Britten 100: Centenary Concert

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Friday 22 November 2013 at 7.30pm

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

Simon Halsey  conductor

Nicholas Daniel  oboe

David Goode  organ

CBSO Chorus  

CBSO Youth Chorus  

CBSO Children’s Chorus  

Birmingham University Singers

Birmingham University Women’s Choir

Jubilate in C  3’

Six Metamorphoses after Ovid  12’

3 Two-Part Songs    7’

Friday Afternoons   20’

Hymn to St Cecilia   10’

Missa Brevis   10’

Prelude & Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria   5’

Rejoice in the Lamb 16′

“Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire.”   Britten’s originality never blazed more brightly than when it was most firmly   rooted in the English choral tradition. As the Orchestra tours to Japan, 100   years to the day since Britten’s birth, Simon Halsey directs the CBSO’s world-famous   choruses in some of Britten’s most striking choral inspirations – all interspersed   with his magical Six Metamorphoses for solo oboe. A universe in a grain   of sand: music to leave audiences stirred, beguiled and thoroughly entertained.

Due to the popularity of the Birmingham Christmas Market please allow ample time for your journey to Symphony Hall.

A taste of the CBSO’s celebrations of Britten in his centenary year

Britten 100


“Chorus of approval for CBSO stalwart    

Simon Halsey is celebrating 30 years as CBSO chorus director and an induction into the Hall of Fame.”

Birmingham Post Article by Roz Laws here.



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Now, in this all-Britten programme, the many choirs Simon has inaugurated under the auspices of the CBSO Chorus (the Youth Chorus, the Children’s Chorus – as well as the Birmingham University Singers and University Women’s Choir) delivered a brilliantly-arranged sequence of the composer’s choral music.

Projection, diction and disciplined responsiveness are perennial watchwords illuminating the performances of all these ensembles, and Halsey calls on these factors with such relaxed, expressive direction. And throughout, all the excellent soloists were drawn from the ranks of the various choirs. What a heartwarming triumph for all concerned.”  



Saturday 12 June 2010 at 4.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Hillevi Martinpelto  Elsa
Lioba Braun  Ortrud
Eike Wilm Schulte  Telramund
Lance Ryan  Lohengrin
Gidon Saks  King
CBSO Chorus   
CBSO Youth Chorus   
Kostas Smoriginas  Herald

Wagner: Lohengrin (sung in German with English surtitles) 225′

A maiden in distress, a black-hearted count, a wicked sorceress and a mysterious knight in shining armour… no question, Wagner’s Lohengrin is the ultimate Romantic opera. But it’s not just a stirring tale of chivalry and romance in medieval Europe. Lohengrin is Wagner at his accessible best, filled with music of flamboyant colour and profound beauty. Just weeks before Andris Nelsons makes his hotly-awaited debut at Wagner’s own theatre in Bayreuth, Birmingham gets a one-off preview. With an all-star cast, the full CBSO and CBSO Chorus, and a conductor who loves Wagner above all other composers, this extraordinary evening will be one of the most talked-about concerts in Birmingham this year. Be sure to book early!


Review by Geoff Brown, Times:

…”The CBSO Chorus, CBSO Youth Chorus and gents from the London Symphony Chorus surged through the choral pages with vigour. None could beat Lioba Braun for fusing singing with acting: dressed in heinous black or jealous green, her Ortrud stayed resolutely villainous and wily. There was character even in the tilt of her head. Telramund, her partner in trouble, wasn’t far behind in authority, with the veteran Eike Wilm Schulte in astonishingly young and virile voice. Decibels rang out equally tellingly from the proclamations of Kostas Smoriginas’s Herald, while Gidon Saks easily supplied gravitas as King Henry.” …

Review by Patsy Fuller, Coventry Telegraph:

…”The young Latvian’s drive and passion were obvious – and infectious. He made it clear he had high expectations of his musicians, and CBSO followers in turn had high expectations of him.

