Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade


Thursday 1st May 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Rafael Payare  conductor
Jonathan Biss  piano

Brahms: Tragic Overture 13′
Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade 45′
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Schumann poured out his feelings for his beloved Clara. And Scheherazade just wanted to keep her head! But every one of them told an unforgettable musical story, and from Brahms’s epic drama to Rimsky-Korsakov’s fantastically tuneful musical fairytale on One Thousand and One Nights, Rafael Payare – the latest graduate of Venezuela’s legendary El Sistema – will make each one blaze with colour. Pianist Jonathan Biss finds poetry amidst the passion in this concert of much-loved classics.



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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“The brilliance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration for Scheherazade – he even makes the bassoon sound beguiling – means that it easily becomes a series of discrete beautiful moments. It’s to the credit of up-and-coming Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare that while the incidental orchestral felicities were all in place there also was a strong narrative thrust to this exotic fairytale suite.

While motifs metamorphosed and themes reappeared we never lost sight of a story being told. The first violin is our Scheherazade and in self-indulgent performances she’s a musical Houri who flutters her eyelashes and wears too much make-up.

The CBSO leader Laurence Jackson gave us a storyteller whose music was subtle, tender and seductive. Every featured play received deserved applause with a loud ovation for principal timpanist Peter Hill in his last concert, retiring after twenty-five years with the orchestra.”     …

Sir Roger Norrington conducts Mozart

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Tuesday 25th March

Symphony Hall

Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Sir Roger Norrington conductor
Jonathan Biss piano

Mozart Symphony No 1 in E flat 13’
Piano Concerto No 21 29’
Symphony No 41, Jupiter 31’

Over a revolutionary career, Sir Roger Norrington has changed the very way we hear the music of the classical period. And as he enters his ninth decade, his performances are as revelatory as ever. Symphony Hall is proud to host his official eightieth birthday concert, as he directs his Zurich Chamber Orchestra in Mozart’s first and last symphonies – and partners Jonathan Biss in one of Mozart’s most eloquent concertos.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

This evening it’s the turn of a great British conductor who celebrates his 80th birthday this month. Famed for his extraordinary performances using period instruments, Sir Roger Norrington has worked tirelessly to play music in the way that it was originally conceived. With three of Mozart’s best-loved pieces, this concert will no doubt be a glimpse into what the composer might have envisaged his audiences would hear when he wrote these great works.




Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “The showman is still there – in the way that he prompted the fugal entries at the end of the finale of K551, like a conjuror displaying his prowess to his fans – while some of the fine detail, such as the little crescendos and diminuendos in the opening bars of the same symphony, was fascinating. But it was all a bit subdued – the Jupiter really needs to bristle and swagger a bit more than Norrington allowed.

In between there was a piano concerto, the C major, K467, with Jonathan Biss as soloist. Biss played with his back to the audience, Norrington seated at the other end of the piano facing him, and the orchestra in semicircles around them. It conveyed a real sense of chamber music-like intimacy, and the performance had a fresh, lively feeling. Tempi were generally on the quick side – the slow movement seemed more like an allegretto than an andante, with no suggestion of the dreamy idyll that some pianists create – though the concerto was never driven hard; Biss seemed happy to go along with Norrington’s laid-back approach.”



Review by David Fay, Bachtrack (for same programme  but at Cadogan Hall, London)

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Biss Plays Mozart

Wednesday 16 December 2009 at 7.30pm

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

Robert Spano  conductor
Jonathan Biss  piano

Tiensuu: False Memories (UK premiere) 16′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9, K271 31′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 42′ Listen
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This young American pianist has already built a formidable reputation for his accounts of classical and early romantic music; here he plays what Brendel calls ‘one of the greatest wonders of the world’, a miraculous product of the 21-year old Mozart. Sibelius’s sweeping, passionate symphony has long been a Birmingham favourite, and Spano also introduces a work by one of the finest of the current amazing generation of Finnish composers.  www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


“..It works in short-breathed bursts of energy, with a central movement of slithery hypnosis, and the CBSO players responded with gutsy fire under the persuasive baton of Roberto Spano.” …

Review by Hilary Finch, The Times:


…”After a fierce and jazzy opening called, alluringly, Review, Tiensuu creates two even more disturbing movements. Nostalgy seems to conjure the nostalgia of a chill winter fog for the heat haze of summer. Piercingly high resonances of bowed cymbals, crotales and vibraphone fuse with frozen chords and the microtones of slippery, sliding string parts, frequently played out of phase. Trauma teases ear and nerves still further, with its trilling flutes, trembling strings and gong — and, again, with an unsettling yet seductive feeling of something recalled, but just out of reach, lapsed in time.” …