Dresden Philharmonic perform Mendelssohn and Brahms

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

Sunday 21st June

Symphony Hall

Dresden Philharmonic
Michael Sanderling Principal Conductor
Bertrand de Billy Principal Guest Conductor
Kurt Masur Conductor Laureate
Frauke Roth General Director
Arabella Steinbacher violin

Beethoven –   Egmont Overture   9’

Mendelssohn –   Violin Concerto   23’

Brahms –  Symphony No 4     39’

Arabella Steinbacher’s encore – Prokofiev – Solo Violin Sonata, First Movement

Dresden Philharmonic’s encore – Rossini – William Tell Overture, Final

Dresden is a hallowed name in the world of classical music, and its conductor Michael Sanderling, too, comes from a fabled musical family. Together, Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic dig down to the very roots of the German symphonic canon; masterpieces by Beethoven and Brahms frame Arabella Steinbacher’s gloriously fresh take on Mendelssohn’s ever-popular Violin Concerto.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

Arabella Steinbacher is one of the leading violinists of her generation, famed for her passionate performances of Classical and Romantic concertos. This programme promises to showcase that passion, as Arabella performs Mendelssohn’s brilliant and much-loved Violin Concerto, joined by the Dresden Philharmonic.

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

..     “The actual opener was Beethoven‘s Egmont Overture, the slow introduction being an heroic and effective vehicle for the Dresden Philharmonic‘s rich, poised sound.  Under Michael Sanderling’s sensitive direction, and with well-handled dynamics, they evoked the drama of the story, ranging from turmoil to anguish to triumph.  The knocking effect of the string passages was very compelling, as was the closing section with full orchestra swelling with excitement.  The whole pivoted on a sudden pin-drop expectant silence.  It was a fine display of teamwork, so they could have afforded to look a little less serious.

The highlight of the evening was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, with Arabella Steinbacher‘s performance a joy to experience.  Composed for Mendelssohn’s friend Ferdinand David, who like the composer became influential in the musical life of Leipzig, the concerto is full of memorable melodies and themes.  Tonight’s interpretation demonstrated how it combines lyric ease – it simply flowed and the audience was swept along effortlessly – with virtuosity.  From the first passionate notes, Steinbacher owned the stage whilst displaying a sensitive rapport with conductor and orchestra.  There was a sense of the audience responding to her smiling disposition – we like to see our performers enjoying themselves.

There was also collective breath-holding in the crowd during the cadenza, which Steinbacher took at a stylishly unhurried pace, really making the silences count.  Some beautiful orchestral playing in the minor key led to a subtle transition by winds then strings from the Allegro into the Andante.  This movement  embodied a sense of serenity, with lovely climbing phrases which somehow felt life-affirming.  Known as a “song without words” it truly did sing its gorgeous melody.  Steinbacher brought a further joyous atmosphere to the final high-spirited movement, which fairly bounded along with a dancelike forward momentum, and was warmly applauded.  She then gave us a lovely encore in the shape of the first movement of Prokoviev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 115.  During a rendition that was both soulful and energetic, her violin seemed to be an extension of her body.”        …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The Dresden Philharmonic plays at a higher default decibel level than most other orchestras I’ve heard in over half a century (Chicago excepted). Sometimes it makes for uncomfortable listening when a concert-room has as probing an acoustic as we have in Symphony Hall.

So the opening of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture almost shocked me out of my seat, strings raspingly heavy as they dug into those portentous chords, conductor Michael Sanderling’s orchestral layout favouring double-basses making the sound-picture swing strongly to the left. I recovered in time to admire the fierce nobility of the horns as this developed into a well-defined reading.

