Andris Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Royal Festival Hall

Tuesday 9th October, 2018, 7:30pm

Performers

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Andris Nelsons Gewandhauskapellmeister
Kristine Opolais soprano

Repertoire

Andris Dzenitis: Mara for orchestra (UK premiere)
Tchaikovsky: Liza’s arioso from The Queen of Spades; Polonaise from Eugene Onegin; Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin
Interval
Mahler: Symphony No.1

Part of Classical Season 2018/19

Described by The New York Times as ‘a young dynamo’, Andris Nelsons enjoyed an acclaimed tenure at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before appointments at two of the world’s most feted musical ensembles: the Boston Symphony Orchestra and, in 2018, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

Founded in 1743, the Gewandhausorchester performs weekly concerts in the Gewandhaus, Leipzig’s main concert hall, and it also serves as the orchestra in the Leipzig Opera. The Orchestra’s other musical duties include weekly performances at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, where Bach was the Cantor until his death. Mendelssohn was appointed as Kappellmeister in 1835, part of a long tradition of famous names who have directed this orchestra.

In the second of this pair of concerts, the orchestra presents Mahler’s magnificent First Symphony, alongside a selection of richly lyrical arias and orchestral interludes from some of Tchaikovsky’s best loved operas, including Eugene Onegin’s centrepiece, Tatyana’s affecting ‘Letter Scene’.

The evening opens with the UK premiere of a new work Māra from the rising Latvian composer Andris Dzenitis.

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Review by Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

[…]     “Nelsons, conducting much of the evening with his left hand gripping the podium rail, also had a firm grip on Mahler 1 after the interval. It was richly detailed with scrupulous attention to dynamics, yet took a long time to catch fire. The tremulous first movement didn’t have an organic sense of flow: rather than an open-hearted stroll enjoying the countryside, this felt like a regimented trek, led by a tour guide directing the itinerary from a clipboard.

The emphatic, foot-stamping Ländler felt rustic enough, but the halting rubatos in the gentle Trio section were just a little too sly, a little too knowing, as if Mahler was tapping the side of his nose. The funeral march third movement was taken at an appropriately laboured, funereal pace, although the excellent double bass’ intonation never wavered in his Frère Jacques solo. A jigging bassoonist in the klezmer invasion hinted at an orchestra itching to break free, which it finally did as Nelsons swept attaca into the finale. This was a thunderous assault where micro-management was abandoned for something more, well, abandoned in spirit. The gleeful eye contact between the two timpanists was terrific… the Gewandhaus had now been let off the leash and were making the most of it. This is what we’d come for.”

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

[…]     “As the First Symphony in the second of the RFH concerts confirmed, there’s no doubting the power and theatricality that Nelsons brings to this music. As the central pair of movements showed, he still has a tendency to linger just a bit too long over expressive details, though with an orchestra capable of such refined and transparent string playing, that was easy to excuse. He’d made rather heavy weather of some of the slower music in the opening movement too, but the finale was irresistible, sweeping all before it on a flood of brass tone that never overwhelmed the rest of the orchestral picture.”     […]

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Review by David Nice, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

[…]      “But Opolais’s now weighty dramatic soprano did scale down for the core moment of the 17-year-old girl’s touching vulnerability, abetted by oboist Henrik Wahlgren. Violins were a bit ragged in their initial impetuousness, too. The Act Three Polonaise which came before had just the right swagger under Nelsons the dancer; his panache in sailing and landing on the strong first beat of each bar signalled that he might be a good candidate for Vienna’s New Year’s Day Concert.

And as a Mahler conductor, he is in a class of his own already. Not one with which I always agree; the mannerisms, the sometimes inorganic pulling-about, sometimes seem writ a bit too large. But his interpretation of the First Symphony truly exploded in the gigantic finale, with discipline and rhythmic focus, from his clearly welcoming orchestra, and the febrile leadership of Sebastian Breuninger is always a joy to watch. So, too, was the dedicated work of second timpanist Xizi Wang from Leipzig’s Mendelssohn Orchesterakadamie – the first time I’ve ever seen a woman on timps (and why so, one wonders?)

Above all, Nelson’s establishing of a very different mood for each movement made one wonder afresh at the youngish Mahler’s daring back in the late 1880s. Perhaps the funeral-march rounds on the tune we know as “Frère Jacques” could have afforded to sound uglier, less artistic, from their accomplished “singers”, double bass especially; but the dream idyll at the heart of the movement was so rapt, the gauzes of the natural world in the first movement so poetic, the stomping scherzo so earthy.”     […]

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Review by Peter Reed, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

[…]      “As ever, she radiated glamour, her voice was on gleaming form, and her finely judged glides to and from notes and her caressing of pitch were fresh and seductive. The most affecting moment, though, came in Tatyana’s complicit amazement at what she is doing with her life, with Henrik Wahlgren’s oboe and Ralf Götz’s horn hovering in attendance like sorrowful guardian angels, and Opolais wondrously focused and disarmingly innocent.      […]

