Sir Simon Rattle conducts The Dream of Gerontius

BICS 2015/16

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

Tuesday 8th September

Symphony Hall

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Magdalena Kožená mezzo-soprano
Toby Spence tenor
Roderick Williams baritone
BBC Proms Youth Choir

Elgar The Dream of Gerontius 100’

Sir Simon Rattle returns to the hall he was so instrumental in the creation of, with one of the world’s greatest orchestras, three world-class soloists, and a massed choir drawn from the entire UK.

The work? Elgar’s supreme choral masterpiece, The Dream of Gerontius. It’s been performed many times in Birmingham since its premiere here in 1900 – but never quite like this.

Self-recommending.

At the bottom of his completed Gerontius manuscript, Elgar scribbled a few lines of Ruskin, including the words, ‘this is the best of me.’ Few would argue with him – this extraordinary oratorio, first premiered in Birmingham in 1900, is arguably Elgar’s finest work, and with former CBSO conductor Sir Simon Rattle at the helm, his great masterpiece really is ‘coming home.’

BBC Music Magazine Editor | Oliver Condy

Choir, Choir boxes and Stalls front four rows not available.
We are very grateful to Mrs Julian Blackwell for her generous support of this concert.

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

“It is always fascinating to hear great European orchestras play Elgar. Twenty-five years ago, Simon Rattle performed and recorded The Dream of Gerontius in Birmingham with his then orchestra, the CBSO. Now returning to the city and the work, he had the tonal resources of the Vienna Philharmonic at his disposal, and certainly made full use of them – encouraging the richest, dark string tone in the prelude to the first part of the oratorio, and allowing the brass to exert a wonderfully controlled authority in the climaxes.

That soundworld provided the foundation for a performance of persuasive dramatic power and sometimes enormous intensity. Rattle nowadays has a tendency to mould musical paragraphs in a slightly self-conscious, expressive way, but there wasn’t too much evidence of that here. Toby Spence was the Gerontius, and though his voice is not that of a heldentenor, his musicality and suave, even tone were more than ample compensation; only his outburst at Sanctus Fortis could have done with a bit more urgency and heft. Roderick Williams was the Priest and the Angel of the Agony, and added a dark edge to his normally honey-light baritone without losing any of his attention to verbal detail, or his perfect balance of every phrase.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The Dream of Gerontius is a work which lives and breathes through its orchestral fabric, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra did its textures and timbres proud. What a difference various conductors make: I have heard this august orchestra sound dire under certain carvers, but Simon Rattle here encouraged the players to breathe life into this amazing score, realising that there are not just Wagnerian undercurrents to tickle their fancy but also so many other genuine depths of utterance. Particular praise to the lower strings for authority and presence.

Orchestrally this was a triumph, and almost so chorally, too. The fresh voices of the BBC Proms Youth Choir under the expert tutelage of Simon Halsey sounded wonderfully innocent as Angelicals, but were too many, and perhaps too unspoilt, to spit out the venom of the Demons’ Chorus with any harsh snarlings in the perfectly-judged acoustic of Symphony Hall. Things might be better in the vast reaches of the Royal Albert Hall when this performance is repeated at the BBC Proms on Friday.”     …

Rattle’s Bach

Saturday 6 March 2010 at 7.00pm

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

Sir Simon Rattle  conductor
Camilla Tilling  soprano
Magdalena Kozená  mezzo-soprano
Mark Padmore  tenor, EVANGELIST
Topi Lehtipuu  tenor
Christian Gerhaher  baritone, CHRISTUS
Thomas Quasthoff  baritone
CBSO Chorus   
CBSO Children’s Chorus  

Bach: St. Matthew Passion (sung in English with German surtitles 151′

In the whole of music there’s nothing else quite like it: Bach’s dramatic re-telling of the events of Holy Week has a power and expressive beauty that add up to an overwhelming experience. Returning to the CBSO for the first time in four years, our former music director Sir Simon Rattle leads an outstanding international cast and our own acclaimed choruses in what is sure to be one of the hottest tickets of this or any season – be sure to book early! www.cbso.co.uk

This concert will be broadcast on Radio 3 on Wednesday 10th March from 6:30pm            http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r8b5r

Review by Richard Morrison, Times:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/classical/article7053007.ece

…”It was also, overwhelmingly, a communal act of music making. Yes, there were superb individuals. Mark Padmore, perhaps with Langridge in mind, sang the Evangelist with mesmerising expression, clarity and directness — and all from memory. Christian Gerhaher’s Christus became more and more commanding; his final cry of despair seemed torn from deep within him.

