Italian Symphony

Wednesday 8th June, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 

Programme

  • Dvořák  Othello, 15′
  • Bruch  Scottish Fantasy , 30′
  • Dvořák  Romance , 13′
  • Mendelssohn  Symphony No. 4 (Italian), 26′

The tumult of Dvorak’s Othello Overture, the enchanting colours of his Romance, a treasure-trove of delightful folk melodies in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and, of course, Mendelssohn’s sparkling Italian Symphony. This is music bursting at the seams with passion: join us as Laurence Jackson and the CBSO bring it to life.

.In Memory of Walter Weller (30th November 1939 – 14th June 2015) 

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“What a joy to hear Laurence Jackson again. Barely six months after the CBSO’s former concertmaster moved to Australia he was back on his old stamping ground as the soloist in a concert planned long before he left. He may not have the swaggering glitter of some violinists (he’s too sensitive a musician to engage in vulgar histrionics), but his sweetness of tone and effortless technique are qualities many would die for.

Rather than a full-blown concerto we had to be content with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a demanding enough substitute technically, if somewhat blighted by its mundane thematic material. No matter: given the intelligence and beauty of Jackson’s playing – and the nuanced handling of the orchestral score under CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan – most of the work’s mawkish sentimentality was avoided (the duet passage between Jackson and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic was particularly delightful) while the sparkling scherzo and decorative conclusion held several charms.

And Jackson’s account of Dvořák’s Romance in F minor was delivered with even greater subtlety, matched by a felicitous accompaniment full of scrumptious detail.”     …

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Review by Robert Gainer, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Chauhan interpreted these brilliantly, allowing the brass and woodwind to suggest the unfolding story while the strings set tone and atmosphere. In doing so he maintained emotive interest from the brooding start to the heroic yet tragic climax.  

Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op,46 came next, featuring the concert’s soloist, Laurence Jackson. I was instantly won over by his warm and velvety tone. His phrasing achieved both comfort and tension, and his interpretation was simultaneously intellectual and heartfelt, without the excessive sentimentality too often associated with works such as this. He made his technique look effortless, particularly his fluttering bird-song trills. Importantly, he did not feel the need to thrash the more rhythmical motif of the scherzo, nor force the pomp of the strident warlike motif of the Finale: Allegro Guerriero. His unity with the orchestra was tangible throughout, but two highlights stood out for me. First were some delightfully echoed and paired phrases with the flute. Second was in the finale where I was so transfixed that he was half-way through a cadenza before I became conscious that the orchestra had stopped playing. Chauhan brought them back in with a breath-like string pianissimo before the return to the militaristic motif brought an extremely enjoyable first half to an end.

Dvořák’s Romance in F Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.11, was the second work in the programme from the Czech composer. In some ways it felt like an encore piece that could have been squeezed into the first half. It was played with a smaller orchestra and had a more intimate feel than the Bruch. It gave Laurence Jackson another opportunity to indulge us, and for that alone I was grateful.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony (1832) has never left the repertoire since its revival soon after its composer’s death, but it is still a work whose innovation can easily be overlooked. Chauhan certainly had the measure of the Allegro’s unbridled élan, the exposition repeat – with its seamless formal transition – duly (and rightly) observed, and with a tensile energy as carried through the development then on to a coda as clinched the formal design with telling resolve. The Andante’s stark processional was evocatively conveyed at a swift yet never rushed tempo, with the ensuing intermezzo was characterised by heartfelt string playing and deft horns. The Finale then had the necessary contrast, its alternating of saltarello and tarantella rhythms effecting a powerful rhythmic charge that held good to the forceful close.

An engaging concert, then, and an auspicious one for Chauhan, who is evidently a conductor going places (he makes his debut with the LSO in January). This CBSO concert originally to have been directed by Walter Weller, whose death last June robbed the wider musical world of a conductor of unfailing insight across the repertoire. His cycles of Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos (the latter with John Lill) with the CBSO bear witness to his traditional yet never hidebound approach, and this concert was appropriately dedicated to his memory.”

