Summer Showcase

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 25th June, 2.15pm

Programme

  • Strauss  Suite in B flat major for 13 winds, 25′
  • Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, 20′
  • Reich  Music for Pieces of Wood, 8′
  • Cage  First Construction in Metal, 9′
  • Mussorgsky (arr. Howarth)  Pictures at an Exhibition, 30′

Our orchestra is made up of 83 extraordinary artists, and today they step into the limelight. The CBSO woodwinds share Strauss’s delightful Suite, and our strings play their hearts out in Shostakovich’s white-hot Chamber Symphony. Then the percussion section sets up a rhythm in two stunning contemporary classics – and a spectacular, all-brass version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition proves that a great orchestra is the sum of some seriously impressive parts!
.

Alpesh Chauhan to stay at CBSOarticle by Christopher Morley

.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “For the brass Elgar Howarth’s imaginative arrangement of Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition showed just what exciting sounds can be drawn from an expanded palette of brass colours (especially when played with such firm-of-lip panache) and a conductor alert to good balance.

The two percussion items were less rewarding. Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood might be an intriguing rhythmic exercise, but quickly outstays its 8-minute duration; and the huge array of instruments in John Cage’s First Construction (in Metal), which Chauhan conducted with military four-in-a-bar precision, certainly tickled the ears although, by today’s standards, its inventiveness seemed disappointingly limited.

Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for strings, however, was quite different. With its four-note motif an ever-present symbol of the composer’s torment and despair, and the cello solos of Eduardo Vassallo singing songs of forlorn memory, this was a stunningly moving performance, made even more so by the unobtrusive direction of concert master Laurence Jackson. When musicians listen so intently to each other who needs a conductor?”    

Advertisements

Pictures at an Exhibition

  • ThumbnailDiscover

Thursday 29th May 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

 Andris Nelsons  conductor
Håkan Hardenberger  trumpet

Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin 17′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Dean: Dramatis Personae (CBSO co-commission: UK premiere) 20′
Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition 34′
Listen on Spotify

When Maurice Ravel arranged Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, he created one of the few adaptations that’s better than the original! From its opening Promenade to the majestic Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the alltime great orchestral showpieces. Andris Nelsons unlocks a real jewel-box of a concert as Håkan Hardenberger, probably the world’s greatest trumpeter, gives the first UK performance of an imaginative new concerto by Brett Dean. History in the making…

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Summer Serenade, Thursday 5th June
Thomas Adès: New Horizons, Wednesday 11th June
Strauss and Shakespeare, Wednesday 18th June

.

.

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “It is a challenging work – and not just for the orchestra. I had to smile when I heard someone saying in the interval ‘well I doubt we’ll be hearing that on Classic FM’. But CBSO certainly gave it plenty of energy and Hardenberger showed why he is one of the most in-demand trumpet soloists today.

While Dean may not be easy listening, it has to be said that Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

A series of short pieces all strung together by a recurring Promenade, the piece was inspired by an exhibition of pictures by architect Victor Hartmann, a friend of Mussorgsky.

It is very much a musical journey with the composer walking round the pictures and responding to each one. There is plenty of variety, a touch of humour and lots of grandeur from the busyness of the Limoges market to the impressive Great Gate of Kiev.

And if the audience wasn’t sure which picture we were looking at, we were given a helping hand with surtitles informing us throughout the work.

Under the baton of CBSO musical director Andris Nelsons, the orchestra seemed just a little hesitant to really give full throttle to this work. But by the closing pieces, the somewhat crazed Baba Yaga and the dramatic Gate of Kiev, they had it more in their stride.

The orchestra revelled in Ravel’s Le Tombeau of Couperin – dancing back and forth between strings and woodwind. Although this piece is a memorial to French composer Francois Couperin, it is anything but funereal and gives little hint of the angst being experienced by Ravel at the time.”

.

.

Review by DPM (same?), WeekendNotes:

Click here for full review

…     “The UK premiere of Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae was a well-chosen companion piece to the Mussorgsky as thematically it shared some common ground – the idea of a physical and personal journey encapsulated in music.

But while Pictures at an Exhibition is an illustrative stroll round a gallery, Dramatis Personae is a much more elemental search into the psyche. Dean’s central character is no longer the composer but a superhero, a single warrior, an individual.

Musically the two have less shared experience. Gone are Mussorgksy’s hummable tunes, replaced with a rush of instrumentation.

The piece depends very largely on the trumpet soloist and Brett could not have asked for a more able performer than Hakan Hardenberger whose adaptability has also seen him performing classical Haydn and contemporary Joni Mitchell with the CBSO this week.

