Tamsin Waley-Cohen

in Recital

Monday 3rd October, 2016, 7:30pm

Town Hall, Birmingham


Tamsin Waley-Cohenviolin
Huw Watkins piano


Beethoven – Violin Sonata No 5, Spring
Ravel – Violin Sonata No 2 in G major
Oliver Knussen – Reflection (World premiere)
Elgar – Violin Sonata in E minor
Gershwin (arr. Heifetz) – Selection from Porgy and Bess
Our Birmingham Classical season bursts to life this October with the wonderful young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, who will be familiar to audiences from her time asAssociate Artist at Orchestra of the Swan. We are thrilled to now also be able to announce an addition to this already stunning programme in the form of a new work from composer Oliver Knussen (Artist-in-Association at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) entitled Reflection.This work has been written specially for Tamsin and commissioned by THSH and the European Concert Hall Organisation, in memory of Lyndon Jenkins who served as Town Hall Symphony Hall’s Music Adviser from 2004 – 2014. Money raised from Lyndon’s memorial concert at Town Hall in 2014 has been used to fund this new commission. Joined by regular partner Huw Watkins, Cohen promises to bring all her signature fantasy and flair to the violin sonatas of Elgar and Ravel, plus an unashamedly virtuosic take on Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in addition to this exciting new work. http://www.THSH.co.uk


“Facing the music: Tamsin Waley-Cohen”

Click here for Guardian article


Review by Richard Lutz, BirminghamPress:

Click here for full review

…     ” Both men were taken by American blues and, in her recital, the violinist used pieces relying heavily on Americana: Ravel’s Sonata no. 2 in G Major and Gershwin’s suite from Porgy and Bess.

Both were beautiful renditions of this genre; the Ravel sonata hard edged and at times atonal, the Gershwin (arranged by Jascha Heifetz) a swooping series of the composer’s operatic songs that summons up the heat of the South.

Ms Waley-Cohen also introduced an Oliver Knussen world premiere (Reflection) which the composer himself enjoyed in the Town Hall stalls and stood to applause after the violinist sought him out following her piece. He seemed happy with the result.”     …




The Ella Fitzgerald Songbook

Friday 3rd July, 7.30pm

They called her the First Lady of Song, and no-one’s ever sung the Great American Songbook with more style – and joy – than Ella Fitzgerald. Tonight’s show brings together one of the most glorious voices on the international jazz scene with the swinging orchestral arrangements from Ella’s own albums, for a deluxe tribute to Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Rodgers & Hart: a golden age of popular song.     www.cbso.co.uk


Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review (also in Birmingham Mail here)

…     “It’s an awesome task to follow Ella Fitzgerald whose performances with the Great American Songbook were the stuff of legends, but attractive blonde Martin, a mother of one from Brighton, was superb and quick to acknowledge the part played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Versatile conductor Laurence Cottle brought the best out of the musicians, and the audience also appreciated some impressive solo contributions from saxophonists, trumpeters and trombonists.

Jazz singer Martin, who said she had been looking forward to her Symphony Hall appearance for two years, opened with Lerner & Loewe’s Almost Like Being in Love, followed that with many other classics, and the audience joined her enthusiastically for the finale, Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye.”     …


Review by Selwyn Knight, ThePublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “So the concept of a concert celebrating Fitzgerald’s songbook is at once an exciting but also nerve-wracking thought. Can anyone today hope to step into her shoes? If anyone can, surely a jazz singer who has won an OBE for her services to jazz should be a contender. That singer is Claire Martin OBE. And, of course we need musicians of the highest calibre led by someone with Ella’s music running in his blood. There can be no doubt that the mighty City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is one of the finest groups of musicians you can find, and for this tribute to Fitzgerald, it is under the baton of Laurence Cottle, whose wide ranging career has seen him play with such jazz luminaries as Pee Wee Ellis and with Ronnie Scott’s All Stars. All the ingredients are there for a very special night celebrating the Great American Songbook, and Fitzgerald’s contribution to its continuing longevity.

