Welcoming Mirga

Welcoming Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Friday 26th August, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart The Magic Flute: Overture, 7′
  • Abrahamsen let me tell you, 30′
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, 44′
A new era in Birmingham music – and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla opens her first concert as Osborn Music Director with the overture to Mozart’s joyous fable of hope and renewal. Tchaikovsky’s passionate autobiography of a Fourth Symphony and a set of magical, Shakespeare-inspired songs performed by one of the world’s most adventurous living sopranos complete Birmingham’s most eagerly anticipated concert of 2016.
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Encore – Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty, final variation and coda. 

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The sense of occasion was almost palpable. Even Mozart’s Magic Flute overture fizzed and sparkled with a clarity and subtlety we rarely hear in such a well-worn opener. And at the end of the programme Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 transcended its fanfare opening to develop into something of a musical quest, lovingly and elegantly sculptured by this remarkable young conductor (strings wonderfully effulgent, woodwind singing with nostalgia), which, after characterful middle movements, concluded in a glorious peroration of life-affirming joy. 

An even more impressive vehicle for Gražinytė-Tyla’s musicianship and technique was Hans Abrahamsen’s Shakespeare-inspired 30-minute vocal monologue ‘let me tell you’ for soprano (the stunningly brilliant Barbara Hannigan, who has made the work her own). […]

[…]     So – has the CBSO at last found a worthy successor to Andris Nelsons? You bet they have. In just one evening we witnessed exactly what the Mirga magic can do. And this is just the start. “

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The drama that had been latent in the performance of the overture erupted in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in the second half of the concert. Technically, it was impeccable – it may be a standard repertory piece, which the CBSO has played under Nelsons and his predecessor Sakari Oramo, but this was just that bit more vivid than usual, more generously characterised in every detail. Gražinytė-Tyla seems to have that precious conductor’s knack of allowing players all the expressive freedom they want, while still being able to shape every aspect of a performance in exactly the way she wants.

The bewitching centrepiece of the evening was a repeat performance of one of the most remarkable works the CBSO has introduced in many years. In 2014, Nelsons conducted the UK premiere of Let Me Tell You, Hans Abrahamsen’s spellbinding song cycle, with a text by Paul Griffiths, taken from his novel of the same name, itself woven around the character and words of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.”     …

*****

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “As for Barbara Hannigan’s singing, it was quite astonishing. Abrahamsen makes demands on his soloist that are almost unreasonable at times – though Miss Hannigan was closely involved in the composition process, I understand. Every challenge, not least those which involved the extreme registers of her voice, was met with compete assurance. There are many things that I admire about this work but one of them is the nature of the writing for the voice. Abrahamsen requires his soloist to deploy quite a number of vocal effects during the piece. However, unlike many contemporary composers, at no time does he expect his soloist to do anything other than sing. In other words, there’s nothing outlandish or ugly in the vocal writing.

Barbara Hannigan displayed extraordinary control and technical accomplishment during this performance. Furthermore, this was a performance that engaged totally both with the music and with the audience. Part II is the section of the work that uses the largest orchestral forces and there were a number of times when the accompaniment rather drowned the soloist – that’s not a criticism of the orchestra, by the way. Part III is simply spellbinding, the music slow-moving and rapt. This is music of the utmost refinement and eloquence and it received here a performance that was completely worthy of Hans Abrahamsen’s extraordinary musical imagination. The whole of let me tell you is a wonderfully imaginative creation but the invention and inspiration reaches a peak in Part III. It was a tribute to the quality of both the music and the performance that the audience was clearly absorbed in the performance. Both Hans Abrahamsen and Paul Griffiths were present and they, as well as the performers, were most warmly applauded. let me tell you is an extraordinary score and I was thrilled to experience it live. My only hope is that now that Barbara Hannigan has so successfully launched the work other sopranos will take it up so that it establishes the secure pace in the repertoire that it deserves.    […]

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The finale, taken attacca, was as fast and brilliant as I’d expected. But to describe the performance simply in those terms would be grossly unfair for amid the festivities there was further evidence of this conductor’s attention to detail. One example occurred within the first couple of minutes where the woodwind have a succession of chords, each marked with a crescendo. Each and every one of these crescendi was individually cared for by Miss Gražinytė-Tyla. It sounds like a small point but it isn’t; these chords can go for nothing – or very little – in the excitement of performance but here they made their mark yet without any feeling of exaggeration. The performance as a whole was thrilling and when the ‘Fate’ motif returned the theme blazed out from the CBSO’s brass section – which was on collectively fine form throughout the evening. The ending was exhilarating as Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla whipped the orchestra to an electrifying conclusion.