[…]     I now know how a ghost on timpani might sound, courtesy of Marek Stefula, barely buoying up Rainer Hucke’s equally spectral bass ‘Frère Jacques’ solo at the start of the funeral march third movement, and later Nelsons led the orchestra close to reckless Fiddler on the Roof exuberance in the Klezmer music. Any allusion and irony vanished in the Finale, and the orchestra gave Nelsons everything he asked for – control, terrific momentum and, in the quiet passage just before the thrills of the close, playing that made time stand still. The horns stood in the final peroration, you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between the two timpanists’ ensemble, and, while it was never clear how leader Frank-Michael Erben’s possessed playing related to Nelsons’s rather more laid-back style, the results were consistently electrifying.”

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Review by Mark Berry, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

[…]      “Tchaikovsky made much more sense to me, Kristine Opolais on superlative form. In Liza’s third-act arioso from The Queen of Spades and the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, she truly brought to life her characters, without context, scenery, or titles. One knew and felt what Liza and Tatiana meant, what their plight was – and could have taken dictation, verbal or musical, from her. Hers were fully gestural performances too, very much those of a classic singing actress. The Gewandhaus Orchestra ‘spoke’ splendidly too: this, after all, is an orchestra that plays for the Leipzig Opera as well as the concert hall (and the Thomaskirche). If only Nelsons and/or Opolais had not indulged in quite so extreme gear changes towards the end of the Letter Scene, and if only he had not driven the Polonaise so hard, these would have been ideal performances. No one, however, would have been seriously disappointed.

The first movement of the Mahler symphony opened with great promise: opening string harmonics (and their later repetition) spot on, without sounding clinical, woodwind full of colour and character, offstage brass as well balanced as I can recall.”     […]

 

 

 

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Opening Concert: The Rite of Spring

OPENING CONCERT: THE RITE OF SPRING

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  • CBSO 2020
  • Raise the Roof

Thursday 19 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Kristine Opolais  soprano

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture 14′

Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder 25′

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring 32′

When    The Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris in 1913, it caused a riot.   We don’t expect you to react quite so violently, but 100 years on Stravinsky’s   revolutionary ballet will still make an electrifying opening to our season.   Andris Nelsons conducts it for the first time, and joins his wife Kristine Opolais   in music close to both their hearts – Wagner’s star-crossed Wesendonck Lieder,   and the piece that first made him fall in love with music: the overture to Tannhäuser.   www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Apparently the BBC Radio 3 live broadcast of this CBSO concert was arranged at the last minute.

My heart doesn’t bleed for disappointed London Symphony Orchestra groupies who get more than enough of their metrocentric fix anyway, but what a bonus for everyone else, sharing with my ancient ears the most exciting account of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring I have ever heard.

Stravinsky, Monteux, Bernstein, Karajan (if one must), Fremaux, Rattle, Oramo, Zander in his extraordinary performance high on adrenaline, all have their qualities, but this, Andris Nelsons’ first-ever outing with the work in this its centenary year, knocked them all into a cocked hat.

This was an approach relishing the ballet’s visceral energy, its fragile lyricism and its amazingly imaginative scoring.

Nelsons even convinced us that the opening of Part II (here following on immediately, without a discernible break) was not so much of an impressionistic meandering, more a tension-building scene-setting.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The sense of something new was there from the very first moments. Instead of the usually smooth, suave sound for the opening solo, Nelsons had evidently asked his principal bassoon to make it rather coarse-grained and earthy, and that set the tone for what followed: a sound world full of boldly reimagined textures and vivid details, especially in the wind writing. Not everything worked – the tempo for the Spring Auguries section seemed just too fast for the effect to be forebodingly weighty enough, while sometimes, as in the Glorification of the Chosen One, the wind overpowered important details in the strings – but a lot more seemed just right.”     …

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Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The majestic strains of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture were prefaced by a gloriously phrased woodwind chorale in which scrupulous attention to the subtle rise and fall of the dynamics lent the playing a luminous quality that was to permeate every bar of the performance. With Nelsons at one moment resting one hand nonchalantly on the rail of the podium and at others, leaning into the violin section as if to accentuate every note of their cascading rhythmic figurations whilst physically hammering out the triplets in the trombones radiant statement of the pilgrims chorale with a clenched fist, Nelsons’ was a Tannhäuser that made full use of the lush acoustic of Symphony Hall and in doing so gloriously accentuated the grand romantic excesses of Wagner’s blazing paean to human sensuality.

