Italian Moments

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Tchaikovsky  Romeo and Juliet Overture, 21′
  • Rachmaninov  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 24′
  • Puccini  Intermezzi from Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, 13′
  • Respighi  Feste Romane, 24′

Pavel Kolesnikov’s encore – Chopin  Waltz in A Minor

North meets south, and whether it’s Tchaikovsky’s star-crossed lovers embracing under the Italian night sky or Respighi’s roof-raising vision of Roman excess, this is a concert full of big emotions and spectacular colours. Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan has become a star in Italy: he knows not to hold back. And nor will the superb young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, in Rachmaninov’s hugely popular Rhapsody.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Midland Music Reviews:

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[…]     “The programme had its roots entirely in Chauhan’s adopted country, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet which the conductor wove a haunting string web of regret before launching into a well-paced tumult — and commendably bringing his left hand into play only for telling moments.

Pavel Kolesnikov was a perfect collaborator with the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, now effervescent, now thoughtful in his punctuation of these colourful textures. The piece emerged as the sinfonia concertante for orchestra and piano that it actually is.

Orchestra and conductor really came into their own in the Intermezzi from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, sumptuous in tone, strings phrasing like soloists, and everything delivered with an ardour which surely had the composer smiling down on us.”     […]


Review by Robert Gainer, Bachtrach:

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[…]    “But Chauhan and the CBSO were saving the best until last. Respighi’s Feste Romane is a symphonic poem of serious magnitude. I’m surprised the strings had room to bow, or the trombones space to slide, given how tightly the musicians were packed on the stage. The third in Resphigi’s Roman trilogy, Feste Romane comes in four movements, each depicting aspects of Ancient Rome. The first opened with a wonderfully coherent trumpet fanfare that celebrates the occasion of gladiatorial combat. There was no subtlety in Chauhan’s presentation, nor should there have been. Who ever heard of a subtle gladiator? This was blood and guts and glory in Nero’s Rome and the CBSO were on fire. Everything was coming together: the power of the deep brass; the tension of the tempestuous strings; the driving tumult of bass drum and timpani. Even as the tempo and volume subsided to reflect a more ponderous depth of feeling in strings and woodwind, the forward motion of the first movement was inescapable and inevitably returned to reiterate the opening fanfares.

The remaining three movements continued in a similar vein, indeed, if anything became increasingly frenetic, especially in the brass and percussion. Yet there were moments of respite when we were treated to more unusual orchestrations. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of percussive chimes and the mandolin passage in the third movement. The fourth movement was as tight and absorbing as anything I have experienced at Symphony Hall, a truly climactic finale.”     […]


Friday Night Classics: Classics at the Movies

Friday 1 November 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor

Claire Rutter  soprano

Barry Norman  presenter

Including music from:   Verdi: The Force of Destiny (Jean de Florette)

Catalani: Ebben? Ne andrò lontana (Diva)

Puccini: O mio babbino caro (A Room with a View)

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Black Swan & Billy Elliot)

Barber: Adagio for Strings (Platoon & The Elephant Man)

Herrmann: Salaambo’s Aria (Citizen Kane)

Sibelius: Finlandia (Die Hard 2)

Wagner: The Ride of the Valkyries (Apocalypse Now)

Korngold: Glück das mir verblieb (The Big Lebowski)

Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (Trading Places)

Strauss: Blue Danube Waltz (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Britten: Playful Pizzicato (Moonrise Kingdom)

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (Raging Bull)

Puccini: Madam Butterfly (Fatal Attraction)

Saint-Saëns: Organ Symphony (Babe)

Encore: Rossini: William Tell Overture

You know that moment at the cinema when   you realise that you’ve heard that tune before – but you can’t quite put your   finger on it? Well, tonight, movie legend Barry Norman reveals all, in the sensational   3D-sound of the CBSO. You might think of the music of Sibelius, Puccini and   Barber as the soundtracks to Die Hard, Fatal Attraction and Platoon   – but it sounds even better when you hear it for real!

Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert

Tuesday 12 June 2012 at 7.30pm

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

Symphony Hall

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Simon Halsey conductor*
Christine Rice mezzo-soprano
Bryn Terfel bass-baritone
CBSO Chorus

Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila 5′
Elgar: The Music Makers Op.69* 38′
Bizet: Les Toréadors from Carmen 4′
Donizetti: Udite, udite, o rustici from L’elisir d’amore 7′
Hazell: Folk songs from the British Isles 10′
Puccini: Te Deum from Tosca 5′
Ravel: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé 16′

Symphony Hall has been called one of the wonders of the musical world. Tonight, we toast its coming of age in the company of three more: Andris Nelsons, Simon Halsey, and the one and only Bryn Terfel. Halsey conducts the CBSO and its Chorus in the final, deeply personal masterpiece that Elgar wrote for Birmingham, before Terfel and Nelsons take the platform for a selection of arias, specially chosen to showcase Symphony Hall’s world-beating acoustic. Need we say more? A night to remember – make sure you’re there.

