of feeling in strings and woodwind, the forward motion of the first movement was inescapable and inevitably returned to reiterate the opening fanfares.

The remaining three movements continued in a similar vein, indeed, if anything became increasingly frenetic, especially in the brass and percussion. Yet there were moments of respite when we were treated to more unusual orchestrations. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of percussive chimes and the mandolin passage in the third movement. The fourth movement was as tight and absorbing as anything I have experienced at Symphony Hall, a truly climactic finale.”     […]

 

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.” […]

 

Elgar’s Cello Concerto

with Bergen Philharmonic and Edward Gardner

Tuesday 17th January, 2017 – 7:30pm

Artists

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
 
Edward Gardnerconductor
Truls Mørkcello

Programme

GriegPeer Gynt Suite No 1
ElgarCello Concerto
WaltonSymphony No 1

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Truls Mørk’s encore – Bach –

Bergen Philharmonic’s encores – Elgar – Nimrod, and Grieg – March of the Trolls

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A great Norwegian orchestra meets great British music, as Edward Gardner conducts Grieg, Walton, and Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Truls Mørk is the soloist, and his take on Elgar’s hugely popular concerto is both fresh and deeply thoughtful. Gardner, meanwhile, became Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 2015. Together, they’ve got a real chemistry – so whether in Walton’s explosive First Symphony or Peer Gynt (by Bergen’s hometown hero Edvard Grieg), expect some serious energy tonight.

6:15pm: Pre-concert conversation with Edward Gardner. This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter.

Steven Osborne: Beethoven

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Thursday 22nd September, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Beethoven Egmont: Overture, 8′
  • Beethoven  Piano Concerto No. 1, 37′
  • Butterworth  A Shropshire Lad , 11′
  • Walton Symphony No. 2, 27′

Steven Osborne’s encore – Beethoven Bagatelle op.
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No-one conducts British music with more eloquence and flair than Edward Gardner, who tonight rediscovers two very different twentieth century masterpieces: Walton’s sparkling, neglected Second Symphony and – 100 years since Butterworth’s death on the Somme – the heartbreaking A Shropshire Lad. First though, another treasure of British music, pianist and CBSO Artist in Residence Steven Osborne, brings all his poetry and power to Beethoven’s exuberant First Concerto.

 

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Review by Richard Ely, Bachtrack:

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…    Even in as fine a performance as this one under Edward Gardner, it was easy to hear why this relatively brief (under half an hour) but richly textured work has struggled to be heard. Although displaying all Walton’s acknowledged gifts for orchestration, the absence of instantly memorable themes (‘pop’ music, if you like) and a passacaglia finale that seems merely repetitious on first hearing can make the symphony seem more a virtuoso exercise in style than a work of depth and feeling. But for anyone familiar with the piece, there was no doubting that Gardner had the measure of it. This was a performance that galvanised all sections of the CBSO, reaching a peak of expressiveness in the central Lento assai movement – considered by Michael Kennedy to be a character study of Cressida, the mercenary courtesan from Walton’s contemporaneous opera Troilus and Cressida – where the violins and the woodwind created an inspired body of sound that was both seductive and sinister. Anyone with more than a glancing acquaintance with this score would have been delighted by such an exciting performance. Judging from their faces at the end, both conductor and orchestra felt they’d pulled off quite a coup!

Dating from immediately before the First World War, Butterworth’s ‘rhapsody for orchestra’ A Shropshire Lad is an altogether more approachable work, an evocation of the English countryside of the kind we are perhaps over-familiar with from the contemporaneous likes of Moeran and Delius. But this was a fine, sensitive performance of a difficult to programme piece, an evocation of the Housman cycle of poems which Butterworth had earlier set to music. Most of the burden of the work falls on the strings and woodwinds, whose reiteration of the rhapsody’s defining Dorian motif was powerfully expressive.”     …

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Review by Ivan Hewitt, Telegraph:

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…     “The conductor was Ed Gardner, a longtime favourite guest conductor of the orchestra, who has a way of bringing out the best in the players. The opening chords of Egmont were brusque as well as stern, and the answering plaintive phrases in the woodwind were beautifully shaped. One had the sense of the music labouring under a massive weight, eventually thrown off in the joyous final minutes, where it seems as though tyranny has been banished for ever.

