CBSO Youth Orchestra

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Sunday 3 November 2013 at 3.30pm

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

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Ilan Volkov   conductor

Allison Bell  soprano

Debussy: La Mer 23′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube
Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi 27′

Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 31′

Sibelius’s   Fifth Symphony was inspired by a flight of swans. Debussy was drunk on the beauty   of the sea. And the young Messiaen put all his love for his new wife into nine   blissful songs. Gorgeous colours and big, big emotions: exactly what the CBSO   Youth Orchestra does best. So join Ilan Volkov and our superb young players   and share the joy of discovery, as together they bring this glorious music vibrantly   to life.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

The Organ Symphony, Thursday 30th January 2014

CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 23rd February 2014

Andris and Håkan in Concert, Wednesday 28th May 2014



Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A singer without Allison Bell’s power and projection might have been overwhelmed by so much orchestral posturing (which Volkov admittedly did little to minimise), but this remarkable soprano coped with everything thrown at her, grabbing every opportunity for expressive display and, notably in the Alleluias of the first song, rejoicing in the sheer voluptuousness of the music.

After such hot stuff the exposed scoring of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 left the players with little room to hide. Volkov’s cogently paced reading, though, was very persuasive, even if some individual contributions lacked added value. The finale in particular had a compelling sense of progression – and those wonderful hammer blows were perfectly executed.”  

Andris Nelsons and Mitsuko Uchida

Thursday 2nd May 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Mitsuko Uchida  piano

Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 13′ Listen on Spotify

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17, K453 32′ Listen on Spotify

Messiaen: Oiseaux Exotiques  15′

Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy 22′ Listen on Spotify

To call Mitsuko Uchida   a legend is to sell her short: she’s a byword for freshness, intelligence, and   the special poetry that comes from a lifetime’s devotion to the greatest music   ever written. Here, she makes her long-awaited return to Birmingham with a revelatory   programme, pairing the beauty of Mozart at his most tuneful with the rainbow   hues of Messiaen’s Oiseaux   Exotiques. Andris Nelsons and the CBSO celebrate with two astonishing   bursts of pure orchestral colour and emotion.

“One of the highlights of our season: a rare opportunity to hear the   wonderful pianist Mitsuko Uchida live in concert. It is a pleasure for her to   work with us.” Andris Nelsons

Check out our blog:   Birmingham Post classical music critic, Christopher Morley, talks to Mitsuko   Uchida about “the terrors of performing Mozart” ahead of her concerts in May.

Watch on YouTube:   Listen to an interview with Mitsuko Uchida here

Post-concert talk at c. 9.45pm Stay late for a post-concert   conversation with CBSO music director Andris Nelsons and chief   executive Stephen Maddock.



Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida tells Christopher Morley how much she is looking forward to a return to Birmingham.

IT’S  impossible to feel anything else but happy when talking to Mitsuko Uchida. The  Japanese pianist positively bubbles with enthusiasm for her work and delights in  Mozart. It’s like listening to a soul-mate in a lively, non-stop  conversation.”      …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Op 6 is usually performed in Webern’s later revision, in which the orchestration is significantly scaled down, but here Nelsons conducted the original version, with its sextuple brass and quadruple wind. The sense of claustrophobia in having such huge forces focused on music of such economy was intense, and the climaxes were massive. But nothing like as huge as in Scriabin‘s Poem of Ecstasy with which Nelsons ended the concert, his superb performance urging the music on to one excess after another, while ensuring that every texture was wonderfully balanced, though still failing to overcome the work’s overriding sense of comical self-indulgence.”     …



Review by Stephen Walsh, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “Yet when Mozart’s warmth was inescapable, in the lovely E flat episode of the Andante, they all came together marvellously. And the variation finale at last achieved a certain shared wit and brilliance: the tiger lay down with the lamb, and all ended happily.

Impossible not to love Mitsuko Uchida : her modest bearing, her palpable devotion to the music, her genuine concern that the orchestra should take the tiger’s share of the applause. After Messiaen’s ornithological piano concerto, Oiseaux exotiques, she solemnly handed bouquets to the different sections of the orchestra (wind and percussion).”     …



Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Nicely warmed up, the audience chirruped in anticipation as the stage was reorganised for Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major.  It was a rare sighting: this renowned interpreter of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven in Birmingham, especially working with a conductor, since Uchida’s usual preference is to direct from the piano herself.  Simply entitling the programme “Andris Nelsons and Mitsuko Uchida” was clearly significant rather than merely über-literal.  Uchida had a relaxed rapport with a vibrant Nelsons, but at the same time her attitude of absolute engagement with the orchestra betrayed the fact that she was used to leading the way.  It was fascinating to witness someone so fully involved with the music when not actually playing, either hugging herself or tempted during the orchestra’s delicate opening to test out joining them in a few imaginary bars, hands perched six inches above the keys.”     …




Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Andris Nelsons, however, is a conductor who always goes  further, and here created a sound canvas so tantalisingly complex it seemed  almost romantic in nature.

