Yamada conducts Bernstein

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Ravel La Valse, 13′
  • Korngold Violin Concerto, 24′
  • Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, 18′
  • Bernstein West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, 24′

“This young man is full of music from head to toe” said one critic about Kazuki Yamada, and he’s become a real favourite with audiences and orchestra alike. With Bernstein’s electrifying Symphonic Dances, delicious decadence from Maurice Ravel, plus another Birmingham favourite – Baiba Skride – in Korngold’s luscious Violin Concerto, his first concert as our new Principal Guest Conductor is pretty much guaranteed to set the ears tingling.     http://www.CBSO.co.uk


Review by Nick John Whittle, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

[…]      “Of the final work of the evening a written description will not suffice. Rarely have I been more entertained at a classical concert than this by rendition of Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. An augmented CBSO, complete with all manner of percussive instrument, delivered something that altogether rose above the basal definition of ‘music’.

Special mention must be made of the percussion section whose relentless hammerings constituted the strong, jagged backbone of the magnificent beast. Complex tempi were delivered with accuracy – a breathtaking example of how best to deliver beat and rhythm and, for the young students of the audience who may baulk at the idea of just ‘beating drums’, here was an insight into the beauty and sexiness of rhythm.

Yamada is no despot by any means. He is part of the Big Picture, the final ingredient in the chemical reaction that turns concerts into celebrations. His connection with the orchestra was apparent, and his rapport with each section and each player was as plain as day. By his own admission he feels a connection with the CBSO that is almost “telepathic”; that much was obvious at tonight’s concert.”


Review by Norman Stinchcombe, MidlandsMusicReviews:

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[…]      “The playing sparkled and mixed the musical ingredients perfectly; a rainbow of carefully shaded and crisply delivered rhythms, street-wise New York pizzazz and just a dash of schmaltz. There were magical moments too, like the pizzicato strings for Maria and the all stops out Mahler-on-the-Hudson orchestration of Somewhere. Every section took a fully-deserved bow and Yamada, a diminutive bundle of bobbing energy, got a rightly raucous reception.

Korngold’s violin concerto got a sniffy critical drubbing when it was premiered in 1947 – as did almost everything tonal and tuneful – but is now getting the recognition it deserves. Vilde Frang gave a fantastic fulsomely passionate performance here two years ago but Baiba Skride’s more inward and subtle interpretation was equally satisfying. She started daringly slow and quiet, a mere wisp of sound heard from afar – music as Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity” – the central Romance warm but not over-heated and the finale’s humorous high-jinks (with characterful brass and wind playing) were delightful. ”     […]




Beethoven’s Seventh

Saturday 18th June, 2016, 7.00pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Weber  Overture to Oberon , 10′
  • Elgar  Cello Concerto, 30′
  • Beethoven Symphony No. 7, 36′

“I am the new Bacchus, pressing out glorious wine for the human spirit!” Ludwig van Beethoven wasn’t known for his modesty – but until you’ve heard his Seventh Symphony in full, heart-pounding flight, you’ve never known just how intoxicating music can be. Kazuki Yamada will go all-out: a high-octane contrast to Elgar’s hugely popular Cello Concerto, performed with poetry by the wonderful Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey.

Sibelius’ Second

Thursday 16 June, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Beethoven  Egmont Overture , 8′
  • Elgar  Cello Concerto, 30′
  • Sibelius  Symphony No. 2, 44′

A cello cries out in sorrow, the woodwinds sigh, and, like mist on an autumn river, a quiet melody drifts into the evening sky. Elgar’s Cello Concerto is one of those pieces that touches everyone’s soul, and the wonderful Pieter Wispelwey will wring out every drop of poetry, in a concert that begins with Beethoven’s heroic Egmont overture and ends with Sibelius’s sweeping symphonic portrait of a nation awakening to freedom.


Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…        “Pieter Wispelwey’s interpretation seemed relatively laid-back in relation to these underlying intense feelings but it was a pleasure to listen to, as well as to see him interacting with the orchestra. There was good rapport and a strong sense of dialogue and empathy, with soloist frequently smiling at the leader and conductor, and dance-like head movements while listening to orchestral passages. The warmth and depth of tone he conjured from his instrument were a delight, whether in the strong, resonant chords that frame the whole piece or in phrases that demanded a lightness of touch.

The middle section of the first movement has the solo instrument singing above full strings with a heart-tugging lyrical swaying that brought to mind an undulating climb in the Malvern Hills. The second scherzo movement was dramatic and captivating, Wispelwey demonstrating virtuosic speed, followed by lovely arcing phrases and careful placing of notes in the plaintive Adagio. The finale gave scope for flashes and flourishes of drama from the whole orchestra, with an almost combative feel between them and the soloist, before once again altering pace, the mournful closing chords handled with finesse and eliciting an enthusiastic audience response.

The second half gave us the sunny side of Sibelius, with his Symphony no. 2 in D major, Op.43. It has something of a southern feeling, an atmosphere of warmth, since it was inspired and partly written during a visit to Italy. The lilting melody in the first movement on poised, singing violins transitions to attention-grabbing pizzicato then luxuriates once more in legato playing. Interjections from woodwind, as it were passing the baton between sections, provided a fine example of the visual building of texture, once again underlining the value of witnessing live music. A Don Juan-inspired theme in the second movement introduced a sense of menace, with pizzicato lower strings and skilfully handled timpani in the background, almost imperceptible at first then growing.

The third movement’s multiple moods elicited nuggets of tempo change and well handled pauses. The triumphant ending, by contrast, was a master class in sustained speed – an astonishing feat of sheer physicality on the part of the strings. It made one’s arms ache just to watch them!”


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



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.”



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.”     …



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.”     …

Once Upon a Time

Wednesday 9 May 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Kazuki Yamada conductor
James Ehnes violin

Ravel: Mother Goose Suite 16′ Listen on Spotify
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 22′
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade 47′ Listen on Spotify

Once upon a time, three composers sat down to tell a story. Ravel paints his fairy-tales in glowing orchestral colours. Prokofiev makes a glittering solo violinist the hero of a very Russian tale of fantasy and romance. And Rimsky-Korsakov flies us to ancient Persia for an adventure beyond the imagination, in his spectacular, ever-popular Scheherazade. There’s action, there’s love, and there’s sheer magic, as conductor Kazuki Yamada and the great Canadian violinist James Ehnes ask the timeless question – are you sitting comfortably? www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Maggie Coton, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The indisputable star of the evening was leader Laurence Jackson, beguiling as Scheherazade with exquisite, sensuous sound throughout, eventually mesmerizing with a heart-stopping seamless gossamer thread.”