Parsifal

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Sunday 17th May, 3.00pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Featuring

Programme

  • Wagner  Parsifal, 306′

“In this realm, time becomes space”. Wagner’s Parsifal tells of the knights of the Holy Grail: a story of truth, suffering and redemption, set to music so beautiful that it pierces straight to your very soul. Andris Nelsons has been hailed around the world as one of the finest Wagner conductors of our time: this concert performance of Wagner’s final opera should be transcendent.

The approximate running times of Acts 1, 2 and 3 are 118’, 63’ and 75’ respectively.
There will be a one-hour interval after Act 1, and a 30-minute interval after Act 2.

Storify audience reaction to Parsifal here

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Review by David Karlin, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Individual vocal phrases were also brought through with the full richness of their character. When Burkhard Fritz’s Parsifal cries out the he feels Amfortas’s wound, we feel the stab of heart-wrenching pain. When Mihoko Fujimura’s Kundry tells us that she is forever cursed because she laughed at Christ, her scream of “ich lächte” rips through the hall. At the end of Act II, he tells Kundry that she knows where she can find him, his near-whisper drips with derision.

Acts I and III are the domain of the elderly knight Gurnemanz, and Georg Zeppenfeld gave a performance of exceptional lyricism, bringing out the fundamental kindness and nobility of the man with a timbre that is smooth and powerful all the way down to its lowest notes, and phrasing that continually added splashes of sympathetic colour.     […]

[…]     Fujimura’s powerful mezzo achieved just as much smoothness and control as Zeppenfeld, spanning the far greater emotional range demanded by her role. Fritz excels at the heldentenor technique for long notes, in which a single note develops in colour and dynamics as it progresses. His attractive voice transmits great feeling for this music.

The supporting cast were uniformly impressive. Wolfgang Bankl sang Klingsor with much power and venom, employing a lot of parlando in a way that provided a total contrast to Zeppenfeld’s lyricism. James Rutherford gave us particularly well-rounded phrasing as Amfortas, while Paul Whelan’s Titurel, sung from high above the orchestra near the organ, was especially powerful. Amongst a fine set of flower maidens, Erica Eloff was especially notable with a voice that soared high above the orchestra.

But the performance’s high point came from Nelsons and the orchestra. The music in Act I for Parsifal and Gurnemanz’s ascent to the Grail castle was delivered with an immense degree of measured power. It’s music of incredible rapture whose effect was even palpable on the performers: Fritz could be seen blinking back the tears in his seat.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “There is urgency, spaciousness and radiance in Nelsons’ approach, and a total understanding of how the climaxes of both of the outer acts build like series of overlapping waves of ever increasing amplitude. The CBSO played out of their skins for him, as if all too aware of what they will lose when he steps down in two months’ time. The Transformation Music in both acts had spine-tingling power and grandeur, the Good Friday Music sustained lyrical beauty, and the choral set pieces, with the CBSO Chorus making full use of Symphony Hall’s spatial effects, had fabulous clarity and precision. Perhaps the numbed prelude to the third act was less bereft, less intensely tragic than some great conductors make it, but in Nelsons’ hands it was still intense and mysterious.

Despite its swan shooting, magic garden and hovering spear, not to mention time becoming space, Parsifal loses less in a concert performance than most operas, and this was not simply a sumptuous orchestral and choral treat. The soloists were outstanding, every one an experienced, totally assured Wagner singer, and the drama was fiercely etched. Burkhard Fritz was Parsifal; he was a little stolid in the first act, perhaps, but gained steadily in presence until his assumption of authority in the final scene became utterly authentic. Georg Zeppenfeld was the Gurnemanz, noble, never histrionic and making every word of his first-act narration crystal clear. James Rutherford was Amfortas, stoically resilient in his great lament. And while there was nothing remotely vampish about Mihoko Fujimura’s Kundry in the second act, her control, even beauty of tone, and musical poise proved startlingly effective alongside Wolfgang Bankl’s fiercely stentorian Klingsor.”     …

*****

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Review by Alexander Campbell, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

“This fleet, magical performance of Wagner’s Parsifal in the warm generous acoustic of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall was one with the highest musical values allowing those present to revel in glorious playing and singing without the distractions of a director’s ‘know it all’ interpretation. From the start of the Prelude the CBSO produced playing with sheen and bite, with warm string sound, punchy brass and some superlative playing from the woodwind soloists. Using the spatial possibilities of the Hall to maximum advantage the off-stage chorus was above and behind the bulk of the audience, and the off-stage brass behind the stage. The tricky integration of the Bells of the Grail Temple was superbly realised. The atmosphere when the composer’s intentions were properly considered and realised was about as perfect as one could imagine.