Martin is indeed an exceptionally fine singer. Her voice is vibrant and warm, her range wide. Like Fitzgerald, she is at home with extensive scat – as evidenced in a break during Blue Skies during which one gets an inkling of how it may have sounded to hear the jazz greats improvising to a theme as soloist after soloist stands and plays. Some songs, including This Time The Dream’s on Me and All Too Soon including a beautiful muted trumpet solo, are sultry, others really swing, like Manhattan with its clever rhyme schemes, and Who Cares? Martin isn’t reverential, however, refusing to take herself too seriously, for example in Cheek to Cheek, to which she brings plenty of personality.”     …


American Classics with Freddy Kempf


Wednesday 28th January 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Freddy Kempf  piano

Bernstein: Divertimento 14′
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F 29′
Listen on Spotify

Korngold: Symphony in F Sharp 53′
Listen on Spotify

A symphony from the New World… with a difference. Mahler declared Erich Korngold a genius, but Hitler had other ideas – and from exile in California, Korngold poured out all his hopes and sorrows in 53 minutes of grand, heartbroken passion. It’s a wonderful counterpart to Bernstein’s hilarious Divertimento and the irresistible jazz-age melodies of Gershwin’s “skyscraper concerto”, played by one of Britain’s favourite pianists.


Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Near the end Gershwin pares everything back to just a solo flute and the pianist, quietly duetting as if they were the last people left in a downtown bar late one night. Here Marie-Christine Zupancic and Kempf were quite magical in partnership. There was vitality and drive in the colourful finale. Kempf offered sparkling playing but, as in the Bernstein, I didn’t quite feel the orchestra were encouraged by Michael Seal to be quite as unbuttoned as the music demands. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable account of the concerto

 Erich Wolfgang Korngold attracted great attention as a youthful prodigy in Vienna. In the 1930s he made a new home in America where he put his prodigious talent to work writing many notable movie scores in Hollywood. Yet despite his success in the cinema Korngold continued to write concert music also. His only symphony was completed in 1951. It is an elusive work in the sense that opportunities to hear live performances are rare indeed. I first became acquainted with it through Rudolf Kempe’s pioneering 1972 recording – the MusicWeb International review by Ian Lace is well worth reading, not least for much valuable background information.  There have been a number of subsequent recordings of the work – including one by Sir Edward Downes for Chandos  – but I’ve never had a chance to hear it live until this evening.

 The symphony is scored for a large orchestra, including a substantial percussion section, and the scoring is constantly interesting and resourceful. Among many features that catch the listener’s ear are the percussive use of piano and marimba, especially in the first movement, and the rather spooky end to that movement, including col legno work by the strings. It was one of the achievements of this performance that Michael Seal and the CBSO brought out all the colour and rhythmic ingenuity in the work.”     …



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The first winner was Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento, a sparky masterpiece of sleight-of-hand wizardry bettering Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, allowing every section of the orchestra to shine (it was written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, so there’s a topical connection, Andris Nelsons about to leave the CBSO for that band), and consummately delivered under the efficient and empowering baton of Michael Seal.

The second was George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto, the greatest to emerge from the western hemisphere, so redolent of the aspirations of the United States, and delivered with idiomatic flair here by Freddy Kempf’s fleet pianism.

An initially staid orchestral contribution came to life once Kempf got going, the soloist positively encouraging attentive interplay between himself and the players, and his gorgeously singing cello-like tone in the lyrical episodes drawing an “anything you can do” response.

This was a performance radiating sheer pleasure, and will not easily be forgotten.”     …



Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Enjoying audible rapport with the CBSO, Freddy Kempf knitted its various sections together convincingly – though this performance, as with the work itself, was at its best in the Adagio; its trumpet theme plaintively phrased by Jonathan Holland, with Kempf maintaining tension admirably in the brief central cadenza prior to an eloquent climax. He made the most of the finale’s review of earlier ideas as part of its agitated progress, and if the peroration seemed a mite underwhelming, the breezy coda did not lack for panache.

After the interval, a welcome hearing (the first-ever in Birmingham?) for Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Symphony in F sharp of 1952. The composer’s most far-reaching attempt to recalibrate his innate late-Romanticism for the austere post-war era, it is a work fairly riven with contradiction for all that its ambition cannot be doubted. Seal had the measure of the initial Moderato with its bracing deployment of piano and percussion (not the only instance where Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony acts as a template), and purposeful interplay of its respectively ominous, yearning and poignant main themes. The quixotic Scherzo needed a little more agility for its acute contrasts in harmony and texture fully to register, but the Adagio was finely handled in terms of sombre emotions which reach a climax of tragic and consciously Mahlerian import prior to the resigned close.”     …


Review by Owen Walton, OldMusicalCuriostiyShop:

Click here for full review

…     “Michael Seal, a passionate devotee of the composer, has waited some time to conduct the work in Birmingham and I for one am extremely grateful to him for being afforded the opportunity to hear the symphony live played by a world-class ensemble.

