Sibelius’ Fifth

Thursday 1st October, 7.30pm



  • Mendelssohn  Overture, The Hebrides, 10′
  • Mozart  Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271 , 32′
  • Sibelius Symphony No. 5, 32′
Lars Vogt’s encore – Chopin – Nocturne in C Sharp Minor
Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony begins with a glowing sunrise and ends with a vision of a flight of swans – and one of the simplest but noblest melodies ever written. A real CBSO speciality, there’s no finer way to salute Sibelius in his anniversary year; first, though, Edward Gardner takes us to sea with Felix Mendelssohn, and joins the masterly Lars Vogt in Mozart’s little jewel of a piano concerto.
Available on BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert for 28 days here
Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack (for matinee of same programme)
Click here for full review
…     “With the concerto, the programme had quickly sailed all the way east to the land of a thousand lakes and anniversary composer Jean Sibelius, whom we picture standing on one of them, looking out onto the calm waters, until a noise draws his gaze upwards. He later records in his diary: “…I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, what beauty! […] A low refrain reminiscent of a small child crying. Nature, mysticism and life’s Angst!” Reading about his excitement on seeing a formation of swans pass overhead, one can but wonder how this could have made such an impression on the man, but hearing its reverberation in his Fifth Symphony, one cannot help being drawn into this time-stopping, slightly mystical moment as the birds “disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming solar ribbon.”Eerily rustling strings grew the figurative reeds surrounding the lake and a creepy, oppressive atmosphere, before brilliant, shining brass took over, combining forces for one of Sibelius’ grand crescendos that crested and washed over the listener with elemental force, and that smashed up against one entire body rather than only entering one’s ears. The second movement pizzicato cues, precise to perfection, displayed the orchestra’s enormous dramatic tension that discharged into the final movements opening, racing tremolos. Never did the musicians show any sign of tiring despite the high speed and played with a solemn but taut energy.

In Gardner’s take, always natural and controlled, Sibelius’ “swan hymn” was more pacing than swinging and, perhaps necessarily so, at a slightly swifter clip, but no less memorable for it, evoking mental images of the majestic birds beating their wings above the awed composer. The high woodwinds delivered their gorgeous chant-like theme with moving emoition, which eventually gave way for yet another elemental, incredibly powerful crescendo that was crowned by the closing orchestral stabs, gripping, mesmerising, awe-inspiring chords, thrown out with absolute precision. This. Was. Big.”

Russian Classics

  • Thumbnail          Relax and Revitalise

Thursday 9th January 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Hall

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Lars Vogt  piano

Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 (Classical) 14′

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595 32′

Stravinsky: Petrushka 34′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Lars Vogt’s encore – Chopin Nocturne ..

It’s springtime in old Russia, and as crowds throng the Shrovetide Fair, passions are  rising. But how serious can it get? After all, a puppet doesn’t have feelings…  does it? 100 years on, Stravinsky’s brilliantly original ballet continues to startle  and delight; while Prokofiev’s firecracker of a first symphony proves that a real  popular classic can still spring a few surprises. Mind you, Mozart’s last piano  concerto gives them both a run for their money – especially in the supremely skilled  hands of Lars Vogt.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Mozart and Elgar, Wednesday   19th  February

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Wednesday   26th  February

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday   6th  March



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Nelsons’ footwork was indeed balletic (for a big man he is very light on his feet), and he drew a reading which was now buzzing, now subtle, wonderfully shaded and rhythmically vibrant.

The sequence of dances in the final tableau emerged as noble as those in Wagner’s Meistersinger (the dour Stravinsky would surely hate that comparison), and instrumental solos throughout added characterful contributions: Marie-Christine Zupancic’s fey flute, Rachael Pankhurst’s lugubrious cor anglais, Jonathan Holland’s incisive trumpet, and Ben Dawson’s vivid piano.

And that piano had just beforehand delivered Lars Vogt’s no-nonsense, pellucid and elegant account of Mozart’s last piano concerto, no.27 K595.

Vogt brought both crystalline clarity and well-weighted chording to his performance, confident enough in his accompanists to be able to add a discreet element of rubato where appropriate.

Less is more. No affectation here, just a pure love of this otherwordly music, communicated by all concerned.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…    “Since he took over the City of Birmingham Symphony five years ago, hearing Andris Nelsons reveal more of the works in his repertoire has been one of the most compelling experiences British musical life can offer. Last autumn’s announcement that he is leaving Birmingham at the end of the 2014-15 season has made each of those revelations seem even more precious. I missed his performance of Stravinsky‘s Petrushka with the orchestra in 2011, but thankfully Nelson has now returned to the work, and it’s one of the best demonstrations of just what an exceptional conductor he can be.

Performances of the second full-scale ballet Stravinsky composed for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes tend to emphasise the music’s modernism, and those aspects of it that anticipate the watershed of The Rite of Spring, which came two years later. Nelsons’s intensely vivid performance, fabulously realised by the CBSO, certainly did that, but it also showed how much of 19th-century Russian music, as channelled through Stravinsky’s teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, remains in the score, too. The way in which all the teeming detail emerged in high definition, characterised with such pictorial immediacy, was a thrilling reminder that Stravinsky’s debt to his St Petersburg training hadn’t been totally discharged with The Firebird.”     …

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Thursday 13 December 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Baiba Skride violin
Daniel Müller-Schott cello
Lars Vogt piano

Beethoven: Triple Concerto, Op.56 34′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) 47′ Listen on Spotify

The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: The Eroica

Two chords slam out, and music will never be the same again. Beethoven’s mighty Eroica Symphony changed the course of musical history – but it’s not just a gripping musical portrait of the Age of Revolution. It’s a profoundly moving human drama, and in this concert devoted to the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, expect Andris Nelsons to find every last drop of emotion. And three musical superstars come together to give Beethoven’s playful Triple Concerto the ride of its life!