21st Annniversary Symphony HallThese concerts are promoted by THSH as part of the Birmingham International Concert Season / Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Festival. A special seating plan and different discounts apply. Please check when booking by phone / in person. The concerts are not available as part of a Symphonic Selection Concert Package but can be booked in addition at the same time.

BBC Midlands Today film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

ITV Central film re Symphony Hall 21 – Click here

Video Wall Symphony Hall 21st Anniversary Concert – Click here


Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates 21st Birthday”, by Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post:

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Birmingham concert venue Symphony Hall has celebrated its 21st birthday – after hosting 7,500 events attended by ten million people.

A concert featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus marked Tuesday’s milestone as part of a seven month-long series of anniversary celebrations.

An array of top artists also paid tribute to the city centre venue, which was opened by the Queen on June 12, 1991.

Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey conducted Tuesday night’s anniversary show featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.”      …


“Simon Rattle’s Greatest Achievement”, by Norman Lebrecht:

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“Twenty-one years ago last night, Birmingham got its first dedicated concert hall and Britain its best. Symphony Hall was an acoustic revelation, a marvel of transparency and flexibility, as well as a space that felt infinitely warm and welcoming. It was, at the time, the most exciting modern hall in Europe and it remains one of the three or four most pleasing.”     …

“Birmingham Symphony Hall Celebrates  21 Years”, by Catherine Vonledebur, Birmingham Mail:

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…     “Officially opened by The Queen on June 12, 1991, the 2,262 seat Symphony Hall has held more than 7,500 events and attracted over 10 million visitors.

Since then, thousands of legendary artists have graced its stage from Bruce Springsteen to Yehudi Menuhin, Liza Minnelli to Grace Jones, Ravi Shankar to Morrissey, as well as some of the world’s greatest classical soloists and orchestras. Andrew believes it is the most important 20th Century building in Birmingham and helps make the city worth living in.”     …


 “Hall’s Milestone is Music to the Ears”, by Chris Willmott

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…     “The milestone was marked with a special evening concert on Tuesday and Wednesday from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Andris Nelsons and Simon Halsey, and featuring baritone Bryn Terfel and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice.

The performances included Elgar’s The Music Makers and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe suite.”     …



Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…      “Nelsons top and tailed the evening with orchestral showpieces, beginning with a blisteringly fast run through the overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, in which not a note was out of place. He ended with a wonderfully poised account of Ravel’s second Daphnis et Chloé Suite, exactly capturing its mixture of hazy sensuousness and brutal brilliance.

Nelsons also marshalled support for the concert’s star turn – Bryn Terfel at his most relaxed.”     …

Review by Jerald Smith, Express and Star:

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…    “This anniversary celebration provided a dazzling display of talent, most notably from Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel who showed how a gifted performer can work an audience.

He began with a swaggering version of the Toreador Song form Bizet’s Carmen and followed with Udite, Udite, O Rustica from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore which extracted the maximum amount of humour from the aria.”     …

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

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…     “Finally, Nelsons and his orchestra came into their own with the Second Suite from Daphnis et Chloé – another timely selection since this piece was played at the inaugural concert in Symphony Hall in April 1991 and, moreover, the Ballets Russes première was given on 8 June 1912. This was, quite simply, the performance of the evening. ‘Dawn’ was superb. The shimmering start was magically balanced by Nelsons. We heard chattering birds depicted by the CBSO woodwind section and voluptuous washes of orchestral colour, everything expertly controlled by the players and from the rostrum. When it came, the Daybreak was overwhelming, the CBSO Chorus showing why you can only do this music full justice in a performance that includes the choral parts. Nelsons held back the release of this climax in a masterly fashion to enhance its impact. The central ‘Pantomime’ was dominated by the superlative flute playing of Marie-Christine Zupancic, but if her virtuosity stood out due to the prominence of the flute part it was complemented by that of many of her colleagues in a dexterous and subtle performance of this ravishing but technically demanding music. The concluding ‘Danse Genérale’ was thrilling. Nelsons galvanised his players – and singers – into a virtuoso account of Ravel’s tumultuous, hedonistic music. In a few days time one of Nelson’s predecessors, Sir Simon Rattle, brings the Vienna Philharmonic to Symphony Hall. On this showing – which we know is far from untypical – the CBSO has little to fear from any comparisons.”     …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