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Bruch’s Violin Concerto

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Wednesday 8th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin

Smetana: Má vlast – Vltava • Sárka 22′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 25′
Listen on Spotify

Dvořák: Symphony No.8 38′
Listen on Spotify

Autumn sunshine: cellos and horns sing a quiet hymn, a bird sings cheerfully, and in a flurry of drums and trumpets, Dvorák’s Eighth Symphony is on its way. Symphonies simply don’t get much happier than this – and violin concertos don’t get much more popular than Bruch’s First, performed by the CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson. Smetana’s tuneful trip down the River Vltava starts our journey today.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Russian Classics, Wednesday 12th November
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February 2015 & Saturday 7th February 2015
Haydn in London, Wednesday 6th May 2015 & Thursday 7th May 2015

Support the CBSO

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.

The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.

The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.

It was a performance of grace and good taste…”      …

Summer Serenade

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Thursday 5th June 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Laurence Jackson  director / violin

Grieg: Holberg Suite 20′
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 24′
Dvořák: Nocturne in B major 9′
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings 29′
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Watch on YouTube

Once upon a time, serenades were played in the open air. This afternoon, you’ll almost feel the summer sunshine as the CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson becomes first amongst equals in some of the loveliest music ever penned for a pocket-sized orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s endless melodies and Grieg’s mock-baroque revels frame the teenage Mozart’s most perfect violin concerto; timeless elegance, gentle humour, and tune after tune after tune. All you have to do is relax!

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Bluebeard’s Castle, Wednesday 2nd July

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The Serenade had been preceded by the swaying textures of Dvorak’s tiny, little-known Nocturne, and the programme had begun with Grieg’s endearing Holberg Suite, making us immediately aware of this ensemble’s capacity to deliver, clarity, transparency (I heard here marvels in Grieg’s deployment of the string orchestra I’d never noticed before) and a huge range of sonorities and dynamics.

All of this had been performed with the players standing. They only became seated, plus a neat little wind section, when Laurence Jackson took centre stage as soloist/director of Mozart’s G major Violin Concerto. His reading was urbane but never limp-wristed, his endearing diffidence of manner put spotlight on his perfection of tone and intonation, and the relaxed ease of his bowing.

And natural, unflashy body-language testified to immense trust in his attentive colleagues. There were smiles all round throughout this lovely concert.”

*****

Ultimate Vaughan Williams

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  • CBSO 2020

Wednesday 5th February 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze  conductor

Laurence Jackson  violin

Vaughan Williams: Overture, The Wasps 9′

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis 15′

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Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending 14′

Vaughan Williams: Job, A Masque for Dancing 44′

“He  rises and begins to round / he drops the silver chain of sound…” When The Lark  Ascending takes wing, so do our spirits. But that’s just one side of the genius  of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Andrew Manze has a special connection with this most  English of composers; tonight he shares the rollicking fun of The Wasps,  the timeless passion of the Tallis Fantasia and, to top it all, Job: a blockbuster of a ballet score that’ll change the way you think about English  music. www.cbso.co.uk

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If you like this concert, you might also like:

Mozart and Elgar, Wednesday   19th February

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday   6th March

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Manze has been working his way through the Vaughan Williams symphonies in his appearances with the BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra – their concert  of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth was one of the highlights of the 2012 Proms. But the main work in this Birmingham concert was not a symphony but what some Vaughan Williams enthusiasts regard as his greatest orchestral achievementJob: A Masque for Dancing. This finely judged performance, marvellously spacious and unhurried, never remotely caricatured, certainly reinforced that view of its stature.

Before it came three of Vaughan Williams’s best-known earlier pieces, which had also underlined the virtues of Manze’s forthright, determinedly unsentimental approach. There was not a trace of schmaltz about the big tune in the Wasps overture, while the outlines of the Tallis Fantasia were firm edged, with no hints of wispy pastoralism.”     …

Available to listen again on iPlayer until 12th February.

