Schumann’s Piano Concerto

Sunday 10th January, 2016, 3.00pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, 10′
  • Schumann Piano Concerto, 31′
  • Sibelius  Lemminkäinen Suite, 50′

Beatrice Rana’s encore – Schumann trans. Liszt – Widmung
.
We may be in the depths of winter, but these three romantic narratives by composers barely into their thirties should warm the hardest of hearts. Debussy’s faun and Sibelius’s hero are the stuff of legend, their unrequited love expressed in music that is by turns languid, passionate and thrilling. Schumann’s feelings for Clara were only too real, and had been strongly opposed by her father: but once they were finally married, he poured his feelings into this gorgeous concerto. To perform these three youthful masterpieces we are joined by two outstanding young artists: a superb pianist and a conductor who caused quite a stir on her UK debut with the CBSO last summer.
.
.
Has CBSO finally found its next Music Director,
article/ review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post :
Click here for full article
…     “So on the second Sunday in January Mirga reappeared, conducting a programme which put so many skills to the test: phrasing with a flexibility which allowed orchestral soloists to make telling contributions, collaborating with a young pianist in one of the world’s best-known concertos (and one not without its pitfalls), and making sense of the jagged structures and kaleidoscopic colours of a gritty large-scale work.She triumphed spectacularly, to huge audience acclaim (and it was a nice bonus to hear the measured clarity of her speaking voice as she informed us of a change in movement-order), and the players seemed highly enthused, too.It helps that she so obviously enjoys conducting, relishing the partnership she shares with her colleagues. It was charming to see her beaming and silently applauding the delivery of important solos, and to see her beaming with pleasure as every effect came off successfully.”      …
.
Review by Richard Bratby, ArtsDesk:
Click here for full review
…     “What Gražinytė-Tyla achieved, then, was all the more remarkable. Her ultra-precise beat and balletic podium manner have attracted unfavourable comment from people who fundamentally misunderstand how an orchestra responds to a conductor – or who simply can’t listen. That Gražinytė-Tyla has a distinctive vision – and the power to realise it – was obvious from the rapturous opening bars of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune in which she coaxed the strings to match both the colour and texture of Marie-Christine Zupancic’s daringly-soft opening flute solo, and went on to generate an unfolding sense of wonder in which even the rests felt like part of the phrasing: hanging, pregnant with expression, in a breathlessly quiet Symphony Hall.
Sibelius’s four Lemminkäinen Legends made good on the Debussy’s promise. Gražinytė-Tyla has a powerful sense of the single culminating point of a large-scale musical structure, and the idea that these four tone-poems add up to a thinly-disguised symphony has rarely felt so convincing, with Gražinytė-Tyla reversing the conventional order of the two central pieces so that Lemminkäinen in Tuonela became a slow, macabre scherzo, and the dying notes of The Swan of Tuonela served as a sort of prelude to the first drumbeats of Lemminkäinen’s Homecoming. Throughout, Gražinytė-Tyla drew out and relished each fantastical detail of Sibelius’s scoring: snare-drum rattling against a pianissimo rustle of violins, the gurgling woodwind laughter of the maidens of Saari, and the impressionistic blur of sound that introduced Rachael Pankhurst’s tender, improvisatory cor anglais solo in The Swan of Tuonela.
And yet the pacing remained taut, the cumulative build-up and release of energy overwhelming – and the players, leaning into their stands and exchanging discreet smiles, seemed energised.”     …
.Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “She allowed complete freedom in the  wide, soft opening flute lines of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune , and moulded the CBSO with elegant movements not unlike those of a dancer. She established an atmosphere of great calm without losing the sense of underlying excited tension and shimmering of heat.

23-year-old pianist Beatrice Rana completed the line-up and seemed ideal casting for Schumann’s only completed piano concerto that had been written for – and championed by – Schumann’s wife Clara. While the opening call to attention and the following lines were slightly blurred by a lot of pedal, her playing was remarkably unobtrusive, her movements minimal and modest, her phrasing clear. Supported by a softer orchestral tone with strong emotional focus, she floated through the first movement with only the briefest instance of rush when an immense distance on the keyboard just could not be travelled safely without use of a small rubato.