Well, they haven’t been disappointed. Since then he has delivered many exciting concerts– but this concert performance of Wagner’s romantic epic has to go down as something truly special. Proof, as if it were still needed, that Nelsons is indeed the man of the moment.

From the opening spine-tingling notes of the prelude, the audience was enraptured.” …

…”Amid rapturous applause and a standing ovation, Nelsons looked drained – not surprising after 225 minutes of thrilling music making.” …

Rating * * * * *

Blog / Review by Onthepast:

…”Nelsons will take Bayreuth by storm, if he plays ‘Lohengrin’ there like he did in Birmingham. The man is a genius. He gives Wagner his romanticism back. ‘Lohengrin’ is full of mass get-togethers, and the music rises to the occasion each time, gaining in excitement, volume and choral power. Nelsons made of these scenes something unbelievably vibrant, colourful and ecstatic. There is no artifice in his style, or rather it is so well disguised that you feel you are getting pure music, as it was always meant to be heard – legend comes alive, and you believe it all for a few hours (as is clear from the above – only for a few hours…). The sheer enthusiasm he conveys is clearly felt and shared by the orchestra, who give their all, and the Birmingham audience clearly love him. Who wouldn’t?” …

Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph:

“In less than expert hands, Lohengrin can prove a tedious affair – Wagner at his windiest – but in this magnificent concert performance presented by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, it gathered an explosive momentum which finally brought the audience to its feet.” …

…”But the best singing of the evening came from Simon Halsey’s chorus, swelling majestically and making Wagner glow in Symphony Hall’s rich acoustic.     Rating: * * * * *     “

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…”Gidon Saks’s King was tremendously authoritative, Eike Wilm Schulte’s Telramund wonderfully judged and articulated. Lioba Braun’s sexy, scenery-chewing Ortrud threatened to steal the show, but in the end it was Nelsons’s vital control of every element that left the biggest impression.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

… “Rehearsals had been many and intensive, and the supple phrasing, bold articulation and depth of tone from the orchestra was even more apparent than when we hear these amazing players after normal rehearsal conditions. Choral projection was as forward and vivid, even in the most quietly articulated passages, as we have come to expect under Simon Halsey’s tutelage.

Lance Ryan’s Lohengrin was a little steely of tone, but totally engaging, not least in his great Act III revelations, Hillevi Martinpelto made much of the somewhat wan character of Elsa, Gidon Saks was a commanding, sympathetic King Henry, Eike Wilm Schulte an incisive Telramund, and Kostas Smoriginas rounded out the two-dimensional role of the Herald to engrossing effect.

But outstanding in this well-complemented team was mezzo-soprano Lioba Braun, her Ortrud a gripping model of evil conveyed by feminine wiles, the strength of her singing in no danger of suffering in this accommodating acoustic.” …

Blog / Review by Intermezzo:

…”Andris Nelsons scored an early winner for Birmingham with a prelude of exquisitely tensile beauty. Unlike Rob Green he let nothing slip from his grasp all evening.  Semyon Bychkov’s brisk, Italianate Lohengrin at Covent Garden last year cast an eye back at the work’s influences. Nelsons instead looked forward to the merged space-time of Parsifal. Lohengrin is one of the least action-packed three and a half hours ever, and Nelsons didn’t try to impose any notion of dramatic momentum. His contemplative tempos explored the music rather than driving it, yet paradoxically it was perhaps the most enthralling, dramatically absorbing rendition I’ve ever heard.” …

Review by Michael Tanner, Spectator:

“In the centre of Birmingham, in Symphony Hall, there was a tremendous performance of Lohengrin last Saturday, with minimal acting, apart from the wonderful imprecations and insinuations of Ortrud. So yet again the most memorable performance of any opera for a long time was not staged at all, and left the audience to do its own interpreting — a sheer blessing.  …

The CBSO covered itself with glory from start to finish, but even more the CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus sang their mainly glorious music to overpowering effect.” …