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Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson was the soloist in the ineffably beautiful The Lark Ascending and he did a splendid job. He played with expert control and no little poetry though even the beauty of his playing couldn’t quite shame the coughers into silence. Andrew Manze accompanied him with all the care and understanding of a fellow violinist and once again his pacing of the music was admirable. The central folk-like section had a nice spring to it and Jackson’s singing tone was a consistent delight. At the end, as the lark spiralled upwards on one final flight of fancy into RVW’s imagined clear summer sky it was possible to forget for a few minutes the gales and rain lashing Birmingham and much of the rest of the UK even as the performance was taking place. I’m sure Laurence Jackson appreciated the sensitive support from his CBSO colleagues; at the end his performance was warmly received – and rightly so.

 Job – A Masque for Dancing was composed between 1927 and 1930. It’s significant that RVW, with his deep appreciation of English cultural heritage, called it a ‘masque’ and not a ‘ballet’; into it he wove several old dance forms such as the Sarabande, the Pavane and the Galliard. The score is compelling on several counts. For one thing the thematic material is memorable – especially such episodes as ‘Sarabande of the Sons of God’, one of RVW’s great, broad tunes. In addition Job demonstrates the composer’s complete command of the resources of a modern symphony orchestra – and here his scoring is lavish, including a large percussion section, two harps, organ and an important saxophone part. Furthermore, it comes from a crucial period in his development. The visionary Sancta Civitas (1925) was just behind him and the Fourth Symphony (1934) and Dona nobis pacem (1936) lay not far in the future. One can hear echoes – or pre-echoes – of all these scores and much else besides in Job which, it seems to me, is a key work in Vaughan Williams’ output.

 This evening’s performance was excellent in every respect. There was a great deal of subtle and sensitive playing to admire, including the persuasive shaping of the Introduction and the Epilogue and the silky strings during ‘Job’s Dream’ (Scene IV). Among many fine solo contributions there was an eloquent oboe solo in the ‘Minuet of Job’s sons and daughters’ (Scene III). The scoring in this episode is marvellously delicate and transparent, recalling Ravel in its pastel colourings; Manze and his players delivered this passage extremely well. A highlight of the entire performance was ‘Elihu’s dance of youth and beauty’ (Scene VII). Restored to his leader’s chair, Laurence Jackson gave a superb account of the radiant violin solo. Here RVW revisits, some 16 years on, the clear blue skies of The Lark Ascending. The relationship between The Lark and this solo was emphasised by the unique opportunity to hear both in such close proximity and played by the same violinist.

 While there is a great deal of beautiful music in Job there are also many passages of great power and even brazen force, the latter chiefly associated with the character of Satan. The moment when, after Job’s patience has snapped under the weight of his trials and he curses God, there is a dread glimpse of Satan sitting on God’s throne (Scene 6) occasions a cataclysmic climax.  The cursing of God was anguished and powerful in this performance but the vision of Satan was overwhelming. Here the organ made a telling impact, pedal reeds deployed, I think, to ram home the point. At the start of this scene RVW’s use of an oily saxophone to represent Job’s comforters is a masterstroke. I think it was bass clarinettist Mark O’Brien who doubled on the saxophone at this point and his wheedling, penetrating playing was just right.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The CBSO leader Laurence Jackson’s interpretation had a quality once considered quintessentially English – the ability to convey deep emotion through understatement.

His heart was in the music not worn on the sleeve. Jackson’s lark was as lyrical and rhapsodic as one could wish and its chaste beauty was perfectly at home in the work’s dreamy summer landscape.

To begin this all-Vaughan Williams evening Andrew Manze conducted a Wasps overture which fairly fizzed along straight from its opening buzz but with a slow central section lovingly shaped and cultivated rather than left as a patch of generalized pastoral.