In contrast, the Wesendonck Lieder that grew out of Wagner’s fascination with his muse and alleged lover Mathilde Wesendonck, possessed an air of restrained coolness that allowed Nelsons’ wife and fellow Latvian, soprano Kristine Opolais, to deliver the texts of Mathilde Wesendonck with a refreshing simplicity of phrase and line. The gentle innocence of the opening song The Angel, the subtle colouring of voice and string textures in Stand thou still! and the passionate but never cloying strains of the final song Dreams were beautifully realised in textures of crystalline clarity. But it was the despair and desolation of the central song Im Treibhaus (In the Conservatory), delivered with limpid, heartbreaking restraint that hinted at rather than drove home the sense of despair, that will live longest in the memory.”     …

Andris and Kristine in Concert

ANDRIS AND KRISTINE IN CONCERT

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Thursday 15 August 2013 at 7.30pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Kristine Opolais  soprano

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 38′

Verdi: The Force of Destiny – Overture 7′

Verdi: Otello – Ave Maria • Willow Song 10′

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Polonaise and Letter Scene 18′

Strauss II: Waltzes and Polkas 12′

Summer sunshine at the Town Hall! Symphonies just don’t get any happier than Dvorák’s Eighth, and it’s inspired Andris Nelsons to create a really joyous evening of music making. There’ll be folk dances, birdsong and village fiddles – and that’s before he even gets on to irresistible melodies of the Strauss family. And then he joins his wife, star soprano Kristine Opolais, for two big, heartfelt helpings of operatic passion. Feel the magic for yourself, as the CBSO returns to Birmingham’s most beautiful historic concert hall.

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Which made Opolais’ spine-tingling performance of Desdemona’s Willow Song and Ave Maria all the more impressive. 

Without costumes, set or fellow actors, Opolais seemed to become Desdemona, clinging to her last moments of life, struggling between faith in and fear of the husband who is about to murder her. Her stunning voice and heart-felt characterisation took us from Town Hall into her bedroom as she prepared to die. Hands held up in prayer, we really did feel she was begging for some form of salvation.

Opolais then turned her attention to the famous Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin, again immediately capturing the essence of the uncertain Tatyana as she vacillates between declaring or silencing her sudden rapture for Onegin. Swinging between hope of a happy future and fear of shaming herself, she verbally paces back and forth in indecision.

She was given more than sterling support by the orchestra under the baton of Nelsons…”     ….

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian

Click here for full review

…     “Apparently, Nelsons is still recovering from the concussion he suffered three weeks ago in Bayreuth, where he was conducting Lohengrin, but no one would have guessed it from the way he launched into things here. The Eighth is usually regarded as Dvořák’s most genial symphony, but Nelsons’ account of it was thrilling – not a word I usually associate with the Czech composer. Fiercely dramatic in the opening movement, mysteriously veiled and remote in the second, and increasingly unbuttoned in the final two, it was teeming with vivid detail and distinctive ideas, such as the trumpet counter-melody underpinning the flute solo in the finale.

With Nelsons’ wife, the soprano Kristine Opolais, as the soloist, the second half wasn’t just a sequence of lollipops either. Her treatment of Willow Song and Ave Maria from the last act of Verdi’s Otello – slightly cool, contained and limpidly beautiful – was the perfect foil for a passionate account of the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which was more than enough to show how compelling Opolais’s Tatyana would be on stage, especially with Nelsons conjuring ever more colours and inflections from the orchestra.”     …

***** 

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It was one of those occasions when everything seemed to gel. Andris Nelsons brought to Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 clarity, dynamic shading and a command of instrumental textures that resulted in a deliciously fluent, cogently shaped reading.

Orchestrally it was hard to beat, from the finely controlled string playing (especially in some teasingly quiet pianissimos), woodwind solos as pellucid as mountain air (no surprise that Nelsons just stood back to let flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic have her moment in the Scherzo trio), to the glowingly well-tempered brass.”     …

***** 

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Review by Douglas Cooksey, ClassicalSource (for this programme at the Proms concert on 17th August):

Click here for full review

…     “Impressive though the Dvořák had been, things moved up a notch with the arrival of Kristīne Opolais. The long introduction for woodwinds alone to Desdemona’s ‘Willow Song’ from Otello is a severe test of intonation. The quality of the CBSO winds, notably Rachael Pankhurst’s plangent cor anglais solo and her subsequent duet with oboist Jennifer Galloway perfectly set the scene for Opolais’s entry. This was securely pitched with lovely floated high notes. Opolais does not have the most powerful of voices but it is unfailingly grateful on the ear, pure velvet, and she sang with security and intelligence; there was eruptive drama too at the close of the ‘Willow Song’ and her farewell to her maid was utterly heartrending, whilst the succeeding ‘Ave Maria’ opened with the most veiled half-tone and had a quite exceptional tenderness. There was profound and prolonged silence at the close, no-one daring to break the spell.”     …

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“Opera’s double act: Kristine Opolais and Andris Nelsons”

