Space Discovery

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Friday 5th August, 2016, 7:30pm

National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain

Edward Gardner conductor
CBSO Youth Chorus

Iris ter Schiphorst     Gravitational Waves (new work)
R. Strauss                      Also sprach Zarathustra
Holst                                The Planets
Colin Matthews        
Pluto, the Renewer

£5 under 25s offer in association with Classic FM (only available at Symphony Hall, Birmingham)

Open your ears to the music of the universe as the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers embarks on a voyage back through a century of space discovery.

The journey begins with Gravitational Waves by German composer Iris ter Schiphorst. This is music for the here and now, for the beginning of a new era in astronomy. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a thrilling ride to new musical frontiers as the original sound of the gravitational wave echoes through the orchestra and individual players gradually become one united force.

Next are two of classical music’s must-hear pieces: Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, with its glorious, spine-tingling opening fanfare made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Holst’s The Planets completed by Colin Matthews’ Pluto:The Renewer. This music never fails to stir the emotions with its huge melodies and luscious harmonies and in the hands of these young musicians, it will fizz with an explosive, barely containable energy.

The countdown is on – join us for a fearless, totally teenage cosmic adventure.


Review by Rian Evans, Guardian: (for same programme at Snape Maltings 4th August)

Click here for full review

…      “Growing out of mystic Neptune’s dying notes – sung by the girls of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra youth choir – the feeling here was of an implicit and organic connection with the original suite. Moreover, the shimmering solar winds of Pluto took the ear back, orbit completed, to the work specially commissioned to launch the evening.

Iris ter Schiphorst’s Gravitational Waves was inspired by new scientific research validating Einstein, and it summoned a novel and symbolic mix of visual, aural and vocal gestures. The synchrony, whereby the players first wore white or black masks, then embodied the waves of the title in perfectly choreographed movements rippling through the serried ranks, created an arresting counterpoint to the imaginative, otherwordly soundscape realised by Ter Schiphorst and co-composer Uros Rojko. Evanescent and evocative, embracing known and unknown, it captured something of the awesome history and infinity of time.”


Review by Penny Homer, BachTrack: (for same programme, BBC Prom 29, 6th August)

Click here for full review

…     “More impressive, however, was their handling of the outer planets, whose mature themes might have been beyond such young players. Not so; Saturn, the bringer of Old Age proved the best of all the movements. From its haunting start, the slow march towards death felt visceral and personal – I felt the weight of each passing second. Jupiter was also excellent; driving forward to what we now know as I Vow To Thee My Country, full of warmth and power. Uranus is the movement that I have in the past struggled to recall its identity – no more after the freshness brought to it here, its rousing climax quickly contrasted with a taut subito p to end. Neptune showed that the delicacy lacking in Venus was not beyond the orchestra, and was utterly transfixing. This delicacy extended to the balance with the off-stage voices of the CBSO Youth Chorus, giving them enough space to emerge. For such a seemingly small involvement, Neptune is a surprisingly tough ask for the voices, coming in high and quiet after a long period of silence. These difficulties weren’t quite surmounted and at times the tuning was a little unsettled, but the fade out was perfectly judged.

In his programme note for Pluto, the Renewer, Colin Matthews remarks that its dedicatee, Holst’s daughter Imogen, “would have been both amused and dismayed by this venture”. It was probably a sentiment that continues to be shared by many – after the beautiful fade out of Neptune, what could possibly come next? And yet if such a venture had to be undertaken, thankfully it was done in great style, breaking out before Neptune had fully died way. For the most part Matthews provided a thorough re-working of all the ideas in each movement while never veering into pastiche. The only awkward moments were the Mars motives, which jarred, although the orchestra attacked it all gamely, and the CBSO Youth Chorus voices were more confident with their involvement here. An interesting exercise, and fortunately not one detracting from Holst’s vision, or the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain’s brilliance. I expect bright futures for many of them.”


Review by Brian Barford, ClassicalSource: (for same programme, BBC Prom 29, 6th August)

Click here for full review

…     “Iris ter Schiphorst’s Gravitational Waves is prompted by the recent detection of emissions set in motion over a billion years ago by the collision of two black holes. Schiphorst uses sounds from the scientific project heard through a sampler and reflected in the orchestra as well as a broadcast narrative. The soaring brass, scurrying strings and metallic percussion offer a sense of infinity. There is also a strong sense of visual performance, for the musicians don masks, sway in unison, make vocal interjections, and at the end raise their arms in a gesture of hope for the future. It proved an arresting piece to see and one imagines it was enjoyable to present.

Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra is a problematic work to bring off convincingly. The Nietzsche element can be unattractive although one should remember that Strauss subverts the text at the conclusion where nature not metaphysical inspiration has the last word and the piece ends with a question mark. Also, following the now-famous ‘2001’ opening Zarathustra is a free-form fantasia that can seem meandering.

Gardner and the NYO welded all of the sections into a convincing whole. The horizon-searching opening was delivered in ringing style, underpinned by the Royal Albert Hall organ at its most sonorous. The music for solo strings was played with feeling and the players made up for what they may have lacked in opulence with real ardour and intensity. There were thrusting horns in the “expression of joys and passions”. The Viennese waltz was elegant with a fine violin solo from Millie Ashton and the Midnight Bell episode was given a tremendous dark intensity and the eerily ambiguous close beautifully rendered. Overall, this was a well-paced account delivered with thrilling virtuosity.”     …





Henry V

Thursday 7th January, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Strauss  Macbeth, 18′
  • Vaughan Williams  Three Shakespeare Songs, 8′
  • Verdi  Macbeth – ballet music, 12′
  • Walton  Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario (arr. Christopher Palmer), 60′

“O for a Muse of fire…” Shakespeare’s Henry V crammed the Battle of Agincourt into a tiny wooden theatre. Four centuries later, William Walton matched that vision with music that redefined British cinema, and this lavish concert version weaves all the play’s greatest speeches and Walton’s score into a compelling musical drama. Edward Gardner launches our year of Shakespeare celebrations with passionate Shakespearean masterpieces by Verdi and Richard Strauss.

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Available on BBC Radio 3 iPlayer here for 28 days


Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO Chorus, prepared by Julian Wilkins, performed Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs and excelled in the charmingly delicate Full Fathom Five.

They ended the concert in full cry with the stirring Deo gratias conclusion to Walton’s music for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film of Henry V.

Christopher Palmer weaved the film cues, some other Walton filler material and the play’s great speeches into a convincing and moving hour-long Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario.

The narrator Samuel West played the King, the Chorus (and more) switching between swagger and sobriety with ease and delivering a St Crispin’s Day speech that would have made even a pacifist feel like taking up arms.

Gardner elicited playing of equal ardour from the orchestra. Splendid!”


Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

As the orchestra closest to Shakespeare country, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra naturally has a role to play in this year’s anniversary celebrations of the Bard. But there is nothing dutiful about its approach to Shakespeare 400: this start of the CBSO’s “Our Shakespeare” season showed it not only getting in ahead of other British bands with its Shakespearean programming, but doing something more interesting than most.

Edward Gardner opened the concert by conducting a great rarity, Richard Strauss’s early tone poem Macbeth. This work’s neglect is not hard to fathom, for it lacks big tunes, but as a study in darkness it is fascinating. Sounding a little as if the midsummer light of Wagner’s Meistersinger had been switched to midwinter, with touches of Tchaikovsky at his gloomiest, this music blows in stormily and seldom lets up. Icy shivers accompany Lady Macbeth’s entry, and the textures run deep. Gardner drew a taut, brilliantly energised performance that showcased the orchestra at its surging best.

Balancing this was the ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth, an obligatory addition when the composer revised his opera for Paris. Verdi’s sophisticated scoring, evoking supernatural elements, inspired the orchestra to play with colour and bite.”     …


Review by Sam Chipman, TheReviewsHub:

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…     “Walton’s score was written for the 1944 Henry V film, starring Laurence Olivier – at one of the darkest periods in Britain’s history the film was a propaganda effort commissioned by the government to buoy the national spirit during the onslaught of World War II. From the court in England to Falstaff’s death and the send-off of the troops to the battlefields of France, Walton’s score tells the story vividly, making no attempt to hide in the background, and complements the famous words of Shakespeare. The brass and percussion come into their own during this section of the concert, adding the much needed triumphant feel that rings around the magnificent Symphony Hall, a jubilant performance from all involved. Falstaff’s death features an exquisitely played lower string melody which much resembles a theme from Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, and a rustic bassoon melody adds a real English courtly feel. Seasoned Shakespearian actor, Samuel West masterfully weaves his way through Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, a performance of real stature and variation. He is compelling throughout, and his St Crispin’s Day speech is a stand out moment, truly rousing. The CBSO make an enormously full sound, leading to a powerful and climactic end befitting of the evening and Shakespeare’s magic.

