Panufnik Centenary

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Wednesday 24 September 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Stravinsky: Greeting Prelude 1′
Beethoven: Overture, Leonora No. 3 14′
Panufnik: Piano Concerto 24′
Listen on Spotify

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 18′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Panufnik: Symphony No.2 (Sinfonia Elegiaca) 24′
Listen on Spotify

When Andrzej Panufnik escaped from communist Poland, Britain offered him a home – and so it was that one of Europe’s greatest post-war composers became principal conductor of the CBSO. Tonight, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we celebrate with some of the music Panufnik conducted in Birmingham, and two of his own finest works: as fresh and communicative today as when he conducted them here himself.

Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of Polska Music programme Polska Music

If you like this concert, you might also like:
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March 2015 & Saturday 28 March 2015
Parsifal, Sunday 17th May 2015

 

Pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Panufnik Centenary
Composer Roxanna Panufnik talks about her father Andrzej, in conversation with Jessica Duchen.

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Interview with Roxanna Panufnik, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

“With possibly the neatest scheduling ever, the CBSO’s concert at Symphony Hall on September 24 celebrates the centenary to the day of the birth of one of its previous principal conductors, Andrzej Panufnik.

Born in Warsaw into a highly musical family, and with a mother of British origins, Panufnik studied composition and conducting during the years preceding the Second World War. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 saw the destruction of his works (he reconstructed some later), and after a post-war period conducting orchestras in Warsaw and Krakow Panufnik decided to devote himself to composition.

Hugely patriotic, he loathed the Stalinist regime then prevailing in his native country, and in 1954, whilst in Switzerland conducting recordings of his own music, he and his British-born first wife managed to escape to the West.

In 1956 it was announced that principal conductor Rudolf Schwarz would be leaving the CBSO at the end of the season to succeed Sir Malcolm Sargent at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the hunt was on for Schwarz’ replacement. Rather similar to the process going on now at the CBSO, as they seek a successor to Andris Nelsons, guest conductors were invited to give “audition” concerts, and Panufnik was among them.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Nor was Donohoe fazed by the uncoiled aggression of the Molto agitato finale, which fuses elements from its predecessors (powered by some visceral work from the percussion) as well as building to a bracing apotheosis via an accompanied cadenza such as ranks with the composer’s most thrilling passages. A timely revival of an impressive work.

Following the interval, the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) further opened out the concert’s expressive remit – Seal keeping the former’s distanced ambiguity in focus on the way to a fervent culmination and fatalistic close, while ensuring that the ‘Liebestod’ brought the requisite transcendence during its radiant closing pages. Not music one might readily associate with Panufnik, yet it was an overt presence in that of Szymanowski – in turn an early (and an obliquely enduring) influence on his Polish successor.

Transcendence of a different kind is evinced in Sinfonia elegiaca – the second of Panufnik’s ten Symphonies, completed in 1957 on the basis of material from his discarded Symphony of Peace of six years earlier. Shorn of its propagandist choral component, the piece stands as a finely achieved statement at a time of personal and political turmoil – whose three continuous movements move from a Molto andante that alternates between pensive woodwind chorale and ravishing string cantilena, via a Molto allegro whose barbarity is (just) held in check by its formal subtlety, to another Molto andante such as utilises earlier ideas along with a new string threnody before it ethereally recollects the work’s opening. A committed response from the CBSO was ably controlled by Seal to the evident appreciation of the audience.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Various composers were brought to mind here: bustling Prokofiev, night-music Bartok, stark Ives, rippling Ravel, but all of them assimilated into an urgently communicative personality all Panufnik’s own.

Even more urgent is Panufnik’s Symphony no.2, the “Sinfonia Elegiaca”, an anti-war protest against violence and aggression, and given its British première here in 1958.

Tellingly scored, generously melodic, and unflinching dramatic (such blaring horns in the central section’s mad display of violence), this is a work of immense emotional and musical strength, and deserves a whole raft of hearings, not least in these times where we remember and where we dread.

The CBSO responded with grateful enthusiasm.

For the rest, we heard Stravinsky’s wittily precise Greeting Prelude, a Beethoven Leonore no.3 Overture in which Seal drew a huge sound from the CBSO which only Symphony Hall could comfortably accommodate (portentous offstage trumpet, too), and a Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde phrased and shaped with a well-judged feel for the music’s harmonic pacing.”