Opening Concert: Verdi’s Requiem

 

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Thursday 22 September 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Kristine Opolais soprano
Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano
Pavel Cernoch tenor
Jan Martiník bass
CBSO Chorus

Verdi: Requiem 84′ Listen on Spotify

Drums thunder, trumpets blast, and a mighty chorus screams out in terror: Verdi’s Requiem isn’t exactly what you expect from religious music! But it’s exactly what you’d expect from the grand master of Italian opera – and Andris Nelsons adores it. Tonight, in these opening concerts, he’s brought together an all-star cast, a super-size CBSO, and our magnificent CBSO Chorus. So prepare to be astonished as he turns the emotional volume up to 11 and launches the new season in a blaze of passion.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and section leader double bass John Tattersdill discussing Verdi’s Requiem.

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

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/sep/23/cbso-nelsons-review

…     “The hall played its part, too, enabling Nelsons to move between whispering pianissimos and full, apocalyptic climaxes in the certain knowledge that both extremes would register and nothing would be muddied. The Requiem is ideally suited to his sense of theatricality. Whether in the carefully paced and managed outbursts of the Dies Irae, or the much more intimate textures of the later sections, Nelsons invariably judged it exactly. The CBSO Chorus hung on his every gesture – in the fugues of the Sanctus and the final Libera Me, detonated like explosions of joy, as much as in the whispered closing moments of the work, with the solo soprano Kristine Opolais etched above them.”     …

Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard -MusicWeb:

http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2011/09/26/dramatic-and-reverential-verdi-opens-andris-nelsons-new-cbso-season/

…     “I’m not sure how many pounds Nelsons lost during the evening; giving his all as ever it must have been considerable. What is it about the energy levels of conductors? This maestro was still pumped up after an uninterrupted ninety minutes! Leading by example, the infectious enthusiasm he has provided throughout his three completed seasons in Birmingham, he once again motivated those under his baton. He made the music of Verdi’s memorial to his political idol Alessandro Manzoni fit the words, ensuring that the required emphasis came across, whether from orchestra, choir or soloist. Testament to this was the opening Requiem Aeternam, the gentle supplications of orchestra and chorus on wavelengths from the same hymn sheet. ”     […]

The final Libera Me movement belonged to Opolais.      […]

[…] All her vocal and dramatic attributes shone forth in the Responsory: purity of tone, extensive and even range, lustrous colours and meaningful communication. One line summed her performance up – quando coeli movendi sunt et terra (when the heavens and the earth are moved); we were moved. At Tremens factus, the fragility in her voice portrayed that of a sinner trembling at the seat of judgement – this hair-tingling moment intensified by the sheer force of the final repeat of the Dies Irae. The wave of sound dissolved into Requiem Aeternam. The final bars were equally poignant as Opolais soared above it all – surely this was one soul who would be saved.”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/09/30/review-verdi-requiem-cbso-at-symphony-hall-65233-29501976/

…     “Nelsons’ CBSO delivered Verdi’s perfect score magically, led so magisterially unobtrusively by Laurence Jackson.”     […]   

[…]     “The solo quartet were magnificent, mezzo Mihoko Fujimura a real find, tenor Pavel Cernoch and bass Jan Martinik ardent and persuasive.

As for soprano Kristine Opolais: her singing brought a properly operatic drama to the performance (so much of this writing sounds like Aida, from impassioned muttering to soaring religious ecstasy. Husband Andris will have been well pleased.”

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Force of Destiny

Saturday 10th October 2009 at 7pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Dmitri Slobodeniouk conductor
Kristine Opolais soprano

Verdi La forza del destino – Overture 8’
Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin – Letter Scene, Entr’acte & Waltz 22’
Verdi Otello – Salice and Ave Maria 10’
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 44’

With its grand emotions and tempestuous drama, there’s no symphony more operatic than Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. So it’s the perfect finish to this night of passion – after Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais (star of last season’s tear-jerking La Bohème) sings two of the all-time great romantic opera scenes by Tchaikovsky and his idol Verdi.

After his thrilling surprise debut with the CBSO last season, expect guest conductor Dmitri Slobodeniouk to give it his all. Forget the Stella Artois advert – Verdi shared Tchaikovsky’s obsession with Fate, so his melodramatic Force of Destiny overture makes the perfect curtain-raiser.  www.cbso.co.uk

 

Review by Julian Seva, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2009/10/12/soprano-kristine-opolais-shines-in-cbso-s-tchaikovsky-and-verdi-concert-65233-24905600/

“And when she came to the magical final bars, with a pianissimo to die for, the emotional effect was totally overwhelming.” …..

“By allowing drama to emerge naturally as the music progressed, the climaxes of the first movement and much of the finale had tremendous veracity and power, while the dazzling sectional contrasts in the scherzo demonstrated just how well co-ordinated and disciplined these players are.”