For that is the impression that this performance left; a truly astonishing display both of orchestral virtuosity and of commitment. We all know that British orchestras operate on a minimal rehearsal schedule and the results here were deeply impressive. There is no real Korngold tradition in Birmingham, the orchestra having performed his music for the first time in 1993 (the now ubiquitous Violin Concerto which would, arguably, have become a repertoire staple much earlier if it were not for the length of time it took for soloists capable of rivalling Heifetz in the work to emerge) and little else since. Considering, then, that this was a new work to the majority of players the results were a testament to their versatility and to Seal’s ability to galvanise his players.

Korngold wrote expertly for orchestra and the CBSO obviously relished the challenges that faced them in every department. The brass, in particular, now seem to have a sound when playing as a full section that is deep, dark and centred in the Concertgebouw mould (how different they sound than in the Rattle era). The strings start with a focussed bass section, rich celli, vibrant violas. The upper strings have a leanness (do not mistake this for undernourished) that make easy work of clarifying Korngold’s frequently dense close harmony writing. If the second movement scherzo was a feat of ensemble playing and expert crowd control, the dark heart of the work (the ensuing adagio) sang with an eloquence that was intensely moving when not shrieking with despair. Korngold’s own brand of wistful nostalgia, in which he brings to the fore fragments of what sound once popular Viennese songs brings to mind the sentiment of ‘Gluck mir das verblieb’ from Die Tote Stadt (Ich kenne das Lied/Ich hört es oft in jungen, in schöneren Tagen/ Es hat noch eine Strophe- weiß ich sie noch?). These small ideas seemed to materialise and fade away, half-remembered experiences of a happier time. It takes intelligence and an ear for orchestral balance for this to work.”     …

Friday Night Classics: A Gershwin and Bernstein Gala


ThumbnailCelebrate and Share

Friday 4 July 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael England  conductor
Leila Benn Harris  vocalist
Caroline Sheen  vocalist
Norman Bowman  vocalist
Victor Sangiorgio  piano

We are sorry to announce that Martin Yates has had to withdraw from this concert. We are grateful to Michael England for taking his place.

Girl Crazy – Overture
Gershwin Medley • Summertime
I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise
I’ve Got a Crush on You
Promenade (Walking the Dog)
Swanee • The Man I Love
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Fascinatin’ Rhythm • Rhapsody in Blue

West Side Story: Mambo | Balcony Scene
Something’s Coming | Somewhere |
A Boy Like That

Candide: Overture

On the Town: Lonely Town |
Times Square 1944 |
I Can Cook Too |
Some Other Time |
Wonderful Town: A Little Bit in Love |
New York, New York


New York, New York! George Gershwin wrote the soundtrack to the Jazz Age Big Apple. Lennie Bernstein turned its mean streets into thrilling song and dance. Together, they add up to one fabulous night out on the Fourth of July in the greatest city on earth… Birmingham, of course! We’re talking songs like Summertime and Fascinatin’ Rhythm, and shows like West Side Story and On the Town, not forgetting the theme tune of Manhattan itself, Rhapsody in Blue. So let’s go – it’s a helluva town!

Produced in association with West End International Ltd.



Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Why? Because the three soloists, Leila Benn Harris, Caroline Sheen and Norman Bowman, made a much bigger impression in the second half of the programme when they were singing to Bernstein’s music . . . particularly the selection from West Side Story, including Tonight, Somewhere and A Boy Like That.

But, had there been an individual prize, it would surely have gone to the superb pianist, Victor Sangiorgio. Born in Sicily, he moved to Western Australia when he was four and gave his first public performance a year later.

At the end of the first act, he played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with a quality that earned rapturous applause from a large audience.

The CBSO played with their usual admirable skill throughout, and earned a special tribute from conductor England who praised ‘the versatility of this extraordinary orchestra’.”      …

Friday Night Classics: A Night at the Oscars

Friday 22 February 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Carl Davis  conductor
Heather Shipp  mezzo soprano


No great film is complete without a memorable soundtrack. So, in the midst of awards season, join us as we roll out the red carpet for an evening of music from Oscar-winning films, with conductor and all- American showman Carl Davis as your host. We’ll sweep you from the triumph over adversity of The King’s Speech and the dark tension of Black Swan to the laugh-along antics of Toy Storyand The Muppets. Just make sure you’ve got your champagne on ice and your acceptance speech at the ready!

