Royal Danish Orchestra perform Nielsen

BICS 2015/16 – Royal Danish Orchestra perform Nielsen

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 Concert Package,

SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2015/16 and Opera highlights

Wednesday 16th September

Symphony Hall

Royal Danish Orchestra
Michael Boder conductor
Magdalena Anna Hoffman soprano

Per Nørgård Iris 12’
Schoenberg Erwartung Op 17 30’
Nielsen Symphony No 5 Op 50 34’

Royal Danish Orchestra’s encore – Nielsen – Maskarade – Overture


PLEASE NOTE: Petra Lang is now unable to perform Schönberg’s Erwartung for this event. She has been replaced at short notice by Magdalena Anna Hofmann Bookers will be contacted in due course. 5/8/15 ~ THSH

Carl Nielsen actually played in the Royal Danish Orchestra – so there’s no orchestra in the world with a longer tradition of performing his music.

In this anniversary year, RDO principal conductor Michael Boder brings arguably Nielsen’s finest symphony to Birmingham and opens with the ravishing Iris by Denmark’s pre-eminent living composer.

Praise for Magdalena Anna Hoffman performing Erwartung in April 2015 in Vienna

The monodrama revolving around the nocturnal wanderings of the Woman found its brightly shining voice in Magdalena Anna Hofmann…
Wiener Zeitung

Magdalena Anna Hofmann with her deliciously pleasing soprano voice..
Tiroler Tageszeitung

… Magdalena Anna Hofmann as The Woman with her sensual, majestic soprano voice, able to transmit every imaginable emotional impulse or outburst. Quite simply an experience!
Harald Lacina, Der Neue Merker

Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

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…     “There was a similar intimacy to Schoenberg’s Erwärtung – notwithstanding the dark beauty and lustrous tone of Magdalena Anna Hofmann’s voice, and the controlled tension with which she unfolded Schoenberg’s great psychological drama. The RDO darted and shimmered around her to the manner born: this is where that opera pit experience pays dividends.

And then, at last, Boder let his band off the leash for a volcanic Nielsen Fifth Symphony. Lean, powerful strings, deliciously folksy woodwind and a positively malicious percussion section all came together in an interpretation conceived as one sweeping gesture. Boder let his players play, and the symphony’s desperate last-minute triumph can rarely have sounded so hard won – or so overwhelming. The encore – Nielsen’s Maskarade overture – had the audience yelling with excitement.”     …


Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “The piece is a natural for an opera orchestra, of course, and Boder and the RDO darted, shimmered and swirled under and around Hofmann’s dark, lustrous voice without a false step. Hofmann herself told Schoenberg and Pappenheim’s horror story with cool control; as the implications of the words flashed across her face, she never forced her tone or descended into melodrama – making her short, sudden bursts of vocal characterisation all the more powerful. A ghoulishly rolled “r” here, a low hint of a snarl there: this performance was both intensely beautiful and unsparingly honest. On the opera stage, it would have been devastating.

Unsparing honesty is very much Carl Nielsen’s line of business too; and with the Fifth Symphony we finally had a chance to hear Boder let his players off the leash. Woozy, overripe bassoons gasped out the opening theme; the percussion launched into their onslaught with raw malice, and the principal clarinettist peacocked shamelessly. No question, the RDO came across as an orchestra with character to spare. But the impression of a super-sized chamber group coalesced here into something more powerful.

No-one would say that the RDO strings have a luxurious sound, but their transparency and sonorous power whipped up a genuinely menacing storm in the first of the second movement’s great fugal episodes. Put simply, they sounded like they meant it. All this, while Boder maintained his undemonstrative beat: letting his players play, and trusting them to understand where he was taking them – in this case, through a symphonic struggle which found resolution only at the last possible moment: almost at the very last note. The stakes can rarely have felt higher, and there was a slightly hysterical, off-the-hook edge to the encore (an uproariously OTT Nielsen Maskarade overture). In an uncompromising programme, perhaps Boder and the RDO’s greatest achievement was making the 150-year old Carl Nielsen seem the most dangerous man in the room.”


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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With origins that can be traced back to the middle of the 15th century, the Royal Danish Orchestra can claim to be the world’s oldest orchestra. Nowadays it divides its time between concert hall and opera house, and in both those roles this year it has been marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Carl Nielsen, who was a second violinist in the orchestra for 16 years. A Nielsen symphony was inevitably part of the programme it brought to Birmingham – the Fifth, played under its principal conductor Michael Boder.

