The Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Mass in C

Thursday 22 November 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Olari Elts conductor
Anna Leese soprano
Kai Rüütel mezzo
Robert Murray tenor
Stephan Loges bass
CBSO Chorus

Haydn: Te Deum 12′
Haydn: Symphony No. 104 (London) 29′
Beethoven: Mass in C 45′ Listen on Spotify

“What do I care for your wretched violin?” demanded Ludwig van Beethoven. “I am speaking to my God.” And whatever your beliefs, there’s always something profoundly inspiring about hearing one of the greatest creative minds in history tackling the biggest questions in human existence. Olari Elts conducts our world-famous Chorus in Beethoven’s noble, heartfelt Mass in C – but not before a ringing shout of joy from the happiest religious composer of all time, Beethoven’s teacher Joseph “Papa” Haydn.

To see the full Birmingham Beethoven Cycle, go to

Sponsored by BarclaysThe Birmingham Beethoven Cycle is being supported by Barclays and through the generosity of Miss Brant, a lifelong supporter of the CBSO who died recently.

Review by Neil Fisher, The Times (£)

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Beethoven’s Mass in C, though, benefited from an almost minimal approach, its symbolism and fleeting drama more potently engaged by being understated.

It also sounded surprisingly beautiful (not least in the gentle opening Kyrie and when the same music is reprised in the final bars of the Agnus Dei) with soprano top notes of silvery lightness, punchy fugues that were never laboured, and a refreshing absence of making an ‘effect.’ ”      …




Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

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…     “Conducted by Olari Elits CBSO, the four soloists and the CBSO Chorus were perfectly aligned to take us through the varying emotions of the Mass.

Beethoven’s work was performed alongside two pieces by one of his predecessor at the Esterhazy court – Haydn.

Keeping to the religious theme, Haydn’s Te Deum is an exuberant and vibrant piece. At just over ten minutes, it encapsulates faith, joy and a hope in the everlasting.”    …

The Dream of Gerontius

Thursday 12 April 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Sarah Connolly  mezzo-soprano
Robert Murray  tenor
James Rutherford  baritone
CBSO Chorus  

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius 95′ 

“This is the best of me,” declared Edward Elgar on the score of The Dream of Gerontius – and this heart-rending vision of a lonely soul’s journey towards eternity might just be the greatest piece of British music ever written. Since its premiere in Birmingham 112 years ago, it’s become one of the CBSO’s signature works. Tonight Andris Nelsons takes his place in that great tradition, with a world-class team of soloists and an orchestra and chorus who have this music in their blood. Unmissable.

Unfortunately, Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert due to the illness of his daughter. We are very grateful to CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner, who has agreed to conduct this performance.

Tenor Toby Spence has also been forced to withdraw from this concert due to illness, and we are grateful to Robert Murray who replaces him.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

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…     “A different, often more intimate approach is called for in Part II and Murray was equally successful here. He brought a pleasing lightness of tone and sense of repose to ‘How still it is’ and the extended dialogue with The Angel was done with fine sensitivity. Much later in Gerontius’ journey towards Judgement ‘I go before my judge’ – rightly singled out as a key moment by Stephen Johnson in his perceptive programme note – was an awestruck moment, superbly realised by Murray and Gardner. Murray was excellent in his last solo, ‘Take me away’. The opening phrase, taken thrillingly in one breath despite the broad tempo, was a great cry – as it should be – yet very well controlled. Murray gave a splendid, eloquent reading of what is surely an aria in all but name, crowning an impressive portrayal. ”     […]

[…]     “Even without the need for the conductor to keep his arms raised there was a long silence (43 seconds, and it seemed longer) after the last chord had died away. No one dared break the spell. That was just as it should have been and, in many ways, the silence spoke even more eloquently of the audience’s appreciation than did the prolonged ovation that followed. Elgar’s choral masterpiece had been well and eloquently served.

The concert was broadcast live by BBC Radio 3. It’s available for listening here for the next week. I shall certainly be listening again.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…      “Within these lavish paragraphs he was able to summon so much detail, whether from the perennially remarkable CBSO Chorus (and how fresh and youthful they sounded where necessary!) or from the responsive and supple orchestra itself.

There were two incidents I’d never noticed before in five decades of loving the work, but Gardner’s acuity brought them out: the suspenseful timpani roll over a prolonged organ pedal at the end of “Praise to the Holiest”, and the shriek from piccolos and other woodwind as the Soul of Gerontius glimpses the searing perfection of God for the minutest instant before gladly consigning himself to Purgatory.”     …

Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSouce:

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…      “The CBSO Chorus sang with relish in a piece that it has most likely tackled more often than other comparable choir, not least in the evanescent build-up to a spine-tingling ‘Praise to the Holiest’ – its contrapuntal dexterity admirably rendered despite a momentary falling-off in tension prior to the final refrain. The CBSO, too, was on fine form while taking Gardner’s predilection for incisive tempos firmly in its collective stride. Suffice to add that no-one rehearing the work, as well as those encountering it for the first time, could have failed to be impressed with the breadth, audacity and conviction of Elgar’s creative vision.”

Review by Andrew H. King, Bachtrack:

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…     “Murray’s Gerontius was at once feeble and passionate, unravelling Newman’s story of the ailing man facing death with excellent diction. Some high notes were ill-prepared but in such a taxing score (and at short notice) this was forgivable.

The chorus were prepared to an exemplary standard and they, along with their chorus master Simon Halsey, are to be commended for their abilities.”     […]

[…]     Radiant and warm, tender and rich in tone, Connolly excels in Elgar’s dramatic writing always opting for the more taxing notes where he provides easier alternatives.”     …


Review by Peter Reed, ClassicalSource (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Igor Toronyi-Lalic, TheArtsDesk (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Blog post by Robert Hugill  (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Barry Millington, London Evening Standard (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Claire Seymour, Opera Today (for same programme but at Barbican)

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