“In sweet music is such art…” Shakespeare’s work lends itself incredibly well to the musical world, and the imaginations of those that inspired such musical feats – when the words and the music come together a higher emotional plane is reached.”


Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…     “Under Gardner, the orchestra and its chorus made it a vivid enough experience, though, and there was a nicely judged virtuoso performance from Samuel West as the narrator, who took on a variety of roles, from the Chorus to the king, via Falstaff, Pistol and the Duke of Burgundy.

The concert had begun with another rarely heard work, Macbeth – one of the least known of Richard Strauss’s symphonic poems. It’s a dark, turbulent piece, without too many memorable moments, though Gardner made its fierce climax impressive enough. There was more Macbeth-inspired music in the shape of a taut, rhythmically snappy account of the ballet from Verdi’s opera, while in between came Vaughan Williams’s Three Shakespeare Songs, insubstantial, but a chance for the CBSO Chorus to shine without the orchestra getting in the way.”


Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The Olivier film of Henry V had started as a piece of propaganda in 1943 and thankfully co-producer Dallas Bower convinced the actor that William Walton was the best man to provide the backing score. This combination, together with the later arrangement by Christopher Palmer, lives on in the concert hall and its enactment proved to be the ideal platform from which to launch CBSO’s commemorations to Shakespeare: vibrant music from the conductor and orchestra, patriotic delivery from the narrator. Gardner induced a sense of period colour and mysticism before sheer grandness took over in the Prologue, a royal sensation reinforced by trumpet fanfares (the trumpet section crisply led throughout by Jonathan Holland) and a flamboyant crescendo of the choir. The scene was set, as in the play by the commentator ‘Chorus’, actor Samuel West dramatically entering stage left for ‘O for a Muse of fire’. Elizabethan merry-making and enthusiastic drum rolls (the CBSO percussion section had a busy night) gave way for the bassoon and brass to introduce the corpulent Falstaff, jug in hand, At the Boar’s Head. But the flatulent jester is dead, his heart broken by the king, having been rebuffed by Hal’s ‘I know thee not, old man’ at the end of Henry IV Part Two, the solemn tone of West and the orchestral accompaniment knitting together impeccably. This eventually gives way to the jubilant familiar Waltonesque strains of Embarkation and a resolute ‘No king of England, if not king of France’ from West. The leave Pistol takes from Mistress Quickly in Touch her sweet lips and part seems an Interlude somewhat out of place to me, not being from Shakespearean text. By contrast Harfleur was dominated by the iconic ‘Once more into the breech’ and although no Olivier (who is?) West oozed inspiration and patriotism, fortified by the ranks of the CBSO willing to follow him. After Chorus describes the early skirmishes, Gardner brought a tension to Walton’s swirling dark music in The Night Watch as West portrayed a ‘little touch of Harry in the night’, the lowering of the hall lights and subsequent total extinguishment, adding to the atmosphere. West was at his best for the philosophical and prayer-like Upon the King, verse so appropriate on the eve of such an historical day in 1415, an execution worthy of the stage of Stratford’s Memorial Theatre or London’s Globe. Agincourt and the St Crispian address to the ‘rememberèd…. band of brothers’, the first ‘few’ to whom so much is owed, saw West begin in conversational mood, gradually building up the fervour in his voice to match the exciting loin-girdling score. Mid-battle King Henry has another word with his maker ‘to dispose the day…. how He pleaseth’ and as the battle raged Gardner seemed to squeeze that extra ounce from the strings (well by Zoë Beyers) fiercer than ever amid the Spirit–of-England theme on the brass, leading to an excruciating musical climax. Against the odds Henry is rewarded – West’s ‘The day is ours’ poignantly heard across the hushed auditorium before praising God. The choir gleefully rejoiced with the Agincourt Song, continuing this mood into At the French Court, where the Duke of Burgundy acts as mediator with more beautiful Shakespearian lines; this sentiment made more contextual by the orchestra’s pastoral back-drop that dissolves into a snatch of Cantaloube’s Baïlèro, hauntingly played by the oboe of Rainer Gibbons. In the Epilogue, the French King offers his daughter Kate to seal the truce. Now with something to genuinely celebrate, Gardner and the CBSO let it rip, revisiting earlier Walton themes. Chorus resumes his story-telling role with ‘Thus far…’ relating how for Henry V ‘Fortune made his sword’, the Agincourt Song and ‘Deo gratias Anglia’ wholeheartedly rounding it all off.