Hardenberger, who also performed at the world premiere of Dramatis Personae, took to the piece with relish, clearly enjoying its challenges and the balance of interplay with the rest of the orchestra. At its conclusion, he left centre stage and took his place within the orchestra, a visual sign that the Superman’s battle is done.

Beginning the evening was Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Although this piece is a memorial to French composer Francois Couperin, it is quite a light-hearted and quixotic work which eased us into the rest of the programme. ”    

.

.

Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…    “The last movement, The Accidental Revolutionary, is inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and exploits a jokey element already present in Dean’s witty percussion writing. Now it was the turn of the virtuoso trumpet to lead, with Nelsons jacking up a filmic tension and emphasising its Ives-like marching-band episodes. Solidarity is all: two trumpets first gently echoed the soloist on either side, but, by way of climax, Hardenberger joined the orchestra to blast from within the trumpet rank. It was positively operatic and fun.

No greater compliment could be paid to Dean, who knows his orchestra inside out, than that of framing his Concerto with Ravel’s finely orchestrated Le Tombeau de Couperin and Pictures at an Exhibition. As ever, Nelsons found new detail, inspiring fine playing.”

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The other Ravel transcription was that of Mussorgsky’s pianistically rugged Pictures at an Exhibition; this is such a magnificent orchestration that it beats me why so many others have bothered to try it themselves.

Nelsons’ freely-flowing beat (having learned the technique, now he can modify it as he will) drew grittiness, sonority, desolation, brilliance, devoutness and total dedication from his players – among whom the whimpering trumpet of Catherine Moore was outstanding.

And trumpets were to the fore in the work sandwiched between these two transcriptions, the Trumpet Concerto of Brett Dean, a CBSO co-commission here receiving its UK premiere – and what an enthusiastic reception it was given by the thrilled audience.

Hakan Hardenberger was the soloist, totally immersed in the music even when not playing, his colourings via an array of mutes vivid and atmospheric, his agility in all Dean’s demands consummate, and his relationship with the orchestra as collaborative as chamber-music – indeed so, when he is the centre of a stereophonically-staged trio with two of the orchestral trumpeters, and later when he goes back onto the risers to join them.”     …

*****

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

Thumbnail    Pure Emotion

Wednesday 12 March 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Mikhail Tatarnikov  conductor

Peter Donohoe  piano

Mussorgsky: A Night on a Bare Mountain 12′

Dohnányi: Variations on a Nursery Song 25′

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Think   Russian and you think epic. Rachmaninov’s Second is exactly that: a symphony   as grand and expansive as Russia itself, full-to-overflowing with some of the   most gorgeous love music ever written. It could have been written for our guest   conductor Mikhail Tatarnikov. And Dohnányi’s delightful Variations on a Nursery   Tune could have been written for today’s soloist – because our latest rediscovery   from 1913 demands both spectacular artistry and a cheeky sense of humour. Peter   Donohoe has both!

www.cbso.co.uk

“I love both Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 and Symphonic  Dances – come and hear some of the juiciest Cor Anglais parts in the repertoire!” (Rachael Pankhurst, Cor Anglais)

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Pictures at an Exhibition, Thursday   29 May

Thomas Adès: New Horizons, Wednesday   11 June

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Thursday   19 June

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post: (for same programme – matinee)

Click here for full review

…     “This is a gem of a piece, once heard never forgotten. Throughout the variations the composer pays affectionate homage to so many near-contemporaries, Wagner, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Franck and Reger among them, all the while giving every player in a huge orchestra so much to reward them, and putting demands on the soloist which require awesome technique as well as wit and warmth.

And Peter Donohoe has these in spades. His pianism coruscated with rippling chords and figuration, and encompassed both the innocent as he unfolded the trite little “Twinkle, twinkle little star” tune after Dohnanyi’s massively imposing orchestral build-up, and the joyously collaborative: the way he waited an age to resume after the solo bassoon’s outrageously prolonged paused note near the end was a comedy to behold.”     …

.

.

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     As I’d hoped and expected Donohoe was an ideal soloist. Tatarnikov set the scene well with a suitably dramatic and portentous unfolding of the big Introduction. The moment when the full orchestra breaks off and the soloist plays the Twinkle, twinkle, little star theme like a child’s five-finger exercise is still one of the best musical jokes, no matter how often one has heard it and it raised an audible laugh from the audience on this occasion. Having got that out of the way Donohoe proceeded to have fun! He brought virtuosity and humour to the performance and the orchestra backed him up splendidly with some razor-sharp playing. Among the moments that particularly stood out for me was the seventh variation, the waltz. If I remember correctly from when I took part in a performance many years ago, this variation is marked mit Schwung (‘with dash’); that’s how it came across here, with Tatarnikov getting the orchestra to inflect the waltz with fine sweep and vigour, matched by Donohoe. The enterprising colours of Dohnányi’s orchestration in the ninth variation – including growling bassoons and tinkling xylophone – were vividly achieved. The great passacaglia (Variation 10) was built impressively and then the concluding fugato was a delightful romp – not for the first time I was put in mind of Tom and Jerry by this music. Just before the end I really enjoyed the delightfully droll bassoon playing of Julian Roberts. This was a splendid and thoroughly enjoyable performance of this sparkling work: I hope we won’t have to wait 35 years to hear it again in Birmingham.”     …