Predictably this superb performance was greeted by a huge ovation and after several minutes of highly enthusiastic applause Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla emerged once more onto the stage but instead of coming back to the podium she climbed the risers at the back of the stage, picked up the music stand in front of one of the CBSO’s percussionists and led him, triangle in hand, to a much more prominent position on the platform from where he proceeded to play a key role in the short, witty encore which I couldn’t initially identify but now understand – thanks to the comment sent in below – was from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.

I have to report that Miss Gražinytė-Tyla then faced a first-night mutiny. The orchestra resolutely refused her requests to stand, insisting instead that she should take a bow by herself. This gesture suggested that the orchestra has already formed a strong relationship with their new music director but, frankly, that was evident throughout the evening in performances of commitment, skill and freshness. The orchestra repeats this programme at the Proms on Saturday 27 August. It will be broadcast live on Radio 3 and recorded for television transmission in early September so a much wider audience will get an early chance to experience this new musical partnership in action.

So, the Mirga Era has been well and truly launched in Birmingham. Buckle up: I think we’re in for an exciting ride.”

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Reviews for BBC Prom 55 27th August, 2016- same programme as at Symphony Hall:-

Review by Mark Pullinger, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “And what a landscape Abrahamsen paints, clusters of microtones over the soft tread of xylophone ostinatos, silvery piccolo shards of glass and spectral high violins. Glockenspiel, celesta and harp daub their icy tintinnabulations, while paper is grazed over the skin of the bass drum. Even if Hannigan’s words did not always carry across the Royal Albert Hall’s difficult acoustic, under Gražinytė-Tyla’s hypnotic beat, the music entranced.

The interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4 in F minor was full of thought and incident. The fateful opening fanfares were crisply delivered – with meticulous care over dynamics – and the development section was lovingly caressed, although momentum sagged once or twice. Gražinytė-Tyla’s energetic conducting clearly signals what she wants, from the flick of the wrist to a left-hand ‘claw’, a hip wiggle to a slowly raised hand giving the lower brass free rein. She wields a baton with dramatic flair, but in the pizzicato Scherzo she led with an inviting hand and a graceful smile. A couple of pregnant pauses displayed bags of personality and only the symphony’s coda, the percussion leading off a tad too fast, threatened to derail her, but a quick recovery led to a triumphant finale.

Clambering to the back of the platform to retrieve a percussionist’s music stand, Gražinytė-Tyla brought it – and him – to just behind the second violins, his triangle launching the Diamond Fairy’s sparkling variation and coda from the final act of The Sleeping Beauty. “See you in Birmingham!” she piped while its final note still resounded. No doubt about that.”

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Review by Doundou Tchil, ClassicalIconoclast:

Click here for full review

“Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  in a truly sensational Prom 55 at the Royal Albert Hall, an occasion which those of us lucky enough to have been there will not forget. The CBSO is unique. Its members have an uncanny knack for picking relatively unknown conductors and growing with them.  They picked Simon Rattle as Music Director when he was 25, Sakari Oramo at 31, Andris Nelsons at age 30, and now Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, also 30.  This symbiotic relationship between orchestra and conductors makes the CBSO what it is: a very different dynamic from the usual way orchestras are run.  In each case the orchestra shaped the conductor as much as the conductor shaped the orchestra.  This close relationship – like family, some say – is fundamental to understanding the orchestra and, indeed, its conductors, who carry the CBSO imprint with them just as much as the orchestra developed duringn their stewardship. The CBSO is easily one of the Big Five in British music, and absolutely world class.  Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has a lot to live up to, but from this Prom, it’s clear that she has what it takes.     […]

[…]     The Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute sparkled: clean, shining brass, vivacious winds, strings whizzing along with manic brio. So expressive that the spirit of the opera – and its composer – seemed to materialize. Magical, yes, but also with diabolic fervour.  In the opera, Tamino is tested. Sarastro  is no cuddly father figure.  Thus the discipline in the CBSO’s playing underlined the moral resolve that lies at the heart of the Singspiele, which is by no means a pretty bit of fluff.  Being a Freemason in Mozart’s time was secretive and rather sinister. Gražinytė-Tyla’s background lies in vocal music. Like Nelsons, she could achieve great things if she did opera.  To my delight, she announced plans on the radio rebroadcast for a concert performance of Mozart Idomeneo in a future CBSO season.”      …