Steven Osborne, pianist in Beethoven’s first piano concerto, gave a similar sense of throwing caution to the wind. He can be the most fastidious and careful of pianists, and what made this performance so thrilling was that these qualities lived side-by-side with reckless daring-do. The cadenza of the first movement (that’s the moment where the soloist gets a chance to spin some virtuoso solo fantasies on the melodies) was especially telling. With ostentatious cleverness, it combined things we’d already heard, then seemed to invite the orchestra to join back in, and then unexpectedly went back to the first melody but in the wrong key. It was gruffly humorous in a properly Beethovenian way, but who composed it? I suspect it was Osborne himself.

After all that blazing Enlightenment optimism and Olympian laughter, the gentle nostalgia of George Butterworth’s Rhapsody on his own A Shropshire Lad might have seemed a terrible come-down. In fact the performance was so beautifully shaped, the lovely opening phrase from clarinetists Oliver Janes and Joanna Paton so tenderly evocative of a long-lost summer afternoon, that one didn’t mind the lowering of the emotional temperature.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Steven Osborne, this season’s CBSO artist-in-residence, was soloist, bringing a Mozartean clarity of articulation combined with well-coloured pedalling, and there was a wonderful fluidity of phrasing from all concerned. Particularly memorable were the magical soundworld of the Largo, with the pearly elaboration of Osborne’s filigree, and the twilit conclusion of the finale, spoilt only by Beethoven’s own noisy shooting himself in the foot.

George Butterworth’s Rhapsody: A Shropshire Lad was a poignant reminder that a century ago the Battle of the Somme was raging, and that indeed the composer himself had been killed during its course. During his tragically short life Butterworth made quite a mark on the English musical scene, and this account revealed how much parts of Holst’s Planets owe to the composer, with Oliver Janes’s solo clarinet singing regretfully over the shimmering nostalgia of the strings, aching and yearning.

The zippy urgency with which Walton’s Second Symphony opens provided quite a contrast under Gardner’s energising conducting, sympathetic as well to the dappled, sunlit timbres which link the work to the contemporaneous Cello Concerto.

In the Lento Assai Walton gives us one of the greatest slow movements ever penned by an Englishman in any format, its gorgeous outpouring of melody caressed so fervently by a willing, alert CBSO responding to this remarkable conductor.”

 

 

Welcoming Mirga

Welcoming Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Friday 26th August, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart The Magic Flute: Overture, 7′
  • Abrahamsen let me tell you, 30′
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, 44′
A new era in Birmingham music – and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla opens her first concert as Osborn Music Director with the overture to Mozart’s joyous fable of hope and renewal. Tchaikovsky’s passionate autobiography of a Fourth Symphony and a set of magical, Shakespeare-inspired songs performed by one of the world’s most adventurous living sopranos complete Birmingham’s most eagerly anticipated concert of 2016.
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Encore – Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty, final variation and coda. 

Sponsored by

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The sense of occasion was almost palpable. Even Mozart’s Magic Flute overture fizzed and sparkled with a clarity and subtlety we rarely hear in such a well-worn opener. And at the end of the programme Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 transcended its fanfare opening to develop into something of a musical quest, lovingly and elegantly sculptured by this remarkable young conductor (strings wonderfully effulgent, woodwind singing with nostalgia), which, after characterful middle movements, concluded in a glorious peroration of life-affirming joy. 