Arabella Steinbacher was soloist in the ineffable Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, her tone rich, intonation glacially pure, her bow wielded almost like a weapon. This was a performance of huge personality, tempi deliberately unsentimentalised, musical paragraphs well contrasted, and with a first movement cadenza which was articulated in the manner of the great solo violin works by Mendelssohn’s beloved Bach.”     …

Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Saturday 18th April 2015 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor

Cédric Tiberghien  piano

CBSO Youth Chorus  

Mendelssohn: The Fair Melusina Overture 10′

Mendelssohn: String Symphony No.10 in B minor 12′

Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 20′ Listen on Spotify

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – incidental music 45′

Listen on Spotify

Cédric Tiberghien‘s encore – Bach/Siloti – Prelude in B Minor

Edward Gardner’s Mendelssohn symphony cycle was one of the real delights of last season in Birmingham. Now he teams up again with our famous Youth Chorus in its 20th anniversary year in Mendelssohn’s magical homage to Shakespeare: fairies, donkeys and that Wedding March! And we’re delighted to welcome the award-winning Cédric Tiberghien to sprinkle a different kind of magic over Mendelssohn’s sparkling First Piano Concerto.

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Review by Christopher Morley (for matinee performance of same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “This week it was the turn of the miraculous Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music, Gardner and orchestra responding gratefully to its infinite delights. Warm horns, elfin flutes (how did Marie-Christine Zupancic manage to deliver the end of the scherzo without apparently breathing?), James Sibley’s supportive tuba sturdily placed next to the bassoons, the aplomb of Andrew Herbert’s cymbals in the Wedding March, the sheer versatility of the strings, all contributed riches to this amazing score.

As did the young ladies of the CBSO Youth Chorus in that astonishing group’s 20th anniversary year, singing so clearly and articulately after Julian Wilkins’ coaching, and contributing three soloists performing with such poise and confidence, and who really should have been named in the programme.

Earlier we had relished a refreshing Fair Melusine overture and marvelled at the terse Storm and Stress of the B minor String Symphony no.10, neatly phrased and accented under Gardner.

And, above all, a bustling account of the remarkable First Piano Concerto from Cedric Tiberghien, his busy pianism encompassing both stormy rumblings and sweet domesticism,”     …

CBSO New CDs

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Volume 3 –

CBSO and CBSO Chorus with Edward Gardner and Sophie Bevan and Mary Bevan

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op.27 and Symphony No 2 in B Flat Major

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 3

is now available

Click here to buy online (all volumes here)

or visit the Symphony Hall Gift Shop

*****

Tchaikovsky – Manfred Symphony and Marche Slave –

CBSO with Andris Nelsons

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony & Marche slave

Available in the Symphony Hall Gift Shop now;

released 6th April 2015 elsewhere –

Click here to buy online

Strauss and Shakespeare

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Wednesday 18 June 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Barbara Hannigan  soprano

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture 11′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Abrahamsen: let me tell you (UK premiere) 30′
Strauss: Symphonia Domestica 44′

Richard Strauss wasn’t one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. His extraordinary Symphonia Domestica is a no-holds-barred musical diary of a day with the Strauss family, from morning lie-in through to bathtime for baby! It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and utterly OTT, and Andris Nelsons can’t wait to conduct it. First, though, come two enchanting classics – one a much-loved favourite, one freshly-written for the soprano Barbara Hanningan, but both inspired by the magic of Shakespeare.            http://www.cbso.co.uk

 

Available on Radio 3 “Live in Concert” until 25th June 2014 – here

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The result is ravishingly and astonishingly beautiful. Abrahamsen’s vocal writing makes much use of stile concitato, the repeated-note emphases that hark back to Monteverdi, and also exploits Hannigan’s ability to rise effortlessly to the limits of the soprano range. And he surrounds the voice with glistening, deliquescent textures that can seem almost weightless until a growling line in the bass brings them fluttering to earth. The music sometimes seems as much an exercise in memory as the text, touching on familiar, tonal shapes and harmonies without being explicit and embracing microtones in the final section.

Hannigan soared above it all with consummate grace and ease, while Nelsons and the orchestra made every corner of the score shine. It’s a very special piece indeed.”

