Rachmaninov by Candlelight


Sun 2 Oct 6:00pm at Symphony Hall

Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore director
Steven Osborne piano

Rachmaninov Vespers
Piano Preludes Op 23 Nos 6 in E flat, 10 in G flat, 3 in D minor, 4 in D, 7 in C minor
Op 32 Nos 5 in G, 7 in F, 9 in A, 1 in C

This concert has a running time of c. 2 hours including one interval.

The soaring voices of Ex Cathedra bring Rachmaninov’s choral masterpiece to life by candlelight. Glowing with radiant Russian Orthodox spirituality, the Vespers are interspersed with a selection of the composer’s much-loved piano preludes performed by Steven Osborne.

In the words of The Times, ‘the brilliant Scottish pianist… scales the preludes… with passion and authority… Sorrow and sunlight, death and life: all Rachmaninov is here’.

Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, says of tonight’s recommended concert: “Rachmaninov’s Vespers is some of the Russian composer’s most profound and moving music; the All-Night Vigil remains one of the most atmospheric musical creations. On what’s likely to be a chilly, autumnal evening, Ex Cathedra will be bringing music to warm your very soul.” www.thsh.co.uk

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard -MusicWeb:


…     “Not for the first time – and surely not for the last – Jeffrey Skidmore had devised an imaginative and illuminating programme and he conducted the choir superbly, drawing from them singing that was, according to the demands of the music, exquisitely poised or powerfully sonorous and which always rang with conviction.

Experiencing Rachmaninov by candlelight in this way made for a memorable concert. It was one which, for me – and with apologies for the pun – shed new light on Rachmaninov’s music in two different genres.”

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:


…     “From first note to last this was a powerfully atmospheric and often hypnotic account, with Jeffrey Skidmore and his singers (Jeremy Budd and Martha McLorinan the gloriously idiomatic soloists) going beyond melody and harmony to explore a rich choral tapestry where inner-part textures and movements were of equal importance and, especially in the basses, awesomely sonorous.

In such a finely judged musical environment, Steven Osborne transcended the role of solo pianist to become an additional member of the ensemble.”    […] Rating * * * * *


Dancing in the Streets

Tuesday 1 March 2011 at 7.30pm

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

 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Carlos Kalmar  conductor
Steven Osborne  piano

Adams: The Chairman Dances 12′
Bernstein: West Side Story – Symphonic Dances 23′
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain 23′
Gershwin: An American in Paris 17′

From Gershwin tapping through the streets of jazz-age Paris, to John
Adams imagining Mao Zedong and Madame Mao in a show-stopping
foxtrot – there’s no denying that American composers have got rhythm!
South American-born conductor Carlos Kalmar knows all about that,
and tonight he leads the CBSO on a high-kicking celebration of the
American way of dance. Expect some serious Latin flair in Bernstein’s
West Side Story dances, the smokiest of blues in An American in
Paris, and – at the heart of the programme – something completely
different. The superb British pianist Steven Osborne should bring just
the right mixture of poetry and panache to Falla’s enchanted,
shimmering Nights in the Gardens of Spain begun in 1911. www.cbso.co.uk 

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


“Anyone who says they “don’t like 20th-century music” should have been at Tuesday’s CBSO concert, from which they would have emerged smiling in acquiescence at its sheer approachability.

This was a programme to die for, beginning with a tautly driven account of John Adams’ The Chairman Dances under the decisive baton of Carlos Kalmar.”   …


Review for this programme at Bridgewater Hall, by Michael Cookson, MusicWeb:


Jurowski Conducts Mahler 4

Birmingham International Concert Season 2010/11

Thu 2 Dec 7:30pm at Symphony Hall

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski conductor
Steven Osborne piano
Christine Schäfer soprano

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 32’
Mahler Symphony No 4 54’

Few conductors have received the plaudits that have been awarded to Vladimir Jurowski, Chief Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Described as ‘the most creative force in London’s orchestral life’ (Financial Times), his concert contains Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, one of the composer’s most relaxed works – classical, song-like and culminating in a representation of a child’s view of heaven. Steven Osborne is the soloist in the gentle lyrical poetry of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. www.thsh.co.uk

6:15pm Pre-concert talk with Lyndon Jenkins and Vladimir Jurowski.

Part of The Birmingham Mahler Cycle 

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWebInternational:


… “Jurowski wonderfully recreated Mahler’s marking of Restful in the third Poco adagio movement, the emotional heart of the symphony. The heart-rending strains from the orchestra recalled the vision that had motivated the composer – the carved image of the departed atop a tombstone, a child asleep in death. The ebb and flow of the strings was indeed poignant and distinctively Mahlerian. I thought the role of second violins here was crucial, admirably led by Clare Duckworth. But this was a real team effort: subtle changes in pace were expertly handled by Jurowski; the autumnal colours of the woodwind were vividly set against the lilting strings; the surge in anticipation that led to the climactic depiction of the opening of heaven’s gates was fabulous. After the exultations of the horn and timpani, the tranquil runs on the harp in the coda produced the ‘My Mahler’ moment of the evening (see THSH’s website www.mymahler.com).”   …

Review by Elmley De La Cour, Birmingham Post:


… “Soloist, Stephen Osborne gave an effectively understated performance of the delicate work, conjuring subtle tones of pinpoint clarity from the piano. Against this, the orchestra provided a superb backdrop of velvety strings and sensitive wind. […]

[…] Mahler’s symphony, however, presented a dilemma. The orchestra played extremely well, creating the symphony’s nostalgic and almost haunting character from the very opening. The first movement’s passages of pizzicato and col legno were also given a spatial twist with the double basses positioned behind the woodwind. Soprano Christine Schafer was excellent, too, […]   Rating * * * *    “

Russian Classics

Thursday 27 May 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Alexander Vedernikov  conductor
Steven Osborne  piano

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Festival Overture 16′
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2 20′
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 45′

Music director of Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theatre since 2001, Alexander Vedernikov makes his CBSO debut with a trio of very different Russian masterpieces. Rimsky’s colourful overture celebrates the Russian Orthodox Easter in a riot of bells and orchestral brilliance, while Prokofiev’s superb post-war symphony strikes a more serious mood in music of great intensity and power. His sometime friend Shostakovich is also famous for his serious symphonies, but this tuneful piano concerto finds him in a lighter mood, and is played for us by the versatile Scottish pianist who has entertained CBSO audiences in music from Mozart to Messiaen. www.cbso.co.uk

Alexander Vedernikov’s encore – Beethoven- Bagatelle

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


…”The same could be said in a way of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony, but here this rent-a-ballet score leads to a desolate, profound experience. Steely woodwind, full-throated strings, fearless horns stood out in a willing orchestra welded so skilfully and idiomatically by Vedernikov as he marshalled the music to its grim conclusion.

Rating: 5/5″

Review by Roger Jones, MusicWeb:


…”Prokofiev’s final symphony is a towering achievement which deserves to be heard more often in this country. Vedernikov managed to inspire the CBSO to play with vigour and commitment to produce a performance which was utterly overwhelming in its impact.”