An even more impressive vehicle for Gražinytė-Tyla’s musicianship and technique was Hans Abrahamsen’s Shakespeare-inspired 30-minute vocal monologue ‘let me tell you’ for soprano (the stunningly brilliant Barbara Hannigan, who has made the work her own). […]

[…]     So – has the CBSO at last found a worthy successor to Andris Nelsons? You bet they have. In just one evening we witnessed exactly what the Mirga magic can do. And this is just the start. “

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “The drama that had been latent in the performance of the overture erupted in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in the second half of the concert. Technically, it was impeccable – it may be a standard repertory piece, which the CBSO has played under Nelsons and his predecessor Sakari Oramo, but this was just that bit more vivid than usual, more generously characterised in every detail. Gražinytė-Tyla seems to have that precious conductor’s knack of allowing players all the expressive freedom they want, while still being able to shape every aspect of a performance in exactly the way she wants.

The bewitching centrepiece of the evening was a repeat performance of one of the most remarkable works the CBSO has introduced in many years. In 2014, Nelsons conducted the UK premiere of Let Me Tell You, Hans Abrahamsen’s spellbinding song cycle, with a text by Paul Griffiths, taken from his novel of the same name, itself woven around the character and words of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.”     …

*****

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “As for Barbara Hannigan’s singing, it was quite astonishing. Abrahamsen makes demands on his soloist that are almost unreasonable at times – though Miss Hannigan was closely involved in the composition process, I understand. Every challenge, not least those which involved the extreme registers of her voice, was met with compete assurance. There are many things that I admire about this work but one of them is the nature of the writing for the voice. Abrahamsen requires his soloist to deploy quite a number of vocal effects during the piece. However, unlike many contemporary composers, at no time does he expect his soloist to do anything other than sing. In other words, there’s nothing outlandish or ugly in the vocal writing.

Barbara Hannigan displayed extraordinary control and technical accomplishment during this performance. Furthermore, this was a performance that engaged totally both with the music and with the audience. Part II is the section of the work that uses the largest orchestral forces and there were a number of times when the accompaniment rather drowned the soloist – that’s not a criticism of the orchestra, by the way. Part III is simply spellbinding, the music slow-moving and rapt. This is music of the utmost refinement and eloquence and it received here a performance that was completely worthy of Hans Abrahamsen’s extraordinary musical imagination. The whole of let me tell you is a wonderfully imaginative creation but the invention and inspiration reaches a peak in Part III. It was a tribute to the quality of both the music and the performance that the audience was clearly absorbed in the performance. Both Hans Abrahamsen and Paul Griffiths were present and they, as well as the performers, were most warmly applauded. let me tell you is an extraordinary score and I was thrilled to experience it live. My only hope is that now that Barbara Hannigan has so successfully launched the work other sopranos will take it up so that it establishes the secure pace in the repertoire that it deserves.    […]

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The finale, taken attacca, was as fast and brilliant as I’d expected. But to describe the performance simply in those terms would be grossly unfair for amid the festivities there was further evidence of this conductor’s attention to detail. One example occurred within the first couple of minutes where the woodwind have a succession of chords, each marked with a crescendo. Each and every one of these crescendi was individually cared for by Miss Gražinytė-Tyla. It sounds like a small point but it isn’t; these chords can go for nothing – or very little – in the excitement of performance but here they made their mark yet without any feeling of exaggeration. The performance as a whole was thrilling and when the ‘Fate’ motif returned the theme blazed out from the CBSO’s brass section – which was on collectively fine form throughout the evening. The ending was exhilarating as Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla whipped the orchestra to an electrifying conclusion.

Predictably this superb performance was greeted by a huge ovation and after several minutes of highly enthusiastic applause Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla emerged once more onto the stage but instead of coming back to the podium she climbed the risers at the back of the stage, picked up the music stand in front of one of the CBSO’s percussionists and led him, triangle in hand, to a much more prominent position on the platform from where he proceeded to play a key role in the short, witty encore which I couldn’t initially identify but now understand – thanks to the comment sent in below – was from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.