She brought out the sweeping upwards lines in the Allegro vivace with a round, full-bodied sound despite distinctly unpretentious playing. It drew all strength of stroke from her fingers and wrists, supported by the forearms; hardly ever did she use the full arm, let alone body for emphasis, gestures remained small, the wrists only lifting slightly to breathe. Minor ensemble issues where the melodic line appears in the orchestra and, in ornamented form, in the piano, were quickly caught and made for a stirring close, complemented by an equally wonderful encore, Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s Widmung.”     …

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is a 29-year-old Lithuanian, who is currently assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She conducted the CBSO for the first time last July, and made such an impression with the orchestra and the audience that she was invited back for this specially arranged concert.

It was easy to understand why she has gone down so well in Birmingham. Her platform style is certainly distinctive: Gražinytė-Tyla began with Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune, applying the dabs of orchestral colour with sharp stabs of her baton, and sculpting the larger shapes of the music with sweeping gestures. But for once such balletic poses really did communicate something wonderfully alive and detailed to the players, a performance with fresh, clear textures and an unswerving sense of shape.

In Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite, too, there was that same attention to every morsel of detail, and the same knack of moulding each of the four movements into a convincing dramatic shape, even in the opening Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari, which can seem rather unruly. The last movement was built to a terrific climax, too, after she had favoured the alternative ordering for the middle two movements, with the Swan of Tuonela third in the sequence, though that hardly helps the narrative that underpins Sibelius’s scheme.”     …

.

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Ms Gražinytė-Tyla reversed the order of the middle two movements, as printed in the programme, so that we heard The Swan of Tuonela third. She may be quite slight of stature but there was no doubting her command in this performance of the Legends. In fact, though the preceding works had shown her in an impressive light I think it was in the Sibelius that she truly came into her own.    

There was conviction and colour aplenty in Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari. The atmosphere of the piece was very well conveyed in an exciting and sometimes powerful performance.  Lemminkäinen in Tuonela is the most dramatic of the four pieces and Ms Gražinytė-Tyla established in the opening bars a high degree of tension which was never lost. I thought this was a gripping performance, especially during the last few minutes, and it seemed to me that both conductor and orchestra displayed a strong understanding of the composer’s sound world. The opening of The Swan of Tuonela was bleak and doleful; Rachel Pankhurst’s cor anglais solos were keening and expressive. The playing of everyone involved in this movement was concentrated and highly controlled. This was eloquent music-making. In Lemminkäinen’s Return his mother has found his slain body and restores him to life, enabling him to ride home in triumph. From the start this performance had terrific drive and energy. The CBSO’s playing was colourful and rhythmically strong, urged on by their highly animated young conductor. Lemminkäinen came home triumphantly.

This was a terrific concert containing three highly contrasted, expertly delivered performances. Musically, each performance was extremely satisfying. On this evidence Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is already a highly accomplished conductor who genuinely has something to say about the music she conducts. It seemed to me that the CBSO responded very positively to her. Who knows how the process of the selection of the CBSO’s new principal conductor will pan out? But whatever the outcome I hope we shall see much more of this exciting young conducting talent in Birmingham. 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Baiba Skride: Schumann

Thursday 5th November, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Wagner  Lohengrin – Prelude to Act 1, 10′
  • Schumann  Violin Concerto, 30′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 1, 45′

Brahms’s first symphony begins with the pounding of a broken heart, and ends with the kind of melody that comes once in a lifetime. It’s a gripping way for rising star Omer Meir Wellber to make his Birmingham debut. First though, he raises the curtain with Wagner’s magical, mystical Prelude to Lohengrin, and introduces artist in residence Baiba Skride in the dark poetry of Schumann’s only Violin Concerto.

.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“If anyone needed converting to Schumann’s enigmatic Violin Concerto, this was the performance to do it, with soloist Baibe Skride so persuasive in her advocacy.

This CBSO Artist in Residence made light of the work’s awesome technical difficulties, multiple-stopping despatched with ease, and instead drew all our attention to the music’s tortured poetry, written at a time when the composer was so poignantly close to insanity.

Her Stradivarius, on loan from another great champion of the work, Gidon Kremer, sang with a dark, wiry tone, confiding hushed intimacies and communicating as in chamber music with the CBSO’s pastel strings. Winds, too, made memorable contributions, not least horns in the finale, which, truth to tell, had begun heavily-footedly under Omer Meir Wellber’s generally empathetic direction. And Wellber should never again cross in front of the soloist to congratulate the concertmaster during the applause.”     …

.

Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…   “The Lohengrin Prelude had felt a little too much like an exercise in static, if sweet-toned, phrase-making – the long line was missing. But here it was, at the opening of Brahms’s First Symphony: back with a vengeance. If the impression so far had been of a meticulous, thoughtful conductor with a hyperactive podium style, from the first bars of the symphony it was clear that Wellber had some seriously large-scale musical ideas – and the power to realise them.

On the strength of this performance, Wellber conceives the symphony as one huge, single-movement span – from expansive opening right through to a finish which, judging from the savage splendour of his brass-torn final bars, it’s doubtful that he sees as any sort of resolution. The conflicts of the first movement lumbered angrily up from the bass line of the second, and this must have been one of the least relaxed performances imaginable of Brahms’s third movement intermezzo. The finale followed almost without a break: the drive and bite with which Wellber lashed into the string figuration of Brahms’s introduction – so often played purely for romantic atmosphere – felt like the tail-end of a development section that still had everything to fight for.

Throughout it all, Wellber unlocked the full, lustrous sonic depth of the CBSO string section – a rare achievement since Nelsons’s departure. If there remained something claustrophobic about his vision (and it was particularly frustrating to hear leader Laurence Jackson and principal horn Elspeth Dutch’s solos locked rigidly into tempo) it was unquestionably compelling. The audience responded with cheers, and the orchestra remained seated when Wellber gestured it to stand, handing all the credit to the young Israeli. It’s been an open secret in Birmingham for some weeks that there is already a clear front-runner for the CBSO’s music directorship. Last night, that contest got a lot more interesting.”

.

Review by Stephen Pritchard, The Observer:

Click here for full review

…     “Wellber plainly loves this piece. From the first bar he was a man possessed, mercilessly driving the bleak majesty of the pounding first movement and drawing some wonderfully incisive playing from the strings. Conducting without a score, he pounced on every nuance, highlighting the smallest detail in woodwind and brass, and always, always pushing onward that insistent, doom-laden rhythm.

He allowed the sun to break through briefly when the woodwind sang their warm chorale at the start of the third movement but there was much heart-searching to do before we finally reached the broad landscape of the “joy” theme, Brahms’s conscious tribute to Beethoven and a seizing of his laurels, taking the symphonic form in a new direction.

Wellber worked the orchestra intensely hard in this finale and they responded magnificently; I’ve not heard Brahms played as well as this in years. The CBSO is searching for a replacement for the revered Andris Nelsons. Wellber might just be their man.”

*****

.

From the Danube to the Rhine

 

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 5th February 2015 at 7.30pm

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

Concert Packages

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Kazushi Ono  conductor
Marie-Christine Zupancic  flute

Schubert: Symphony No. 5 26′
Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 2, K. 285d 20′
Schumann: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish) 31′ Watch on YouTube

Schumann’s “Rhenish” symphony opens in a blaze of glory… and ends at a beer festival! There’s never been a more enjoyable way to experience the Rhineland, and you don’t even have to leave your seat in Symphony Hall! First, though, Franz Schubert raises the curtain with a gentle smile – and the CBSO’s own Marie- Christine Zupancic brings out the light and shade of Mozart’s jewel-like concerto.

The annual Bequest Patrons’ Reception takes place after this concert on 5 February. For information, contact Claire Watts on 0121 616 6533.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Floating rather than walking, Kazushi Ono swept into the hall and injected this floating quality in the opening movement of Schubert’s Symphony no. 5 in B flat major. The smaller orchestration made for an amazingly transparent soundscape, nicely articulated particularly by the first violins. This transparency and the musicians’ eager compliance with each and every of Ono’s small gestures created flowing and flexible dynamic, but also revealed occasional instances where the second violins appeared to minimally lag behind the first. This, however, was quickly forgotten after the first few notes of the elegiac Andante.     […]

[…]     “Mozart provided the opportunity for a cadenza in each movement, and I was particularly looking forward to these as the soloist who, having grown up in the Lower Rhine area, further added to the evening’s theme, had captured me with her characteristic, silver tone whenever I’d heard the CBSO previously. While I missed her trademark tone, her cadenzas offered exciting pianos in which every note was a self-contained entity, a thin ray of light that grew broader as she played. The first cadenza appeared as a more modern-sounding addition, the second movement cadenza however was of the same confiding nature as preceding solo parts, felt less disjointed and much more an organic part of the movement. The high-spirited, bubbly final movement displayed the same transparent quality as the opening Schubert, with gleaming brass lines over which the first violins cast their notes like a sugar dusting. The third movement cadenza, recapitulating material of the rondo, fitted seamlessly into the movement, giving it a great sense of overall balance.”     …

.