The CBSO’s strings excelled in the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis: the interplay between the two string orchestras and quartet section clearly delineated and eloquently articulated.”     …

*****

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Review by Ben Norris, UoB Blogfest:

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…    “This concert was part of the CBSO:2020 series, which – as the famous orchestra approaches its centenary in six years’ time – features works composed in the decade leading up to their inaugural concert in September 1920. The Lark Ascending, written in 1914 (initially for violin and piano) and arguably Vaughan Williams’s best known work, therefore formed the centrepiece of the evening. And here, unlike in Fantasia…, that desire for otherness is satisfied absolutely. At the moment, say, where the beautiful solo violin might take a phrase too many, the oboe emerges, pure and defiant. It was in this piece, and the final one, where we heard the CBSO, under Manze’s skilful guidance, at their most dexterous and antiphonally fluent. Laurence Jackson was the soloist, and he did an admirable job with a notoriously delicate part, occasionally sounding hollow or airy, but commendably never dispassionate.

The concert concluded with Job – A Masque for Dancing, which Michael Kennedy (in his excellent programme notes) calls ‘a synthesis of various elements in his [RVW’s] musical personality,’ and it was thus perfectly positioned at the end of the programme. By far the most dramatic and ambitious of the evening’s pieces, Job takes the listener on a journey too nuanced to describe in this short review, but one through which the CBSO led us expertly. Jackson – with the other excellent soloists – found full voice here, making his violin sing sweetly with the nostalgic themes of a composer whose place in the hearts of the British concert-going public appears deservedly secure.”

The Birminghan Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 6 and 7

Wednesday 20 March 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Laurence Jackson  violin

Beethoven: Romance No. 1 7′ Listen on Spotify

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral) 40′ Listen on Spotify

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7  36′ Listen on Spotify

From spring-fresh opening to serene finish, there’s no experience in music more life-affirming than Beethoven’s lovely Pastoral Symphony. And there’s none more gloriously, exuberantly, physical than his unstoppable Seventh. Andris Nelsons’ journey through Beethoven’s symphonies reaches two of the most enduringly popular masterpieces in all music; an evening of happiness and deep feeling, with – at its heart – a gentle showcase for one of Birmingham’s bestloved artists, the CBSO’s very own Laurence Jackson.

This concert is sold out. The CBSO and Andris Nelsons perform Beethoven’s Symphonies  Nos 8 & 9 (Choral) on 27 & 29 June, or enjoy an Italian-inspired programme including Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony with Andris Nelsons on 8 & 9 May.

A fresh look at Beethoven’s Symphonies – Andris Nelsons & the CBSO Part of The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, click here to see the full Cycle guide.

Sponsored by BarclaysThe  Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity  of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

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Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons continued his Beethoven cycle with deeply personal and thrilling accounts of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies to a sold-out Symphony Hall. […]

[…]      The third and fourth movements gave hints of the aggression which would later be found in the Seventh. The rural dance of the third was brisk and vigorous. Doubled up for the evening, the horns in particular skipped along boisterously, though principal Elspeth Dutch’s solos showed a beautifully legato tone. This gave way to a brutal storm, high drama which was vividly reminiscent of the same orchestra’s Flying Dutchman performance four days ago. Nelsons handled the transition to the finale with consummate care, easing into it with sublime gentleness. His micro-pauses and subtleties of phrasing were carried off with full commitment from all and with smiles passing around the string section. It was still forward-looking and full-bodied for the most part, and came to a close with glowing warmth.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This was a reading where rhythmic propulsion was coloured by  brilliantly-shaded dynamics, where phrases were given a sweep which gave the  music a life of its own, where individual contributions were never listen-to-me  obtrusive but slotted into the life-enhancing texture of music where words are  inadequate.

Joyous, yes, but with a slow movement which caught the breath.

