Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 3

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

and Competitions highlights

Tuesday 1st March, 2016

Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy conductor
Vikingur Ólafsson piano

Rachmaninov The Rock 18’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 2 21’
Rachmaninov Symphony No 3 39’


Víkingur Ólafsson’s encore – Rameau – Le Rappel des Oiseaux

A song of exile; bittersweet, jazzy and heartbreakingly lyrical. Vladimir Ashkenazy adores it, and few living conductors match his understanding and empathy for this music.If you don’t already know Rachmaninov’s Third,this performance with the Philharmonia might just make you fall in love.


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “But there was nothing comical about their partnership in Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, Ashkenazy collaborating with experienced insight, Olafsson ruminative and fiercely attacking by turns (and his thumbs must be among the most elastic in the business), taking self-possessed ownership of a work which remains bitty, for all its thematic unity.

At the top of its musicianly form, the Philharmonia responded thrillingly to the score’s proto-Wagnerian orchestral writing, with full marks to the cello soloist.

Olafsson gave us a delightful encore in the shape of a miniature by Jean-Philippe Rameau. When’s the last time we heard anything of that baroque master in Symphony Hall?

Both pianist and conductor had the courtesy to turn and acknowledge the audience in the choir-stalls; not all performers do that. And Ashkenazy, brimming with enthusiasm, gave virtual embraces to the entire audience and his orchestra after the two Rachmaninov works which framed this memorable evening.

The Rock, a Tchaikovskyian rarity (indeed, much admired by that composer) was warmly, engagingly delivered, with frolicsome flute and clarinet solos, and a genuine sense of ongoing narrative.”     …

Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

BICS 2015/16 –

Valery Gergiev conducts the Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Competitions highlights

Wednesday 28th October

Symphony Hall

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev conductor
Lucas Debargue piano
Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar baritone
Clara-Jumi Kang violin
George Li piano
Yulia Matochkina mezzo soprano
Alexander Ramm cello

Debussy Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune 10’
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Roccoco Theme 18’
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor 28’
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 (2nd Movement)
Verdi Overture to La forza del Destino 8’
Tchaikovsky Joan’s aria from Maid of Orleans 7’
Tchaikovsky Yeletsky’s aria from Queen of Spades 6’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat major 19’


Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra are bywords for energy, passion and the kind of red-blooded, life-or-death commitment that only Russian artists can deliver. And in Tchaikovsky’s anniversary year, the Competition named after him is still probably the world’s most prestigious music contest.

XV International Tchaikovsky Competition winners
The six winners that will be performing were announced in July 2015 from each of the following categories: piano, violin, cello, male voice, female voice and are as follows:

Exclusive:The artist Norman Perryman, whose paintings of conductors and soloists (including Valery Gergiev) are displayed throughout Symphony Hall, has a new book, which is currently on sale at the Symphony Hall shop. Norman will be signing copies as well as prints from the shop before and after this concert. For more on this click here.


Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “French pianist Lucas Debargue only managed 4th prize, but seized everyone’s attention at the competition, and his sensational performance here of Scarbo from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit showed why. He portrayed the sinister apparitions of the magic dwarf Scarbo with a fevered intensity that made one’s skin prickle.

Just as impressive in a different way was Clara-Jumi Kang, a German violinist of Korean parentage. Like Debargue she won only 4th prize, a decision which seems even more mystifying in the light of her performance last night of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. To capture this work’s impetuous energy and undercurrent of sadness, all within a tone of relaxed seraphic grace is a feat very few violinists can manage, but she is certainly one of them.

To see the final rounds of this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition, visit tch15.medici.tv/en

Stephen Hough in Recital

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,
SoundBite, Piano Highlights and Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16

Monday 26th October, 2015

Symphony Hall

Stephen Hough piano

Schubert Sonata in A minor D784 22’
Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue 22’
Debussy Estampes 13’
Liszt Valse Oubliées Nos 1 and 2 3’ & 6’
Transcendental Etude No 11 (harmonies du soir) 10’
Transcendental Etude No 10 5’


Stephen Hough is a phenomenon: a pianist of astonishing technical skill with the ability to find profundity in even the flashiest of keyboard fireworks. Tonight he traces the darkness-to-light journeys of three great pianist-composers, and gives a recital that explores every side of his artistic personality: thinker, creator and consummate virtuoso.

Daniil Trifonov Plays Liszt

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite,

Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Piano Music

Wednesday 1st October

Town Hall, Birmingham

Daniil Trifonov piano

J S Bach Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, Great (arr Liszt) 8’
Rachmaninov Variations on a Theme of Chopin
Liszt 12 Études d’exécution transcendante 65’

Encore – Rachmaninov – Bach Gavotte

Daniil Trifonov is surely one of the most talked-about pianists of our time, and what more thrilling way to open the 2014/15 Birmingham International Concert Season than with his first ever solo recital in Birmingham?

Bach and (Beethoven Piano Sonata in C Minor replaced by Rachmaninov) demonstrate the depth of his insight; Liszt’s Transcendental Études reveal the full, dazzling extent of his virtuosity.



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“For Liszt, the piano was “an object to be transformed into an orchestra, turned into the elements, lifted into the spheres” wrote Alfred Brendel. Often during Daniil Trifonov’s towering traversal of the complete Transcendental Etudes the young Russian succeeded in doing just that. His snowstorm in Chasse-Neige chilled and raged – the piano producing an amazing infernal howling.