Programme includes:
Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare
Newman: Toy Story – You’ve Got a Friend in Me (1995)
Desplat: The King’s Speech (2010)
Gershwin: Porgy and Bess – Summertime (1959)
Sondheim: Dick Tracy – Sooner or Later (1990)
Shore: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Hamlisch: The Way We Were (1973)
Kander / Ebb: Chicago – All That Jazz (2002)
Tchaikovsky: Black Swan (2010)
Horner: Titanic – Suite • My Heart Will Go On (1997)
Warren: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
McKenzie: The Muppets – Man or Muppet (2011)
Bernstein: West Side Story – Somewhere (1961)
Davis: Ken Russell’s ‘The Rainbow’
Marianelli: Atonement (2007)
Williams: Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Suite (1977)
Rodgers: Oklahoma! – I Cain’t Say No (1955)
Rodgers: South Pacific – A Wonderful Guy (1959)
Rodgers: The Sound of Music – Climb Ev’ry Mountain (1965)

Encore: Paul Epworth and Adele – Skyfall

Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 28 October 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal conductor
Simon Bates presenter
Ben Dawson piano

Including music from:
Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (2001, A Space Odyssey)
Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)
Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 (The King’s Speech)
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull & Godfather III)
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Manhattan & Gremlins 2)
Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brief Encounter)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)
Mahler: Adagietto (Death in Venice)
Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)
Rossini: William Tell Overture (Brassed Off & A Clockwork Orange)

Beethoven knew nothing of a future stammering king, and Rachmaninov didn’t compose with a great British screen romance in mind. Yet, from A Brief Encounter to The King’s Speech, classical music is synonymous with some of the most iconic moments on film, from the dramatic to the heartbreaking, the terrifying to the romantic. And played live, in 3D, in Symphony Hall’s incredible surround-sound, it’s even better without the pictures! www.cbso.co.uk

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Friday Night Classics: Puttin’ on the Ritz

Friday 1 July 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orhcestra

John Wilson conductor
Kim Criswell vocalist
Gary Williams vocalist

Youmans/Kahn/Eliscu: Flying Down to Rio
Berlin: Top Hat
Berlin: Cheek To Cheek
Kern/Fields: Pick Yourself Up
Kern/Fields: A Fine Romance
Kern/Dougall: I’ll Be Hard To Handle
Kern/Fields: The Way You Look Tonight
Berlin: Puttin’ On The Ritzv Conrad/Magidson: The Continentalv Gershwin: Walking The Dog
Gershwin/Gershwin: Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
Gershwin/Gershwin: Slap That Bass
Gershwin/Gershwin: They All Laughed
Gershwin/Gershwin: Shall We Dance?


Berlin: Steppin’ Out With My Baby
Berlin: It Only Happens When I Dance With You
Berlin:A Couple of Swells
Lane/Lerner: You’re All The World To Me
Lane/Lerner: Too Late Now
Lane/Lerner: How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life?
Schwartz/Dietz: Dancing In The Dark
Gershwin/Gershwin: They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Gershwin/Gershwin: Let’s Kiss and Make Up
Gershwin/Gershwin: Clap Yo Hands

Encore Schwartz/Dietz: That’s Entertainment

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off at the end of the week, and indulge in an evening of great music from the golden age of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Conductor John Wilson has a real passion for these songs, and it’s easy to see why, with hit after hit by George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern – brought to you by star vocalists Kim Criswell and Gary Williams. Top hat, white tie and tails are optional, but expect smooth glamour and tuneful exuberance perfect for an uplifting summer’s night. That’s entertainment! www.cbso.co.uk

Dancing in the Streets

Tuesday 1 March 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Carlos Kalmar  conductor
Steven Osborne  piano

Adams: The Chairman Dances 12′
Bernstein: West Side Story – Symphonic Dances 23′
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain 23′
Gershwin: An American in Paris 17′

From Gershwin tapping through the streets of jazz-age Paris, to John
Adams imagining Mao Zedong and Madame Mao in a show-stopping
foxtrot – there’s no denying that American composers have got rhythm!
South American-born conductor Carlos Kalmar knows all about that,
and tonight he leads the CBSO on a high-kicking celebration of the
American way of dance. Expect some serious Latin flair in Bernstein’s
West Side Story dances, the smokiest of blues in An American in
Paris, and – at the heart of the programme – something completely
different. The superb British pianist Steven Osborne should bring just
the right mixture of poetry and panache to Falla’s enchanted,
shimmering Nights in the Gardens of Spain begun in 1911. www.cbso.co.uk 

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


“Anyone who says they “don’t like 20th-century music” should have been at Tuesday’s CBSO concert, from which they would have emerged smiling in acquiescence at its sheer approachability.

This was a programme to die for, beginning with a tautly driven account of John Adams’ The Chairman Dances under the decisive baton of Carlos Kalmar.”   …


Review for this programme at Bridgewater Hall, by Michael Cookson, MusicWeb: