Brahms and Sibelius

Thursday 14 January 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin
Ulrich Heinen  cello

Brahms: Academic Festival Overture 10′
Brahms: Double Concerto 31′
Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela 10′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 31′ Listen
requires Real Player

Lots of composers have been given honorary degrees – but only Johannes Brahms responded by writing an overture full of student drinking songs! His Academic Festival Overture is a hilarious one-in-the-eye for those who think of Brahms as stuffy – and so’s his gorgeous, deeply romantic Double Concerto. And then, conductor Vassily Sinaisky tackles two real CBSO trademarks. The Swan of Tuonela is a darkly beautiful meditation on mortality; the mighty Fifth Symphony, meanwhile is one of 20th century’s most dynamic and life-affirming masterpieces – with a finale that will stay with you forever.

Review by Christoper Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”This was a reading of the utmost empathy, unforced and subtle, with Heinen bringing a Bachian inwardness to Brahms’ cello writing, Jackson a sweet purity which must surely have come from the spirit of Joseph Joachim, the great violinist to whom the piece was a peace-offering after a huge rift between Brahms and this man who was one of his greatest advocates.
Vassily Sinaisky conducted an attentive and willing CBSO, preceding the Concerto with a deliciously understated, ultimately assertive Brahms Academic Festival Overture. “…

CBSO, Andris Nelsons, Richard Strauss CD

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

to be released 11th January 2010, though some copies available from THe SHop at Symphony Hall, now!

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”After hearing this extraordinary account of the Rosenkavalier Suite I literally had to stop for breath after so much visceral, almost physical excitement, about which more anon. So be advised.   …

In this performance Nelsons and the CBSO give us a roller coaster ride through a kaleidoscope of emotions where hedonism, regret and reflection all combine in an irresistible creamy concoction.

And, forgive the imagery, that is where we begin, with a prelude in which orgasmic horns, foaming, quivering woodwind, and strings wedging inwards towards each other depict the final ecstasies of the gracious Marschallin and her young lover Octavian.  …


…. And it is her complex character that the solo violin has to represent, and Jackson does this with virtuosity, brightness of articulation, and a remarkable sweetness and depth of tone.

The opening of Ein Heldenleben is notoriously difficult to bring off, with its unison strings needing to phrase and breathe as one. Nelsons achieves this magnificently….. and proceeds to unfold the music’s picaresque paragraphs with a firm strength of vision and grasp. “…

Review by Geoff Brown, The Times:

“Still, those clapping hands were deserved, for this account of Strauss’s orchestral epic, edited from two Birmingham concerts last June, stands as one of the most sumptuous and refined ever put on to disc.  …

… Subtle it isn’t, but the conviction of Nelson’s troops is overwhelming enough to bring sweat to your brow. The whooping horns at the start rival any sound from the orchestral aristocrats of Berlin or Vienna. The CBSO is just as impressive in delicate mode. …

…This level of achievement can come only when orchestra and conductor feel the work as one and are in the grip of genuine excitement, not duty.”

Review by Geoffrey Norris, Telegraph:

“These stirring performances come from concerts in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and testify to the rapport the Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has established with the CBSO. Passion, glowing sonority and sophisticated texture are embodied in the playing of the suite from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. The dramatic denouements exude exhilarating energy, with wonderfully whooping horns at the start and a real feel for theatrical thrust after. The orchestral timbres in Strauss’s more delicately scored passages are delineated with a sharp ear, blending or emerging in polished, shapely soloistic fashion.”…

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…”I’ve certainly been missing something: these performances of Ein Heldenleben and the Rosenkavalier Suite, taken from concerts in Symphony Hall, Birmingham last year, stand comparison with almost any versions already in the catalogue. The sound is wonderfully clear and detailed and the playing sumptuous, and Nelsons quite obviously revels in the sentimental excesses of both works.” …

Review by Hugo Shirley,

…”It’s the sheer quality of the playing that makes the greatest impression in the first, the Rosenkavalier Suite, captured in wonderfully clear and airy sound. Nelsons admits in a booklet interview that he is yet to conduct the opera in the theatre and this is apparent in his approach to the suite, which is performed as an unashamed show-piece.  …

…The contributions of Laurence Jackson on solo violin are outstanding, too, and he makes light of the role’s technical difficulties to give an unusually tender and sympathetic account of the ‘hero’s companion’. ” …

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