Tamsin Waley-Cohen

in Recital

Monday 3rd October, 2016, 7:30pm

Town Hall, Birmingham


Tamsin Waley-Cohenviolin
Huw Watkins piano


Beethoven – Violin Sonata No 5, Spring
Ravel – Violin Sonata No 2 in G major
Oliver Knussen – Reflection (World premiere)
Elgar – Violin Sonata in E minor
Gershwin (arr. Heifetz) – Selection from Porgy and Bess
Our Birmingham Classical season bursts to life this October with the wonderful young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, who will be familiar to audiences from her time asAssociate Artist at Orchestra of the Swan. We are thrilled to now also be able to announce an addition to this already stunning programme in the form of a new work from composer Oliver Knussen (Artist-in-Association at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) entitled Reflection.This work has been written specially for Tamsin and commissioned by THSH and the European Concert Hall Organisation, in memory of Lyndon Jenkins who served as Town Hall Symphony Hall’s Music Adviser from 2004 – 2014. Money raised from Lyndon’s memorial concert at Town Hall in 2014 has been used to fund this new commission. Joined by regular partner Huw Watkins, Cohen promises to bring all her signature fantasy and flair to the violin sonatas of Elgar and Ravel, plus an unashamedly virtuosic take on Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in addition to this exciting new work. http://www.THSH.co.uk


“Facing the music: Tamsin Waley-Cohen”

Click here for Guardian article


Review by Richard Lutz, BirminghamPress:

Click here for full review

…     ” Both men were taken by American blues and, in her recital, the violinist used pieces relying heavily on Americana: Ravel’s Sonata no. 2 in G Major and Gershwin’s suite from Porgy and Bess.

Both were beautiful renditions of this genre; the Ravel sonata hard edged and at times atonal, the Gershwin (arranged by Jascha Heifetz) a swooping series of the composer’s operatic songs that summons up the heat of the South.

Ms Waley-Cohen also introduced an Oliver Knussen world premiere (Reflection) which the composer himself enjoyed in the Town Hall stalls and stood to applause after the violinist sought him out following her piece. He seemed happy with the result.”     …





Become Ocean

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 19th May, 2016, 7:30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Sibelius  The Tempest – Prelude , 7′
  • Ravel  Piano Concerto in G major , 21′
  • Sibelius  The Oceanides, Op. 73 , 9′
  • Ravel  Piano Concerto for the left hand , 19′
  • John Luther Adams  Become Ocean (UK premiere), 42′

Steven Osborne’s encore – Ravel – Oiseaux Tristes from MiroirsIt’s been called “the loveliest apocalypse in musical history” and John Luther Adams’ haunting, Pulitzer Prize-winning Become Ocean is fast becoming one of this decade’s most talked-about pieces of new classical music. We’re thrilled to be giving the first UK performance, with the conductor who gave its world premiere. Be there as we make history, in a concert that also features master-pianist Steven Osborne in both of Ravel’s magical concertos.

CBSO+ 6.15pm Hear CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock talk about tonight’s programme.


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “For 40 years now, Adams’ work as a composer has been inextricably linked with his involvement in environmental issues, but Become Ocean is the biggest, most overwhelming expression of those concerns so far. The score bears his stark epigraph: “Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.”

Yet the music itself is anything but stark or bleak. It’s rich, deeply textured and all-encompassing, and the three massive climaxes that articulate the huge span – moments when the pulsing sequences that Adams assigns to his groups of strings, woodwind and brass come exactly into phase – seem more celebratory than apocalyptic. The presence of the musical processes underpinning this glorious, constantly changing stasis is impossible to ignore – there are precisely planned symmetries everywhere, and the work itself is one gigantic palindrome – but the orchestral beauties and the tonal harmonies never seem contrived.”     …



Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “All credit to the CBSO for enabling Ludovic Morlot (who gave the premiere in Seattle almost two years ago) to schedule a piece that justifiably won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and deserves its place within the (not too crowded) orchestral repertoire of the early-21st century. The performance left little to be desired, not least because this is music ideally suited to the acoustic of Symphony Hall – filling the auditorium to a degree that even a ‘surround sound’ recording would be hard-pressed to emulate. Rarely have 42 minutes proved so immersive.

