Beethoven’s Eroica

Wednesday 2nd December, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Rimsky-Korsakov  Capriccio espagnol, 15′
  • Scriabin  Piano Concerto, 28′
  • Beethoven  Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), 47′

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Yevgeny Sudbin’s encore – Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 No 3

Available on BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert – here – for 29 days

With two mighty chords, Ludwig van Beethoven launched a musical insurrection. There’s still nothing in all of music to match the drama of Beethoven’s revolutionary Eroica symphony, and CBSO associate conductor Michael Seal conducts it with absolute commitment and unstoppable energy. Expect some serious voltage; an explosive contrast to Scriabin’s deliriously romantic early masterpiece – the greatest concerto Rachmaninov never wrote? – and Rimsky Korsakov’s all-glittering, all-dancing Capriccio espagnol.

Support the CBSO’s Be Uplifted A Festive Appeal supporting youth and community singing

Michael Seal on Rimsky-Korsakov, Scriabin and Beethoven

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “Throughout, Seal’s reading followed through on the subversive logic of that headlong opening; paragraphs of Bruckner-like spaciousness and grandeur were punctuated, confronted and swung around by those climactic passages of violent release. This wasn’t the roughest “Eroica” you’ll hear – or for that matter the smoothest – but it was intelligent, articulate and on its own terms powerfully convincing.

Seal had opened the concert with a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol – one of those supposedly hackneyed popular classics that you actually never seem to hear any more. Rimsky said that in the Capriccio orchestral colour is the musical substance, and Seal responded by simply playing the socks off it. Rhythms were crisp, colours iridescent, and amidst a parade of exuberantly characterised solos, Oliver Janes’s clarinet and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic’s fresh, fluid tone stood out. It was gleefully, unapologetically up-front, and the all-rattling, all-jangling final Alborada brought cheers from the audience. There’s life in this warhorse yet.

Yevgeny Sudbin

Scriabin’s solitary Piano Concerto, meanwhile, continues to hover on the fringes of the repertoire, with most of its (fairly rare) champions treating it either as supercharged Chopin or half-baked Rachmaninov. Not Yevgeny Sudbin (pictured above). Seal went for clarity rather than poetry in the opening bars, and it soon became clear that this was precisely Sudbin’s own approach. Scriabin’s too: what we usually hear as a perfumed dream of a first movement is actually marked Allegro.” …

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Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack:

Click here for full review (for matinee of same programme)

Cymbals crashed, tambourines rattled, the triangle threw a sprinkling of silver over the orchestral clatter that opens Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol, and the CBSO’s Spanish picture was one full of red and earthen colours, varied textures and well directed dynamic developments. The musicians gave it transparency where needed and opened the windows to let in sound scraps of travelling folk in the third movement violin solo, aptly played gypsy-style with scratching attack and quick, strong vibrato.

While the various solo passages for the violin still hint at the composer’s initial plan for the piece to be set for violin and orchestra, he later abandoned this in favour of a compositional outline that allows all groups of the orchestra to display their art. And they shone, from Oliver Janes’ lively clarinet to Marie-Christine Zupancic’s bubbling flute. The orchestra seemed to burst with energy, expressed with softer articulation in the woodwinds, proud brass and ever-precise percussion, culminating in wild, whirling abandon – a magnificent noise!

How different a picture Scriabin’s Piano Concerto painted after this exuberance of sunshine and joy. “No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death,” writes Scriabin’s biographer, and there is at least some truth to it as his works still seem to be programmed fairly infrequently – unjustifiedly so! Just listen to his wonderfully emotional piano concerto for a few minutes. It is a work awash with Chopinesque sentiment and lush orchestral passages that often threaten to smother the piano’s expressive chord statements in the first movement.

Yevgeny Sudbin often surrendered to the orchestra’s forces, but then again wound his way out in intricate tracery, tender, round articulation and a brilliant tone without acidity. While one would often have wished to hear more of him and just a little bit less orchestral sweep, his playing mirrored the great influence Chopin had on Scriabin’s early works, not just in the fleeting arpeggios, but also the mazurka with alternating tender, dreamy passages and a more energetic, resolute reply that, heard just one, will not leave your head for weeks.