The galloping horses careered and thundered in Mazeppa but Trifonov didn’t just stun and amaze, he seduced us with a beautiful limpid tone as when the theme is temporarily tamed and transformed and Liszt asks for it to be sung Il canto espressivo. The contrasted sections in Wilde Jagd were just as sensitively executed while the will-o-the-wisps in Feux follets were nimble, gossamer-light and utterly captivating.”     …


Telling Tales

Thursday 24 March 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel 16′ Listen
requires Real Player
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 22”
Dvořák: The Water Goblin 20”
Janácek: Taras Bulba 25′

Once upon a time… four composers set out to tell a story. Richard
Strauss told the tale of a famous prankster, in some of his cheekiest and
most playful music. Antonín Dvorák turned to Czech folklore, to spin a
spine-chilling fairy-tale complete with storms, goblins and an underwater
wedding. Leos Janácek splashed great buckets of dazzling orchestral
colour all over one of the most savage episodes in Russian history. And
Franz Liszt… well, rumour had it that he was in league with Satan
anyway! Peter Donohoe brings his trademark keyboard devilry to Liszt’s
outrageous Second Concerto. For this evening of orchestral music at its
most extravagantly entertaining, CBSO Assistant Conductor Michael
Seal is your storyteller… so, if you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin!

Peter Donahoe’s Encore -‘Les jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este’, from Années de Pèlerinage Book 3 by Liszt

Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:


…   “Seal truly captured the haunting eerie tale of Dvorak’s Water Goblin ably abetted by finely-tuned woodwind teamwork, vivid brass and well-balanced top quality string playing.

More death in Taras Bulba with splendid battle scenes and magnificent brass.

Typical high pitched exciting timpani writing and intermittent tubular bells from composer Janácek added to the whole, as did lovely violin solos from Zoë Beyers.”    …

Pappano Conducts Mahler 1

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Sat 19 Mar 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome
Antonio Pappano conductor
Boris Berezovsky piano

Verdi Aida Sinfonia 12’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 20’
Mahler Symphony No 1 53’

Finmeccanica is the main sponsor of Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome.

Encores – Berezovsky with orchestra – Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 finale

Orchestra – Rossini, Puccini,

One of Italy’s most celebrated orchestras contributes the First Symphony to Birmingham’s Mahler Cycle under the inspiring baton of its Music Director Antonio Pappano (also renowned as Music Director of the Royal Opera House). Joyous and optimistic, opening with an evocation of dawn, it closes with a roof-raising finale. And, to open the concert, there is a rarity: the orchestral Sinfonia that Verdi made from his ever-popular Aida – music that is in the very blood of these players.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:
“Who better than the fiercely talented Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to tease the sunshine out of these exciting masterpieces? And who better, too, to bring the passion to Liszt’s mighty First Piano Concerto than the fiery Russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky?”

‘Anyone who still believes that the words “Italian orchestra” and “technical precision” do not belong in the same sentence should have heard the performance of Guillaume Tell. Santa Cecilia Orchestra is fleet and wonderfully together, with crunch, buoyancy, a keen sense of collective phrasing and its own very distinctive sound.’ Financial Times

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:


“There was much to admire in this Italian orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, especially the final blazing peroration.

The horns and brass section stood up to play the thunderous final bars: not as a piece of crude showmanship to get the audience cheering, although it succeeded in doing that, but in strict adherence to the composer’s wishes.

It was an indication of conductor Antonio Pappano’s unfailing attention to detail.

He ensured that we heard genuine pianissimos and triple fortes.”   …..

Review by Christopher Thomas, MusicWeb:


…   “It’s a quote that could equally be applied to Anglo-Italian Antonio Pappano, whose magnificently colourful account of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in the second half of this concert drew an inspired response from the orchestra and brought a proportion of the audience to its feet in Symphony Hall.
  Pappano’s mere presence in front of the orchestra seemed to ignite its Italian passion, drawing a sound that was uniquely theirs as its bloom and hues of burnished gold called to mind the Roman sun that has been an ever present part of the orchestra’s existence since its inception in 1885.    […]

[…] Berezovsky plays with an almost complete absence of gestural histrionics, his body rarely moving as he powered his way with magnificent weight and purpose through the outer movements. Yet as a result the stark contrast of the Quasi Adagio proved to be all the more impressive, with the pianist’s sensitivity and nuance of colour and shade marking his playing out as a shining example of textural control and contrast.

Pappano’s “Titan” cleansed the soul like a breath of fresh alpine air; invigorating, bitter-sweet, joyous and ultimately life affirming, the beauty of the sound Pappano drew from his forces was a thing of wonder, directed with understated yet always compelling gestures in the third movement and clear, intensely focused precision and communicative clarity in the stormy Finale. ”   …

 Review for same programme, different venue, by Edward Seckerson, Independent:


…   “Those strings sang the second subject of the finale like a bel canto aria and I liked Pappano’s volatile way with the big tempo contrasts. It was bold, big-hearted, a little rash, thoroughly Mahlerian.”

Review for same programme, different venue, by Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource:


…   “Thus the dawning and distance (trumpets ideally far-away) that breathes Mahler 1 into life were palpably atmospheric, the listener drawn in to a performance that was deliciously buoyant, delicately traced, shimmering, unforced in climaxes (but with no lack of heft) and earthy, bucolic and macabre as required – full marks for having a solo double bass at the beginning of the third movement (the use of tutti basses, a fairly recent Mahlerian tweak, now discredited). The finale erupted as it should, but was always generated from within, the slower music then teased by Pappano and played ravishingly by the strings (violins ideally antiphonal), but no mere interludes.”   …