*****

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “When presenting one of Richard Strauss’ lesser known tone poems, it helps to have the composer’s greatest living interpreter in total command of an orchestra on top form. And so it was with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the Symphonia Domestica under Andris Nelsons.

Andris Nelsons © Marco Borggreve

Andris Nelsons
© Marco Borggreve

 It was another of Strauss’s tone poems (Don Juan) in which Nelsons first demonstrated his affinity for the composer and established himself as the orchestra’s first choice for music director back in 2008. He is now in the process of recording a complete cycle of the tone poems with the orchestra. There is no doubt that Nelsons is able to conjure pure magic in this repertoire – he somehow becomes the music and even his crudest gestures evoke a most unanimous and convincing response from the orchestra.

Not one to shy away from self-portraits, Strauss followed up his autobiographical and fantastical epic Ein Heldenleben with a rather more mundane depiction of his home life in the Symphonia Domestica. The composer, his wife (Pauline) and his baby (Franz) all get their own leitmotifs (the former having the proudest of them all, of course). This performance was enhanced by surtitles gently informing the audience of the events occurring throughout the Strauss family’s evening, night and morning. Baby Strauss’s lullaby was gorgeously depicted on the oboe d’amore by Jennifer Galloway while his shrill cries were illustrated with brilliant woodwind trills and piercing trumpet notes.

The first part of the piece has the character of a first class cartoon soundtrack and every detail was vividly realised by the orchestra, the E flat clarinet playing by Joanna Patton being a real highlight. The CBSO strings were at their sumptuous best in the rather more adult-themed central love scene, in which it is clear that baby Franz is well and truly asleep. Nelsons encouraged a glorious tutti sound from the orchestra both here and in Strauss’ preposterously grandiloquent coda. I found myself marvelling at the spectacle of Strauss’ riotously colourful score, which is too clever by half in the hilarious double fugue ‘quarrel’ scene. I doubt I’ll ever hear this more convincingly done .”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “More such ethereal goings-on had opened the concert with an account of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826) that, if it marginally undersold the more expressive and heroic facets, was alive to those fantastical aspects that are to the fore throughout much of its length.

After the interval, Nelsons continued his traversal of Strauss’s orchestral output with the least-often heard of the composer’s later tone poems. Perhaps the indulgent scenario of Symphonia Domestica (1903) has militated against its being taken seriously, though such a narrative need not impede appreciation of one of Strauss’s most immediately enjoyable scores – its four main sections a day in the life of a bourgeois couple as well as the nearest approximation to a four-movement symphony in his maturity. So the exposition of amiably contrasted themes is put through its developmental paces in a lively scherzo, then a lullaby initiates the ‘love scene’ which acts as an extended interlude prior to the finale that reprises the main ideas with a cumulative excitement spilling over into the effervescent coda.

For all its equanimity, Symphonia Domestica is among Strauss’s most contrapuntally exacting scores and, while not all its textural problems were clarified here (a pity, too, that the quartet of saxophones did not make its insinuating presence felt more keenly), the balance between short-term incident and long-term cohesion was impressively brought off – making one look forward to its release on Orfeo in due course.”      …

 

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Review by Geoff Brown, Times (££):

Click here for full review

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard – for matinee performance, which included the Strauss:

Click here for full review

…     “But how much there was in Strauss. The whispers of Glockenspiel that sound the hours (seven-seven) for little Franz’s overnight dormition; the fabulous lilt at the start (like Don Quixote) of cellos (under Eduardo Vassallo), then oboes (Rainer Gibbons and Emmet Byrne, particularly tremendous on this occasion with both oboe d’amore (Jennifer Galloway) and cor anglais (Jill Crowther).

Add Jackson’s fabulously expressive solos (they are Sakari standard); the exquisite descending Wiegenlied – which links, organically, with other sections; and a hard-worked E flat and  bass clarinet (Joanna Patton, Mark O’Brien) – more telling than the four saxophones, which got to my ears got slightly clouded till near the end. When the tuba (Graham Sibley) gets his own bow, you know there’s been, in Nelsons’ view, some pretty extraordinary chemistry. He should know. He generates it.”