Sudbin played with relaxed concentration, using his fingers rather than the entire arm, as if he was playing Chopin’s very own 19th century Pleyel. His strokes were very controlled and rounded, almost all emphasis came from the wrists which otherwise breathed along with the phrases. There were no great gestures, no mannerisms, just a very honest, solemn and modest performance that made for my personal highlight that afternoon.”   …

 

 

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Andris Nelsons and Mitsuko Uchida

Thursday 2nd May 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Mitsuko Uchida  piano

Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 13′ Listen on Spotify

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17, K453 32′ Listen on Spotify

Messiaen: Oiseaux Exotiques  15′

Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy 22′ Listen on Spotify

To call Mitsuko Uchida   a legend is to sell her short: she’s a byword for freshness, intelligence, and   the special poetry that comes from a lifetime’s devotion to the greatest music   ever written. Here, she makes her long-awaited return to Birmingham with a revelatory   programme, pairing the beauty of Mozart at his most tuneful with the rainbow   hues of Messiaen’s Oiseaux   Exotiques. Andris Nelsons and the CBSO celebrate with two astonishing   bursts of pure orchestral colour and emotion.

“One of the highlights of our season: a rare opportunity to hear the   wonderful pianist Mitsuko Uchida live in concert. It is a pleasure for her to   work with us.” Andris Nelsons

Check out our blog:   Birmingham Post classical music critic, Christopher Morley, talks to Mitsuko   Uchida about “the terrors of performing Mozart” ahead of her concerts in May.

Watch on YouTube:   Listen to an interview with Mitsuko Uchida here

Post-concert talk at c. 9.45pm Stay late for a post-concert   conversation with CBSO music director Andris Nelsons and chief   executive Stephen Maddock.

www.cbso.co.uk

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Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

…     “Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida tells Christopher Morley how much she is looking forward to a return to Birmingham.

IT’S  impossible to feel anything else but happy when talking to Mitsuko Uchida. The  Japanese pianist positively bubbles with enthusiasm for her work and delights in  Mozart. It’s like listening to a soul-mate in a lively, non-stop  conversation.”      …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Op 6 is usually performed in Webern’s later revision, in which the orchestration is significantly scaled down, but here Nelsons conducted the original version, with its sextuple brass and quadruple wind. The sense of claustrophobia in having such huge forces focused on music of such economy was intense, and the climaxes were massive. But nothing like as huge as in Scriabin‘s Poem of Ecstasy with which Nelsons ended the concert, his superb performance urging the music on to one excess after another, while ensuring that every texture was wonderfully balanced, though still failing to overcome the work’s overriding sense of comical self-indulgence.”     …

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Review by Stephen Walsh, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “Yet when Mozart’s warmth was inescapable, in the lovely E flat episode of the Andante, they all came together marvellously. And the variation finale at last achieved a certain shared wit and brilliance: the tiger lay down with the lamb, and all ended happily.

Impossible not to love Mitsuko Uchida : her modest bearing, her palpable devotion to the music, her genuine concern that the orchestra should take the tiger’s share of the applause. After Messiaen’s ornithological piano concerto, Oiseaux exotiques, she solemnly handed bouquets to the different sections of the orchestra (wind and percussion).”     …

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Nicely warmed up, the audience chirruped in anticipation as the stage was reorganised for Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major.  It was a rare sighting: this renowned interpreter of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven in Birmingham, especially working with a conductor, since Uchida’s usual preference is to direct from the piano herself.  Simply entitling the programme “Andris Nelsons and Mitsuko Uchida” was clearly significant rather than merely über-literal.  Uchida had a relaxed rapport with a vibrant Nelsons, but at the same time her attitude of absolute engagement with the orchestra betrayed the fact that she was used to leading the way.  It was fascinating to witness someone so fully involved with the music when not actually playing, either hugging herself or tempted during the orchestra’s delicate opening to test out joining them in a few imaginary bars, hands perched six inches above the keys.”     …

*****

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Andris Nelsons, however, is a conductor who always goes  further, and here created a sound canvas so tantalisingly complex it seemed  almost romantic in nature.

A lesser composer would probably have flogged such  exquisitely short-lived material to death, which in a way is what Scriabin does  in his gargantuan Poem of Ecstasy. Nelsons, though, went beyond Scriabin’s  gushing Expressionism and big climaxes – all delivered by a supercharged  orchestra in dazzling form – to explore the more subtle aspects of the score and  its indebtedness to French impressionism.

His support for Mitsuko Uchida in Mozart’s Piano Concerto  No. 17 was equally well considered, with elegant phrasing and a wide dynamic  spectrum complementing the soloist’s crisp articulation and pellucid  runs.”     …

*****