CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Wednesday 11 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor

Elisabeth Leonskaja  piano

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′

Grieg: Piano Concerto 30′

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 45′

Elisabeth Leonskaja’s encore – Chopin Nocturne – Op.27 No.2

The horns blast out a savage fanfare; the trumpets scream in reply… Hold tight, because this is Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and you’re about to witness one of the most inspired composers of all time wrestling with his demons in music of overwhelming rawness and passion. It’s thrilling and, as the former music director of the Bolshoi, conductor Alexander Vedernikov has this music pounding through his veins. First, though, in this concert in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, he joins another living Russian legend, pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, for the altogether gentler pleasures of Grieg’s irresistibly tuneful piano concerto. Great music, for a great cause.

*The CBSO Benevolent Fund, registered friendly society 735F, exists to support CBSO players and staff, past and present, at times of ill-health or other hardship. http://www.cbso.co.uk

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**Great music for a great cause!**

cbsobenfund.org.uk

*** Angie’s Story: CBSO Benevolent Fund – click here ***

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Grieg’s Piano Concerto suffers by its popularity and accessibility to soloists of the third and fourth order. Here instead we relished the remarkable Elisabeth Leonskaja, her steely, well-wrought pianism poised and taut, accents crisply turned, her chording judiciously weighted and balanced, and virtuosity never obtruding itself. This was a reading mixing gesture and intimacy, and what a success it was in this collaboration with Vedernikov’s willing orchestra (flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic delivering evocative solos).

Encores are generally anathema to me, but in this instance Chopin’s D-flat Nocturne was perfect, allowing us to hang onto Leonskaja’s artistry just a little longer.”     …

*****

The CBSO at the BBC Proms

Tuesday 21 August 2012 at 7.30pm

Royal Albert Hall, London +44 (0)20 7589 8212

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′
Howard: Calculus of the Nervous System (UK premiere) 15′
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C major ‘Leningrad’ 75′

This concert’s curtain-raiser is a scintillating overture which kick-started a new era in Russian music. In Calculus of the Nervous System, which has already taken Vienna by storm, Emily Howard draws upon her interest in the inner world of Ada Lovelace, pioneering mathematician daughter of Lord Byron, considered a prophet of the computer age.

Shostakovich completed his titanic Seventh Symphony as German armies advanced deep into the motherland. More recently it has also been seen as one of his exercises in tactful subversion, depicting a Leningrad whose intellectual life Stalin had already shattered. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Tim Ashley, Guardian:

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…     “The power of Nelsons’ interpretation lay in his understanding of the score’s emotive nature and intent. This is music that demands we be thrown off balance and drawn into total identification with its world, and Nelsons, conducting with unswerving passion, achieved precisely that. Passion alone, however, can lead to flaws of pace in this work, and beneath Nelsons’ energy lurked secure control of its structure and trajectory. The emotional high point, tellingly, came not during the convulsions of the first movement, but in the third, in which echoes of Russian orthodox church music suggest a ritualised outpouring of communal grief. An exhausting, elating experience, and absolutely unforgettable.”     …

Review by Michael Church, Independent:

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…     “If Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra made a good fist of this, they excelled themselves with Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” symphony, which came over in as majestic a blaze as I have ever heard. Wonderful wind soloists, superb strings, percussion letting loose the dogs of war: a magisterial performance which richly deserved its ovation.” 

Review by Kimon Daltas, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “One barely earned interval later, the main event – and right from the off, the symphony makes demands of the winds especially, both exposed and in ensemble. Ferocious fortissimos notwithstanding, it deals mostly in sparse textures and gradual build-ups, so there is nowhere to hide when your turn comes. The CBSO was more than equal to the task, and a number of exceptional soloists rose from the ranks to deliver Shostakovich’s sometimes winding, sometimes impish and angular melodies. Whether piccolo, bassoon or cor anglais, and from a screeching E flat clarinet to its rasping bass cousin, a vast orchestral and expressive palette emerged with tremendous surety. Not to leave the strings out – the leader’s aerial solo in the first movement set the tone, and the extended strings-only sections later in the work showed what a rich core this orchestra has.

