Ex Cathedra: The Face of Humanity

Sunday 17 February 2013 at 4.00pm

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


Jeffrey Skidmore conductor
David Briggs organ
Grace Davidson soprano
Greg Skidmore baritone
Ex Cathedra
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani 19′
Poulenc: Figure Humaine 21′
Fauré: Requiem 38′ Listen on Spotify

“I wanted to write something different,” said Gabriel Fauré, and his Requiem is exactly that. There’s no terror or rage here: just music of deep peace, tender humanity, and – in the lovely Pie Jesu – transcendent beauty. Birmingham’s world-famous chamber choir joins the CBSO for this very special performance, and marks the 50th anniversary of Poulenc’s death with two very different masterpieces: the powerful Figure Humaine, written in occupied France, and the roof-raising drama of Poulenc’s flamboyant Organ Concerto. www.cbso.co.uk



Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The two soloists sang with the choir – a pleasingly collegiate touch – and stepped forward to the front of the choir but behind the orchestra for their solos. Though they were thus positioned further back than one might have expected neither seemed to have the slightest difficulty in projecting their solos. Greg Skidmore has a good, firm baritone which he used to excellent effect in both his solos. Grace Davidson gave a beguiling account of the famous ‘Pie Jesu’. Her tone was warm and pure and her gently beseeching delivery was just right. The choir sang with great finesse and control. Line was always paramount, it seemed, and the diction was excellent throughout. The orchestral playing demonstrated consistent refinement and from my seat in the stalls it appeared that the balance between orchestra and singers was expertly judged. Jeffrey Skidmore’s tempi were always well judged and I appreciated above all the sense of flow that he imparted to the music. The sopranos of Ex Cathedra brought the performance to a perfect conclusion, singing their serene line in the ‘In Paradisum’ with radiant purity. This set the seal on a very fine and thoughtful performance.”




Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

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…     “All 16 acoustic doors were wide open for Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani, the organ console being within the orchestra rather than using the main organ loft far above the musicians. Even so, there was a shock as David Briggs’ first unleashed blast filled the massive space.

Conductor Jeffrey Skidmore sensitively controlled balance between soloist and orchestra. ‘On the fringe of religious music’ packed with differing textures: unstoppable energy, quasi jollity, shimmering showers of notes but including heart-stopping Poulenc poignancy.”     …

The Labèque Sisters Play Poulenc

Wednesday 30 January 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Nicholas McGegan conductor
Katia & Marielle Labèque pianos

Poulenc: Suite Française 12′
Mozart: Concerto in E flat for Two Pianos, K.365 26′
Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos 19′
Mozart: Symphony No. 39 25′

Katia and Marielle Labèque: the ultimate sister act! They’re a byword for gallic charm, musical wit, and that irresistible, sparkling je ne sais quoi. And tonight’s concert lets them loose on some of the most delightful music ever written for two pianos and orchestra: Mozart’s youthful romp, and Poulenc’s champagne-cocktail of a double concerto. Conductor Nicholas McGegan accompanies with a glint in his eye. Fifty years after the composer’s death, he treats us to another mouthwatering Poulenc rarity, plus a Mozart symphony that positively glows with warmth.   www.cbso.co.uk




Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “There could be no more adept performers of these wonderful works than Katia  and Marielle Labeque, siblings (as were Mozart and his sister Nannerl, who  premiered the Salzburg piece), and Parisiennes, capturing all of the Poulenc’s  street-cred (Mozart with Gallic dust on his shoes).

Nicholas McGegan was the conductor, bubbling with geniality and enjoying  every minute of his collaboration with the sparky sisters.”

A Soirée with the Labéques

Thursday 18 February 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Gilbert Varga  conductor
Katia & Marielle Labèque  pianos

Berlioz: Overture – Le Corsaire 9′
Debussy: En blanc et noir 16′
Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos 20′
Ravel: Mother Goose Suite 18′
Ravel: Boléro 14′

It’s a real pleasure to welcome back to Birmingham the amazing Labèque sisters, for one of the most sparkling of all French pieces, Poulenc’s delightful double concerto. They also bring their uniquely gallic flair to Debussy’s masterpiece for two pianos and Ravel’s sumptuous Spanish fantasy brings the evening to an exuberant finish.

We are sorry to announce that Lionel Bringuier has been obliged to withdraw from tonight’s concert as he has had a fall and injured his arm. We are very grateful to Gilbert Varga who replaces him at short notice. This replacement has led to a change in the advertised programme, which is now as listed above.