Anniversary years apart, we don’t hear Nielsen symphonies often enough in the UK to have a real sense of a performing tradition about them, and it was fascinating to hear the Fifth played by an orchestra for whom the work is core repertoire. Boder emphasised the music’s extremes rather less than some conductors – the side drum’s interventions towards the end of the first movement seemed less anarchic; the fugal writing of the second less manic – and the work nudged closer to the 19th-century symphonic mainstream than usual, and seemed a more natural development of Nielsen’s earlier Brahmsian style.”     …


Review by Alexander Campbell, ClassicalSource:

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“The Royal Danish Orchestra and its conductor Michael Boder presented this brilliantly planned programme of Schoenberg’s nervy monodrama Erwartung sandwiched by two works by Danish composers. With its eerie opening, including flutter-tongued woodwinds, Per Nørgård’s Iris set the tone perfectly, music that is initially unsettled until gradually developing a pulsing quality that ushers in other instruments, a prominent, rather elegiac clarinet flourish proving to be the core of the work. The volume increases until an aggressive burst from the brass and the music fades away in an unresolved way. With some fantastic playing, this thoroughly vivid performance suggested that Iris deserves to be heard more often.

Magdalena Anna Hofmann

Following on the theme of uncertainty, next was Schoenberg’s 30-minute extravaganza for soprano and orchestra, Erwartung (Expectation). Magdalena Anna Hofmann, singing from memory, revealed a strong and characterful voice with a rich middle register allied to a rather metallic top range, which suited the character’s fluctuating moods and transient thoughts of warmth, jealousy, anxiety, resolve and deep despair. Her performance was internalised allowing one to focus on the text (a shame there were no surtitles). Hofmann has excellent diction however – a real plus! Thanks to Boder’s sympathetic conducting, the orchestra provided washes of sound without overwhelming the singer. Erwartung is an unsettling piece and best experienced live – and here exerted its curious magic.”     …

Camerata Salzburg and Nicola Benedetti play Mozart

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite, Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 and Orchestral Music

Thursday 12th March

Symphony Hall

Camerata Salzburg
Ben Gernon conductor
Nicola Benedetti violin

Schönberg Waltzes for string orchestra 16’
Mozart Violin Concerto No 5, Turkish 31’
Bruckner Adagio from String Quintet in F major, arr for strings 13’
Mozart Symphony No 29 28’


Following his triumph in the 2013 Salzburg Festival conducting competition, Shropshire-born conductor Ben Gernon brings Camerata Salzburg, one of the world’s greatest chamber orchestras, to Birmingham.

Two of Mozart’s sunniest masterpieces are at the heart of this concert and with the hugely popular Nicola Benedetti as soloist, this promises to be a joyful evening of music.

Bruckner’s Eighth

Thursday 6 December 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Simone Young conductor

Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 83′ Listen on Spotify

PLUS – a late-night performance
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Claire Booth – soprano
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire 38’

It’s a cliché to call Bruckner’s symphonies “cathedrals in sound”. True, Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony is one of the grandest and greatest in all music; a mighty vision of the eternal, composed for an enormous orchestra. But it’s so much more than one man’s spiritual odyssey. It’s one of Romantic music’s most overwhelming experiences, profoundly moving and breathtakingly beautiful. With Andris Nelsons, this will be one of the high points of our season. Be sure to hear it – and stay late as our friends from BCMG perform Schoenberg’s masterpiece, premiered in Vienna just 20 years after Bruckner’s symphony.

We’re sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has a viral infection and has had to withdraw from this week’s concerts of Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. We are extremely grateful to Simone Young who joins us at short notice for our performances in Gateshead and Birmingham on Wednesday and Thursday.

Simone Young has performed and recorded the original 1887 version of the symphony with the Hamburg Philharmonic. Please note we will be performing this version this week, rather than the Haas edition which we were due to perform.

Andris is hoping to be back in Birmingham next week to continue our Beethoven cycle and we wish him a speedy recovery.


Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The great Adagio found Ms Young displaying the breadth and the control of line that marks out a true Brucknerian. In the first few minutes the CBSO strings, especially the first violins and cellos, excelled; indeed, it was a fine night all round for the CBSO string section. Later on there was some very fine playing from the expanded horn section, the deep Wagner tubas making a sonorously telling contribution. Simone Young’s ability to build Bruckner’s great terraced climaxes was particularly noteworthy. These climaxes and the build-ups to them, though majestic in 1887, would become even more effective when Bruckner had pruned and polished them for the 1890 score. One improvement, though a relatively minor one, was his decision to cap the last massive climax with just two cymbal clashes; in 1887 he included two series of three clashes – so six in all -, and this is less imposing. The long, gently glowing conclusion to the movement remained largely unchanged between the two versions: in this performance it was managed splendidly.  Regardless of what edition of the score was being used this was a magnificent reading of the movement.”     …