A five star send-off to Our Shakespeare.”



Storify by Jennifer, of Twitter comments:

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CBSO Youth Orchestra: An Alpine Symphony

Sunday 1st November, 7.00pm

CBSO Youth Orchestra


  • Nielsen  Helios Overture, 12′
  • Lindberg  Clarinet Concerto , 28′
  • Strauss  An Alpine Symphony, 50′

“What a hope for the future!” declared one critic after hearing the CBSO Youth Orchestra – but tonight the future is here, as Michael Seal and 120 world-class young musicians storm the heights of Strauss’s colossal Alpine Symphony. Nielsen’s solar-powered overture and a true contemporary classic – played by another young star – launch them on their way. Glaciers? Waterfalls? Alpine storms? In the phenomenal acoustic of Symphony Hall, hearing is believing.


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Julian Bliss was the assured soloist, fully up to the work’s demands of phrasing, breathing, and embouchure-technique. Gloopy microtones, comedic effects? No problem, and always unfolded in a logical line teeming with incident. Seal’s CBSOYO collaborated with an empathy which belied their years.

Finally came the awesome challenge of Richard Strauss’s Alpensinfonie, a dawn to dusk traversal of a Bavarian mountain, and totally moving and exciting in its performance here. Winds are often easy to praise, and these deserved to be, but not so often do we mention the strings; here they were extraordinary, pouring out a wonderful maturity of tone, not least from the lower cohorts.

I cannot praise enough the maturity of every section. I have heard young brass players showing off like nobody’s business. I have seen percussionists turning what they do into a theatrical performance.

Nothing like that here. This was an Alpensinfonie under Michael Seal which was all about the music, and it will stay long in the memory.”

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig perform Strauss

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

Monday 19th October

Symphony Hall

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Riccardo Chailly Gewandhauskapellmeister
Maria João Pires piano

Richard Strauss Don Juan 17’
Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat 29’
Richard Strauss Ein Heldenleben 45’


Few orchestral showpieces open as thrillingly as Strauss’s Don Juan – and fewer still match the vaulting ambition of Ein Heldenleben. Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig celebrate a rare visit to Birmingham with Richard Strauss at his most extrovert.

As the soloist in Mozart’s 27th Piano Concerto, Maria João Pires triumphs amidst Strauss’s soaring orchestral peaks.


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The orchestra, now huge for these tone-poems, played with a biting attack, scrupulous accentuation (the opening of Ein Heldenleben a prime example), and a relish for the instrumental detail with which the composer peppered his textures. Special praise for concertmaster Frank-Michael Erben, his tiny solos in Don Juan sweet-toned, and his huge ones in Ein Heldenleben equally so, despite the often vicious ferocity of Strauss’s writing in these depictions of his shrewish wife.

Chailly balanced the sonorities with a natural authority, an almost fatherly concern for his charges, and it was heartwarming to witness the awareness between the strings sections and the overall intelligence and musicality of this band of professors (many of them tutors at the Mendelssohn-founded Leipzig Conservatoire).

Chailly will be leaving this orchestra in the hands of Andris Nelsons next year. It is good to know that this much-loved Birmingham ex-pat will be back at the helm of a European orchestra equal with the CBSO in repute and quality — though not privileged with the acoustic of Symphony Hall, which still never ceases to amaze me after nearly a quarter of a century.”


Strauss’ Salome

BICS 2015/16 – Strauss’ Salome

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

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

Friday 2nd October 2015

Symphony Hall

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Karabits conductor
Joe Austin Director

Lise Lindstrom Salome
James Rutherford Jochanaan
Kim Begley Herodes
Birgit Remmert Herodias
Andrew Staples Narraboth
David Soar 1st Nazarene
Oliver Johnston 2nd Nazarene
Anna Burford Herodias’ Page
Andrew Greenan First Soldier
Alan Ewing Second Soldier
Hubert Francis First Jew
Paul Curievici Second Jew and Slave
James Edwards Third Jew
Alun Rhys-Jenkins Fourth Jew
Andri Bjorn Robertsson Fifth Jew & Cappadocier

Strauss Salome Op 54 109’


From shimmering, silken opening to shockingly decadent denouement, Richard Strauss’s Salome is quite simply one of the most overwhelming experiences in all opera. And in Symphony Hall you’ll hear every last shiver and sigh of Strauss’s extraordinary score, as Kirill Karabits brings the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and an all-star cast to Birmingham for one unforgettable night.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Kirill Karabits.