Andris Nelsons’s Wagner was alert and energetic, yet the sense of architecture and purpose felt unerringly correct. It was also very dramatic and intelligent. The Prelude was an instance, where the initial appearance of the chorale associated with the rituals of the Grail Knights had an indefinable coolness to it, perfectly delineating their spiritually uncertain state. Only in the final pages of the entire score did these themes finally get the full glow as Parsifal takes control and harmony is restored. Likewise Klingsor’s restless motifs were very obvious in the first Act where he does not even appear. In the middle Act there was sensuality with a touch of detachment – again perfectly appropriate.”     …

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Review by Peter Quantrill, ArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     Fujimura, too, had the unique ability to fill the hall without great apparent effort: there is a rounded, vatic quality to her dramatic mezzo which suggests that it is coming to the listener at the end of a long tunnel. As Gurnemanz, Georg Zeppenfeld most nearly approached her authority, with a scrupulous use of the text to lift his lengthy narratives, and a gently resonant, bell-like bass that fell easily on the ear. Rutherford’s Amfortas also sounded well in the hall, and comfortable, too much so to leave more than a neutral impression of compromised kingship.

The effort to do more than sing must be considerable under the antiseptic conditions of a well-lit concert hall, but Fujimura made it, seemingly with the prop of her Bayreuth experience foremost in mind, since the Kundry of this first act was no wild woman but a stern governess fully in charge of James Rutherford’s Amfortas while simultaneously in thrall to forces of arrogance and shame she is only beginning to understand, knowing rather than wounded in her retort to the impertinent squires (sung by Alexander Sprague and Edward Harrisson), “Are the beasts here not holy too?” Chemistry with her saviour and master in Act Two was never confined by her imagination but by the limited responses of Fritz, and the stolidly sung, gruffly presented Klingsor of Wolfgang Bankl.

Without yet having led a performance from the pit – that time will surely come, and soon – Andris Nelsons has a clear vision for the piece, at least in the first two acts, and after eight years as Music Director, he has the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra right at the end of his baton: the orchestral response was remarkably prompt, and in a neat accelerando back-out of Act One’s communion scene to the knights’ dispersal, he conducted with progressively smaller beat to bring everyone together with him. He is well prepared to pull around the tempo rather than plod through recitative,”     …

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Review by Anna Picard, Spectator:

Click here for full review

…     “The pristine acoustic of Symphony Hall was intrinsic to the numinous sonority of on and off-stage voices and instruments in Acts I and III and the raw tumult and refined sensuality of Act II. From the purity of ‘Durch Mitleid wissend, der reiner Tor’ to the steady glow of redemption at the close, Nelsons and his players and singers balanced expressive urgency and expansive musical architecture. Words and music combined to extraordinary intensity, with the simplest phrases among the most powerful — Amfortas’ ‘Wehe! Wehe!’, Kundry’s ‘Dienen, dienen’. This was an outstanding cast, from Burkhard Fritz’s tireless Parsifal to Mihoko Fujimura’s tormented Kundry, James Rutherford’s gleaming Amfortas, Wolfgang Bankl’s snarling Klingsor, Paul Whelan’s sepulchral Titurel, Georg Zeppenfeld’s humane, understated Gurnemanz and the beautifully supple sextet of Flowermaidens. The silence at the end, held in the splayed fingers of Nelsons’ outstretched hand, was electric.”

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Review by Geoff Brown, The Times (££):

Click here for full review

…     “And the CBSO Chorus, as always, sang with perfect togetherness and hearts of oak.

On the podium Nelsons continually leapt from his seat to press the score’s surges of ecstasy or the sublime. Yet every phase and detail seemed part of an organic whole, driven along by a conductor and splendiferous orchestra in perfect sync, at least for a few more weeks.”

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The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 8 and 9

Thursday 27 June 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Lucy Crowe  soprano

Mihoko Fujimura  mezzo-soprano

Ben Johnson  tenor

Iain Paterson  bass

CBSO Chorus

Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 27′ Listen on Spotify
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) 67′ Listen on Spotify

It’s been an incredible journey, and tonight Andris Nelsons, the CBSO and our world-class Chorus arrive at Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the summit of any Beethoven cycle – and some say, the whole of classical music. But there’s a world of experience to live through before we get to that final, transcendent Ode To Joy, and Beethoven’s explosive little Eighth Symphony launches a concert that’s sure to be one of the most talked-about events in Birmingham this year.