A lesser composer would probably have flogged such  exquisitely short-lived material to death, which in a way is what Scriabin does  in his gargantuan Poem of Ecstasy. Nelsons, though, went beyond Scriabin’s  gushing Expressionism and big climaxes – all delivered by a supercharged  orchestra in dazzling form – to explore the more subtle aspects of the score and  its indebtedness to French impressionism.

His support for Mitsuko Uchida in Mozart’s Piano Concerto  No. 17 was equally well considered, with elegant phrasing and a wide dynamic  spectrum complementing the soloist’s crisp articulation and pellucid  runs.”     …


Summer Prom: National Youth Orchestra

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12… more events…

Wednesday 1 August

Symphony Hall

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
Vasily Petrenko conductor
Joanna MacGregor piano
Cynthia Millar ondes Martenot

Programme includes

Varèse Tuning Up 5’
Nico Muhly Gait (BBC commission) 20’
Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie 75’

encore -Anna Meredith – Hands Free

– (video here)

Described by The Times as ‘the most uplifting orchestra in the world’, the vast National Youth Orchestra comprises 165 of the country’s most talented teenage stars. Hear them here first with their equally exuberant Principal Conductor Vasily Petrenko, pianist Joanna MacGregor and ondes Martenot expert Cynthia Millar. Together they awaken the wonders of Messiaen’s uplifting testament to time and love, the breathtaking musical kaleidoscope that is Turangalîla-Symphonie.

BBC Music magazine’s Editor, Oliver Condy, recommends tonight’s concert: “Vasily Petrenko is one of the UK’s fastest-rising conducting stars. He’s already worked wonders with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and he’s expected to do the same for the fabulous National Youth Orchestra. Bringing together musicians from every corner of the country, tonight’s concert has a true Olympic feel.”

Before the performance, see the NYO’s Creative Hub perform compositions by talented teenage composers at 6pm.

Full report on the youngest ever leader of the National Youth Orchestra – here


Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The other great exuberant showpiece in this work is the last movement, ‘Final’. After some seventy minutes of demanding performance the NYO still had reserves of energy, enthusiasm and, one suspects, pure adrenalin, to deliver a performance of this movement that was full of vitality and sheer joie de vivre. Petrenko, conducting with the clarity and energy that had galvanised his players throughout the evening, inspired them to bring the symphony to a triumphant conclusion. The ovation from the audience was richly deserved.

The NYO brings this programme to the BBC Proms on Saturday next, 4 August (19:30). The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be well worth hearing.”

Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

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…     “This was a whirlwind performance, tubas, trombone and trumpets blasting out thrillingly, cymbals crashing with a celestial grandeur the composer would have loved. At the end, the swooning, elastic, electronic cries of the ondes martenot rode these torrents of sound like a storm-tossed Neptune surfing the waves. As an encore the NYO performed part of Anna Meredith’s HandsFree, in which instruments are abandoned and the body – clapping, stomping, hissing, clicking – becomes music, ending with nearly 200 teenagers thrusting their arms in the air in perfect unison.”    …


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This ten-movement kaleidoscope puts huge demands of concentration and stamina as well as technique upon the players, and these musicians rose to the challenge magnificently under the irresistible personality of conductor Vasily Petrenko’s direction. Stentorian brass, sensuous woodwind, strings both sumptuous and flickering, percussion clicking, shimmering, affirmative, all worked triumphantly in the cause of this amazing, life-enhancingly erotic piece (will someone please unearth a recording of its 1948 premiere under Leonard Bernstein?).