I have to report that Miss Gražinytė-Tyla then faced a first-night mutiny. The orchestra resolutely refused her requests to stand, insisting instead that she should take a bow by herself. This gesture suggested that the orchestra has already formed a strong relationship with their new music director but, frankly, that was evident throughout the evening in performances of commitment, skill and freshness. The orchestra repeats this programme at the Proms on Saturday 27 August. It will be broadcast live on Radio 3 and recorded for television transmission in early September so a much wider audience will get an early chance to experience this new musical partnership in action.

So, the Mirga Era has been well and truly launched in Birmingham. Buckle up: I think we’re in for an exciting ride.”

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Reviews for BBC Prom 55 27th August, 2016- same programme as at Symphony Hall:-

Review by Mark Pullinger, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “And what a landscape Abrahamsen paints, clusters of microtones over the soft tread of xylophone ostinatos, silvery piccolo shards of glass and spectral high violins. Glockenspiel, celesta and harp daub their icy tintinnabulations, while paper is grazed over the skin of the bass drum. Even if Hannigan’s words did not always carry across the Royal Albert Hall’s difficult acoustic, under Gražinytė-Tyla’s hypnotic beat, the music entranced.

The interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4 in F minor was full of thought and incident. The fateful opening fanfares were crisply delivered – with meticulous care over dynamics – and the development section was lovingly caressed, although momentum sagged once or twice. Gražinytė-Tyla’s energetic conducting clearly signals what she wants, from the flick of the wrist to a left-hand ‘claw’, a hip wiggle to a slowly raised hand giving the lower brass free rein. She wields a baton with dramatic flair, but in the pizzicato Scherzo she led with an inviting hand and a graceful smile. A couple of pregnant pauses displayed bags of personality and only the symphony’s coda, the percussion leading off a tad too fast, threatened to derail her, but a quick recovery led to a triumphant finale.

Clambering to the back of the platform to retrieve a percussionist’s music stand, Gražinytė-Tyla brought it – and him – to just behind the second violins, his triangle launching the Diamond Fairy’s sparkling variation and coda from the final act of The Sleeping Beauty. “See you in Birmingham!” she piped while its final note still resounded. No doubt about that.”

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Review by Doundou Tchil, ClassicalIconoclast:

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“Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  in a truly sensational Prom 55 at the Royal Albert Hall, an occasion which those of us lucky enough to have been there will not forget. The CBSO is unique. Its members have an uncanny knack for picking relatively unknown conductors and growing with them.  They picked Simon Rattle as Music Director when he was 25, Sakari Oramo at 31, Andris Nelsons at age 30, and now Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, also 30.  This symbiotic relationship between orchestra and conductors makes the CBSO what it is: a very different dynamic from the usual way orchestras are run.  In each case the orchestra shaped the conductor as much as the conductor shaped the orchestra.  This close relationship – like family, some say – is fundamental to understanding the orchestra and, indeed, its conductors, who carry the CBSO imprint with them just as much as the orchestra developed duringn their stewardship. The CBSO is easily one of the Big Five in British music, and absolutely world class.  Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has a lot to live up to, but from this Prom, it’s clear that she has what it takes.     […]

[…]     The Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute sparkled: clean, shining brass, vivacious winds, strings whizzing along with manic brio. So expressive that the spirit of the opera – and its composer – seemed to materialize. Magical, yes, but also with diabolic fervour.  In the opera, Tamino is tested. Sarastro  is no cuddly father figure.  Thus the discipline in the CBSO’s playing underlined the moral resolve that lies at the heart of the Singspiele, which is by no means a pretty bit of fluff.  Being a Freemason in Mozart’s time was secretive and rather sinister. Gražinytė-Tyla’s background lies in vocal music. Like Nelsons, she could achieve great things if she did opera.  To my delight, she announced plans on the radio rebroadcast for a concert performance of Mozart Idomeneo in a future CBSO season.”      …

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Review by Robert Matthew-Walker, ClassicalSource:

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…      “The singing of Barbara Hannigan (mostly from memory) was exceptionally compelling, and the playing maintained the high standards of the Mozart – but Hannigan, for some extraordinary reason, performed at times to one side of the auditorium rather than centre-stage and tended to project to her left, which obliged half of those in the Hall (on her right, where I sat) to try to catch what she was singing and having to make do by seeing her almost constantly turning away.