A fresh look at Beethoven’s Symphonies – Andris Nelsons & the CBSO Part of The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, click here to see the full Cycle guide.

Sponsored by BarclaysThe  Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity  of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

Listen online  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010xvfz/episodes/player – available for a week

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A fluid generosity of beat, unperturbing eye-contact between conductor and players, and sometimes no baton-wielding at all, generated a lithe, open-hearted account of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, apparently the composer’s “little favourite”; though this could never be described as a runt, despite the huge presence of the Eroica symphony and the Ninth.

And the latter,  the first and greatest of all choral symphonies, was delivered with amazing momentum (perhaps we missed a little awe in the cosmic opening movement ) and a genuine awareness of its yearning lyricism.

This is a work fuelled by the horns, whether sturdily proto-Wagnerian, warmly supportive, or, in the adagio , reaching out into the ether, and the CBSO players proved proudly in their element.

As did timpanist Peter Hill, casting great boulder-clouts (Bruckner would remember them 50 years later) in the scherzo , delicately chording at the end of the adagio.”     …

*****

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Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “A long pause was taken before the slow movement. The opening chords were feather-light before opening out with gorgeous warmth. The woodwind achieved a similar warmth when they took the theme. Again, beating was a side-issue for Nelsons, whose concern for phrase shaping produced some wonderful moments. When the famous theme of the fourth movement appeared, he maintained a soft legato which gave a tremendous sense of innocence and optimism. Even with the multiple orchestral layers being added, the strong impression was of hope, rather than joy.

The great sense of joy finally burst out to shattering effect at the 6/8 time chorus after an intense fugue. The CBSO Chorus were magnificent, attending to clear diction whilst providing a vast wave of sound. There was a subtle push on “Brüder” to emphasise Schiller’s call for brotherhood. The coda was as thrilling an end to the cycle as could be hoped for, taken at a quick prestissimo and earning a huge ovation, especially for the chorus and their director, Simon Halsey. Even a sleeping guide dog was roused into tail-wagging enthusiasm during the last pages.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The choral finale was kept on a tighter rein, as if it had more than enough theatrical grandeur of its own. With a fine quartet of soloists – Lucy Crowe, Mihoko Fujimura and Ben Johnson, led off by bass-baritone Iain Paterson – and the CBSO Chorus as secure as ever, the sheer impact of Schiller’s Ode was never in doubt. The Eighth Symphony had been a different matter: the way it sprang bristling into life signalled immediately that this was not a work to be treated lightly, or one that would be out-muscled by its more monumental sibling in the second half. Nelsons and his superb orchestra made sure that every bit of its rhythmic and harmonic detail packed a punch.”

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…      “No 9 may be very familiar but it still never ceases to grab an audience by the throat when it is performed live. From the first notes it dives in and never lets go. Through an intense first movement, into a lively second, a more serene third and then into the choral fourth movement, it showcases Beethoven’s brilliance.

Conducted by music director Andris Nelsons, the orchestra was comfortable and confident with the symphony’s challenges, rising to the occasion with plenty of vigour.

The soloists, soprano Lucy Crowe, mezzo Mihoko Fujimara, tenor Ben Johnson and bass-baritone Iain Paterson, blended perfectly with each other and the CBSO Chorus who were busy singing their hearts out.

By its close we were in little doubt that the CBSO and Nelsons have truly grasped Beethoven in all his complexities, depth and wonder.”

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Review by Richard Morrison, The Times (£££):

Click here for full review

Opening Concert: Mahler’s Resurrection

Saturday 15 September 2012 at 7.00pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Sarah Fox soprano
Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano
CBSO Chorus

Strauss: Metamorphosen 26′
Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) 77′ Listen on Spotify

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony starts with a funeral march, and finishes with the end of the world itself. And if that sounds like a spectacular opening to our season, just wait till you hear Andris Nelsons, a super-size CBSO and the massed voices of the CBSO Chorus committing body and soul to some of the most thrilling, heart-lifting music ever composed. Richard Strauss’s impassioned wartime masterpiece makes Mahler’s vision shine even more brightly. After this summer’s residency at the prestigious Lucerne Festival, this is sure to be a momentous opening to the CBSO season. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…      “Amid much distinguished and eloquent playing the sinuous contributions of leader Laurence Jackson regularly stood out. Nelsons kept the music moving forward with good purpose so that warmth of phrasing never slipped over into sentimentality. As the piece progressed he built the tension incrementally until the music achieved a final climax of great ardour before sinking back to a hushed yet intense conclusion. Nelsons and the CBSO are making a series of recordings of the orchestral music of Strauss and I hope they’ll include Metamorphosen.     […]