 

 

Mendelssohn in Birmingham: Hymn of Praise

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Thursday 13th February 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor

Sophie Bevan  soprano

Mary Bevan  soprano

Benjamin Hulett  tenor

CBSO Chorus  

CBSO Youth Chorus  

Mendelssohn: Overture, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage 13′

Mendelssohn: Two Motets, Op. 39 12′

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 (Hymn of Praise) 65′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Felix Mendelssohn was   one of the greatest natural talents in the history of music. So when he challenged   Beethoven at his own game… well hear for yourself! Hymn of Praise is   Mendelssohn’s very own Choral Symphony. Birmingham audiences of 1840 adored   it – and you will too, as Edward Gardner, the massed CBSO choruses and three   first-rate soloists bring our Mendelssohn cycle to Symphony Hall. Two delightful   rediscoveries complete a really joyous evening of music.

We are sorry to announce that Robert Murray has had to withdraw from this  concert due to ill health. We are very grateful to Benjamin Hulett for taking   his place at short notice. Read about Benjamin here.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Der Rosenkavalier, Saturday   24th May

Strauss and Shakespeare, Wednesday   18th June

Mozart’s C minor Mass, Thursday   26th June

www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO chorus’s considerable numbers risked being a little too resonant, but the sound was glorious; their contrapuntal lines were cleanly articulated, and they coped well with Gardner’s lively tempi. Seamlessly moving from one number into the next also helped things flow as never before. Tenor Benjamin Hulett and sopranos Sophie and Mary Bevan all projected the English words with intelligent, expressively shaped phrasing, and, in Gardner’s authoritative hands, new life was breathed into a work that suddenly seemed wrongly neglected.

By way of preface, Gardner had brought a similar airiness to Mendelssohn’s overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, its opening stillness wonderfully controlled. The fresh, bright girls’ voices of the CBSO Youth Chorus sang his Two Motets, Op 39, with elan and two solo sopranos emerging in the Tulerunt Dominum to show great promise. An uplifting evening.”

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…    “There are extraordinary things in the three-movement instrumental opening to the symphony: so interesting one might almost think, had the work remained unfinished, it might still have merited attention like Schubert’s 8th, and still had its distinctive Lutheran hue. Gardner kept it all measured; bits that might have run away higgledy-piggledy never did so. The Allegretto ‘un poco agitato’, an all but Tchaikovskian waltz, should sound wonderful on disc; it did here, rendered all the more impressive in that Gardner periodically ceased to beat at all, teasingly letting his players play. The ensuing adagio was all the more impressive for managing to infiltrate the CBSO’s sensitive contrabassoon player, Margaret Cookhorn, into it without scarcely being heard at all.

Congenial though two significant solos from soprano Sophie Bevan were, I found her timbre in the finale edgy, perhaps not her best, compared with her finer-honed sister Mary Bevan (who sang the lower line of the duet ‘I waited for the Lord’, where they matched each other to perfection, with fine horn obbligato). The most satisfying soloist – standing in for the originally designated Robert Murray – was tenor Benjamin Hulett, always endowed with a particularly beautiful sound, but now with a meaningful dramatic edge honed by four years with the Hamburg Opera. Hulett’s virtual dramatic scena, ‘The sorrows of death’, was in its way a triumph; but then so was his nobly delivered preceding recitative; and his start, with Gardner, to ‘My song shall always’ – perilous at the best of times – was a case of perfect mutual osmosis.