 The hour-long first half was almost a concert in itself. Continuing his exploration of Ravel, Steven Osborne played both Piano Concertos – (rightly) tackling the G-major first and getting to the heart of the opening movement as it alternates between brittle humour and bluesy longing. The Adagio was hardly less impressive, Osborne setting off with a discreet purposefulness that Morlot picked up on to ideal accord, and if the Presto felt at all calculated, its interplay of ingenuity and nonchalance held good through to the brusque closing gesture.

Even finer overall was the Left-Hand Piano Concerto, its three-movements-in-one format seamlessly and cumulatively negotiated so that intensity never flagged. Nor was Osborne fazed by its conception, playing with a clarity and definition as did not preclude a searching eloquence in the limpid theme whose heightened return in the coda crystallizes the expressive depth of this work overall. Morlot secured orchestral playing of real impact, while Osborne returned for an ‘Oiseaux tristes’ (second piece from Miroirs) interpreted with ineffable poise.

Each Concerto was prefaced with music by Sibelius. It is surprising the ‘Prelude’ from his music for The Tempest does not regularly open proceedings, given its surging impetus and sense of imminent catastrophe – both vividly conveyed here – make for a curtain-raiser like no other. If The Oceanides felt a little impassive near the outset, its swirling textures merged effortlessly towards the climax – a double helix of giddying immensity prior to the pensive close. Such evocations of immutable forces added cohesion to an already impressive concert.”    


Review by Richard Ely, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The concertos apart, these works are not often programmed, so it was good to have a such a convenient ‘hook’ to hang them on. The Tempest, composed by Sibelius for a production of Shakespeare’s play, takes the form of a series of orchestral crescendos, replicating the rages of a storm at sea which finally subsides, exhausted. All sections of the orchestra enjoyed themselves in creating what could, in less assured hands, have been a shapeless cacaphony. Daringly, that first production substituted Sibelius’ work for Shakespeare’s introductory scene, which describes a shipwreck. On balance, and in a convincing performance like this one, I think Sibelius makes the point more eloquently than the Bard, even if this is one of the Finnish master’s minor works.

The same composer’s The Oceanides is a major work, though one seldom heard in the concert hall, so it was a pleasure to encounter a performance as auspicious as this. Beginning with a vivid impression of clearing mists, superbly played by violins and timpani, the piece progressed through other lifelike impressions of birdsong and the push of the sea to the central section, leading to the orchestral climax and the ‘appearance’ of the Oceanides – daughters of the sea god, Neptune. This was a wonderfully spotlit moment, before the piece settled back into the troubled stillness of the sea after a very different storm to the one that blew through The Tempest.

Since the programme placed the Sibelius works adjacent to the Ravel concertos, we were better able to appreciate the contrasting sound worlds of these two contemporaries, with the weighty orchestrations of the Finn meeting the pellucid textures of the Frenchman. They may not be the most searching works for piano and orchestra but they have an elusive charm, stopping just the right side of whimsy, that quickly gains and holds the attention if you’re in the mood. Perhaps the shift in mood required was too extreme, but in these performances by the increasingly impressive Steven Osborne, it was impossible not to surrender to Ravel’s introverted milieu, where even the ‘jolly little tune’ that kicks off the G major concerto has an air of abstraction hinting that tears are never far away. Although real depth of feeling threatens to intrude in the Adagio assai, the jazz-derived rhythms of the outer movements preclude too much introspection and the work finishes leaving the listener agreeably puzzled. As so often with Ravel, ambiguity is the key and Osborne had the measure of the solo part, which he despatched with unshowy virtuosity. Here and in the left-hand concerto, he showed himself to be a master of Ravel’s diffident art, as he did in a penetrating encore of Oiseaux tristes.”     …


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

Click here for full review (££)

…      “Steven Osborne was the truly superlative soloist: refined, direct, intelligent and instinctive. Every note was exactly in its place; the music sparkled and flowed. Glossy strings brought Hollywood glamour to the Left Hand Concerto, while the G major Concerto was a sunny riot of colourful detail.