[…]     Nelsons unleashed the vast finale most excitingly and then proceeded to direct a splendidly theatrical, gripping account of this huge symphonic fresco. The offstage recesses of Symphony Hall are ideal for the offstage brass contributions and these came across to excellent effect here. It seemed to me that Nelson’s pacing of the finale was ideal, both in terms of individual episodes and the overall structure. The main allegro episode found the CBSO playing as if their lives depended on it; this was real edge-of-the seat stuff and it led to a climax immediately before the groβe Appell that was truly cataclysmic. The groβe Appell itself is a moment of pure musical theatre and it was splendidly realised here; the offstage brass calls – the Last Trump – echoed with a proper sense of awe and Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute provided the nightingale’s last flickerings of earthly life.”     …

Review by Rohan Shotton, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The intensity seemed to grow with every phase early on, each one meticulously sculpted. The balance between entwining solo lines and ensemble playing was perfect, each player giving the impression of knowing the score closely enough to recognise where the next solo line would appear from and when to lock into tight togetherness.”     […]

[…]     Another thunderous outburst announced the fifth movement, and the ensuing gentle introduction to the Resurrection Hymn’s perfect fifth motif and ascending five-note scale was treated with magical reverence. As in the opening movement, Nelsons’ fine command of architecture shaped a coherent path to the conclusion, past jubilant fanfare outbursts and earthquake rumbles from the percussion section. A particularly pleasing moment came when the offstage trumpets played from high up on both sides of the hall, giving a curious sense of cathedral-like space. The entry of the seated chorus was beautifully sung, and soprano Sarah Fox’s voice emerged gently from the choral sound with excellent control. Nelsons pushed onward to the final climactic proclamation of resurrection with much lunging and leaping. When it arrived, one could almost feel the wind from the vast forces, with chorus, organ and offstage brass at full pelt. It was a monumental, shattering conclusion to a magnificent performance, leaving grown men dabbing at their eyes amid the cheers.”     *****

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “And half measures will not do – the symphony calls for exact attention to detail, real passion for music and sweeping volume levels which range from the light and playful waltz to the thundering finale.

There was little doubt that under the baton of CBSO music director Andris Nelsons, CBSO mastered this masterpiece. The minutes raced by so that when the finale arrived it was almost a surprise the time had passed so quickly.

The CBSO Chorus was equally at home with the piece from the gentle susurrations calling for eternal life to the victorious climax of resurrection.”     …

*****

 

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And at the end, a standing ovation, and the players’ heartwarming refusal to steal any of their beloved conductor’s thunder. Applause from a packed audience and all performers was all directed at this one man, whose genuine enthusiasm, unflashy brilliance and boundless musicality continues to reinforce the consolidation of the CBSO as a major force on the world stage.”

Nelsons Conducts Beethoven’s 9th

Thursday 23 August 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
CBSO Chorus
Lucy Crowe soprano
Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano
Toby Spence tenor
Georg Zeppenfeld bass

Brahms: Nänie 15′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) 67′ Listen on Spotify

From tragic opening to climactic, world-embracing “Ode to Joy”, Beethoven’s Ninth has never been just another symphony – it’s an emotional experience with the power to change lives. Every performance is a special occasion, but Andris Nelsons’ first Birmingham performance of the Ninth promises to be in a class of its own, and a landmark in his artistic partnership with the CBSO. This isn’t only an extraordinary upbeat to our new season, it should be one of Birmingham’s musical events of the year. Be sure to book early. www.cbso.uk

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Also known as the Choral Symphony, the Ninth is powerfully life affirming, with its music echoing and enriching the message of Schiller’s Ode to Joy which is the climax of the work.

And there was no doubt this was a joyous performance. CBSO music director Andris Nelsons, conducting the Ninth in Birmingham for the first time, seemed to love every minute, egging the orchestra on to rise to the challenge of the piece.”     …

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “When the long arching string melody was interrupted by fierce timpani and brass the shock was palpable, as if we were being peremptorily summoned back from delightful dream to mundane reality.

This performance was filled with many such memorable moments, in the opening movement of immense power and a scherzo both sinister and bucolic.