The CBSO chorus vociferously witnessed the night departing (surely a Victorian and Edwardian hit chorus, even though the – then – City of Birmingham Orchestra perplexingly never assayed it in full till the Second World War); but the choral plum was the late extended hymn Nun Danket (here ‘Let all men praise the Lord’), sung a cappella with pleasing finesse and a wonderful feel for dynamics instilled by a batonless Gardner – an assured choral director not least. Additional credit to Julian Wilkins’s CBSO Youth Chorus, who with their trainer at the organ served up two rare Mendelssohn Latin motets, in which their part singing was confident, their distinctive sound at the start and end firm and nicely forthright, and whose soloists – one semichoral quartet, and – above all a-  tantalising duet in ‘Tulerunt Dominum’, effortlessly filling the huge hall, were all but fabulous.”

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Whatever else, Edward Gardner’s was a reading that admitted of little false opulence and absolutely no sentimentality. Although comparisons with Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony were made right at the outset, Mendelssohn’s designation of his work as a ‘symphony-cantata’ leaves little doubt as to his intentions. The first three movements have an essentially introductory purpose – the initial bars setting out the imposing trombone theme which returns across the work and provides a ‘motto’ for all that is to come, followed by an Allegro where Gardner was particularly felicitous during the transition from the hectic development to the easeful re-emergence of the second theme. In the Allegretto, typically Mendelssohn in its synthesis of scherzo and intermezzo, he rightly brought out the shifting unease implied by its ‘un poco agitato’ qualification – and with the Adagio a song-without-words whose ‘religioso’ marking was never an excuse for indulgence. The arrival of the choral ‘finale’ was the more arresting through Gardner’s refusal to overdo the rhetoric in one of the composer’s most striking transitions.

The main problem henceforth is to prevent the vocal numbers from seeming arbitrary in their follow-through. That this did not happen here was owing to the swift though not inflexible tempos Gardner favoured, as well as a subtly changing expressive emphasis so that constituent sections cohered into a balanced and cumulative whole. He was aided by mellifluous singing from Sophie Bevan – her limpid tone complemented by the darker timbre of Mary Bevan in their poignant duet and an eloquent showing from Benjamin Hulett (replacing Robert Murray at short notice) in the ‘Watchman’ aria that was one of Mendelssohn’s inspired additions in 1841. The CBSO Chorus was assuredly not lacking impact in the energetic settings, while the chorale “Let all men praise the Lord” avoided stolidity through its unforced pacing and luminous accompaniment. Redolent of Handel while anticipating Brahms, the final fugue was vividly rendered – with the climactic return of the initial theme making for a decisive apotheosis. Whether or not a masterpiece, Hymn of Praise remains a work to reckon with.”     …

Mendelssohn in Birmingham: The Italian Symphony

19 October 2013 at 3.00pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Edward Gardner  conductor

Baiba Skride  violin

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 (Italian) 26′

Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto 27′

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 (Reformation) 30′

Unfortunately, Veronika Eberle has had to withdraw from this concert due to ill health. We are very grateful to Baiba Skride who has agreed to take her place at short notice.

Prodigy,  dreamer and master of melody – it’s no wonder that Felix Mendelssohn was Victorian  Britain’s favourite composer. And when the Italian Symphony bursts into  sparkling life, you’ll understand the reason, as Edward Gardner launches our Mendelssohn  Symphony Cycle in exuberant style. Baiba Skride is the soloist in Mendelssohn’s  Violin Concerto, performed today on the very spot where Mendelssohn conducted  some of his greatest works: Town Hall, Birmingham.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Nelsons conducts Brahms’s Fourth, Wednesday 6th November

Mozart and Elgar, Thursday 20th February

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday 6th March

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“Mendelssohn to Thrill Birmingham, like he used to” –

Click here for article by Christopher Morley (in conversation with Edward Gardner), Birmingham Post

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The tarantella-inspired finale was taken attacca and was daringly swift. This movement is a reminder of Mendelssohn’s talent for motoric writing (marked by a repetitive beat that sounds mechanical), here proving no problem for the players in their dispatch of the dazzling, whirling triplets. I was struck, as on previous occasions, by the way in which Gardner generates excitement in symphonies: choosing an over-arching tempo that is just right for a movement with subtle, if any, deviations, ensuring that the architecture of the music is very much in evidence through careful balancing and then really injecting energy and drive into climactic moments.