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Review by Robert Matthew-Walker, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…      “The singing of Barbara Hannigan (mostly from memory) was exceptionally compelling, and the playing maintained the high standards of the Mozart – but Hannigan, for some extraordinary reason, performed at times to one side of the auditorium rather than centre-stage and tended to project to her left, which obliged half of those in the Hall (on her right, where I sat) to try to catch what she was singing and having to make do by seeing her almost constantly turning away.

(L-R) Paul Griffiths, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Hans Abrahamsen, Barbara Hannigan and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms 2016. Photograph: BBC/Chris ChristodoulouBut overall, the influence of Stockhausen came across as being the foundation of Abrahamsen’s score, certainly in the first of its three movements wherein a monotony of tonality (pace Griffiths) is subjected to a few textural variations over too great a length of time (half the work’s 35-minute duration), so that one’s interest is in serious danger of being lost; in addition, the composer’s word-setting tends to inhabit too narrow an expressive range in depicting a teenager contemplating – and achieving – suicide. The performance though was magnificent, and must have thrilled the composer, taking his bow along with Griffiths.”     …

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Review by Richard Morrison, The Times (££)

Click here for full review (££)

“It’s too early to say what personality lies behind the incredibly graceful conducting technique of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, the new music director at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). Thirty this year, the Lithuanian clearly has bags of musicality. That was evident within 30 seconds of her starting her Proms (and indeed London) debut, with Mozart’s Magic Flute overture.

The chording was pungently accented; the string phrases lushly nuanced. Like many of today’s young conductors she seems to be (in Boris Johnson’s phrase) “pro cake and pro eating it” when it comes to 18th-century music: timbres and textures that mimic period instruments, but dynamics that would have had Wilhelm Furtwängler nodding approval.”     …

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Review by Amanda Holloway, Critics’ Circle:

Click here for full review

“After a bouncy little encore from The Sleeping Beauty, conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla stepped forward and shouted to the audience: “See you in Birmingham!”

Symphony Hall should be full this season on the strength of this, her second concert as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and first Proms appearance. The buzz that surrounded the London debut of the slight, determined 30-year-old Lithuanian conductor was fully justified: her effect on the orchestra is electrifying, very differently from that of her predecessor, the more laid-back Andris Nelsons. She has firm ideas of what she wants – pace and definition – and the orchestra eagerly complies. From the opening bars of the overture to The Magic Flute the energy flew from her baton like a rapier and the orchestra replied with punchy chords fresh from the page. She leaned in to the cellos, urged on the trumpets and, having whipped the orchestra into a frenzy, stopped them dead in their tracks to produce shocking silences.”     …

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Review by Alan Sanders, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Hannigan is an extraordinary artist. She is rightly described as a “singing actress”, since her repertoire, much of it contemporary, often calls for more than just singing, and she certainly has a most compelling stage presence. Not only does she have a most beautiful voice, but that voice is a most outstandingly agile instrument, for it has a huge range of notes from very high low, and is capable, with great varieties of tone colour, of making sure footed leaps across the most demanding and awkward intervals. Hannigan feels that her Ophelia “role” should be committed to memory, and that she has done. To have absorbed such a rhythmically anchorless and tonally fractured vocal part lasting half an hour, with little respite, is an amazing feat in itself.

To complement this display the orchestra contributes an accompaniment that is for the most part curiously pretty – a strange word to use, maybe, but one that seems appropriate. There’s nothing in the piquant scoring that would seem very foreign to, say, the later Frank Bridge or John Foulds, except that the bounds of tonality are broken more that they would break it. The work’s main drawback, maybe, is that most the music is slow moving, and greater variations of tempo would have enhanced the drama of the text. Both Paul Griffiths and Hans Abrahamsen were in attendance to acknowledge generous audience applause.