There is plenty of down time in this symphony – moments where you’re waiting for the next thing to happen but a direction has yet to emerge. Andris Nelsons kept the intensity throughout, and richly deserved the audience’s cheers.”

Blog by Robert Hugill:

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…     “Both the middle movements are intended to be unsettling, with relatively conventional first sections followed by rather demonic passages. Here the CBSO were in full character, with Nelsons whipping them up into a fine frenzy. There was a superbly evil solo from the E flat clarinet and a well realised passage where Shostakovich gives the solo line to the bass clarinet, accompanying it by flutes and harp. Here, and in many other places, Nelsons showed himself very acute when it came to Shostakovich’s distinctive aural palate.”     …

Blog review by Edward Seckerson:

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…     “Nelsons’ subtle way with the inner movements brought ghostly and ethereal beauty, the wide compass between the E-flat and bass clarinets accentuating the spectral extremes of the second movements gentle and only briefly disturbed dance of death and one truly heartstopping moment in the third movement where strings recall the Stravinskian chorale of its opening.

Those pianissimi are of such import in this music and the long slow climb to the coda of the last movement lifted us from the intensely private to the unashamedly public. The affirmation, for all its filmic rhetoric, was – as it always is – mighty.”

Blog by Starcourse:

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“Terrific performance of the Leningrad Symphony last night at the Proms, with Andris Nelsons conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Nelsons has an ebullient and distinctive conducting style which was well suited to this work, and to the Glinka Ruslan and Lyudmila overture which began the concert. The CBSO was playing its socks off in the Shostakovich, as well it might given that it is such a monumental masterwork.”     …

Blog by HikerBiker:

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…     “Andris Nelsons and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra brought this all out of the music, they survived with panache the dramatically exposed solo passages and the no less demanding unison sections. The split brass (soloists high up above the violins audience left) punched clear, clean and hard whilst the orchestral brass partnered finely with the rest of the platform.

A standing ovation with foot stamping was the audience’s reaction, Andris Nelsons acknowledging the many orchestral soloists in turn.”     …

Review by Chris Caspell, ClassicalSource:

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…      “Nelsons set a jaunty pace from the start; more allegro than Allegretto. Full-blooded, take-no-prisoners playing by the unison strings at the start signalled good things to come; this was a well thought out performance. However, issues of balance were a problem. The side drum was far too loud at the start of the ‘invasion’ theme (it is marked ppp) and in loud passages it was impossible to hear anything but the brass – even the xylophone was lost! The two middle movements gave Nelsons an opportunity to wring the pathos out of intimate passages. Of particular note the oboe and cor anglais solo were beautifully phrased.”     …

Review by Matthew Lynch, Bachtrack:

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…     “The CBSO’s performance under Nelsons was simply electric. From the outset the strident opening benefitted from the orchestra’s impressive string sound, while the second subject was still and sensitively played. The woodwind solos were all beautifully controlled, but not lacking any of the necessary spring and excitement. Special mention must go to the E-flat clarinet player, Joanna Paton, and piccolo player, Andrew Lane, whose playing was especially gripping.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this performance was the dynamics. The pianos were breathtakingly quiet, while every crescendo gave the impression it could continue indefinitely. The central section of the first movement is a long marching “invasion” and crescendos inexorably towards the movement’s climax. The CBSO filled the hall, making the floor rumble with sound, while maintaining perfect balance. So often these moments can become one big roar of brass, but that wasn’t the case here. Nelsons managed to direct a performance that not only had wonderful moments, but felt like an organic whole over the work’s full 75 minutes, an impressive achievement for any conductor. Anyone who ever had doubts about the CBSO’s future should see this concert as proof that they continue to impress greatly.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “But the ruminations of subsequent movements meander mercilessly, though the delicacy of the CBSO woodwind, flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic absolutely outstanding in her constant exposure, did make eloquent points.