And then it was the UK premiere of Become Ocean, Adams’s 42-minute, Pulitzer prize-winning orchestral soundscape. It is, explained Morlot, a meditation to be experienced rather than heard. I put away my notebook and let the music take over. Imagine staring at the ocean, noticing the surface ripples, then the short chop of waves, the roll of the swell, and – if you sit there long enough – the powerful pull of the tides. That’s what Adams translates into music; despite its meticulous construction there’s a complete lack of artifice. This isn’t music that “goes” anywhere, yet it is profoundly transformative. The ocean rises and falls. We sit and observe. My neighbour walked out, visibly riled. But I loved it.”


(fab) Blog Post by Dave Fawbert, ShortList:

Click here for full post

…     “Imagine this popping up on your Facebook page.

Become Ocean


Just look at it. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It looks like a sea of worker ants hauling miniature bridges across a page. And then you read the accompanying comment – it goes on for 42 minutes? There’s nearly 18,000 notes? What the hell is this piece? How would you go about composing such a thing? How on earth would you play it?

I had to hear it.     […]


It was utterly glorious.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, shortly before beginning the piece

The orchestra was split into three sections: full-sized strings, woodwind and brass with each given slowly-moving passages of sound which rise and fall at different paces, while Ben’s piano, a celesta and several percussionists maintained the constant, underlying rippling effect, without pause. At three points in the performance, the peaks coincided. As a bonus trick, the entire piece was palindromic – so 21 minutes in, the whole thing was played in reverse.

It was staggeringly beautiful. As someone who has only dabbled in the ambient genre, this, to my limited knowledge, seemed to evoke the feelings of the very best: the gentle waves of sound of Jonsi & Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps, the patience of Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports and – I realise this is slightly specific – a constant reminder of the feel of the beautiful horn section toward the end of DJ Shadow’s Stem/Long Stem (the section around six minutes in).

It was surprisingly consonant: notes moved around but never clashed. Suspensions were left hanging gorgeously as other notes slowly moved to join them, never rushing. The passages unwound at a slow pace, yet Ben’s piano and his xylophone friends either side maintained a constant feeling of movement.

Fascinatingly, you would never have guessed the palindromic nature of the piece; the second half felt new and different. Moreover, for a piece 42 minutes long, it was over in what seemed a flash. Truly, this was transcendental stuff.

Afterwards, I asked Ben – fresh from playing 18,000 notes in 2,500 seconds (that’s a constant 7.2 notes per second, maths fans) – if it would be performed again soon. Sadly, due to the rather niche nature of the piece, he replied that it was unlikely.

What a shame. For I’m telling you now: they should put this stuff on the NHS. Forget Prozac, this is the only high you need in your life.”     …


Thursday 14th January, 2.15pm


  • Ravel  Mother Goose Suite, 16′
  • Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4, 24′
  • Rimsky-Korsakov  Scheherazade, 45′

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, a cruel king… and a Russian composer. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is like opening a wonderful book of musical stories: there’s adventure, magic and – of course – love, all told in music of glittering splendour and gorgeous colour. Guest conductor Andrew Gourlay retells the tale today, along with Ravel’s own little book of musical fairytales, and Rachmaninov’s jazziest concerto. So, if you’re sitting comfortably…


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

(for Saturday 16th performance of same programme)

Click here for full review

…     “He and the orchestra were joined by Ukrainian Alexander Romanovsky for Rachmaninov’s elusive Fourth Piano Concerto, a work where everything is stripped to the bone. It’s a piece whose atmospheric gestures would soon be taken up by film-music composers (gorgeously dark lyricism from the CBSO strings), but here Romanovsky concentrated on the music’s remarkable cogency, bringing a strong rhythmic impulse and a mercurial pianism redolent of Rachmaninov himself. His Chopin Nocturne encore was a perfect choice, rich-toned and warmly pedalled.