The appointment of Mirga Gražinyté-Tyla as the CBSO’s new Music Director has generated a good deal of advance publicity, for here is a 29-year-old young woman, previously unknown to the British public, filling the role previously occupied over the last three decades by Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons. She had made her debut in her new appointment the previous evening in Birmingham (review), and now she presented the same concert for her London debut.”     …

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Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review (scroll down “Prom 55”)

…     “The toughest test here was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, a well-known warhorse full of pitfalls when it comes to pacing. It was no mean achievement that Gražinytė-Tyla, conducting from memory, shaped such a fresh-sounding performance. The opening fanfares poured out generously and the full orchestral punches were sharply etched before this conductor got down to the business of a naturally flowing performance. The symphonic argument in her unhurried first movement was keenly detailed, and the succeeding movements had lyrical warmth and crisp articulation. A compelling force on the podium, Gražinytė-Tyla clearly signals exciting times ahead for the CBSO.”

*****

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Review by Alexandra Coghlan, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “The Tchaikovsky, similarly, had a zest and invention to it that demanded attention even from this most fidgety of Proms audiences. The Fate theme burnt through the hall in cruel fortissimo, musical shock and awe, before the clarinet led us to the ballroom floor for the waltz – a dance whose ghostly strings, wispy and fragile, suggested that the floor might dissolve at any minute leaving us waltzing into the abyss. Atmospheric but always mindful of structural clarity, with a beautifully organic evolving set of tempi, this was the prelude to a big, generous Andantino, the CBSO singing out with Russian heart, a witty pizzicato Scherzo and a Finale that returned us to the fire of the opening. Woodwind soloists shone, while strings found the rhetorical clarity encoded in Tchaikovsky’s phrases.”     […]

[…]     In a curious sleight of hand, the composer’s slow-moving harmonies, often circling around a clear tonic, seem to react when set against shards of musical light from tuned and untuned percussion and high woodwind, lost in woozy clouds of microtones, creating time at once static and swift-moving. If it seems far-fetched to think of these in terms of Henri Bergson’s temps and durée – the absolute clock-time of temps and the psychological flexi-time of durée – it’s an interpretation grounded in Paul Griffiths’s gloriously allusive text (shaped only from the limited words Shakespeare’s Ophelia speaks during Hamlet), which meditates persistently on precisely this: “time of now and then tumbled into one another,/ time turned and loosed,/ time bended”.

At the centre of this still sonic world is Barbara Hannigan (pictured above with Gražinytė-Tyla), the soprano whose extraordinary range and expressive capacity inspired and helped shape the work. To watch Hannigan is to see Griffiths’s Ophelia (a more emancipated, articulate creature than Shakespeare’s) come alive. The tone-colours available to her – from the white light of her denatured purity at the top of her register, to the guttural directness of the bottom – are myriad, and deployed with deft musicality and care. Together with Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO she wove a musical tale here all the potent because this Scheherazade, we know from the start, is already condemned to death.

London had better get used to feeling jealous, because Gražinytė-Tyla has just given us one more reason to envy Birmingham her wonderful CBSO.”

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Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

Click here for full review

…     “Graceful, with an almost gymnastic energy on the podium, arms wide-stretched to embrace the full orchestra, Gražinytė-Tyla is never showy, a team player but with natural authority. Sometimes the sound balance was slightly awry, but the Albert Hall, especially compared with Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, plays acoustical tricks and from another area of the auditorium it may not have been noticeable.

Gražinytė-Tyla elicited an incendiary quality from her players, whether in the transparency and precision of Mozart and Hans Abrahamsen – his song cycle Let Me Tell You was given its London premiere by the soprano Barbara Hannigan – or in the dark grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4. Prom 55 was a “were you there?” kind of event. If you weren’t, you can watch it this evening on BBC4, then on iPlayer. It was as if yet another awkward fence in the long steeplechase of female conductors has been cleared: Gražinytė-Tyla’s CBSO predecessors include Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons, which needs no further comment.”

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Daniel Hope Celebrates…

… Yehudi Menuhin’s Centenary

Town Hall, Birmingham

Wednesday 18th May, 2016, 7:30pm

Orchestra l’arte del Mondo

Daniel Hope – violin

Mozart Divertimento KV 136
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 violins 10’
Mendelssohn Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor 22’
Mozart Divertimento KV 138
Pärt Darf Ich (version without bells) 3’
El-Khoury Unfinished Journey
Bach Concerto for 2 violins 17’

Encore with orchestra – Max Richter – Vivaldi Recomposed, Summer Third Movement

Daniel Hope’s encore – Johann Paul von Westhoff – Imitazione delle Campane

Please note the Kammerorchester Basel will no longer be playing in this concert, and Orchestra l’arte del Mondo will be performing with Daniel Hope. Please also note some changes to the programme. Customers will be contacted in January. Updated 18/12/15.