The Year 1913: Ballets Russes

Saturday 16 February 2013 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simone Young conductor
James Ehnes violin

Mussorgsky: Khovanshchina – Prelude 6′
Sibelius: Violin Concerto 33′ Listen on Spotify
Debussy: Jeux 19′ Listen on Spotify
Stravinsky: The Firebird – Suite (1911) 26′

 James Ehnes’ encore – Bach – Sonata 3 – Largo

Paris, 1913: and a radical team of composers, artists and dancers ignites a revolution. Welcome to the fabulous world of the Ballets Russes, where Stravinsky paints Russian fairytales in rainbow colours, and Debussy sets a game of tennis to the music of seduction. The inspirational Australian conductor Simone Young makes her Birmingham debut in this gorgeous programme, which begins with Mussorgsky’s serene Moscow dawn and features Birmingham favourite James Ehnes in the fire and ice of Sibelius’s popular Violin Concerto.  www.cbso.co.uk

.

.

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The Mussorgsky, with its rarified, delicate ambience, proved a shrewd choice as a prelude to the Sibelius Violin Concerto. The Canadian virtuoso, James Ehnes impressed from the start. He has a very natural platform presence, completely devoid of showiness, and his seemingly effortless technique put him in full command of this demanding concerto. So, for example, he was able to bring both dazzle and poetry to the first movement cadenza. His singing tone, especially rich on the G string, was a delight in the wonderful slow movement. Ehnes plays on a 1715 Stradivarius, the so-called ‘Marsick’ violin, and it’s clearly a glorious instrument, especially in his hands. He projected his sound wonderfully, even in the quietest of passages. This account of the slow movement was enthralling from start to finish. Soloist and conductor were at one throughout the concerto but nowhere more so than in the finale, which was given an urgent and exciting reading. As in the first movement, Simone Young made one realise how close to the sound world of the composer’s first two symphonies many of the tutti passages are. Ehnes was superb once again and the contribution of the CBSO was memorable. As an encore Mr Ehnes gave us the Largo from Bach’s Third Violin Sonata. Here sovereign purity of tone was allied to simplicity of style in a marvellous performance that was an ideal foil to the preceding concerto.”     …

 

.

.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “With the Sibelius Violin Concerto she was no less considerate, providing a coolly refined opening to the Adagio that contrasted perfectly with the richly enunciated discourse of soloist James Ehnes. For his part Ehnes brought to this much-loved work a finely contoured combination of sweetness and steel, presenting the opening theme as a fully formed entity rather than exploratory quest, and adopting a measured approach to the finale that avoided histrionics and focused on musical integrity – a commendably thoughtful approach.”       *****

Pictures at an Exhibition

Thursday 27 October 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor
Alisa Weilerstein cello

Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijé Suite 19′
Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor 40′
Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel): Pictures at an Exhibition 30′ Listen on Spotify

Alisa Weilerstein’s encore – Bourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No.3 in C

When Ravel arranged Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra, he created one of the few adaptations that’s better than the original. From its opening Promenade to the majestic final Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the true orchestral showpieces, a glittering jewel-box crammed with unforgettable images. And Prokofiev’s cheeky Lieutenant Kijé suite is every bit as much fun! The young Finnish star Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes his Birmingham debut, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein celebrates her return to Birmingham with Dvorák’s impassioned Cello Concerto. www.cbso.co.uk 

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 Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/11/04/review-cbso-at-symphony-hall-65233-29706946/

…     “And this world-class orchestra rewarded him with well-turned accounts of Lieutenant Kije, Prokofiev’s cleverest if emptiest score, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in Ravel’s ineffable orchestration (do we really need any other?).”     …

Pictures at an Exhibition

Wednesday 14 April 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Andrew Grams  conductor
Isabelle Faust  violin

Dvořák: Carnival Overture 8′
Beethoven: Violin Concerto 42′
Mussorgsky: (orch. Ravel) Pictures at an Exhibition 32′ Listen
requires Real Player

When Maurice Ravel arranged Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra, he created one of the few adaptations that’s better than the original! From its famous opening Promenade to the roof-raising final Great Gate of Kiev, it’s one of the all-time great orchestral showpieces, a glittering Russian jewel-box full of spicy tunes and unforgettable images. It’s a real CBSO favourite – and Dvorák’s riotous Carnival Overture is every bit as colourful. The great open spaces of Beethoven’s noble violin concerto will be like an oasis of calm – especially in the masterly hands of the young German virtuoso Isabelle Faust. www.cbso.co.uk

This concert is sponsored by

“Christopher Morley speaks to the German violinist Isabelle Faust…” :

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/04/12/double-date-in-birmingham-for-violinist-isabelle-faust-65233-26225973/

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/04/15/review-cbso-andrew-grams-at-symphony-hall-birmingham-65233-26250576/

…”The soloist’s trust in her on-loan 1704 Strad allowed her to reduce dynamic levels to a minimum at appropriate points: it also permitted a multitude of colourings and voices from one single line, and everything in this interpretation was understatedly eloquent — all matched by Grams and the orchestra.” …

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

Tuesday 2 March 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Jaap van Zweden conductor
Simon Trpčeski piano

Mussorgsky Prelude to Khovanshchina 6’
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 27’
Rachmaninov Symphony No 2 60’

One of Holland’s foremost orchestras, with their Principal Conductor Jaap van Zweden, brings a richly romantic programme to Symphony Hall. There’s the heartfelt lyricism and inexhaustible melody of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony and Mussorgsky’s exquisite Khovanshchina Prelude, evoking dawn over Moscow. And, expect sparks to fly in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto in the hands of Simon Trpčeski – one of today’s hottest young pianists.

Due to the current economic climate we regret that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, originally due to perform at this concert, has been forced to postpone its European tour. However, we are delighted to secure the outstanding Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, with conductor Jaap van Zweden and pianist Simon Trpčeski as originally advertised, in a programme that is virtually unchanged.

“Jaap van Zweden is the principal conductor of no less than four important orchestras around the world, but tonight he returns to his Dutch roots with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. At the core of this impressive programme is the young Macedonian sensation Simon Trpčeski who will tackle one of the trickiest piano concertos in the book, Prokofiev’s ferocious Third.” Oliver Condy, BBC Music Magazine. www.thsh.co.uk

Encore – Prokofiev March

Review by Geoff Brown, Times:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/live_reviews/article7048395.ece

“Van Zweden paid due respect to Rachmaninov’s instrumental colouring. The tuba loomed up like a sea monster. Woodwinds were nicely bumptious. This wasn’t perhaps the subtlest interpretation; but I’d happily bottle its energy.  …

And another energy surge came with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3, a work that requires the pianists’ hands to leap and yell. No problem for Simon Trpceski, the Macedonian wonder, whose finger power and feeling for rhythm is second to none. And Van Zweden’s troops weren’t left panting, even in the hurtling finale. Smiles all round.”

Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/7361658/Netherlands-Radio-Philharmonic-Orchestra-at-Symphony-hall-Birmingham-review.html

…”He was well-matched in Simon Trpceski, who has a marvellous way of seizing the rhythms so that they seem almost early – but not quite. Together they brought an amazing edge-of-the seat excitement to Prokofiev’s concerto, but the best moment came in a tranced passage in the first movement, when clarinet, bassoon and Trpceski’s left-hand musings were intermingled. Suddenly, amid all the tumult, we had the intimacy of chamber music.” …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/03/04/review-netherlands-radio-philharmonic-orchestra-at-symphony-hall-65233-25963847/

… “The highlight of the evening was Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no. 3, Simon Trpceski the soloist. The quirky fairy-tale interludes were set into an appropriate context, and Trpceski’s virtuosity never stole the thunder of this enchanting music.

Trpceski’s encore, a miniature Prokofiev March, was just perfect.”

Review by Hilary Finch, The Observer:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/mar/07/nrpo-van-zweden-maurizio-pollini

… “This week van Zweden, the young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski and the Netherlands RPO have been on tour in the UK. If Birmingham’s all-Russian programme was the measure, this was first-class music-making. Trpceski gave a scintillating account of Prokofiev’s knotty third piano concerto, managing to bring a bendy, relaxed manner to the spiky, motoric figurations.

The second movement theme and variations had an improvisatory feel, as if Trpceski, jazzily noodling up and down the keyboard, had suddenly whisked us from the comfort of Symphony Hall to a cocktail bar. After, in response to noisy cheers from a stunned audience, he charmed us with the tiny march from Prokofiev’s Musiques d’enfants as an encore, a mere 34 bars (and nearly as many key changes) of sparky pleasure.” …