We ended with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a composition short in musical content but brilliant in terms of colour and opportunities for display, showing off the skills of so many CBSO soloists under Gourlay’s flexible, empowering direction.

And of course the princess of all of these was concertmaster Zoe Beyers, her narrations eloquent and subtly phrased, poignant in their underlying desperation (Scheherazade is spinning tales to prolong her own life, after all), and all the time neatly dovetailed into her orchestral duties.”     …


Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It was also a kiss (on the hand!) that stood at the end the performance of the second piece this afternoon – a superbly played Fourth Piano Concerto by Rachmaninov at the hands of Alexander Romanovsky. The CBSO’s sound immediately had more punch, was more immediate, and set the mood for the piano’s opening chords. Romanovsky spelled those out a bit too obviously, but soon played flowingly, coherently, effortlessly in the highly virtuoso passages, yet retaining a pithy sound. Romanovsky revelled in the jazzy opening of the middle movement as the orchestra revelled in its dreamy three-note-motif as if there was nothing musically more important to say. It was a thing of beauty, as was the third movement, played at breakneck speed, yet utterly focussed and with great accuracy.

What more could there possibly be said about Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade? This is music that paints an image with broad strokes in primary orchestral colours. It is a fascinating piece that makes the listener a first-hand witness to the Sultan’s experience listening to his Sultana’s intricate tales, gracefully spun by the violin. Zoe Beyer’s tone was engaging, tender, with small, quick vibrato, and captured the storyteller to a tee, creating an unobtrusive, calm and quiet presence. It entered into trusted dialogue with the flute while the orchestral waves around Sinbad’s ship rose and rolled covered by spray, and like the programmatic tales, it kept the listener captivated throughout.”     …

Winter Dreams

Wednesday 11th November, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Ravel  Le Tombeau de Couperin, 17′
  • Shostakovich  Piano Concerto No. 2, 18′
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 1 (Winter Dreams), 45′

Anna Vinnitskaya’s Encore – Shostakovich – Ballet Suite No. 1 – Waltz-Scherzo
Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony sparkles with all the crispness of a winter morning. Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin evokes a lost generation. And Shostakovich wrote his Second Piano Concerto as a birthday present for his son – but ended up with a smash hit. Youthful music deserves young performers; and if you heard Ben Gernon conducting The Planets last season you’ll know why this Shropshire lad is quickly winning a global reputation.

Award-winning CBSO Youth Orchestra alumnus Ben Gernon will be in conversation with CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock
Support the CBSO
Key facts about the CBSO

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…”Tchaikovsky’s first symphony Winter Dreams is no great shakes structurally – but who cares when it teems with delightful tunes and musical felicities?Those weaknesses mean that to succeed it must be played for all it’s worth. It was here, with tyro Ben Gernon’s conducting worthy of comparison with Andris Nelsons’ white hot CBSO performance three years ago. Even the flamboyant Nelsons couldn’t match Gernon’s two-armed pectoral-clenching bodybuilder’s pose directed at the bass section, as he demanded even greater sonority from them in the finale. It worked!

If he succumbed to the temptation of lingering a little in the adagio it was understandable – the CBSO wind section’s gorgeous playing was worth lingering over. But he was ready when the mood changed: the sudden eruption of the horns, in excellent form, sounded like a summons from the deity.”     …


Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “This movement was realised exquisitely by pianist Anna Vinnitskaya and the orchestra. They moved as one in all the changes of harmony with only subtle hints of rubato, never over-egging the expression. The strings, in particular, produced a warm glow with a satisfying bass line. The segue into the lively finale was perfectly judged by Vinnitskaya and the orchestra navigated the tricky metre changes very well indeed considering the swift tempo, albeit on the edge of their seats. It made for great fun for all. It was a pity, therefore, that Vinnitskaya had opted for such a headlong tempo in the first movement. Gernon did well to keep the orchestra just about on track at that speed. No doubt many were thrilled by the ride, but I found it all rather breathless.