 The finale surged and thundered, helped by four excellent soloists – Lucy Crowe (soprano), Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano), Toby Spence (tenor) and Georg Zeppenfeld (bass) – and the hundred-strong CBSO Chorus. Hearing this chorus in full cry is a tonic for the soul – they really did deliver a “kiss for the whole world” as Schiller’s text requests.”     …     ***** 
 
 
 
Blog post by Alex Jones:
 
Click here for full post
 
…     ” Nelsons is a brilliant conductor, I couldn’t take my eyes off him; he conducted the orchestra with his whole body: his face was bright with emotion, expressions changing with each bar, sometimes stern, sometimes pleading, sometimes joyous, often he would clench his baton in his fist and literally jump up and down like a mad general, the next moment he would be leaning over his score reaching into the string section as if he was pulling the music out of the instruments himself; energetic and personal summed him up – he was living the score, feeling the nuances, experiencing them and translating them into sublime sounds – amazing.”     …

Opening Concert: Verdi’s Requiem

 

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Thursday 22 September 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Kristine Opolais soprano
Mihoko Fujimura mezzo-soprano
Pavel Cernoch tenor
Jan Martiník bass
CBSO Chorus

Verdi: Requiem 84′ Listen on Spotify

Drums thunder, trumpets blast, and a mighty chorus screams out in terror: Verdi’s Requiem isn’t exactly what you expect from religious music! But it’s exactly what you’d expect from the grand master of Italian opera – and Andris Nelsons adores it. Tonight, in these opening concerts, he’s brought together an all-star cast, a super-size CBSO, and our magnificent CBSO Chorus. So prepare to be astonished as he turns the emotional volume up to 11 and launches the new season in a blaze of passion.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and section leader double bass John Tattersdill discussing Verdi’s Requiem.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/sep/23/cbso-nelsons-review

…     “The hall played its part, too, enabling Nelsons to move between whispering pianissimos and full, apocalyptic climaxes in the certain knowledge that both extremes would register and nothing would be muddied. The Requiem is ideally suited to his sense of theatricality. Whether in the carefully paced and managed outbursts of the Dies Irae, or the much more intimate textures of the later sections, Nelsons invariably judged it exactly. The CBSO Chorus hung on his every gesture – in the fugues of the Sanctus and the final Libera Me, detonated like explosions of joy, as much as in the whispered closing moments of the work, with the solo soprano Kristine Opolais etched above them.”     …

Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard -MusicWeb:

http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2011/09/26/dramatic-and-reverential-verdi-opens-andris-nelsons-new-cbso-season/

…     “I’m not sure how many pounds Nelsons lost during the evening; giving his all as ever it must have been considerable. What is it about the energy levels of conductors? This maestro was still pumped up after an uninterrupted ninety minutes! Leading by example, the infectious enthusiasm he has provided throughout his three completed seasons in Birmingham, he once again motivated those under his baton. He made the music of Verdi’s memorial to his political idol Alessandro Manzoni fit the words, ensuring that the required emphasis came across, whether from orchestra, choir or soloist. Testament to this was the opening Requiem Aeternam, the gentle supplications of orchestra and chorus on wavelengths from the same hymn sheet. ”     […]

The final Libera Me movement belonged to Opolais.      […]

[…] All her vocal and dramatic attributes shone forth in the Responsory: purity of tone, extensive and even range, lustrous colours and meaningful communication. One line summed her performance up – quando coeli movendi sunt et terra (when the heavens and the earth are moved); we were moved. At Tremens factus, the fragility in her voice portrayed that of a sinner trembling at the seat of judgement – this hair-tingling moment intensified by the sheer force of the final repeat of the Dies Irae. The wave of sound dissolved into Requiem Aeternam. The final bars were equally poignant as Opolais soared above it all – surely this was one soul who would be saved.”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/09/30/review-verdi-requiem-cbso-at-symphony-hall-65233-29501976/

…     “Nelsons’ CBSO delivered Verdi’s perfect score magically, led so magisterially unobtrusively by Laurence Jackson.”     […]   

[…]     “The solo quartet were magnificent, mezzo Mihoko Fujimura a real find, tenor Pavel Cernoch and bass Jan Martinik ardent and persuasive.

As for soprano Kristine Opolais: her singing brought a properly operatic drama to the performance (so much of this writing sounds like Aida, from impassioned muttering to soaring religious ecstasy. Husband Andris will have been well pleased.”

