Elgar’s Cello Concerto

with Bergen Philharmonic and Edward Gardner

Tuesday 17th January, 2017 – 7:30pm


Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Gardnerconductor
Truls Mørkcello


GriegPeer Gynt Suite No 1
ElgarCello Concerto
WaltonSymphony No 1


Truls Mørk’s encore – Bach –

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


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.

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra

Perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Saturday 14th May, 2016, 7:30pm

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra

Pavel Kogan – conductor

John Lill – piano

Stephen Johnson Behemoth Dances 7’
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini 22’
Shostakovich Symphony No 5 44’

MSSO encores:

Rachmaninov – Vocalise

Vincent Youmans (orch. Shostakovich) – Tea for Two – Tahiti Trot

Mariano Mores – El Firulete

Rachmaninov’sPaganini Rhapsody is more than just that rapturous 18th variation; and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony is more than just one of the great symphonic blockbusters. And Pavel Kogan, John Lill and the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra will show you why. Nothing compares to Russian music played by Russian performers, and for Kogan and his orchestra, it’s in the blood.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Stephen Johnson and Jonathan James.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Stephen Johnson is a much respected presenter and writer about music. As we discovered in Saturday’s concert from the remarkable Moscow State Symphony Orchestra he is also an accomplished composer.

Possibly the Russians took an interest in his Behemoth Dances because of Johnson’s passionate interest in the culture of their country. The scenario of this vibrant piece is based on a satirical Russian novel, but we don’t actually need to know that, as this well-imagined score speaks for itself.

Its gripping, urgent opening has something of William Walton’s brio about it, with bold, firmly-etched rhythms riding under confident orchestral sonorities. Darker interludes intervene, and there is particularly atmospheric use of the vibraphone.

Behemoth Dances’ bristling energy was generously conveyed by the MSSO under Pavel Kogan’s empowering baton, with the Hereford-based composer present to acknowledge the immense, well-deserved applause.”     …


Review by Richard Ely, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “A Russian orchestra will have a particular emotional investment to make in this symphony. Kogan’s forceful intent was demonstrated from the beginning, with strings plunging into the first movement’s exposition with the force of someone being thrown bodily into a vat of cold water. The developmental section was judged perfectly, so that when the martial theme emerged, propelled by the side-drum, it had exactly the jolting effect the composer intended; the movement’s conclusion provided another magical moment, where time became stationary, as concertmaster Alexandra Zhavoronkova’s violin and Elena Kazna’s celesta trailed off into silence.

The same thrust and concern for dynamics was evident in the scherzo, which had never sounded more like a death waltz, for all its sprightliness. But even in a work as veiled as this, there has to be a heart-on-the-sleeve moment and the Largo is the closest Shostakovich comes to unburdening his soul. Kogan and his orchestra played it for all its worth, finding intense feeling in the movement’s expressivo climax that held the audience so rapt that the beginning of the Allegro final movement had the effect of a slap across the face. The note of sour triumphalism on which the symphony ends was precisely caught in a performance of astonishing alacrity: the whole piece clocked in at just forty minutes!

The reception fairly took the roof off and we were treated to a generous three encores: Rachmaninov’s Vocalise was sensuously melancholic, Shostakovich’s Tea for Two gave us some necessary light relief (you need to see this piece performed to understand just how funny it is!) and the tango El Firulate by the recently deceased Argentinian composer Mariano Mores. A triumphant evening. “


Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

Behemoth Dances. Who dances? You know, Behemoth, the huge demonic black cat who cakewalks through Stalin’s Moscow in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita spreading mayhem and magic; the spirit – as quoted by Bulgakov, and taken by Stephen Johnson as a sort of motto for his new orchestral work – “that always wills evil, but always does good”. A sardonic fanfare announces his appearance, before the orchestra whizzes away on a bustling, bristling spree. Woodwinds squeal and skirl, the surface glitters, and a piano throws in a few deadpan comments.

But this isn’t just a deliciously orchestrated successor to one of Walton’s comedy overtures. There’s something going on beneath the surface here: solemn chants, dark undercurrents, and a spreading, quietly insistent sense that we’re actually hearing something profoundly sad. And with Pavel Kogan conducting the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra – and if you didn’t know the composer lives in Herefordshire – you could be convinced that Behemoth Dances is showing you something remarkably like the Russian soul.

Stephen Johnson

And yes, this is the same Stephen Johnson (pictured) we know from Radio Three’s sorely missed Discovering Music – the authority on Bruckner, Shostakovich and Sibelius, the award-winning documentary-maker, and the writer of music criticism so lucid, so readable and so generous that it makes the rest of us feel like giving up. I can’t deny that part of the pleasure of this almost-premiere (it was first heard in Moscow last month) was seeing a fellow gamekeeper make such a terrific job of turning poacher. Johnson has been reticent about his composing, though he trained under Alexander Goehr. Hopefully no longer: Behemoth Dances shows that he has a voice, he has technique, and he can connect with an audience. The Birmingham audience cheered.”     …




Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Performs Mahler Symphony No. 5

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package, SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Saturday 12th March, 2016

Symphony Hall

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko conductor
Simon Trpčeski piano

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

Grieg Lyric Suite Op 54 17’
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 33’
Mahler Symphony No 5 72’

Simon Trpceski’s encore  with cellist Louisa Tuck – Rachmaninov – Vocalise

Oslo Philharmonic’s encore – Schubert – Moment Musical no. 3 in F Minor (for strings)


Long acclaimed as Scandinavia’s finest orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra has found a fresh energy under its dynamic new music director Vasily Petrenko. In Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Petrenko and the Oslo Phil will make a compelling pairing; in Rachmaninov, meanwhile, Petrenko and pianist Simon Trpc˘ eski have already been hailed by critics as a ‘dream team’!


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…    The concerto was Rachmaninov Two, the soloist the much-loved Simon Trpceski (…)playing with a confident rubato and empathy with his collaborators. This was a joint triumph for pianist and orchestra (full-throated strings, eloquent woodwind), Trpceski bringing warmth as well as glitter to rippling passage-work, and always a freshly-minted response to this well-worn work.

Applause from a packed auditorium came in huge waves, rewarded with a lovely encore, Trpceski modestly accompanying cello principal Louisa Tuck in Rachmaninov’s poignant little Vocalise.

Petrenko drew a tight, compact sound from the OPO for Mahler’s mighty Fifth Symphony. Strings dug deep, and the brass soloists (horn, trumpet, trombone), so important throughout this work laden with symbolic imagery, were a constantly commanding presence.”     …




Stephen Hough in Recital

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Monday 26th October, 2015

Symphony Hall

Stephen Hough piano

Schubert Sonata in A minor D784 22’
Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue 22’
Debussy Estampes 13’
Liszt Valse Oubliées Nos 1 and 2 3’ & 6’
Transcendental Etude No 11 (harmonies du soir) 10’
Transcendental Etude No 10 5’


Stephen Hough is a phenomenon: a pianist of astonishing technical skill with the ability to find profundity in even the flashiest of keyboard fireworks. Tonight he traces the darkness-to-light journeys of three great pianist-composers, and gives a recital that explores every side of his artistic personality: thinker, creator and consummate virtuoso.

Hong Kong Philharmonic play Beethoven and Dvořák

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

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Symphony Hall

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Jaap van Zweden conductor Ning Feng violin

Fung Lam Quintessence 11’
Beethoven Violin Concerto 42’
Dvořák Symphony No 9, From the New World 40’

Ning Feng’s encore – Paganini – Caprice No. 7

Hong Kong Philharmonic’s encores – Wagner – Ride of the Valkyries, Dvořák – Slavonic Dance No.8


The Hong Kong Philharmonic is one of China’s most established orchestras, and under music director Jaap van Zweden it’s been called ‘the Berlin Philharmonic of Asia’. Dvořák’s much loved New World Symphony and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (with the award-winning Ning Feng) provide a wonderfully enjoyable showcase. Plus, there’s the chance to hear Quintessence, the new piece by orchestra’s 35-year-old resident composer Fung Lam, which received its World Premiere in London in June 2014 (read a Financial Times review of the concert here). Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

Now celebrating their 41st professional season, this is a fantastic opportunity to hear the esteemed Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra play one of the most popular symphonies of all time, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, along with the only concerto ever written for violin by one of the defining figures in the history of Western music: Ludwig van Beethoven.



Review by Sam Chipman, ThePublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “The great Leonard Bernstein himself encouraged Dutch born Jaap van Zweden to conduct, and he does so with such vigour. He tactfully directs his orchestra as they play a rousing rendition of the famous symphony. Where the concerto lacks in drama, this piece does not. It is a very brash and dark interpretation of the famous symphony played with great attack. The woodwind section are excellent throughout the Largo, with the Cor Anglais solo really adding to the dark undertone of the playing. When the strings swell it is almost euphoric, so delightful is the tone and harmony, particularly at the opening of the Adagio. The Allegro con fuoco sees the return of the memorable themes to end the evening with a flourish. Rousing work from the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden.

Breath-taking in parts, with a slight stumble in others. The Dvořák is played magnificently, but the Beethoven a little lacking – but the tuneful 9th Symphony will leave you feeling energised as you exit the auditorium.”


Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And yet, Lam doesn’t really draw on this orchestra’s greatest strengths. The opening bars of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony laid those out unmistakably: a rich, focussed and gloriously warm-sounding string section, phrasing and moving together, plus as characterful and expressive a woodwind and horn team as you could hope to find anywhere in Bohemia.

Conductor Jaap van Zweden shaped a brisk but intensely lyrical performance – with long, singing lines that gave a really epic sense of sweep, notwithstanding van Zweden’s tendency to micromanage phrase endings and tempo changes. The whispered string phrases that underscored Kwan Sheung-fung’s plangent cor anglais solo in the Largo were wonderfully expressive and tender.

The sheer beauty of the orchestral sound was also the most enjoyable aspect of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with Ning Feng as soloist.”     …


Tchaikovsky from the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Tuesday 6th May 2014

Symphony Hall

Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Yuri Simonov conductor
Natalie Clein cello

Tchaikovsky Symphonic Poem, Francesca da Rimini 22’
Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 1 28’
Tchaikovsky Symphony No 4 44’

Natalie Clein’s encore – Britten – Cello Suite No 3  – Introduzione: Lento

Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra’s encores! –

Tchaikovsky  – Alla Tedesca from Symphony No 3

Shostakovich – Polka from the Golden Age Ballet

Elgar – Nimrod

Dvořák – Slavonic Dance 10

Dvořák – Slavonic Dance 8

It’s hard to define, but when a Russian orchestra plays Russian music, something very special happens. The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra is drenched in that tradition, and under veteran Music Director Yuri Simonov, we can expect intensely committed readings of two of Tchaikovsky’s most personal works.

Natalie Clein, meanwhile, is always popular at Symphony Hall: tonight she has near-perfect partners for Shostakovich’s taut political thriller of a cello concerto. http://www.thsh.co.uk



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Tchaikovsky had been the main element in the programme, beginning with Francesca da Rimini, timbres dark and sombre at the opening, strings leaping and searing under Simonov’s understated beat, and with a sorrowingly searching clarinet narrative. Also remarkable were the splendid cellos, lamenting under fluttering flutes in this wonderful piece.

Even more wonderful is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, tortured yet determined, and there was much to admire here, with stirring brass, sweeping phrasing and often organ-like chording. Woodwind nuances were delicate, but sometimes overwhelmed by the surging strings, and Simonov’s tempo for the famous pizzicato scherzo was decidedly staid; I think he was trying to make some kind of point, but its relevance escaped me.

Never mind; as a concept this interpretation was shattering.

Interspersed was Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, a work laden with coded messages I am sure, and delivered with unremitting energy and impassioned line-unfolding by soloist Natalie Clein.”     …



Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Like a good many Russian orchestras, it retains a distinctively Soviet sound albeit with some of the harder edges smoothed out slightly. The portentous opening to Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini featured an upbeat from a particularly full-throated double bass section, highly responsive to Simonov’s gestures. The conductor adopted a statuesque posture throughout Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem, somehow managing to summon terrifying blasts of sound in climactic moments with only discreet, staccato movements. In this respect, Dante’s Inferno was spectacularly and vividly conjured by Simonov and the orchestra.

Francesca herself was well-represented by a lovely clarinet cadenza, with the ensuing central section providing some much needed relief from the swirling vortices of sound, though hers is a melody laced with melancholy, as might be expected from this composer. The wind soloists of this orchestra were particularly fine, if not always possessing infallible intonation in some of the tutti sections. The brassy peroration featured a notably ‘narrow-bore’ sound and led to a terrifying climax.”     …




Handel from Il Giardino Armonico

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Thu 19 May 7:30pm at Town Hall

Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini director

Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 1 12’
Vivaldi Concerto in F for Strings and Recorder, La Tempesta Di Mare 7’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 12 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 6 15’
Geminiani Concerto Grosso Op 5, No 12, La Follia 11’
Handel Concerto Grosso Op 6, No 7 11’

‘As Italian as the music itself’, wrote Gramophone of Il Giardino Armonico, ‘brightly coloured, individualistic, confident, stylish, arrestingly decorated, bubbling with enthusiasm.’ They are one of Europe’s leading Baroque ensembles, at the top of their game, their revelatory performances packed with freshness and pizzazz. Their Town Hall concert includes the sparkling Concerti Grossi of Handel and music by his Italian contemporaries. www.thsh.co.uk

Click here to see a promotional video of Il Giardino Armonico and Handel 12 Concerti grossi, op.6

Pappano Conducts Mahler 1

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Sat 19 Mar 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome
Antonio Pappano conductor
Boris Berezovsky piano

Verdi Aida Sinfonia 12’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 20’
Mahler Symphony No 1 53’

Finmeccanica is the main sponsor of Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome.

Encores – Berezovsky with orchestra – Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 finale

Orchestra – Rossini, Puccini,

One of Italy’s most celebrated orchestras contributes the First Symphony to Birmingham’s Mahler Cycle under the inspiring baton of its Music Director Antonio Pappano (also renowned as Music Director of the Royal Opera House). Joyous and optimistic, opening with an evocation of dawn, it closes with a roof-raising finale. And, to open the concert, there is a rarity: the orchestral Sinfonia that Verdi made from his ever-popular Aida – music that is in the very blood of these players.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:
“Who better than the fiercely talented Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to tease the sunshine out of these exciting masterpieces? And who better, too, to bring the passion to Liszt’s mighty First Piano Concerto than the fiery Russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky?”

‘Anyone who still believes that the words “Italian orchestra” and “technical precision” do not belong in the same sentence should have heard the performance of Guillaume Tell. Santa Cecilia Orchestra is fleet and wonderfully together, with crunch, buoyancy, a keen sense of collective phrasing and its own very distinctive sound.’ Financial Times

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


“There was much to admire in this Italian orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, especially the final blazing peroration.

The horns and brass section stood up to play the thunderous final bars: not as a piece of crude showmanship to get the audience cheering, although it succeeded in doing that, but in strict adherence to the composer’s wishes.

It was an indication of conductor Antonio Pappano’s unfailing attention to detail.

He ensured that we heard genuine pianissimos and triple fortes.”   …..

Review by Christopher Thomas, MusicWeb:


…   “It’s a quote that could equally be applied to Anglo-Italian Antonio Pappano, whose magnificently colourful account of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in the second half of this concert drew an inspired response from the orchestra and brought a proportion of the audience to its feet in Symphony Hall.
  Pappano’s mere presence in front of the orchestra seemed to ignite its Italian passion, drawing a sound that was uniquely theirs as its bloom and hues of burnished gold called to mind the Roman sun that has been an ever present part of the orchestra’s existence since its inception in 1885.    […]

[…] Berezovsky plays with an almost complete absence of gestural histrionics, his body rarely moving as he powered his way with magnificent weight and purpose through the outer movements. Yet as a result the stark contrast of the Quasi Adagio proved to be all the more impressive, with the pianist’s sensitivity and nuance of colour and shade marking his playing out as a shining example of textural control and contrast.

Pappano’s “Titan” cleansed the soul like a breath of fresh alpine air; invigorating, bitter-sweet, joyous and ultimately life affirming, the beauty of the sound Pappano drew from his forces was a thing of wonder, directed with understated yet always compelling gestures in the third movement and clear, intensely focused precision and communicative clarity in the stormy Finale. ”   …

 Review for same programme, different venue, by Edward Seckerson, Independent:


…   “Those strings sang the second subject of the finale like a bel canto aria and I liked Pappano’s volatile way with the big tempo contrasts. It was bold, big-hearted, a little rash, thoroughly Mahlerian.”

Review for same programme, different venue, by Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource:


…   “Thus the dawning and distance (trumpets ideally far-away) that breathes Mahler 1 into life were palpably atmospheric, the listener drawn in to a performance that was deliciously buoyant, delicately traced, shimmering, unforced in climaxes (but with no lack of heft) and earthy, bucolic and macabre as required – full marks for having a solo double bass at the beginning of the third movement (the use of tutti basses, a fairly recent Mahlerian tweak, now discredited). The finale erupted as it should, but was always generated from within, the slower music then teased by Pappano and played ravishingly by the strings (violins ideally antiphonal), but no mere interludes.”   …

Tchaikovsky and Philip Glass

Wed 5 May 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
Pavel Kogan conductor
Chloë Hanslip violin

Borodin Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor*
Philip Glass Violin Concerto 30’
Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5 50’

  • The Polovtsian Dances replaces the originally advertised Overture

The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is one of Russia’s leading orchestras. At the very heart of its repertoire lies Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony – a journey from dark and brooding tragedy to an overwhelming sense of energy and fulfilment. Young British violinist Chloë Hanslip takes centre stage for the clean, pulsating lines of Philip Glass’s unforgettable Violin Concerto.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Philip Glass is one of America’s best-known living composers. His Violin Concerto is a Classic FM favourite. The second movement in particular manages to be both haunting and moving at the same time.”

Chloe Hanslip’s Encore –

Moscow State Sympony Orchestra’s Encores – Dvorak- Slovonic Dances No 1, Glazunov- Spanish Dance from Raymonda

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


…”It’s not a virtuosic work but Hanslip ensured that the second movement’s slow and sinuous theme was elegant, yet erotic, while the cadenza-like duet with timpani – Glass’s nod and wink to Beethoven’s concerto perhaps – was excellent.” …