(L-R) Paul Griffiths, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Hans Abrahamsen, Barbara Hannigan and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms 2016. Photograph: BBC/Chris ChristodoulouBut overall, the influence of Stockhausen came across as being the foundation of Abrahamsen’s score, certainly in the first of its three movements wherein a monotony of tonality (pace Griffiths) is subjected to a few textural variations over too great a length of time (half the work’s 35-minute duration), so that one’s interest is in serious danger of being lost; in addition, the composer’s word-setting tends to inhabit too narrow an expressive range in depicting a teenager contemplating – and achieving – suicide. The performance though was magnificent, and must have thrilled the composer, taking his bow along with Griffiths.”     …

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Review by Richard Morrison, The Times (££)

Click here for full review (££)

“It’s too early to say what personality lies behind the incredibly graceful conducting technique of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, the new music director at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). Thirty this year, the Lithuanian clearly has bags of musicality. That was evident within 30 seconds of her starting her Proms (and indeed London) debut, with Mozart’s Magic Flute overture.

The chording was pungently accented; the string phrases lushly nuanced. Like many of today’s young conductors she seems to be (in Boris Johnson’s phrase) “pro cake and pro eating it” when it comes to 18th-century music: timbres and textures that mimic period instruments, but dynamics that would have had Wilhelm Furtwängler nodding approval.”     …

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Review by Amanda Holloway, Critics’ Circle:

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“After a bouncy little encore from The Sleeping Beauty, conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla stepped forward and shouted to the audience: “See you in Birmingham!”

Symphony Hall should be full this season on the strength of this, her second concert as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and first Proms appearance. The buzz that surrounded the London debut of the slight, determined 30-year-old Lithuanian conductor was fully justified: her effect on the orchestra is electrifying, very differently from that of her predecessor, the more laid-back Andris Nelsons. She has firm ideas of what she wants – pace and definition – and the orchestra eagerly complies. From the opening bars of the overture to The Magic Flute the energy flew from her baton like a rapier and the orchestra replied with punchy chords fresh from the page. She leaned in to the cellos, urged on the trumpets and, having whipped the orchestra into a frenzy, stopped them dead in their tracks to produce shocking silences.”     …

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Review by Alan Sanders, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Hannigan is an extraordinary artist. She is rightly described as a “singing actress”, since her repertoire, much of it contemporary, often calls for more than just singing, and she certainly has a most compelling stage presence. Not only does she have a most beautiful voice, but that voice is a most outstandingly agile instrument, for it has a huge range of notes from very high low, and is capable, with great varieties of tone colour, of making sure footed leaps across the most demanding and awkward intervals. Hannigan feels that her Ophelia “role” should be committed to memory, and that she has done. To have absorbed such a rhythmically anchorless and tonally fractured vocal part lasting half an hour, with little respite, is an amazing feat in itself.

To complement this display the orchestra contributes an accompaniment that is for the most part curiously pretty – a strange word to use, maybe, but one that seems appropriate. There’s nothing in the piquant scoring that would seem very foreign to, say, the later Frank Bridge or John Foulds, except that the bounds of tonality are broken more that they would break it. The work’s main drawback, maybe, is that most the music is slow moving, and greater variations of tempo would have enhanced the drama of the text. Both Paul Griffiths and Hans Abrahamsen were in attendance to acknowledge generous audience applause.