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…     “The Ravel was the outstanding performance. Nelsons realised everything that is sensuous and lushly expansive in the score, while bringing an exquisite poise to the subtleties of Ravel’s orchestral palette and a lilting insouciance to the dance elements. The CBSO came into its own. Conductors and soloists were presented with bouquets, so metaphorical ones now to the flute section: to Marie-Christine Zupancic for her stunning solo, Andrew Lane for his piccolo playing, CBSO stalwart Colin Lilley for his alto flute solo, and not forgetting Elizabeth May. That their lines emerged with such vibrancy should also be a tribute to that Symphony Hall acoustic.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…    If Symphony Hall doesn’t have its music makers, then who has? And ‘Music Makers’ was the main work in the CBSO’s first concert in the newly-refurbished Town Hall, elderly sister to the blushing young Symphony Hall.

Simon Halsey conducted, drawing from his world-class CBSO Chorus diction of consummate clarity and well-weighted tonal balance, and, often concentrating on the orchestra (the Chorus had already been well-trained beyond concern), revealing wonderful detail and securing flowing, often surprisingly swift, and appropriate tempi.

Christine Rice was the mezzo soloist, her tones warm and compassionate, her lower registers conveying rocklike solidity, her emotional involvement total.”     …


Review by Katherine Dixson, Bachtrack:

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…     “The second half began with the audience exploding into applause once a certain larger-than-life Welshman set foot on – no, took possession of – the stage. Bryn Terfel’s programme was perfectly judged, with fun, laughter, flirtatiousness, intrigue, menace and drama, as well as a sense of place with a sequence of British folk songs. The power of his voice and command of the music was a given, but what I hadn’t bargained for was the sheer force of his personality. His rapport with the audience was phenomenal, with eye contact, gesture and overwhelming warmth. Clearly, he enjoyed working with the other performers, and a lovely detail at the end of the Toreador’s Song was his saluting the men’s chorus by the flick of an imaginary matador’s cape. Bryn and Andris struck up quite a partnership in the aria ‘Udite, udite’ from L’elisir d’amore. ‘Dr Dulcamara’ brought on an innocuous bottle of beer which he playfully discarded near the conductor’s feet, only to bring out a fearsome brew from his back pocket. With apparently effortless ease the tongue-twisting catalogue of ailments was dispatched, upon which the serious bottle was cracked open and downed in one, Andris watching intently (thirstily?) and directing the orchestra to sustain the note until the last drop . A pantomime drunken high five between soloist and conductor added to the general glee. ”     …

Friday Night Classics: A Night at the Opera

Friday 29 April 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Stuart Stratford conductor
Susana Gaspar soprano
Ji Hyun Kim tenor
Daniel Grice baritone

Mozart: The Marriage of FigaroOverture

Bizet: CarmenPrelude and Aragonaise from Suite No.1 ;    Les Toréadors;    Micaëla’s Aria

Bizet: The Pearl FishersAu fond du temple saint

Wagner: LohengrinPrelude to Act III

Dvořák: RusalkaSong to the Moon

Tchaikovsky: Eugene OneginLensky’s Aria

Mozart: Don GiovanniLà ci darem la mano


Rossini: The Barber of SevilleOverture

Rossini: La CenerentolaCome un’ape

Donizetti: L’elisir d’amoreUna furtiva lagrima

Gounod: Roméo et JulietteJuliette’s Waltz Song

Verdi: AidaTriumphal March

Puccini: La BohèmeAct IV duet;    Quando me’n vo

Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana Intermezzo

Rachmaninov: AlekoAleko’s Cavatina

Verdi: La TraviataBrindisi

(Sung in original languages with English surtitles)

This evening’s fabulous array of opera-house favourites has it all: love, magic, flirtatious ladies, ‘gentlemen’ with one too many conquests to their name, and a fair few characters meeting rather unpleasant endings – some more well-deserved than others. The world of opera is not one known for understatement, so expect passions to run high as the CBSO and three world-class soloists treat you to a programme packed with great music. And following the announcement of the Royal Wedding taking place earlier on this very day, the CBSO joins in the celebrations with Mozart’s effervescent Marriage of Figaro Overture as the curtain-raiser.

Please note Ana James has withdrawn from the concert on Friday 29 April. We are grateful to Susana Gaspar who has kindly agreed to take her place at short notice.

The schedule and programme remains unchanged.

Review by Paul Marston, BehindtheArras:

…     “Three world class soloists – Portuguese soprano Susana Gasper, Korean tenor Ji Hyun Kim and British baritone Daniel Grice – turned on the style with some of those much loved arias, and the orchestra impressed with the Trumphal March from Verdi’s Aida.