Baiba Skride was the last minute replacement for indisposed violinist, Veronika Eberle. There was no sign of hasty preparation in this very fine performance. Skride’s sweet and cultured tone was ideally suited to the concerto’s blend of pathos and consolation. Her transitions into the sublime second subject and out of the cadenza were magical; the undulating spread chords of the latter blending perfectly into the orchestral reprise.

Once again, an ideally flowing tempo was found in the Andante second movement. Mendelssohn’s skilful orchestration here finds the soloist often minimally accompanied by lower string pizzicato chords, timpani strokes and solo woodwind lines interrupted by full orchestral surges, here given with no shortage of passion. After a sighing intermezzo, the playful finale was heralded by trumpet fanfares (players sporting suitably Germanic instruments). In contrast with the previous movements, this is music to make you smile. There were plenty of smiles from Skride, who wore her virtuosity lightly, and her accompanists. The lovely counter-melody as played by the cellos and horn in unison was just one example of Mendelssohn’s delights given a sublime performance.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Numbering of Mendelssohn’s symphonies by no means reflects their order of composition, making the ‘Italian’ (1832) the Third rather than the Fourth. Surprising that this piece went unpublished in his lifetime – perhaps reflecting doubts over what can seem more an illustrative symphonic suite. In Gardner’s hands, the opening Allegro was finely propelled yet with the right emphasis on its suave second theme and some incisive string playing in the contrapuntal build-up at the start of the development: a pity he omitted the exposition repeat – as, with its lengthy transition back to the main theme, this is one of the few symphonic repeats that ought to be mandatory. The Andante brought its twin aspects of marching Pilgrims and capering counterpoint into purposeful accord, then its successor had a poise and elegance as befits this most deft of intermezzos (with evocative horn playing in the trio). Gardner rightly underlined rhythmic contrast between the finale’s saltarello and tarantella themes, while the surge to the A minor close could hardly have been more unequivocal.

Unlike most of his symphonies, Mendelssohn’s E minor Violin Concerto (1844) has never fallen out of favour. A work that takes its composer’s formal and expressive concerns to a virtual peak of perfection can too easily be taken for granted, making this account from Baiba Skride (replacing an indisposed Veronika Eberle) the more compelling. Her rapport with Gardner was evident from the outset, though it was in her fluid rendering of the first movement’s developmental cadenza that this performance really hit its stride: one maintained during a plaintively expressive Andante, which unfolded with an almost barcarolle-like gait in its outer sections and with no lack of pathos in its central section, then throughout a finale whose spirited progress evinced no trace of the blandness that so often mars this understatedly innovative music. Only a touch of edginess in the more bracing passagework prevented this reading from being among the finest, while Gardner’s adept accompaniment enabled one to savour the incidental detail and counter-melodies as brought out in the orchestral writing.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The opening programme paired the Fourth and Fifth symphonies. Gardner’s civilised account of the Fourth, the Italian, was a fine example of modern-orchestra Mendelssohn playing: deft and light-textured, with crisp articulation from the strings and woodwind that was well defined but never over-highlighted. But the Fifth, the Reformation, seemed much more interesting. It’s an earlier work, despite the numbering, composed in 1830 to mark the tercentenary of the founding of the Lutheran church, with beefed up scoring, a first movement punctuated by appearances of the Dresden Amen as otherworldly as any in Wagner’s Parsifal, and a finale based on a Bach chorale, the strangness of which Gardner made no attempt to disguise.”     …

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, SeenandHeard. MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Each of Gardner’s pacings served this cause well. The Italian’s opening had not just vernal bounce but rare restraint, authority. The Town Hall’s acoustic seems a little clipped; perhaps that too doesn’t help the upper strings. The Andante con moto with its lovely legato over light-stepped double basses (like bowed pizzicato) enchanted; it is a march that has Harold in Italy written all over it,  except that the Berlioz’s actually followed some two years later (in 1834).