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “……And profundity. For if this memorable concert, which included a massive tranche of Wagner’s Tristan and for some the most satisfying of Beethoven’s overtures to Fidelio, the almost symphonic Leonore no. 3, both in handsome performances from all the orchestral sections (duly congratulated at the end) under Seal’s sensibly judged leadership, stirred the depths of emotion – that of the love-lorn Leonora and love-torn Isolde – it was in Panufnik’s second symphony (the second of ten), the Sinfonia Elegiaca (Panufnik, a year younger than Britten, liked such titles: Sacra, Rustica, Mystica, Votiva), a profound lament for war and its victims of all kind (the composer lived through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the fatal 1944 uprising encouraged by Russia and crushed by the Nazis, but he widens his vision to a worldwide conspectus of suffering), with its a slow-fast-slow (ie double-andante, almost double-adagio layout) that from its almost Vaughan Williams-like, nervously serene opening generates a grieving one might look for in, say, Shostakovich 7, Tchaikovsky 6 or the aching tragedy of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1939 Concerto Funèbre.

Panufnik’s determination to work with tiny cells – major-minor thirds, or elsewhere seconds – reflects a Beethovenian precision and a Haydnesque incisiveness. It worked better here, in this elegy, than in his Piano Concerto, despite Peter Donohoe’s valiant efforts, looking a bit like a peak-scaling John Ogdon, to make multiple decoration work. Such toccata-like writing put one in mind of Malcolm Williamson’s similar propensity in Hyperion’s magnificent new recording of all Williamson’s piano concerti, CDA 68011/2. But it did not impact in the way this magnificent and moving symphony, punctuated by massive CBSO brass ostinati did, an opening cor anglais elegy, and strange feelings from string harmonics at both the start and chiasmic close that sounded almost bewilderingly like that rarely-used French instrument, the theremin, which generates such eerie terror in the film noir scores of Miklós Rózsa. If one had to compare Panufnik’s strange brand of modalism to another, it might just be to near-neighbour Kodály at his height.”     …

 

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

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Sunday 11 May 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sir Simon Rattle  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 44′
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 45′

When Sir Simon Rattle comes home to Birmingham, it’s always a special occasion. But with Sir Simon giving his services gratis in support of the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, this concert should be truly out of the ordinary – as he joins old friend Peter Donohoe in Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto, and conducts Brahms’s stirring First Symphony the way only he can. The world’s greatest music, made in Birmingham.

*The CBSO Benevolent Fund, registered friendly society 735F, exists to support CBSO players and staff, past and present, at times of ill-health or other hardship.

 *** To donate to the CBSO Benevolent Fund – see http://www.cbsobenfund.org.uk/ *** (“Donate” Paypal/credit card button, bottom of page)

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Review by Rian Evans, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “This work needs giant technique to deliver it with conviction and Donohoe played it as if visited by the spirit of Rachmaninov. His thunderous percussive power was able to match the orchestra at its most forceful, yet the filigree passagework danced gracefully. Rattle helped the CBSO strings spin luscious lines in the central Adagio intermezzo, with the violas capturing something unmistakably Russian and soulful. Donohoe introduced the contrasting capriciousness with glee. The fire and passion of the closing part of the last movement brought the performance to a magnificent climax. Not surprisingly, the audience erupted.

It felt as though only Brahms could match such drama, and the CBSO played his First Symphony with a richness and expansiveness of sound that was gloriously all-enveloping. Rattle also coaxed out extremes of pianissimo as well as an easy fluidity. To the finale, he gave first an immense nobility and then a great urgency of purpose. It was all heady stuff.”

*****

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Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “The second movement Adagio revealed the extent to which Rattle had transformed the sound of the orchestra for this concert. The string sound was sumptuous and the conductor never ceased to coax yet more depth of tone from the players. Dark clouds were cast by an impressive viola section from which Donohoe emerged, in complete command of the movement, soulful without being overly sentimental. The eruption into the finale was as exciting as it ought to be and Rattle, barely needing to make reference to the score, used deftly concise movements in order to marshal his orchestral forces in step with the soloist. Donohoe conjured delightfully feather-light moments and was matched by some fantastic pianissimo playing in the orchestra. There was a palpable crackle of energy in the orchestral response as the concluding march gathered pace and the smiles of the players spoke volumes: this was a memorable performance.     […]

[…]     A master of this hall, Rattle barely glanced at the horns and brass, knowing that they need little encouragement to be heard. Throughout, the conductor’s attention was always galvanising the string sound. The second movement was a major beneficiary of this approach, again with small details like the hand-stopped horn note at the start all of a piece with Rattle in charge. The third movement was the dreamy interlude it should be. Brahms turned the late Classical notion of a scherzo and trio on its head in this symphony: the central section here becoming frenzied and exciting in comparison with the outer sections. Rattle continued straight into the final movement without pause. He and the orchestra built up the psychodrama effectively until the first thunderclap moment heralds the glorious horn melody, played here by Katy Woolley (Principal Horn of The Philharmonia). The movement became a riot of symphonic detail in Rattle’s hands before shockingly collapsing at the second thunderclap as Brahms commands. The coda was taken at an exciting but dignified gallop, with the triumphant brass chorale mercifully broadened only slightly for effect before a rapturous finish.”