The two ever-present soloists, Joanna MacGregor’s pianism florid and discreet by turns, Cynthia Millar bringing a lifetime of experience in this piece with the gallimaufry of kit which makes up the Star Trek-sounding Ondes Martenot, knew how to balance their contributions to the work of the orchestra, and acknowledged their young colleagues genuinely at the end.”     …


Review by Nick Breckenfield, ClassicalSource, (for performance at Royal Albert Hall – Prom 29)

Click here for full review

Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Sir Simon Rattle Conducts Das Lied von der Erde

Sunday 12 June 2011 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Jane Irwin mezzo-soprano
Michael Schade tenor

Messiaen: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum 26′
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (sung in German with English surtitles) 59′

Twenty years to the day since Sir Simon Rattle and the CBSO inaugurated Birmingham’s brand new Symphony Hall, the legend returns. Sir Simon, mezzo Magdalena Kožená and tenor Michael Schade bring down the curtain on Birmingham’s centenary Mahler Cycle with the symphony that Mahler refused to call his Ninth, the heart-rending Das Lied von der Erde. Less a meditation on death, more a rapturous love-letter to the joys of life, Mahler simply doesn’t get more personal – or more beautiful. The evening opens with a very different (but no less transcendent) meditation on mortality, by another composer who came to define Sir Simon’s years at Symphony Hall: the late Olivier Messiaen. Unmissable.

Please note that Magdalena Kožená has withdrawn from this performance due to illness. We are grateful to Jane Irwin, who replaces her at short notice.

 Sold out – Returns only

Review by Stephen Walsh, TheArtsDesk:

…     “The CBSO were on terrific form throughout, but nowhere more than in the lovely wind solos that track the mezzo-soprano, from the blue autumn mists of “Der Einsame im Herbst” to the eternal blue distance of “Der Abschied”. And Jane Irwin, standing in at short notice for the indisposed Magdalena Kožená, matched them in the sensitivity of her response to words and situation, though she had some difficulty filling out her sound in the low registers.”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

…     “Words and phrases were coloured with great precision, and, like the orchestra’s solo woodwind, Irwin relished the freedom that Rattle’s expansive conducting allowed her. Even in the final Abschied, nothing sounded too slow or indulgent, just naturally paced, with little of the expressive moulding that can seem rather mannered in some of Rattle’s Berlin performances. Michael Schade also showed he is one of that select band of tenors who can tackle this work without being totally overwhelmed by the orchestra.”     …

Blog post review by Norman Lebrecht, ArtsJournal:

…     “But Jane Irwin is a singer of immense character and daring who dropped on occasion to pianissimo, drawing feather-light sounds from the orchestral soloists, outstanding among them the flute (Marie-Christine Zupancic), piccolo (Andrew Lane), bassoon (Gretha Tuls) and leader (Zoe Beyers).

 The Abschied achieved a stark cohesion. Rattle played down the agonies of parting with a practised flutter of bucolic beauty spots.”     …
Review by John Quinn, SeenAndHeard:
…     “This was a magnificent performance, which Rattle controlled superbly and with great authority. I thought his judgement of pacing was ideal and, amid all the frequent tumult, his control of silent pauses – and the way he ensured the softest passages in Messiaen’s score made their mark – was masterly.”     […]
[…] “Nowhere was this more apparent than in her account of ‘Der Abschied.’ This is a huge challenge for a singer but one to which Jane Irwin rose marvellously. She encompassed all aspects of the song successfully. I admired her sensitivity and sense of intimacy at such passages as ‘Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz’. Just as impressive was the radiant outpouring at ‘Die liebe Erde allüberall…’, a moment superbly prepared by Rattle, and Miss Irwin’s ardour at ‘O Schönheit! O ewigen Liebens…’ This was a memorable, dignified and moving performance.” […]
[…] “He drew from the CBSO playing of great distinction and there was a familiarity, engagement and empathy that made it seem as if he’d never been away. At the end of the work, Rattle drew out the last tendrils of music with the greatest possible refinement. When the last sound died away the silence was as long as I’ve ever heard in a concert hall, Rattle holding the moment and the audience reluctant to break the spell. The silence spoke volumes.I’ve been lucky enough to attend several very fine Mahler performances over the last year of so – not all of them in Birmingham – but this was in a different league.”      …
Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

…     “Das Lied just stunned an overflowing audience into silence. There was a whole gamut of orchestral gesture here (one wouldn’t expect anything less from a composer who was probably the world’s greatest-ever conductor), all teased out by Rattle and the willing CBSO; horns, desolate flute and questing oboe line up for particular praise.”     …


Blog post review by Tam Pollard re same programme but at Aldeburgh Festival:

…     “Here was yet more evidence of just what an exception and world class ensemble the CBSO are: from the rich string textures, to quiet playing of the highest calibre, to fabulous solo performances, it was both an orchestral masterclass and an absolute treat to witness. ”     …