And Nelsons, sometimes not even hectoring with a beat, probed so naturally  and instinctively to the heart of this wondrous work.”

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Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

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“Another Beethoven cycle? Not for Andris Nelsons. This is his first. He and his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra reached the Sixth and Seventh symphonies this week, with one concert left to go. After the breathless, bacchanalian frenzy which brought No 7 to a close and many in the capacity audience to their feet, it was clear something remarkable had taken place. I had to remind myself that “wow” is not yet acceptable in the critical lexicon except on Twitter.

Time and again the Latvian maestro urged the orchestra to their feet. Repeatedly they refused to budge, banging on their stands, stamping on the floor. You might think that he, not they, had made the phenomenal sounds we had just heard. In the end Nelsons wiped his brow and looked bemused, as if to acknowledge that, yes, perhaps after all he played some part in the alchemy. He took his bow, waving his hands like wings as if trying to embrace his entire orchestra.”     …

Summer Serenade

28 June 2012 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Laurence Jackson violin/director
Christopher Yates viola

Elgar: Serenade for Strings 12′
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola 30′
Barber: Adagio 7′ Listen on Spotify
Dvořák: Serenade for Strings 27′

Some music just says “summer”. Elgar and Dvorák both loved the countryside, and in their lovely Serenades for Strings, you can practically smell the blossom and hear the bees. The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson takes his colleagues through the kind of music that musicians love to play – and plays one of the solo parts in Mozart’s magnificent Sinfonia Concertante. And as for Barber’s Adagio – well, there’s a good reason why it features in so many “Relaxing Classics” albums. Enjoy!

 

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“This afternoon sees Chris Yates, co-principal viola with the CBSO, join forces with the orchestra’s concertmaster, Laurence Jackson, for a performance of one of Mozart’s greatest works (and therefore obviously one of the greatest works ever written), the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, K364.  […]

[…]    ““Now, what can I say about Andris’s time so far? It’s like a combination of his two predecessors for me. Flair, burning passion, exquisite intensity coupled with accuracy, hopefully. An unbeatable and almost unbearable sensory satisfaction. Could we ask for more?” “

Nordic Odyssey

NORDIC ODYSSEY

Thursday 10 March 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin

Sibelius: The Oceanides 10′
Nielsen: Violin Concert 35′
Sørensen: Exit Music (UK Premiere) 13′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 31′ Listen
requires Real Player

A glowing sunrise, a flight of swans, the endless stillness of the great
northern forests…different listeners have heard many things in
Sibelius’s Fifth. But you don’t have to see any images at all to be
overwhelmed by the freshness, the beauty and the elemental power of
this majestic 20th century symphony. It’s the climax of a concert that
positively surges with the forces of nature, from Sibelius’s luminous
Mediterranean seascape, through Nielsen’s wonderfully original violin
concerto (a splendid showcase for CBSO leader Laurence Jackson)
and a freshly-minted classic by one of Denmark’s most accessible
contemporary masters. Conductor Ilan Volkov has gripped CBSO
audiences in Mahler and Shostakovich; expect passionately committed
performances of this supremely original music.

We regret to announce that Ilan Volkov, who was due to conduct this concert, has withdrawn due to illness. We are very grateful to Michael Seal, CBSO Associate Conductor, who has agreed to conduct the concert at short notice. There is no change to the advertised programme. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/03/18/review-nordic-odyssey-cbso-at-symphony-hall-65233-28340191/

…   “Here we have a consummate soloist, always giving his all with exquisite tone, immaculate intonation and breathtaking imagination.”  […]

[…]  Finally to round off an epic evening a no-holds-barred performance of Sibelius’ Symphony No 5, beginning with pristine intonation from winds, then onto shimmering immaculate unison strings in the scherzo. From buzzing violas, faultless pizzicatos and hardly audible CBSO pianissimos – wonderful in Symphony Hall –to the devastating heart-pounding climax after the triumphant key change in the finale. This was a performance to remember.”

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