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

Sponsored by Barclays


Article about CBSO Benevolent Fund by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article


Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “I have never seen a group of players enjoy playing together so visibly as pianist Lars Vogt, violinist Baiba Skride and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. Each would sway gently and lean towards the others for musical dialogue. Their clear rapport imbued the performance with an infectious sense of fun whilst achieving perfect coordination in their ensemble. Clearly they all wanted to be there: none of the soloists, conductor or orchestra took a fee for this concert in aid of the orchestra’s benevolent fund. Each displayed a palette of controlled pianissimo and exuberant bravado. Beethoven gives the cellist the dominant role, and Müller-Schott played beautifully. His handling of the second movement’s lyrical melody was magnificent, and Skride’s hushed violin accompaniment was a subtle icing.”     …


Review by Clive Peacock, Leamington Courier:

Click here for full review

…     “In recent months we have become familiar with Baiba Skride’s skills as a violinist. The cello performance by Daniel Müller-Schott was nothing short of astonishing and Lars Vogt’s piano contributions were an important element in maintaining the balance. The orchestra responded well to Nelsons’ demands for changes of pace and the overall togetherness produces, at times, a spine-chilling intensity. Baskets of flowers were duly presented to soloists in recognition of a truly memorable performance.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) is a milestone in the composer’s maturity. The work is full of creative energy, indeed, and with Nelsons in charge, the last movement was an outpouring of creative energy. Having recognised individual contributions by Marie-Christine Zupancic (flute) and Rainer Gibbons (oboe), Nelsons acknowledged the sustained, accurate responses of timpani player, Peter Hill.”     …


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “It was the most revealing examination of his credentials as a Beethoven interpreter so far – the Eroica Symphony – and if Nelsons did not emerge totally triumphant from the test, his performance had more than enough moments of surging power and intensity to suggest that when it is fully achieved his reading will be one to reckon with.

At present it’s the outer movements, especially the first, that are the most impressive. The explosive power of the fabulously precise tutti chords in the opening exposition set the tone for a movement that seemed to be conceived in a single, giant breath, while the elements of the finale were all shaped towards the equally explosive outburst of energy in the closing coda.”     …




Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons and his willing orchestra gave us a lithe, well-weighted and totally appreciative account of this wonderful work. Horns (Beethoven augmented them for the first-ever expressive reason in a symphony – Haydn and Mozart’s examples of four horns were for technical expediency) were nobly magnificent, woodwinds were eloquent, and strings were deliciously responsive to Nelsons’ often baton-less beat.

This was so well paced, climaxes arriving inevitably and so judiciously. No wonder Nelsons clapped his players at the end, and, gods be praised, this performance has been captured by |Orfeo for future CD release.”

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Tue 11 Oct 7:30pm  at Symphony Hall

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin conductor
Lars Vogt piano

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5, Emperor 38’
Schubert Symphony No 9, The Great C major 48’

Sir Simon Rattle described Lars Vogt as “one of the most extraordinary musicians of any age group that I have had the fortune to be associated with.” So he’s the perfect pianist for the splendour of Beethoven’s epic Emperor Concerto. The electric partnership between the LPO and the dynamic Yannick Nézet-Séguin promises an outstanding performance of the first of the two great ninth symphonies featured this season.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Now in its 79th year, the LPO is still one of the most exciting and innovative orchestras around; a performance with their Principal Guest Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is definitely a date for the diary.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“It would be so easy for a great orchestra like the London Philharmonic just to churn out routine accounts of Viennese classics they will have rolled out on the production-line countless times. Not so on Tuesday, when, perhaps stimulated by a packed house and the matchless ambience of Symphony Hall, and certainly responsive to conductor and soloist, the LPO delivered performances which came up sparkling and new.”     …..

Symphonic Dances: III

Wednesday 12 May 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Lars Vogt  piano

Maskats: Tango 12′
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 34′
Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances 35′

Andris Nelsons kicks up a real song and dance. In American exile, Rachmaninov summed up his life’s work in one extraordinary masterpiece. His Symphonic Dances evoke a fantastic dream-world of half-remembered melodies, ghostly waltzes and driving jazz rhythms. But more to the point, they’re pure Rachmaninov – and that means high romance and glorious tunes. If you love his piano concertos, you’ll be spellbound. And if you love Beethoven’s piano concertos – well, you won’t need any persuasion to hear the most songful and poetic of the lot, played by the masterly Lars Vogt. Meanwhile, who’d have thought that the very first piece of music Nelsons brings us from his native Latvia would be the wonderfully evocative Tango, by his friend Arturs Maskats?

Post-concert talk, c.9.15pm
Stay late for a post-concert conversation with Andris Nelsons and Stephen Maddock.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

“The idea of a full-blown, sultry Argentian tango being written by a composer from the chilly Baltic might appear somewhat unlikely. But Tango by Latvian composer Arturs Maskats made a lively and impressive curtain-raiser to this CBSO concert, vividly scored, clearly structured, with a soul-baring backstreet melody interweaved by counter subjects like dancers’ ankles intertwining.” …