Rating * * * *

The Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Andris Nelsons Conducts Symphony No. 8

Thursday 16 September 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Marina Shaguch  soprano
Erin Wall  soprano
Carolyn Sampson  soprano
Katerina Karnéus  mezzo-soprano
Mihoko Fujimura  mezzo-soprano
Sergei Semishkur  tenor
Christopher Maltman  baritone
Stephen Gadd  bass
CBSO Chorus & Youth Chorus   
CBSO Children’s Chorus   
Hallé Choir
  

Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) 85′

Please note Matthew Best has withdrawn from this concert. We are grateful to Stephen Gadd who has agreed to replace him at short notice.

“Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. These are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving.” With its vast orchestra, and even huger chorus, Mahler’s mighty “Symphony of a Thousand” lives up to its nickname. But it’s much more than just the most spectacular symphony ever written; it’s an exultant hymn to the joy of creation itself, and every performance is a special occasion. You’ll be thrilled, you’ll be moved – and you’ll be blown backwards, as Andris Nelsons, the CBSO, three great choruses and a star-studded team of soloists launch Birmingham’s centenary Mahler Cycle in truly epic style.

Sung in Latin & German with English surtitles.

www.cbso.co.uk

Blog Review by Norman Lebrecht:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2010/09/birmingham_breaks_its_mahler_j.html

“Britain’s second largest city launched its first Mahler cycle last night with a heart-stopping concert of the eighth symphony, shrunk to 600 performers. That was the most the hall could sensibly accommodate but the result was a performance of rare intimacy in which the conductor Andris Nelsons seemed to reach out and almost touch the banks of singers posted at the back of the stage, both sides and the overlooking balconies. It was 100 years to the week since Gustav Mahler gave the world premiere in Munich.”  ….

Review by Andrew Clark, Financial Times:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/136f4974-c276-11df-956e-00144feab49a.html

…..”The soloists were well balanced, with notable contributions from Erin Wall, Sergei Semishkur and the divine Carolyn Sampson. Birmingham’s Mahler cycle could not have made a better start. (4 star rating)”     Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010

 

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/09/19/review-mahler-s-symphony-no-8-cbso-at-symphony-hall-birmingham-65233-27301447/#ixzz101GQx3XX

…”He opened the CBSO’s 90th birthday season with no less a challenge than Mahler’s Symphony no.8, the Symphony of a Thousand (and it seemed to be very nearly that, with choristers ranging halfway round both sides of the upper gallery – what a hall this is to accommodate such grandiloquence), the introduction to a huge MahlerFest marking both the composer’s 150th birthday and the centenary of his death. The result was magnificent.” …

Blog review by Intermezzo:

http://intermezzo.typepad.com/intermezzo/2010/09/cbso-birmingham-mahler-8.html#more

“Was it worth travelling all the way to Birmingham and back for just 90 minutes of music? You bet.” …

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/sep/20/cbso-nelsons-review

… “Conductor Andris Nelsons’s natural command of his forces – not quite the thousand associated with the symphony, but massive nevertheless – allowed him to exploit the potential of Symphony Hall’s phenomenal acoustic to the full. It was not just the sensation of being wrapped around by voices that was spine-tingling, or the ethereal beauty of Carolyn Sampson’s Mater Gloriosa, and then blazing brass from the hall’s highest galleries that made for a remarkable aural experience, but hearing the hundreds of voices at their infinitesimal quietest and feeling the gentle vibrations of sound permeate air.” …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb-International:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2010/Jul-Dec10/mahler_8th_1609.htm

…”In the Scherzo, the emphasis switched between the multiple choral sections – Angels, Cherubs, Younger Angels and More Perfect Angels, each contributing to the journey of Faust’s soul to paradise – with Nelsons at his busiest. The energy he exuded for 90 min never flagged. In Mahler 8 the conductor cannot hope to cue every entry, but Nelsons seemed to give it a damn good try. One delicious moment amidst these invocations, was the break from leader Laurence Jackson that introduces the First Alto contribution from Katarina Karneus. Sergei Semishkur, a Mariinsky soloist as Doctor Marianus (another hermit and reputably based on Anselm the 11th century Archbishop of Canterbury) handled his high tessitura with ease, including a resounding top B. Interspersed during this solo, the cellos led by Ulrich Heinen added a contrast of pure cream, both in Heinen’s solo and when playing together. At Semishkur’s sublime Jungfrau, rein im schösten Sinn (Virgin of the highest purity) the first violins delicately underlined the feeling of innocence. With presumably only room for two harps on the crowded Birmingham stage, stalwart Robert Johnson introduced another glorious Mahler moment from the first violins, this time backed by the harmonium.” …