Gernon is to be congratulated if Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony was his choice of programming. It’s not often this gem of a piece gets a concert performance, especially when compared with the final three symphonies. Gernon has clearly taken the symphony to his heart, however, as he gave it total commitment, as did the orchestra. Importantly, he waited until the hall fell absolutely silent before ushering in the evocative opening to the first movement. This movement and the last were given punchy, taut accounts, ensuring Tchaikovsky’s more academic moments really felt like they were driving in the direction of the climaxes.

The wintry spell was cast by magically hushed strings and exceptional playing from the woodwind principals.”     …

Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

BICS 2015/16 –

Valery Gergiev conducts the Winners of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition

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

Wednesday 28th October

Symphony Hall

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev conductor
Lucas Debargue piano
Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar baritone
Clara-Jumi Kang violin
George Li piano
Yulia Matochkina mezzo soprano
Alexander Ramm cello

Debussy Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune 10’
Tchaikovsky Variations on a Roccoco Theme 18’
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor 28’
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 (2nd Movement)
Verdi Overture to La forza del Destino 8’
Tchaikovsky Joan’s aria from Maid of Orleans 7’
Tchaikovsky Yeletsky’s aria from Queen of Spades 6’
Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat major 19’


Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra are bywords for energy, passion and the kind of red-blooded, life-or-death commitment that only Russian artists can deliver. And in Tchaikovsky’s anniversary year, the Competition named after him is still probably the world’s most prestigious music contest.

XV International Tchaikovsky Competition winners
The six winners that will be performing were announced in July 2015 from each of the following categories: piano, violin, cello, male voice, female voice and are as follows:

Exclusive:The artist Norman Perryman, whose paintings of conductors and soloists (including Valery Gergiev) are displayed throughout Symphony Hall, has a new book, which is currently on sale at the Symphony Hall shop. Norman will be signing copies as well as prints from the shop before and after this concert. For more on this click here.


Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “French pianist Lucas Debargue only managed 4th prize, but seized everyone’s attention at the competition, and his sensational performance here of Scarbo from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit showed why. He portrayed the sinister apparitions of the magic dwarf Scarbo with a fevered intensity that made one’s skin prickle.

Just as impressive in a different way was Clara-Jumi Kang, a German violinist of Korean parentage. Like Debargue she won only 4th prize, a decision which seems even more mystifying in the light of her performance last night of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. To capture this work’s impetuous energy and undercurrent of sadness, all within a tone of relaxed seraphic grace is a feat very few violinists can manage, but she is certainly one of them.

To see the final rounds of this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition, visit tch15.medici.tv/en

Spanish Night

ThumbnailCBSO 2020Pure Emotion

Thursday 22nd January 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Josep Pons  conductor
Maria Toledo  singer
Javier Perianes  piano

Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole 15′
Falla: El amor brujo (complete) 40′
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain 24′
Listen on Spotify

Ravel: Boléro 15′ Watch on YouTube

“Something more than festivals and dances has inspired these evocations in sound,” said Manuel de Falla, “for melancholy and mystery also have their part.” In the latest instalment of the CBSO:2020 project, two fiercely poetic scores from 1915 reveal the Spain that musical tourists never see – though in the hands of the great Spanish conductor Josep Pons, Ravel’s Boléro will never have sounded more authentic!

Support the CBSO



Javier Perianes talks to Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

“An all-Spanish programme from the CBSO this week brings probably the greatest work for piano and orchestra ever to emerge from the Iberian peninsula, Manuel de Falla’s moody and evocative Nights in the Gardens of Spain.

The soloist is the exciting young Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, who tells me this is proving a very “British” period for him, beginning with a tour of his home country with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sakari Oramo.