British violinist Daniel Hope isn’t one to hold back. In the year that Yehudi Menuhin would have turned 100, Hope leads performances of music intimately connected with his great teacher, from Bach to Bechara El-Khoury. Keep an open mind, and you’ll hear wonders.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Daniel Hope.
This conversation will be signed by a British Sign Language interpreter

 

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Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Daniel Hope plays the violin in a business suit and tie. But there’s nothing strait-laced about his platform manner. He bobs, he bounces, he bends almost double – turning round to face the members of the L’Arte del Mondo orchestra, nodding, and all the while spinning a rich, glittering stream of notes. He reminded me of someone and when, as an encore, he launched into a funkily re-composed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons it clicked: Nigel Kennedy. Since both were once protégés of Yehudi Menuhin, maybe that’s not entirely coincidental.

In fact, the whole programme was chosen as a 100th birthday tribute to the late Lord Menuhin. L’Arte del Mondo are a spirited bunch who play standing up and make a beefy, buoyant sound despite their sparing use of vibrato. No ‘historically informed’ self-denial here, despite the token harpsichord. Two of Mozart’s early Salzburg divertimentos, directed by L’Arte del Mondo’s leader Werner Ehrhardt, sang and danced as boisterously as if they’d been played by a full symphonic string section rather than just 14 players.”     …

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “However there nothing lacklustre about the Vivaldi that followed, his Concerto for two violins in A minor. A common wavelength between Hope and co-soloist Andrea Keller (sub-leader of L’arte del mondo) was instantly established, a togetherness shared by the whole group. As Ehrhardt came more into prominence in the third Allegro movement of RV 522, the interaction and buzz between the three was exhilarating. The third item, like all of them in the programme directly linked to Menuhin, was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, brought to Menuhin’s attention in 1951 and recorded by him the following year. Written when Mendelssohn was only thirteen, it naturally does not have the widespread appeal of the E Minor, but is nevertheless of great academic interest. Very much about the soloist, Hope gave an assured performance, displaying the beautiful tone of his Guarneri in the andante and a sparkling gypsy-style kick to the closing allegro.

After the interval, a second Mozart divertimento KV 138, re-opened proceedings. The first (Allegro) movement reminded me of Bach’s Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K525a little anyway; the violas of Antje Sabinski and Rafael Roth in the (Presto) third movement demanded my attention. Next came the other side of Menuhin with Arvo Pärt’s Darf ich … (Can I… ). Without the bells, surely much of its tintinnabulation style is lost (despite the assurances in the programme notes). When Menuhin first received the piece, he asked the composer ‘Can I what?’ to which the reply came, ‘That’s for you say!’ Although only three minutes long, my answer was ‘… Empathise with you!’ An example of ‘East meets West’ followed: the Lebanese composer Bechara El-Khoury’s Unfinished Journey (the title of Menuhin’s autobiography) commissioned by Hope and the Gstaad Menuhin Festival in 2009 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Menuhin’s death. I found it utterly captivating, with Hope’s beautiful phrasing frustratingly underdeveloped at times – but symbolic of the title. There was also a sensation of expectation from the chattering tremolo string accompaniment, a feeling underpinned by the haunting perceptions of the closing muted bars. There are many iconic recordings by Menuhin and his pairing with David Oistrakh for the Bach Double Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043 is one of the most popular; this work closed the scheduled programme. Once more Keller partnered Hope; there were fireworks but I thought there might have been a few more of them, their rendition being more memorable for its adroit handling of the tempo changes.”     …

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Review by Rebecca Franks, The Times (££):

Click here for full review (££)

…     “He was an inspiring force throughout: dancing on tiptoe, engaging with the cellos one moment, spinning round to the leader the next. For the double concertos, Andrea Keller stepped out of the orchestra to take a solo spot. In Vivaldi’s A minor Concerto (from L’estro armonico) her sylph-like sound made an appealing contrast to Hope’s sweetness and bite. Less so, sadly, in the Bach D minor Concerto, in which poor tuning curdled the sound. Hope held steady against rocky ensemble in a gutsy Mendelssohn D minor Concerto and shone with bright purity in Pärt and El-Khoury. L’arte del mondo alone played two Mozart Divertimenti, with silvery grace in the D major K136 and heartier tone in the F major K138.”     …