.

Review by Sam Chipman, PublicReviews:

Click here for full review

…     “His writing here is actually for an oboe, but was adapted to be performed as a flute concerto. Marie-Christine Zupancic plays with great expression and ability, her cadenzas are suitable stylistic and allow her to show off her virtuosic skills. She is ably accompanied by the CBSO who take delight in the conversation Mozart gives with the soloist. The Allegro is delightfully light and spirited: a true homage to Mozart himself.

“A slice of Rhenish life” is what Schumann called the fourth movement of his Third Symphony, inspired by a visit to Cologne Cathedral and which rounds off the evening. Thrilled by the sights of Dusseldorf after arriving to take up the post of musical director in 1850, the work reflects the beauty of the Rhineland he saw around him; this was before both personal and professional problems arose which resulted in a suicide attempt by drowning in the Rhine in 1854. The Lebhaft is played with triumphant impatience by a larger CBSO orchestra, a vividly bright performance of the great Schumann score. The brass section really grasps the solemn feel of the Feierlich which is played both lyrically and with gravitas, and the final Lebhaft is played with a sense of urgency to bring about the climactic finish.

Kazushi Ono shows his class, as does the CBSO, with this delightful concert. An excellent selection of music to tickle any classic music lovers taste-buds, and played nimbly and with great intelligent awareness by the CBSO, marshalled by Ono – all in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music.”

Nelsons Conducts Bruckner’s Seventh

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Saturday 29th November 2014 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′ Watch on YouTube

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (Haas) 68′
Listen on Spotify

Stephen Hough’s encore – Schumann: Träumerei 

Imagine a symphony played by an angel. That’s how Anton Bruckner first dreamed of the blissful opening melody of his Seventh Symphony – and when you hear it, you’ll understand why: this is music that scales sublime heights and heartrending depths. For Andris Nelsons, it’s a labour of love; so he begins by teaming up with the incomparable Stephen Hough in Schumann’s ever-fresh love-poem of a Piano Concerto.

Support the CBSO

.

Review by Ken Ward, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “It had been prepared by a series of woodwind solos, the woodwind also on excellent form, which were enhanced by the decision to fully open the hall’s reverberant chambers for the Bruckner, the slight echo amplifying the characteristic timbre of each instrument, clarinets, oboe and flute.  Nelsons, already beating a very moderate Allegro, had slowed down significantly to allow this passage its full eloquence.

For the first time with this symphony Bruckner makes use of a quartet of Wagner tubas, and it’s always splendid to see the players assemble on stage with these large instruments of glistening gold.  They have the reputation of being a little troublesome to play, but the Birmingham musicians were faultless and glorious to hear. Their big moment is after the Adagio climax where they play a dirge in memory of Wagner himself, who had died whilst Bruckner was composing the symphony, a dirge capped with a blazing outcry from the horns – all of this magnificently accomplished. And they have repeated chorales to embellish the progress of the finale, and these were again beautifully done.

Altogether it was performance with many such highlights, mostly passages where the sheer beauty of the sound and excellence of the playing gripped one’s attention.     […]

[…]    Stephen Hough’s performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto in the first half had been filled with intelligence and vitality, a display of absolute mastery. The balance of piano and orchestra, and the interplay between soloist and members of the orchestra – especially the excellent clarinet playing of Oliver Janes – was a delight to hear. After the meditative Intermezzo, the exuberant finale broke through with refined high-spirits, presenting a bright and joyful spectacle.

Hough closed the first half with a nicely executed Träumerei from Schumann’s Kinderscenen.  Nelsons closed the concert with a little speech in which he thanked the audience for coming, wished them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and said that he was really glad that so many people came to listen to Bruckner: “sometimes people are afraid, but actually, as you see, it is absolutely magic and absolutely amazing, particularly with this orchestra”.”

Nelsons Conducts Bruckner’s Seventh

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Thursday 27th November 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Stephen Hough  piano

Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′ Watch on YouTube

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 (Haas) 68′
Listen on Spotify

Stephen Hough’s encore  – Chopin: E-Flat Nocturne

Imagine a symphony played by an angel. That’s how Anton Bruckner first dreamed of the blissful opening melody of his Seventh Symphony – and when you hear it, you’ll understand why: this is music that scales sublime heights and heartrending depths. For Andris Nelsons, it’s a labour of love; so he begins by teaming up with the incomparable Stephen Hough in Schumann’s ever-fresh love-poem of a Piano Concerto.