“It has been a real pleasure, and a great honour, to share the stage with the BBC Symphony and Maestro Oramo once again,” he says.”     …


Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo (Love, the Magician) was certainly the real deal in this concert, performed in its original chamber ensemble version with a genuine flamenco singer.

Here, it was the remarkable María Toledo, whose characteristically throaty voice-production and dramatically charged articulation provided such a refreshing change from what we usually hear.

And the direction of Josep Pons, a conductor whose tidy beat encourages rather than dictates what goes on in the ranks, enabled a much reduced CBSO to relish the score’s transparency and its opportunities for individual display, notably in the Pantomime (lovely cello solo from Richard Jenkinson) and Will-o’-the-Wisp numbers.”     …


Review by Sam Chipman, ThePublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole opens the program, a piece showing Ravel’s passion for Spanish music inherited from his mother. A grand scale Orchestra play with great rise and fall under the leadership of conductor Pons, with a very expressive woodwind section adding much to the texture. A suitably poetic atmosphere is created in Prelude a la nuit and the lively Espana is full of life and vigour.

Ravel’s Bolero is a piece recognised in many a British household; largely down to the fact that Torvill and Dean’s gold medal winning performance at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics included a routine to the piece. Ravel, at the time of writing Bolero could not have known how bigger success the one-theme piece would be, but his clever orchestration gives it fire where the lack of melodic development leaves a gap. It has a rather hypnotic feel and proves a fitting finale to the concert with its rowdy, brash ending.

Many will not be as familiar with Manuel De Falla’s work as with that of Ravel. The Love, the Magician suite originated as a Flamenco ballet, and tells the story of a gypsy girl who is haunted by the memory of her dead lover. The songs are powerfully performed by Maria Toledo, described as ‘the Diana Krall of Flamenco’. Her abrasive tones map that of traditional Flamenco singers and her attack of the text adds to the uniqueness of the performance. A smaller orchestra play magnificently in this piece, creating a more intimate chamber feel.”     …

Mediterranean Classics

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Wednesday 22nd October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alain Altinoglu  conductor
Renaud Capuçon  Viola

Rossini: An Italian Girl in Algiers – Overture 8′
Berlioz: Harold in Italy 42′ Watch on YouTube

Stravinsky: Apollo 29′
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2 16′
Listen on Spotify

Pirates of the Mediterranean, hard-drinking bandits, and Greek gods who know how to party… just another night in with the CBSO! The French conductor Alain Altinoglu caused quite a stir last season; tonight he’s devised a concert with a Mediterranean flavour, from Berlioz’s Byronic fantasy to the Olympian grace of Stravinsky’s art-deco ballet, and the sensuous, shiver-down-the-spine beauty of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Pure hedonism: go on, indulge!

6.15pm – Conservatoire Showcase Granville Bantock: Pagan Symphony Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs a neglected work by one of the CBSO’s founders.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Spanish Night, Thursday 22nd January, 2015 
American Classics with Freddy Kempf, Wednesday 28th January, 2015 
Schubert, Strauss & Dvorak, Thursday 19th February, 2015

Support the CBSO



Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “In fact, Capuçon’s playing had a sweep and passion that proved hard to resist.

Paganini was famously disdainful of the work. He had encouraged Berlioz to write a piece to showcase his newly-acquired Stradivarius viola in 1833 but he was unimpressed by the number of tacet bars the soloist has while the large orchestra unleashes its collective might in the score’s whipcrack tuttis. This is most apparent in the last movement, particularly after the clever introduction – surely a tribute to the opening of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its recall of the thematic material from all that has come before – when the soloist steps aside for the riotous music of the brigand’s orgy. If Capuçon fell short at all it was in the string crossing passage at the centre of the Pilgrims’ March second movement; others have made this sound more magical.