The Reformation’s weighty opening movement reminds us of Mendelssohn’s mentors – just as Beethoven in the Italian, here Weber (Euryanthe, especially Lysiart’s double aria) and a symbiosis with his friend Schumann. Gardner has a wonderful way of effecting quite tricky link passages with minimal fuss. At four points in both Fourth and Fifth symphonies, they just happened. He anticipates – rehearsal has proved its worth – and they just do it. All bodes well for the recording.

The brass delivered with restraint, but not without the Reformation suggesting Lohengrin on the way (not just in their affecting Dresden Amen). The extended flute solo, some wonderfully articulated clarinet work, and the unexpected weight of Margaret Cookhorn’s admirable contra bassoon produced an exciting kaleidoscope of colour.

Add in the beauty and elegance of Skride and Gardner exploring the Violin Concerto, in which the slow passages of the first movement outshone even the eloquence of the Andante – sensationally linked by Greta Tuls’ serene, rather than forlorn, bassoon, and you can sense an evening of majesty, suspense and yes, even holiness. I felt lucky to be there.”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Last-minute replacements always add drama to events, and Saturday afternoon was no exception, when violinist Baiba Skride was jetted in from Latvia at the eleventh hour to join the CBSO in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Skride is a huge favourite with both the orchestra and its audience, and the ovation she received at the end of a lovely, singing and elfin performance was huge and well-deserved.

Every phrase Skride delivered was pulsating, repetitions subtly differentiated, high notes smiling into the stratosphere, and, despite minimal rehearsal, conductor Edward Gardner and the CBSO breathed as one with her.

Mendelssohn himself, an almost-palpable presence in this Town Hall over whose earliest years he was so much an influence, would have loved this, the centrepiece of a concert opening a series of all five of his symphonies under Gardner’s baton, four of them in this sacred venue.”     …

*****

Mahler’s First Symphony

MAHLER’S FIRST SYMPHONY

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Thursday 3 October 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Nikolaj Znaider   conductor

Ingrid Fliter  piano

Mendelssohn: Ruy Blas – Overture 7′

Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 33′

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 56′

Ingrid Fliter’s encore – Beethoven –  Op.31 no.2 sonata -finale

“The   symphony must be like the world,” declared Gustav Mahler. “It should embrace   everything.” And from its breathtaking opening vision of the dawn of time itself,   to a truly heaven-storming finish, Mahler’s First does exactly that. No recording   does it justice – just as pianist Ingrid Fliter’s deeply personal way with Chopin   is something you simply have to experience for yourself. Nikolaj Znaider opens   with Mendelssohn’s gloriously gothic overture. He’s already worldfamous as a   violinist; we think you’ll be astonished by what he can do with a baton.

“I’ve loved Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 since I was  a kid – just beautiful, beautiful music. This one will be sure to give you goose  pimples…” (Catherine Ardagh-Walter, Cello)

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Overture, concerto, symphony: good old-fashioned programme-fodder, but in this case there was nothing staple about any of the offerings, beginning with a lively account of Mendelssohn’s uncharacteristically storm and stress Ruy Blas Overture.

OK, orchestral placings were bizarre (violas on the edge stage-left where the cellos normally go), but the sound was full and rich, strings well-turned brass chording sonorous, and Znaider’s beat reassuringly fluent.

And Znaider, also a world-class violinist, brought a lively response to the orchestral tutti in Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto (it’s about time we cast the hoary old chestnut about Chopin not being able to orchestrate into the compost-bin – just ask the bassoonist).

Ingrid Fliter was the committed soloist, with an instinctive feel for Chopin’s textures, filigree never interfering with melodic line, hands well-balanced (though my spies tell me the piano was playing up), her empathy with Znaider’s CBSO joyous.”     …

*****