Never mind; this was a performance built on utmost patience and control, and amazing, cherished trust between orchestra and conductor. And the Prom audience, including many charabanc’d members of the CBSO supporters’ club and bigwigs from Symphony Hall, responded with a huge ovation.”     … 

*****

Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert

Tuesday 12 June 2012 at 7.30pm

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

Symphony Hall

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Simon Halsey conductor*
Christine Rice mezzo-soprano
Bryn Terfel bass-baritone
CBSO Chorus

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′
Elgar: The Music Makers Op.69* 38′
Bizet: Les Toréadors from Carmen 4′
Donizetti: Udite, udite, o rustici from L’elisir d’amore 7′
Hazell: Folk songs from the British Isles 10′
Puccini: Te Deum from Tosca 5′
Ravel: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé 16′

Symphony Hall has been called one of the wonders of the musical world. Tonight, we toast its coming of age in the company of three more: Andris Nelsons, Simon Halsey, and the one and only Bryn Terfel. Halsey conducts the CBSO and its Chorus in the final, deeply personal masterpiece that Elgar wrote for Birmingham, before Terfel and Nelsons take the platform for a selection of arias, specially chosen to showcase Symphony Hall’s world-beating acoustic. Need we say more? A night to remember – make sure you’re there.

21st Annniversary Symphony HallThese concerts are promoted by THSH as part of the Birmingham International Concert Season / Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Festival. A special seating plan and different discounts apply. Please check when booking by phone / in person. The concerts are not available as part of a Symphonic Selection Concert Package but can be booked in addition at the same time. www.thsh.co.uk

BBC Midlands Today film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

ITV Central film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

Video Wall Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert – Click here

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Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates 21st Birthday”, by Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post:

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Birmingham concert venue Symphony Hall has celebrated its 21st birthday – after hosting 7,500 events attended by ten million people.

A concert featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus marked Tuesday’s milestone as part of a seven month-long series of anniversary celebrations.

An array of top artists also paid tribute to the city centre venue, which was opened by the Queen on June 12, 1991.

Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey conducted Tuesday night’s anniversary show featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.”      …

 

“Simon Rattle’s Greatest Achievement”, by Norman Lebrecht:

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“Twenty-one years ago last night, Birmingham got its first dedicated concert hall and Britain its best. Symphony Hall was an acoustic revelation, a marvel of transparency and flexibility, as well as a space that felt infinitely warm and welcoming. It was, at the time, the most exciting modern hall in Europe and it remains one of the three or four most pleasing.”     …

“Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates  21 Years”, by Catherine Vonledebur, Birmingham Mail:

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…     “Officially opened by The Queen on June 12, 1991, the 2,262 seat Symphony Hall has held more than 7,500 events and attracted over 10 million visitors.

Since then, thousands of legendary artists have graced its stage from Bruce Springsteen to Yehudi Menuhin, Liza Minnelli to Grace Jones, Ravi Shankar to Morrissey, as well as some of the world’s greatest classical soloists and orchestras. Andrew believes it is the most important 20th Century building in Birmingham and helps make the city worth living in.”     …

 

 “Hall’s Milestone is Music to the Ears”, by Chris Willmott

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…     “The milestone was marked with a special evening concert on Tuesday and Wednesday from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey, and featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

The performances included Elgar’s The Music Makers and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe suite.”     …
 

 

*****

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…      “Nelsons top and tailed the evening with orchestral showpieces, beginning with a blisteringly fast run through the overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, in which not a note was out of place. He ended with a wonderfully poised account of Ravel’s second Daphnis et Chloé Suite, exactly capturing its mixture of hazy sensuousness and brutal brilliance.

Nelsons also marshalled support for the concert’s star turn – Bryn Terfel at his most relaxed.”     …

Review by Jerald Smith, Express and Star:

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…    “This anniversary celebration provided a dazzling display of talent, most notably from Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel who showed how a gifted performer can work an audience.

