War and Peace

ThumbnailPure Emotion

Thursday 6th November 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Lahav Shani  conductor

Francesco Piemontesi  piano

Prokofiev: Overture to War and Peace 6′
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 34′
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 46′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Composed in wartime Russia and premiered to the sound of gunfire, Prokofiev’s Fifth was considered by the composer to be a “symphony of the greatness of the human spirit”. But, like his opera War and Peace, it’s also a stirring chronicle of a nation’s final push to victory. They’ll make a powerful Birmingham debut for the award-winning young conductor Lahav Shani; between them, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto will be an oasis of calm.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Nelsons conducts Bruckner’s Seventh, Thursday 27th November & Saturday 29th November, 2014
Mahler’s First Symphony: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 22nd February, 2015
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March & Saturday 28th March, 2015

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…    “The stakes were higher in the second half, featuring as it did one of Prokofiev’s most frequently performed symphonies: the Fifth. The clever programming meant that the overture, lasting little over five minutes, inevitably left the audience wanting more of the deliciously inventive Russian’s soaring melodies, masterful orchestration and cheeky dissonances. The orchestration was aided no end by another Shani masterstroke: trumpet vibrato. Strident enough to bring a grin to this reviewer’s face and yet tastefully in keeping with an authentic ‘Soviet’ approach, it was also symbolic of an orchestra transformed, electrified.

The symphony as a whole was ideally paced. Tempi were flowing and felt natural. All of Prokofiev’s miraculous orchestration registered, particularly the counterpoint in the lower brass. The tubist, bass and E flat clarinettists were particular stars. Shani placed greater emphasis on the grinding dissonances rather than encouraging the more patriotic elements in the music as can sometimes be the case. The swiftly taken first movement coda generated tremendous excitement, featuring icily powerful tam-tam strokes, and was capped with a breathtaking final chord.

There’s no doubting Shani is a risk-taker and what chutzpah for him to display this on his first concert with this orchestra, not to mention his first in the UK. The lively sardonic second movement scherzo and fourth movement gallop brought out a more animated conducting style, with the dapper conductor now reminiscent of a dancing Bernstein. In the third movement, Shani and the orchestra succeeded in transforming the seemingly innocent opening triplet figure in the violins into a terrifying presence later in the movement’s devastating climax. The symphony concluded in a thrillingly demonic fashion, bringing the house down. Only one more word seems appropriate: wow!  “

*****

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Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Pianist Francesco Piemontesi gave a gutsy, in-your-face, technically brilliant performance.

A reduced orchestra still overpowered the soloist, but piano cadenzas were scarily astonishing.     […]

[…] Symphony No 5 is hauntingly poignant with wonderful tunes on full strings, lovely woodwind – particularly clarinet – plus characteristic parallel octave spaces between solo instruments, contrasting with brilliance and grotesque roaring through the texture to terrifying heights.” …

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The Organ Symphony

Thumbnail                  Raise the Roof

Thursday 30 January 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Kazuki Yamada  conductor

Francesco Piemontesi  piano

Stephen Farr  organ

Fauré: Pelleas and Melisande – Suite 19′

Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini 24′

Widor: Toccata 6′

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ) 35′

Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Francesco Piemontesi’s encore –  

Debussy – La Cathédrale engloutie

You   might have heard it in the film Babe, but trust us – when the Symphony   Hall organ crashes in at the end of Saint-Saëns’ mighty Organ Symphony   you won’t be thinking about talking pigs! It’s a long way from the gentle perfumes   of Fauré’s lovely Pelleas and Melisande suite – though when Kazuki Yamada   joins forces with the award-winning pianist Francesco Piemontesi in Rachmaninov’s   superromantic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, there’ll be fireworks   aplenty amidst the poetry.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday   6th March

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, Wednesday   12th March

Andris and Håkan in Concert, Wednesday   28th May

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Review by DPM, WeekendNotes:

Click here for full review

…     “And under the baton of conductor Kazuki Yamada, the Organ Symphony was confident and majestic, sweeping all before it.

Farr was also able to reveal his talents with Widor’s Toccata from his Organ Symphony No 5, a rich and colourful piece which really allows any organist the chance to revel in his, or her, skills.

When it comes to dexterity, pianist Francesco Piemontesi had it at his fingertips as he masterfully handled Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. One moment he was playing lightly with the orchestra, passing the musical baton back and forth, the next he was duelling with them, taking control of Rachmaninov’s delightful variations.

Beginning the programme was Fauré’s Pelleas and Melisande Suite in which the composer takes us on a journey through the doomed romance of the famous lovers.

Yamada had an easy rapport with the CBSO, clearly comfortable with all of the pieces of music and enjoying the experience of working with the orchestra. And the performance met with rapturous applause from a packed Symphony Hall.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review  (disagree with almost entire review – rare!)

…     “CBSO woodwind soloists can never fail to be eloquent, nor the strings (even if reduced by one desk each) deep-toned and agile, but the total effect was disappointing.

Similarly workmanlike was Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, another of the CBSO’s calling-cards. Yamada’s opening was crisp, he ensured a smooth flow throughout the sequence of variations, and he secured a warm empathy between the elegant orchestra and the well-weighted pianism of soloist Francesco Piemontesi.”     …

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “In this performance, conducted by Kazuki Yamada, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was so enthusiastic it risked drowning out the actual organ – which is no mean feat.

At the hands of Stephen Farr, the organ just about won out, but it was a hard-pitched battle. As the orchestra reached its triumphant conclusion even the audience felt a little exhausted by the energy.

Farr did have his moment in the sun with Widor’s Toccata from his Organ Symphony No 5, a rich and colourful piece which really allows any organist the chance to revel in his, or her, skills.

When it comes to dexterity, pianist Francesco Piemontesi had it at his fingertips as he masterfully handled Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. One moment he was playing lightly with the orchestra, passing the musical baton back and forth, the next he was duelling with them, taking control of Rachmaninov’s delightful variations.”     …

Dvořák’s New World Symphony

Tuesday 2 October 2012 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Nicholas Collon conductor
Francesco Piemontesi piano

Berlioz: Beatrice and Benedict – Overture 8′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20, K.466 30′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) 40′ Listen on Spotify

Francesco Piemontesi’s Encore – slow movement of Schubert’s Sonata in A major D664

As the inspiration behind London’s award-winning Aurora Orchestra, the young British conductor Nicholas Collon has thrown aside convention and let fresh air in on the capital’s music scene. Making his CBSO debut today, he’s the ideal partner for the inspirational Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi in Mozart’s powerful 20th Piano Concerto – and just the man to bring new life to Dvorák’s ever-popular New World Symphony. Berlioz’s playful Overture is the perfect appetiser, full of love and laughter.

www.cbso.co.uk