Gaspar, who replaced Ana James at short notice, excelled in Dvorak’s Rusalka – Song to the Moon, while Kim and Grice thrilled the audience with the beautiful duet, Au Fond du Temple Saint, from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.”     …

Friday Night Classics: You Call the Tunes

Friday 21 May 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Michael Seal  conductor
Simon Bates  presenter
Michael Wade Lee   tenor
Mark Holland   baritone

Tonight the CBSO plays the peoples’ favourites in a concert packed with Midlanders’ most-loved classical and operatic music.

Voting for the concert programme closed on 31 March, programme includes:
Holst: The Planets – Mars and Jupiter
Grieg: Peer Gynt – Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King
Verdi: Rigoletto – La Donna è mobile
Bizet: Carmen – Les Toréadors
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Rossini: The Barber of Seville – Largo al Factotum
Puccini: Turandot – Nessun Dorma
Bizet: The Pearlfishers – Au fond du temple saint
Ravel: Boléro

It’s a tantalising programme of opera house favourites, luminously indulgent works to relax to and revel in, and rousing pieces using the immense sound of the full Orchestra to mammoth effect.

* We’re very sorry to announce that Sue Perkins has become unable to appear in this concert due to filming commitments which could not be moved. We’re delighted that Simon Bates, popular Classic FM presenter, will now present this concert.

Welsh National Opera – Tosca

Wed 17 Mar, Fri 19 Mar 2010 7:15pm

No-one is safe in the Rome of 1800. Under Baron Scarpia corruption and suspicion hang over the city, virtue and humanity are cruelly stamped out.

The world of opera singer Floria Tosca is about to be turned upside down. She is suspicious of her lover Mario’s fidelity. Little does she realize that he is at the centre of a struggle that will lead to tragedy. Soon she herself will become the object of Scarpia’s insatiable lust and she will be forced to ask what she has done to deserve this.
Once decried as a “shabby little shocker”, Tosca has become one of the best loved of all operas. The combination of its fast paced plot, high tension and the poignancy of the great arias “Vissi d’arte” and “E lucevan le stelle” ensure that Tosca never fails to enthral.
Michael Blakemore’s period set production of this pulsating thriller promises to set your emotions on a knife-edge.
Cast includes Elisabete Matos as Floria Tosca, Geraint Dodd as Cavaradossi, Robert Hayward as Scarpia.
Owing to the indisposition of Elisabete Matos, the role of Tosca was sung by Naomi Harvey on 17th March
I thought Robert Hayward was brilliant, pitiful, pathetic, then evil and repugnant, and beautiful singing. I have heard better sopranos but Naomi Harvey had an intense presence, and sang well. The orchestra were fairly good, great to have the music vibrating under one’s feet, and enjoyed the whole evening. The set was grand and fit the large Hippodrome stage well. (so not sure about Birmingham Post review?!)
Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:
…”Naomi Harvey and Geraint Dodd had excellent stage-presence as Tosca and Cavaradossi, despite occasionally bumpy and raspy singing, and Robert Hayward made a convincing Scarpia, if more psychotic and less chillingingly self-controlled than we normally see in this evil Chief of Police.” …

In Love… With Renée Fleming

Monday 2nd November 7:30pm

at Symphony Hall

Renée Fleming soprano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Charles Dutoit conductor

Prokofiev Suite, Romeo and Juliet
Tchaikovsky Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin
Tchaikovsky Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet
Leoncavallo Svaria sulla bocca viva from La Boheme
Leoncavallo Pinson la biondetta from La Boheme
Giordano Nella suo amore from Siberia
Puccini Sola perduta, abandonata from Manon Lescaut

There are few more famous divas than soprano Renée Fleming, whose fame has soared into realms normally reserved for pop music superstars. The effortless ease of her distinctive tone brings a breathtaking sheen to every note she sings. She returns to Symphony Hall after a break of six years in a programme on the theme of love.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Renée Fleming is undoubtedly a soprano in a league of her own. The double Grammy winner is an outstanding solo performer. Don’t miss this chance to catch this world-class singer live.”

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

“Real passion and commitment came later. The section leading up to the Death of Tybalt displayed palpably thrilling sonorities, while in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture (just imagine what a Tchaikovsky ballet, or even opera on this subject might have been like) Dutoit avoided any suggestion of warhorse posturing, building climaxes in a purposefully expressive way and keeping the love theme under control right up to its final, poignant appearance in the coda.”

Review by Geoff Read, Seen and Heard UK

…”The final scheduled aria was Sola, perduta, abbandonata, from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut: Fleming had saved the best for last, demonstrating why she has reached her star status. At last, we had an aria that displayed drama and passion with orchestra and soloist on the same wavelength.”…