Bruckner’s Ninth

Wednesday 13th April, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart  Clarinet Concerto, 28′
  • Bruckner  Symphony No. 9, 59′

Bruckner’s Ninth has been called a “cathedral in sound” – and no question, it’s got majesty to spare. But that’s just the surface: this is nothing less than one man’s final struggle to find peace, told in music of shattering power and beauty. There’s more to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto than just gorgeous melodies, too – and if any soloist can get to its heart, it’s Michael Collins. Soul music, Austrian-style.

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Support the CBSO

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Review by Richard Ely, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     Their cause was aided greatly in the Mozart by soloist Michael Collins‘ choice of the basset clarinet, for which the concerto was written, in preference to the smoother tones of the modern instrument. This gave the solo part an arresting edge which contrasted with the hushed orchestral accompaniment – reined back almost to a whisper during the Andante –and served equally well in the more extrovert outer movements: the gallop of the finale was especially piquant. Collins, genial and earthy next to Feddeck’s more ascetic presence on the podium, proved himself a stalwart advocate for the piece, as powerful when playing in concert with the orchestra as in his spotlit solo role.  This was a performance as alert and life-enhancing as anyone could wish for: the bear traps of blandness were sidestepped with agility.  […]

[…]     Along the way, much orchestral detail was revealed that too many performances overlook. Feddeck downplayed the bombast of the Scherzo, which became less the aural depiction of hell some interpreters like to make it and more of a long march over rough terrain, with a rest break (the trio) in the middle.  The contrasting music of the trio, with its disturbing and otherwise un-Brucknerian sensuality was vividly characterised by the strings in combination with the woodwind.  Although I’ve heard far weightier accounts of this movement, Feddeck’s approach worked through its combination of toughness and ethereality.  

The final Adagio showed conductor and orchestra at their finest. Most  impressive was the solo violins’ harrowing depiction of the ‘cry of anguish’ at the start of the movement. Aside from some scrappy ensemble between the horns and the Wagner tubas, the balance between the different sections was impeccable and there was an almost Viennese lilt to the strings. There was no sense of incompleteness in this performance as  Feddeck and his forces brought the piece home in a blaze of sound that shook Symphony Hall to tis foundations.  ”     …

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig perform Strauss

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

Monday 19th October

Symphony Hall

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Riccardo Chailly Gewandhauskapellmeister
Maria João Pires piano

Richard Strauss Don Juan 17’
Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat 29’
Richard Strauss Ein Heldenleben 45’

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Few orchestral showpieces open as thrillingly as Strauss’s Don Juan – and fewer still match the vaulting ambition of Ein Heldenleben. Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig celebrate a rare visit to Birmingham with Richard Strauss at his most extrovert.

As the soloist in Mozart’s 27th Piano Concerto, Maria João Pires triumphs amidst Strauss’s soaring orchestral peaks.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The orchestra, now huge for these tone-poems, played with a biting attack, scrupulous accentuation (the opening of Ein Heldenleben a prime example), and a relish for the instrumental detail with which the composer peppered his textures. Special praise for concertmaster Frank-Michael Erben, his tiny solos in Don Juan sweet-toned, and his huge ones in Ein Heldenleben equally so, despite the often vicious ferocity of Strauss’s writing in these depictions of his shrewish wife.

Chailly balanced the sonorities with a natural authority, an almost fatherly concern for his charges, and it was heartwarming to witness the awareness between the strings sections and the overall intelligence and musicality of this band of professors (many of them tutors at the Mendelssohn-founded Leipzig Conservatoire).

Chailly will be leaving this orchestra in the hands of Andris Nelsons next year. It is good to know that this much-loved Birmingham ex-pat will be back at the helm of a European orchestra equal with the CBSO in repute and quality — though not privileged with the acoustic of Symphony Hall, which still never ceases to amaze me after nearly a quarter of a century.”