Magdalena Kozená produced one heartbreaking aria after another. She is twice the singer when she commits emotionally. And in Erbarme dich she was matched by Laurence Jackson’s sublime violin solo, the best of many fine instrumental contributions from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.” …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/mar/09/cbso-rattle-review

…”Much of the solo singing was exceptional. Mark Padmore’s Evangelist was a remarkable achievement, sung from memory with crystal-clear diction and a fabulous range of colour, while Christian Gerhaher’s Christus was the perfect complement, a model of understated eloquence. Magdalena Kozˇená’s mezzo-soprano arias were highlights, too, full of consoling warmth and consistent beauty of tone, and both soprano Camilla Tilling and tenor Topi Lehtipuu combined stylishness with expressive depth.” …

Blog by Judith Ogden:

http://www.judithogden.co.uk/

…”As Simon Rattle stepped up to the podium for his eagerly-awaited return the warmth of the applause was almost overwhelming. And then on to the music. From the outset, the clarity of the orchestra – playing without vibrato and with such exquisitely perfect intonation – was breathtaking. It meant you get past the notes and can hear the music. Rattle’s conducting style is so familiar (I’ve only seem him live once before but he seems to pop up on the telly quite frequently) yet so unexpected as he found depths, phrases, nuances in the score I’d never heard before – coaxing them from the orchestra with a lean towards them, a raise of an eyebrow, the fluttering fingers of his left hand.” …

Review by Bill Kenny, MusicWeb:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2010/Jan-Jun10/rattle0703.htm

…”Even so, a  better Evangelist than Mark Padmore is difficult to imagine. Placed in front of the podium and singing the work from memory, his effortless tenor filled  the Hall with drama and with exquisite sound. Every word in the text was meaningful and compelling, full of interest and empathic sensitivity shaded carefully by ever-changing vocal colours. Mr Padmore knows this music inside out and clearly cares about it very deeply. … 
…  Fine as the solo singing was,  the evening belonged to the CBSO’s players and singers and to Simon Rattle. The bond between musicians and their former Chief Conductor seemed as strong as ever and Rattle’s direction was model of quietly authoritative economy. His stamp was placed firmly on the work from the opening bars of ‘Kommt, ihr Töchter helft mir klagen’ through to the final choruses: conducting without a baton and with minimalist gesture,  he sculpted ravishing and superbly controlled sound from his massive forces – no historically ‘correct’ performance this – to sustain the work’s momentum as an organic whole.” …

Review by Lynne Walker, The Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/rattlest-matthew-passion-symphony-hall-birmingham-1918801.html

“Rattle’s Bach” is how the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra publicised its St. Matthew Passion at the weekend. It could as easily have been “Rattle’s Passion”, given the spontaneity and cumulative emotional power which distinguished the first of two sold-out performances of this baroque choral masterpiece. The CBSO, playing on modern instruments, showed that exquisitely voiced accompaniments, sensitively shaped and sympathetically phrased, needn’t be the preserve of period instrument orchestras.” …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/03/12/review-bach-s-st-matthew-passion-cbso-sir-simon-rattle-at-symphony-hall-65233-26012741/

…”Engagement from the soloists was vivid, baritone Thomas Quasthoff particularly involved, but outstanding among them all was Mark Padmore. Singing the huge part of the Evangelist without a score, his presence compelled throughout all three hours of the performance: even when not singing himself, he was constantly immersed, and frequently outraged, at the unfolding of this terrible story.” …