Choir and stalls front four rows not available.

Please note there is no interval in this concert.


Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “Lindstrom seemed to pull the drama in around her in every scene in which she appeared. She stalked the platform, her movements calculated and taut, her eyes wary: Salome as wounded predator. Her tone wasn’t especially lush. What her voice had in abundance was focus and a sort of concentrated sensuality, just as potent and expressive whether hurling soaring arcs of sound at the back of the hall, or whispering a lethal threat. In the space of the one phrase “Gib mir den Kopf des Jokanaan” (“Give me the head of John the Baptist”, it modulated from luminous sweetness to a curdled snarl; and then again, and again – changing from sinister to savage as the Princess repeated her demand.

Around a figure as compelling as Lindstrom, the limitations of the concert format hardly seemed to matter. Joe Austin directed, making effective use of basic coloured lighting and a few telling details of characterisation – James Rutherford’s hellfire-preacher hand gestures and blustering delivery as Jokanaan, Kim Begley’s self-satisfied manspreading as Herod – to lift this performance away from stand-and-deliver. Begley was very nearly as watchable as Lindstrom (the two pictured below). His wiry tenor fits Strauss’s brutal writing as comfortably as anyone’s ever could. He strutted complacently about the stage, eyes glinting with lust: a gloriously sleazy Tetrarch and – for once – a plausible match for Herodias. Birgit Remmert sang with such lustre in that role that at times she almost made her character seem likeable – then banished any thoughts of sympathy with the hissing malice of her low notes, as Salome pressed home her appalling final demand.

Begley and Lindstrom in Bournemouth SalomeThe BSO played as if they were loving every single note – as well they might. Initially, there were balance problems (Staples and Burford were almost inaudible at times), and a tendency for the richer textures to become congested – both familiar issues when guest orchestras overcompensate for the Symphony Hall acoustic.

Karabits quickly got that under control, and then let his team play out: a firm, satin-finished string section (the decision to split the violins revealed some usually unheard details), exuberantly characterful woodwinds and a tuba player who deserved a solo bow in his own right.”     …


Review by Alexander Campbell, ClassicalSource:

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…     “It was great to hear the score without the confines of a pit, Kirill Karabits and his Bournemouth forces making every felicity ring out, clean of texture and wide of dynamic range. Tempos felt unerringly right and appropriate to dramatic context.

The cast was vocally and theatrically strong. Salome was sung by Lise Lindstrom. Her voice is ample but not over-heavy, lending credibility to the girlish aspects of the character. It also has a silvery quality, but she can turn on a metallic edge which enhanced the projection of Salome’s petulant and implacable utterances. Only in the lower ranges was an occasional lack of punch evident, particularly at “Ich achte nicht auf die Stimme meiner Mutter…”, which felt unduly forced. Her colouring of the text was otherwise exemplary – and the surtitles really helped here. Her performance culminated in as intense a ‘final scene’ as could be heard today; she brought Salome’s misguided innocence to the fore, eliciting some sympathy for the character.

James Rutherford was an imposing and charismatic Jokanaan, sounding as well off-stage as on. His aloofness from the action was powerful. Kim Begley proved that having a more-heroic voice for Herod is vastly preferable to that of a whining character-tenor; his was an excellent performance with lots of textual nuance and vivid characterisation of this vacillating, unhappy and vain man somewhat out of his depth politically. Birgit Remmert delivered the vocally ungrateful role of Herodias with authority, her manipulative side to the fore.

In the smaller roles there was some superb singing notably from Anna Burford’s rich-voiced page, Andrew Staples’s romantic Narraboth and from David Soar’s charismatic First Nazarene. This was a rewarding evening.”


Reviews for performance in Poole

Review by Ian Lace, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb Click here for full review

Review by John Allison, TelegraphClick here for full review

Review by Andrew Clements, GuardianClick here for full review

Brahms’ Fourth: Youth Orchestra Academy

Sunday 26th July, 7.00pm



  • Lindberg Aventures, 12′
  • Strauss Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme – suite, 36′
  • Brahms  Symphony No. 4, 40′

“Astonishing” was one critic’s verdict on the CBSO Youth Orchestra’s recent 10th anniversary concert. Now the superb young players bring the birthday celebrations to a close with a concert that looks both forwards and back. Brahms’s mighty Fourth Symphony draws its strength from Bach, while Richard Strauss’s delicious Le Bourgeois gentilhomme brings the baroque spirit dancing into the 20th century. First, though, take a joyride through four centuries of orchestral favourites with one of our most brilliant living composers.


Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Highlights included the gentle oboe joined by other winds and horns in the overture; flutes bringing out the dance-like quality of the minuet; the exuberance and confidence of the piano/trumpet combination painting the fencing master’s antics; leader Charlotte Moseley weaving in and out with the tailor’s precision stitches making sure the gentleman is suitably clad; an affecting, poignant muted sarabande; and the sheer joie de vivre of the dinner party itself, falling scales passed around the instruments like infectious laughter. The audience lapped it up and Seal applauded his players before turning to acknowledge the warm reception himself.

After the interval the stage was once more filled to the brim for Brahms’ Symphony no. 4 in E minor. As it happens, my last review also featured this piece, played by the Dresden Philharmonic, so how would these less experienced players fare by comparison? Let’s just say they didn’t just fill the stage, they owned it! The CBSO YOA tackled Brahms’ massive structure of a work with maturity beyond their years and really came into their own. From the confident, majestic attack and warmth of the strings, through fine handling of tempo changes to the first movement’s passionate close, they showed both discipline and musicality. The second movement allowed us a good wallow, the unanimity of the lower strings’ pizzicato paired with the poised line of brass and wind. In the third movement they brought out both a playful and martial feel, confident answering chords moving on apace. Full marks to the flute solo in the final movement, as well as the clarinet and eloquent trombones. Turning the corner into the clamorous closing stages, with staccato urgency and energy, this enthusiastic and talented orchestra rounded off a fine night of music-making. The audience may not have been full, but we enjoyed it fully.”


Review by Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post:

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…     “A totally accessible, rarely performed, R Strauss’s ‘Le Bourgeois Gentilehomme’ suite charmed and delighted all. The reduced baroque orchestra has many exposed personal solos, from tender oboe, cello and viola to a sturdy bass trombone. As ever Strauss enjoys stretching his horns to the full, added to which the six percussionists tactfully made their mark with good effect. Smiling music for all, especially the braying sheep and twittering interruptive birds!

Then to the true meat of this evening: Brahms’ Symphony No 4. The full orchestra swept in with gutsy strings and splendid woodwind solo snippets. Although do take care with truly clean violin entries, even one hesitation shows through. Determined pizzicatos threatened to overwhelm at times but otherwise a truly passionate rendering of this challenging work. Brahms used a (beautifully played here) solemn flute as a soloist in the passacaglia until eventually trombones come into their own with their chunky solemn quasi sacred moment.”     …

Summer Showcase

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Thursday 25th June, 2.15pm


  • Strauss  Suite in B flat major for 13 winds, 25′
  • Shostakovich Chamber Symphony, 20′
  • Reich  Music for Pieces of Wood, 8′
  • Cage  First Construction in Metal, 9′
  • Mussorgsky (arr. Howarth)  Pictures at an Exhibition, 30′

Our orchestra is made up of 83 extraordinary artists, and today they step into the limelight. The CBSO woodwinds share Strauss’s delightful Suite, and our strings play their hearts out in Shostakovich’s white-hot Chamber Symphony. Then the percussion section sets up a rhythm in two stunning contemporary classics – and a spectacular, all-brass version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition proves that a great orchestra is the sum of some seriously impressive parts!

Alpesh Chauhan to stay at CBSOarticle by Christopher Morley


Support the CBSO


Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “For the brass Elgar Howarth’s imaginative arrangement of Mussorgky’s Pictures at an Exhibition showed just what exciting sounds can be drawn from an expanded palette of brass colours (especially when played with such firm-of-lip panache) and a conductor alert to good balance.

The two percussion items were less rewarding. Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood might be an intriguing rhythmic exercise, but quickly outstays its 8-minute duration; and the huge array of instruments in John Cage’s First Construction (in Metal), which Chauhan conducted with military four-in-a-bar precision, certainly tickled the ears although, by today’s standards, its inventiveness seemed disappointingly limited.

Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for strings, however, was quite different. With its four-note motif an ever-present symbol of the composer’s torment and despair, and the cello solos of Eduardo Vassallo singing songs of forlorn memory, this was a stunningly moving performance, made even more so by the unobtrusive direction of concert master Laurence Jackson. When musicians listen so intently to each other who needs a conductor?”