*****

Dvořák’s Sixth

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Wednesday 14th October, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Mozart Idomeneo – Ballet Music, 10′
  • Nielsen  Violin Concerto, 35′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 6, 41′
Pekka Kuusisto’s encore – Aulis Sallinen – Cadenza
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Love Dvořák’s symphony from the New World? Now discover his symphony from the old one! Dvořák’s Sixth is musical sunshine: from pastoral opening to jubilant finish, it’s 45 joyous minutes of folkdances, lullabies and autumn sunsets – perfect for the youthful energy of conductor Nicholas Collon, just as Nielsen’s tuneful Violin Concerto could have been written for our soloist Pekka Kuusisto. Mozart’s Idomeneo ballet launches the evening in majestic style.
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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:
Click here for full review

“Good to hear Dvorak’s sixth symphony, the equal of his last three in all but fame, especially when performed with such a winning mixture of tender lyricism, rhythmic vigour and bravado. With the CBSO brass and Elspeth Dutch’s outstanding horn section in full cry the finale powered away like a ship in full steam down the Vltava.The conductor Nicholas Collon’s pacing of the opening allegro was spot on and while the dynamic scherzo, with its cross-cutting rhythms, was exuberant Collon allowed the wind section to give full play to the trio’s Bohemian melodies.

They impressed again at the opening of the adagio which sounded like one of Mozart’s magical wind serenades.”     …

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Sibelius’ Fifth

Thursday 1st October, 7.30pm

Featuring

Programme

  • Mendelssohn  Overture, The Hebrides, 10′
  • Mozart  Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271 , 32′
  • Sibelius Symphony No. 5, 32′
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Lars Vogt’s encore – Chopin – Nocturne in C Sharp Minor
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Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony begins with a glowing sunrise and ends with a vision of a flight of swans – and one of the simplest but noblest melodies ever written. A real CBSO speciality, there’s no finer way to salute Sibelius in his anniversary year; first, though, Edward Gardner takes us to sea with Felix Mendelssohn, and joins the masterly Lars Vogt in Mozart’s little jewel of a piano concerto.
Available on BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert for 28 days here
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Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack (for matinee of same programme)
Click here for full review
…     “With the concerto, the programme had quickly sailed all the way east to the land of a thousand lakes and anniversary composer Jean Sibelius, whom we picture standing on one of them, looking out onto the calm waters, until a noise draws his gaze upwards. He later records in his diary: “…I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, what beauty! […] A low refrain reminiscent of a small child crying. Nature, mysticism and life’s Angst!” Reading about his excitement on seeing a formation of swans pass overhead, one can but wonder how this could have made such an impression on the man, but hearing its reverberation in his Fifth Symphony, one cannot help being drawn into this time-stopping, slightly mystical moment as the birds “disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming solar ribbon.”Eerily rustling strings grew the figurative reeds surrounding the lake and a creepy, oppressive atmosphere, before brilliant, shining brass took over, combining forces for one of Sibelius’ grand crescendos that crested and washed over the listener with elemental force, and that smashed up against one entire body rather than only entering one’s ears. The second movement pizzicato cues, precise to perfection, displayed the orchestra’s enormous dramatic tension that discharged into the final movements opening, racing tremolos. Never did the musicians show any sign of tiring despite the high speed and played with a solemn but taut energy.

In Gardner’s take, always natural and controlled, Sibelius’ “swan hymn” was more pacing than swinging and, perhaps necessarily so, at a slightly swifter clip, but no less memorable for it, evoking mental images of the majestic birds beating their wings above the awed composer. The high woodwinds delivered their gorgeous chant-like theme with moving emoition, which eventually gave way for yet another elemental, incredibly powerful crescendo that was crowned by the closing orchestral stabs, gripping, mesmerising, awe-inspiring chords, thrown out with absolute precision. This. Was. Big.”

A to Z of the CBSO

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Saturday 19th September, 7.00pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Featuring

  • Vivaldi Four Seasons (excerpt)
  • Zimmer Pirates of the Carribean
  • Williams – Star Wars = encore

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Put 90 top-flight musicians on one stage, and there’s no limit to what they can do. Three centuries in the making, the symphony orchestra is still the ultimate piece of music technology: at home in the concert hall or the movie studio, and capable of summoning up over 300 years of music in breathtaking live sound. Tonight, Michael Seal and the full CBSO walk you through an A to Z of the orchestra: with music ranging from Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine to Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean!

If you’re not sure where to begin with the CBSO, come along for just a tenner to find out more. And if you’re a regular – why not bring a friend to introduce them?