Support the CBSO

.

.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “There was a wonderful sense of release as the opening movement eased into its recapitulation as Nelsons so patiently delineated the music’s architecture, and the extended coda’s dynamics were so well-managed over the tension-building timpani roll.

And out of all the orchestral contributions special mention must be made of Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute, now fluttering like a dove, now radiant as a halo.

Around her and oboist Rainer Gibbons the woodwind section is rebuilding itself into the strength it once possessed, and it was good to welcome Oliver Janes, the 23-year-old grandson of John Fuest, one-time principal clarinet of the CBSO, into his grandfather’s chair.

The Schumann Piano Concerto could not have been a better choice for his debut in the position, full of poignant dialogue between clarinet and piano, and Janes certainly had a formidable collaborator in Stephen Hough, whose pianism combined authority with spontaneous generosity of phrasing.

Naturally Nelsons and the CBSO accompanied totally in sympathy, and it’s good to know that Hyperion recorded this performance, renewing their award-winning partnership of Hough with the orchestra.”     …

*****

.

.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The doors to the reverberation chamber behind the orchestra had been opened as wide as possible for the performance, and though that didn’t create the kind of cathedral acoustic that permeates so much of Bruckner’s symphonic thinking, it was enough to give a delicate colour to the work’s silences and to extend the effect of its cadences. Generally, though, Nelsons kept things airy and transparent; it was clear from the veiled lightness of the strings at the start that this was not going to be heavyweight, minatory Bruckner, but something much more athletic, direct and texturally interesting. If anything, the rhetoric was underplayed: the close of the first movement was not the brassy triumph some conductors make of it, but more measured and provisional, and even the shattering climax of the slow movement and the reconciliation of the finale kept something in reserve.

In some ways, too, the symphony had been upstaged by Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with Stephen Hough as soloist before it. That had been a performance of such startling freshness and clarity that one of the most familiar of all 19th-century piano concertos seemed totally reimagined, with the sweep and vigour supplied by Nelsons and the orchestra as the perfect foil to Hough’s cool brilliance.”

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

Thumbnail

Thursday 1st May 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Rafael Payare  conductor
Jonathan Biss  piano

Brahms: Tragic Overture 13′
Schumann: Piano Concerto 31′
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade 45′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Schumann poured out his feelings for his beloved Clara. And Scheherazade just wanted to keep her head! But every one of them told an unforgettable musical story, and from Brahms’s epic drama to Rimsky-Korsakov’s fantastically tuneful musical fairytale on One Thousand and One Nights, Rafael Payare – the latest graduate of Venezuela’s legendary El Sistema – will make each one blaze with colour. Pianist Jonathan Biss finds poetry amidst the passion in this concert of much-loved classics.

.

.

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“The brilliance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration for Scheherazade – he even makes the bassoon sound beguiling – means that it easily becomes a series of discrete beautiful moments. It’s to the credit of up-and-coming Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare that while the incidental orchestral felicities were all in place there also was a strong narrative thrust to this exotic fairytale suite.

While motifs metamorphosed and themes reappeared we never lost sight of a story being told. The first violin is our Scheherazade and in self-indulgent performances she’s a musical Houri who flutters her eyelashes and wears too much make-up.

The CBSO leader Laurence Jackson gave us a storyteller whose music was subtle, tender and seductive. Every featured play received deserved applause with a loud ovation for principal timpanist Peter Hill in his last concert, retiring after twenty-five years with the orchestra.”     …

Trifonov Plays Tchaikovsky

23rd May 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Mario Venzago  conductor

Daniil Trifonov  piano

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 (Jupiter) 26′

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 33′

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 29′ Watch on YouTube

Daniil Trifonov’s encore – Schumann / Liszt – Widmung

The Orchestra throws down the challenge; the piano strides forward; and on a great wave of melody, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto surges into life. The greatest of all Romantic piano concertos? One thing’s for sure: Tchaikovsky Competition winner Daniil Trifonov plays it like no-one on earth. We’re thrilled to welcome him to Birmingham, as the star of a concert that begins with Mozart’s ever-astonishing final symphony and ends with Schumann at his headlong, heartfelt best. Sheer emotion. www.cbso.co.uk