The appointment of Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla as the CBSO’s new Music Director has generated a good deal of advance publicity, for here is a 29-year-old young woman, previously unknown to the British public, filling the role previously occupied over the last three decades by Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons. She had made her debut in her new appointment the previous evening in Birmingham (review), and now she presented the same concert for her London debut.”     …

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Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

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…     “The toughest test here was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, a well-known warhorse full of pitfalls when it comes to pacing. It was no mean achievement that Gražinytė-Tyla, conducting from memory, shaped such a fresh-sounding performance. The opening fanfares poured out generously and the full orchestral punches were sharply etched before this conductor got down to the business of a naturally flowing performance. The symphonic argument in her unhurried first movement was keenly detailed, and the succeeding movements had lyrical warmth and crisp articulation. A compelling force on the podium, Gražinytė-Tyla clearly signals exciting times ahead for the CBSO.”

*****

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Review by Alexandra Coghlan, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “The Tchaikovsky, similarly, had a zest and invention to it that demanded attention even from this most fidgety of Proms audiences. The Fate theme burnt through the hall in cruel fortissimo, musical shock and awe, before the clarinet led us to the ballroom floor for the waltz – a dance whose ghostly strings, wispy and fragile, suggested that the floor might dissolve at any minute leaving us waltzing into the abyss. Atmospheric but always mindful of structural clarity, with a beautifully organic evolving set of tempi, this was the prelude to a big, generous Andantino, the CBSO singing out with Russian heart, a witty pizzicato Scherzo and a Finale that returned us to the fire of the opening. Woodwind soloists shone, while strings found the rhetorical clarity encoded in Tchaikovsky’s phrases.”     […]

[…]     In a curious sleight of hand, the composer’s slow-moving harmonies, often circling around a clear tonic, seem to react when set against shards of musical light from tuned and untuned percussion and high woodwind, lost in woozy clouds of microtones, creating time at once static and swift-moving. If it seems far-fetched to think of these in terms of Henri Bergson’s temps and durée – the absolute clock-time of temps and the psychological flexi-time of durée – it’s an interpretation grounded in Paul Griffiths’s gloriously allusive text (shaped only from the limited words Shakespeare’s Ophelia speaks during Hamlet), which meditates persistently on precisely this: “time of now and then tumbled into one another,/ time turned and loosed,/ time bended”.

At the centre of this still sonic world is Barbara Hannigan (pictured above with Gražinytė-Tyla), the soprano whose extraordinary range and expressive capacity inspired and helped shape the work. To watch Hannigan is to see Griffiths’s Ophelia (a more emancipated, articulate creature than Shakespeare’s) come alive. The tone-colours available to her – from the white light of her denatured purity at the top of her register, to the guttural directness of the bottom – are myriad, and deployed with deft musicality and care. Together with Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO she wove a musical tale here all the potent because this Scheherazade, we know from the start, is already condemned to death.

London had better get used to feeling jealous, because Gražinytė-Tyla has just given us one more reason to envy Birmingham her wonderful CBSO.”

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Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

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…     “Graceful, with an almost gymnastic energy on the podium, arms wide-stretched to embrace the full orchestra, Gražinytė-Tyla is never showy, a team player but with natural authority. Sometimes the sound balance was slightly awry, but the Albert Hall, especially compared with Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, plays acoustical tricks and from another area of the auditorium it may not have been noticeable.

Gražinytė-Tyla elicited an incendiary quality from her players, whether in the transparency and precision of Mozart and Hans Abrahamsen – his song cycle Let Me Tell You was given its London premiere by the soprano Barbara Hannigan – or in the dark grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4. Prom 55 was a “were you there?” kind of event. If you weren’t, you can watch it this evening on BBC4, then on iPlayer. It was as if yet another awkward fence in the long steeplechase of female conductors has been cleared: Gražinytė-Tyla’s CBSO predecessors include Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons, which needs no further comment.”

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