Altinoglu, for his part, clearly has an affinity for the music of his compatriot composer. He maintained a steady trajectory through the more symphonic outer movements ensuring Berlioz’s spiky rhythms were meticulously articulated. Not for Altinoglu the abandon of the late Sir Colin Davis in this repertoire, but that is not to say that he and the orchestra held back. Climaxes were unleashed but in a more controlled fashion. No doubt this is a result of Altinoglu’s technique: his gestures are small and precise, only becoming more animated when required. Every gesture appeared helpful to the orchestra and likely explains the commitment and security that was on display in every department of the orchestra, from front desk to back.”     …



Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The later movements, too, revealed why Capuçon received a spectacular ovation with the Symphony Hall audience. Here the fabulous flute had exactly the right kind of mystery over (or under) the viola’s arpeggio-ing, which the soloist kept so beautifully quiet. Miracles, too, from the descanting flute department over the viola’s return in the section that followed the pilgrims. There were nicely delicate brass touches too to relish in the second movement, and the pilgrims’ exit, left to Harold to mimic with his arpeggios resolving the intermittently  elusive key in alt, felt just wonderful. Two successful middle movements, in fact.

Designed as a rip-roaring Hollywood Finale, the last movement thrilled with its brigandish assaults, though even here Berlioz manages to take the viola down to pianissimo, as the orchestra shouts out cackling laughs straight out of Weber in the brass. The strings excelled themselves in this finale – as stylish in their spirited braggadocio as previously rocky at the start. With Laurence Jackson, soon afterwards to be heard as solo, at the helm, they really can achieve rich and wonderful effects. Even when battling the trombones’ threats, the strings remained stylish – taking Harold’s side, perhaps. But one of the loveliest moments is when Harold, feeling isolated, virtually duets with himself. Double-stopping was rarely so touching, or so narrative-enhancing. It’s a lonely end, even amid the hubbub.

Everything was building towards Daphnis and Chloe – not the whole work, so no sweeping choruses and shattering, choir-upholding sequences. But this was Suite No 2, and it’s the sort of repertoire Altinoglu revels in, as Rattle did here before him. Again Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute solo – she is a fine successor to the CBSO’s great, now veteran Colin Lilley – was crucial in the scenes for Chloe. This was the work Ravel was supposed to write for Diaghilev in 1910 (the Firebird took its place; and it only hit the stage in between the next two Stravinsky ballets, reaching its audience in 1912). The CBSO woodwind have some ravishing passages, some of them fused with strings, and here, in repertoire they have recorded, the entire orchestra responded to Altinoglu’s sympathetic, sensitive lead. Daphnis is one of the most gentle of Greek myths, one of those one terms bucolic. The rural feel has more than an echo of Berlioz about it; and so too does the unbuttoned finale, which Fokine whipped up into a dramatic whirl, well up to Berlioz’s Harold and Symphonie Fantastique.”     …



Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Concluding the concert, the Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé (1912) confirmed Altinoglu’s prowess in a performance as was more than the sum of its parts. The intensifying expressive contours of ‘Daybreak’ built to a radiant culmination, after which the increasingly animated discourse of ‘Pantomime’ featured dextrous woodwind-playing as found contrast in the mounting abandon of ‘Danse générale’ – so bringing the evening to an uninhibited close.

Instead of a talk, the pre-concert slot brought a rare revival of Pagan Symphony (1928) by Granville Bantock. The second of his four designated Symphonies, its single-movement trajectory comprises six sections which, between them, correspond to the customary four movements. Thus the tranquil introduction gains impetus as it heads into an ebullient Allegro, the momentum spilling over into a hectic scherzo whose climax in an unaccompanied percussion ‘break’ and the score’s most arresting passage. From here brass fanfares prepare for a sustained slow movement whose would-be voluptuousness is complemented by a final section which brings the work to a rousing close.

It hardly needs adding that Bantock’s paganism is of a distinctly English kind, nor that the work’s ambition rather outstrips its achievement, but the music evinces a virtuosity to which the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, under the watchful direction of Michael Seal, did justice (Duygu Ince coping ably with the often Straussian demands of the leader’s role). A long-time resident of Birmingham, Bantock would doubtless have expressed his approval.”