He began with a swaggering version of the Toreador Song form Bizet’s Carmen and followed with Udite, Udite, O Rustica from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore which extracted the maximum amount of humour from the aria.”     …

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

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…     “Finally, Nelsons and his orchestra came into their own with the Second Suite from Daphnis et Chloé – another timely selection since this piece was played at the inaugural concert in Symphony Hall in April 1991 and, moreover, the Ballets Russes première was given on 8 June 1912. This was, quite simply, the performance of the evening. ‘Dawn’ was superb. The shimmering start was magically balanced by Nelsons. We heard chattering birds depicted by the CBSO woodwind section and voluptuous washes of orchestral colour, everything expertly controlled by the players and from the rostrum. When it came, the Daybreak was overwhelming, the CBSO Chorus showing why you can only do this music full justice in a performance that includes the choral parts. Nelsons held back the release of this climax in a masterly fashion to enhance its impact. The central ‘Pantomime’ was dominated by the superlative flute playing of Marie-Christine Zupancic, but if her virtuosity stood out due to the prominence of the flute part it was complemented by that of many of her colleagues in a dexterous and subtle performance of this ravishing but technically demanding music. The concluding ‘Danse Genérale’ was thrilling. Nelsons galvanised his players – and singers – into a virtuoso account of Ravel’s tumultuous, hedonistic music. In a few days time one of Nelson’s predecessors, Sir Simon Rattle, brings the Vienna Philharmonic to Symphony Hall. On this showing – which we know is far from untypical – the CBSO has little to fear from any comparisons.”     …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

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…     “The Ravel was the outstanding performance. Nelsons realised everything that is sensuous and lushly expansive in the score, while bringing an exquisite poise to the subtleties of Ravel’s orchestral palette and a lilting insouciance to the dance elements. The CBSO came into its own. Conductors and soloists were presented with bouquets, so metaphorical ones now to the flute section: to Marie-Christine Zupancic for her stunning solo, Andrew Lane for his piccolo playing, CBSO stalwart Colin Lilley for his alto flute solo, and not forgetting Elizabeth May. That their lines emerged with such vibrancy should also be a tribute to that Symphony Hall acoustic.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…    If Symphony Hall doesn’t have its music makers, then who has? And ‘Music Makers’ was the main work in the CBSO’s first concert in the newly-refurbished Town Hall, elderly sister to the blushing young Symphony Hall.

Simon Halsey conducted, drawing from his world-class CBSO Chorus diction of consummate clarity and well-weighted tonal balance, and, often concentrating on the orchestra (the Chorus had already been well-trained beyond concern), revealing wonderful detail and securing flowing, often surprisingly swift, and appropriate tempi.

Christine Rice was the mezzo soloist, her tones warm and compassionate, her lower registers conveying rocklike solidity, her emotional involvement total.”     …

 

Review by Katherine Dixson, Bachtrack:

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…     “The second half began with the audience exploding into applause once a certain larger-than-life Welshman set foot on – no, took possession of – the stage. Bryn Terfel’s programme was perfectly judged, with fun, laughter, flirtatiousness, intrigue, menace and drama, as well as a sense of place with a sequence of British folk songs. The power of his voice and command of the music was a given, but what I hadn’t bargained for was the sheer force of his personality. His rapport with the audience was phenomenal, with eye contact, gesture and overwhelming warmth. Clearly, he enjoyed working with the other performers, and a lovely detail at the end of the Toreador’s Song was his saluting the men’s chorus by the flick of an imaginary matador’s cape. Bryn and Andris struck up quite a partnership in the aria ‘Udite, udite’ from L’elisir d’amore. ‘Dr Dulcamara’ brought on an innocuous bottle of beer which he playfully discarded near the conductor’s feet, only to bring out a fearsome brew from his back pocket. With apparently effortless ease the tongue-twisting catalogue of ailments was dispatched, upon which the serious bottle was cracked open and downed in one, Andris watching intently (thirstily?) and directing the orchestra to sustain the note until the last drop . A pantomime drunken high five between soloist and conductor added to the general glee. ”     …