*****

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Both he and Donohoe were on fire in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto (Donohoe’s 149th performance, he told me, of what he regards as the most difficult concerto in the repertoire). Donohoe’s delivery of the solo part was formidable, crisply articulated, dynamics beautifully judged (though what state the piano was in at the end I can’t imagine), and leonine at the crowning conclusion. Rattle’s orchestra collaborated as supportive listeners, always surging and well-balanced. And many people agreed with me that this was a performance which should have been commercially recorded.

Then came Brahms’ First Symphony, Rattle conjuring a huge string sound, sonorously-phrased, concertmaster Laurence Jackson leading, a firm bass foundation (perhaps an influence from Rattle’s Berlin), and wonderful wind solos. The brass chorale in the finale was arresting.

And all of this on minimal rehearsal time, as all services were free. I want Rattle for Conductor Emeritus, and will be writing more about that.”

*****

 

 

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

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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

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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.”     …

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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.”     …

Leningrad Symphony 70th Anniversary

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra:

Leningrad Symphony 70th Anniversary

Part of Rebellion and Resistance… more events…

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2012/13… more events…

Tuesday 2nd October 2012

Symphony Hall

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra
Brass players of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Dmitriev conductor
Peter Donohoe piano

Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor 39’
Shostakovich Symphony No 7, Leningrad 69’

6.15pm Pre-concert talk by Stephen Johnson

Peter Donohoe’s encore – Rachmaninov – Opus 23 Prelude

St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra encores –  

Rachmaninov – Vocalise;  Excerpts from Ballet Ramonde by Glasunov

Distinguished musicians from St Petersburg (Leningrad) are joined by members of the CBSO to mark 70 years since the heroic Leningrad premiere of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony in August 1942. That performance was relayed over public loudspeakers to the starving inhabitants of a city besieged by Nazi forces, and was an event of huge symbolic importance in Russian history.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine, explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:

“Here’s a wonderful opportunity to experience Shostakovich’s most poignant symphony commemorating the victims of the Second World War, one that quickly became an internationally popular symbol of resistance to totalitarianism.”

www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “With its notes of better times, its military-sounding drums and its crashing cymbals, the music echoes the experience of Leningrad’s devastating hardships. But its melodious woodwinds and gentle strings also take a listener beyond the immediate horrors faced by those within the city.

And then finally, a crescendo of brass and percussion recreates a mind-set of a people so resolute their refusal to surrender has gone down as one of history’s great battles.

Seventy years on, the work has lost none of its power. It may be performed well out of its original context today but it nevertheless reminds us of the indomitable human spirit.”     …

CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

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Wednesday 14 December 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal conductor
Peter Donohoe piano

Shostakovich: Festive Overture Op 96 6′
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3 44′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 44′

Unfortunately, Andris Nelsons has withdrawn from this performance due to the imminent arrival of his first child. We are grateful to CBSO associate conductor Michael Seal who has kindly agreed to take his place at short notice. The programme remains unchanged, and we apologise for any disappointment caused.

Sibelius begins his Second Symphony deep in the forests of Finland and ends it with triumphant fanfares. It’s been a favourite with Birmingham audiences for generations, and it’s the climax of a concert that stars two more Birmingham favourites: Andris Nelsons, and keyboard lion Peter Donohoe. Together they tackle the “Everest”of romantic piano concertos, Rachmaninov’s epic Third – in grand style! A concert with a big heart, bursting with great music: and all for the CBSO Benevolent Fund*, a truly worthwhile cause.

* Registered Friendly Society 735F

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and CBSO’s flute section leader Marie-Christine Zupancic discussing Sibelius’s Symphony No.2.

www.cbso.co.uk

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Nelsons conducts Strauss, Thursday 12 & Saturday 14 January
Winter Dreams, Wednesday 25 & Thursday 26 January
Nelsons conducts Sibelius, Friday 30 March

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2011/12/23/review-cbso-benevolent-fund-concert-at-symphony-hall-65233-29990242/

…     “This was a terrific evening, by an orchestra in tiptop form collaborating with a conductor and soloist risen from its own ranks – Michael Seal, who when he is not on the podium as Associate Conductor continues to play Second Violin; and world-renowned pianist Peter Donohoe, who in his younger days regularly played orchestral piano and, occasionally, even percussion in the CBSO.

 All three elements came together in a stupendous performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Donohoe delivering a fully-integrated, listening interpretation (often turning during his tacets to appreciate the superb woodwind contributions) and an expressively powerful display of virtuosity.”     …  *****