The Year 1912: Brave New Worlds

Wednesday 14 November 2012 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Jac van Steen conductor

Schoenberg: Five Pieces for Orchestra (1909 original version) 16′ Listen on Spotify
Mahler: Symphony No. 7 84′

Mahler called it his “song of the night”, and it’s true: the Seventh is a Mahler symphony like no other. It begins in a boat on an Alpine lake and ends with trumpets aloft in blazing, roof-raising celebration – but along the way there are distant bugles, moonlit serenades and spinechilling horror. It’s fantastic, and it’ll sound like a dream under the baton of renowned guest conductor Jac van Steen – who opens the concert with a revolutionary masterpiece premiered in 1912 by Mahler’s most devoted fan. With an oversize orchestra and a kaleidoscope of colours and textures, Schoenberg looks decisively towards a brave new musical world – and sheds fresh light on Mahler’s own futuristic vision.

Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The mood of the symphony changes decisively and positively in Nachtmusik II, a warm and affectionate piece. Here Mahler reinforces his vast orchestra with mandolin and guitar. These instruments were carefully positioned on the platform so that their contributions were audible. There was great refinement in the CBSO’s playing, not least from leader, Laurence Jackson. Fired by this new mood of positivity the finale erupts in bright C major. This movement has often been criticised and there’s no doubt that it can seem weak and/or ramshackle. Jac van Steen’s solution was a simple but effective one: he really went for it, galvanising the orchestra into playing that had huge energy and high spirits. The movement is, by turns, delicate and tumultuous and both sides of the music were superbly delivered in a vibrant sharply etched performance.

With the CBSO on top form and an expert conductor at the helm I enjoyed this performance of Mahler’s Seventh greatly and got more from it than has been the case on most occasions that I’ve heard the work. The CBSO seemed to relish Mr van Steen’s work on their podium: I hope it won’t be long before he’s invited back to Birmingham.”     …


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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“The CBSO have a wonderful ritual whenever their beloved music director Andris Nelsons conducts them. At the end of a concert they refuse to stand at his exhortation, remaining instead firmly in their seats as they applaud him with warmth, gratitude and affection.

Last Wednesday Dutch conductor Jac van Steen was granted a similar accolade from the players at the end of a remarkable programme of early 20th-century music featuring a huge orchestra. Listeners to the live BBC Radio-3 broadcast will have missed this touching visual but will certainly have enjoyed what they heard. Thanks to the Rattle days the CBSO have Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (certainly his most difficult to bring off) firmly under their fingers, and this performance was yet another marvellous one to add to the list.”     …

Barenboim plays Beethoven

Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim conductor/piano

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht 20’
Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5, Emperor 38’

Encore Chopin Nocturne

Few names are more prestigious in music today than that of Daniel Barenboim. A musical colossus and legend in his own lifetime, he is one of the world’s leading pianists and conductors, with barely a corner of musical life that he has not touched in some way. Steeped in Beethoven’s music – arguably its greatest living exponent -Barenboim’s performance of the Emperor Concerto with the Berlin Staatskapelle is eagerly anticipated.

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

…”More than that it was a triumph, both for Barenboim himself and the remarkable Staatskapelle Berlin he has directed since 1992.

Few string works are more emotionally draining than Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, and as the electrifying opener it seethed wonderfully with transparent multipart textures and solo lines that erupted from the musical cauldron of expressionistic brooding.”  …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb:

…”The first half featured Verklärte Nacht, an early string sextet from Schoenberg, heard here in the later full string version. We saw a mature and relaxed Barenboim, in complete control of the massed forces of the Staatskapelle; there were few histrionics from their Chief Conductor for Life. He’s long had the Tee shirt. Barenboim, prising out some amazing effects I had not experienced before in this piece, vividly recreated the Richard Dehmel text on which the composition is based. The stark opening phrases portrayed Dehmel’s ‘walk through a bare, cold grove’, and reminded me of my own chilly January promenade from train station to auditorium foyer.  …

… Much as the Schoenberg piece was appreciated, it was the second half that the Midlands had come to see and hear – the well-loved Piano Concerto No 5 in Eb Major by Beethoven. All high expectations were fulfilled. No doubt Barenboim has played the Emperor countless times, and many with the Staatskapelle Berlin (catch them together on a DVD live performance) but he made it sound as fresh and vibrant as perhaps he has ever done. The nobility and power of Beethoven were immediately conveyed in the opening Allegro.” …

Review by James Cartledge, Birmingham Mail:

…”The highlight of the evening was, though, without doubt Barenboim at the keyboard for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5, better known as The Emperor.

It was incredible to watch the energetic Barenboim as he combined playing with conducting. ” …