Schubert, Strauss and Dvořák

Thursday 11th June, 7.30pm


  • Schubert  Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) , 22′
  • Strauss  Horn Concerto No. 2 , 20′
  • Dvořák  Symphony No. 7, 38′

We are sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert at Symphony Hall due to an acute ear infection. We are pleased to announce that CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan has kindly agreed to conduct at very short notice. This evening’s concert programme remains unchanged.

If you enjoy Dvořák’s New World symphony, just imagine the music he wrote when he was happily at home! Dvořák’s Seventh is stormy, passionate and filled with the kind of tunes you just can’t stop humming. Tonight it’s served up with Strauss’s bubbly second horn concerto (starring the CBSO’s own Elspeth Dutch), and Schubert’s Eighth: a symphony that couldn’t be more perfect even if he’d finished it.


After being called in at little over 24 hours notice for his full CBSO debut last week, Birmingham-born conductor Alpesh Chauhan talks with Steve Beauchampé


Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     ” The CBSO’s principal hornist, Elspeth Dutch, was an ideal exponent for the work. She knows Symphony Hall’s acoustic well and how to make her horn sing both with and above the orchestra. She made the opening arpeggio seem effortless and produced a lovely, legato sound.

Chauhan was an excellent accompanist and ensured the CBSO strings provided a soft cushion of sound to support Dutch. It’s interesting that Strauss gives quite a prominent role for the orchestral horns in the concerto and their dialogue with Dutch towards the end of the first movement was nicely done. The wistful second movement is somewhat reminiscent of music from Der Rosenkavalier and Dutch was once again mellifluous here. The rondo final movement is a great test of agility for the soloist with its tricky leaps and jumps and complex rhythmic dovetailing with the orchestra. After the briefest of awkward starts Dutch and the orchestra gave us a delightful romp through this fun music, finishing with a tremendous flourish.

It is often argued that Dvořák’s Symphony no. 7 in D minor, one of his finest achievements, is his most serious work in the genre but I would wager that proponents of such a view have not spent much time listening to his first three – not too many people do. Certainly, of the symphonies most often performed, it does not possess the sunny character of the Fifth and Sixth, the quirky originality of the Eighth nor the outright folksy-ness of the Ninth. It is likely that Dvořák was under the influence of his friend, Brahms, at the time the Seventh was composed and the mastery of symphonic argument supports this.

Chauhan’s interpretation was, in many ways, fresh and invigorating. He plotted a swift course through the first movement, driving us headlong into the symphony’s turbulence without flinching.”     …

Schubert, Strauss and Dvořák

Thursday 19th February 2015 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor
Elspeth Dutch  horn

Schubert: Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) 22′
Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 2 20′
Listen on Spotify

Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 38′

If you enjoy Dvorák’s New World Symphony, just imagine the music he wrote when he was happily at home! Dvorák’s Seventh is stormy, passionate and filled with the kind of tunes you just can’t stop humming. Andris Nelsons serves it up with Strauss’s bubbly second horn concerto (starring the CBSO’s own Elspeth Dutch), and Schubert’s Eighth: a symphony that couldn’t be more perfect even if he’d finished it.

War and Revolution

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Wednesday 19th November 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Nicholas Collon  conductor
François Leleux  oboe

Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes 16′
Listen on Spotify

Copland: Appalachian Spring – Suite 24′
Listen on Spotify

Strauss: Oboe Concerto 26′
Listen on Spotify

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9 27′

François Leleux’s encore (with the CBSO) – Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits

1945: year zero. In the USSR, Shostakovich blew a raspberry at Uncle Joe Stalin. In America, Copland conjured a magical picture of lost innocence. In Germany, Richard Strauss was also retreating from the horrors of wartime into an idealised classical past. And in Wolverhampton, Benjamin Britten rehearsed an opera that would change the face of British music. A musical portrait of an extraordinary time – conducted by one of the most dynamic young conductors of our own day.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, Thursday 4th December, 2014
Shostakovich Uncovered, Wednesday 11th February, 2015
War and Revolution, Sunday 15th February, 2015



Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“It’s asking for trouble when an agent puts out a biography describing its subject as “recognised throughout the world as the best oboist of his generation”; you can sense the hubris gleefully waiting to pounce.

But there were certainly wonders in Francois Leleux’ account with the CBSO of the autumnal, delicious Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss. His phrasing was mellifluous, and as open-air as the composer’s beloved Bavarian Alps; interchanges with orchestral soloists were sparkling and well dovetailed (special plaudits to violist Chris Yates); flourishes danced as though from panpipes, and he painted piquant shades of colour.

And for once I welcomed the encore, Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orpheus and Euridice, otherworldly and evocative.”      …



Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “After the interval, François Leleux played Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto. Still the seminal entity in an all too limited medium, it is also the pick from the several concertante works that this composer wrote during his ‘Indian Summer’. Chief among its attractions is the subtlety with which each of the three movements segues into the next, ensuring a continuous thematic transformation as reaches the deftest culmination in the coda. Leleux offered an encore, a limpid rendering of Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’.

Whereas Strauss recollects, Shostakovich in his Ninth Symphony provokes – though whether that was the intention in what is outwardly his most understated such piece remains unclear. Steering a vital course through the tensile opening Allegro, Collon brought out the wistful anxiety of the ensuing Moderato. A breezy Presto led, via the sombre pathos of a recitative-like Largo (with soulful bassoon playing from Johan Lammerse), to a final Allegretto whose laconic humour took on a much more aggressive demeanour in the breathless closing pages.

An alert and perceptive performance, then, of a work which also brought out the best from the CBSO. Nicholas Collon seems to have established a firm rapport with this orchestra, making one look forward to further appearances in comparably well-planned programmes.”



Review by Christopher Thomas, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “By 1945 Benjamin Britten had reached a point in his career whereby he was redefining British opera, with Nicholas Collon and the CBSO heightening the still glorious originality of the Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes in a reading that displayed a deft sense of light and shade in the fragile light of the strings in the opening bars as a grey dawn awakes over the East Anglian scenery. The gentle movement of the water was beautifully captured by the orchestra, as was the subsequent atmosphere of Sunday Morning, its pealing bells set against a backdrop of glistening waves and being portrayed by the orchestra with a bustling sense of activity as the local villagers arrive at church. The final wind ravaged Storm was dispatched with a crushing and masterly paced power although it was the evocative image of moonlight dancing on the waves in the third movement, punctuated by telling interjections from flute that made the deepest impression.

If the troubled psychological backdrop to Peter Grimes found Collon and the orchestra at their most evocative, Copland’s Appalachian Spring was imbued with a sheer joy and wonder that made a very direct impression on the audience in Symphony Hall. From the wide open spaces of the plains to the driving dance rhythms as the happy couple at the heart of Copland’s most overtly popular ballet celebrate their wedding day (the broad grin on Nicholas Collon’s face spoke as clearly as the playing) the joy was beautifully counterbalanced by the aching tenderness of the third section (Moderato) and the prayer like peace and serenity of the closing passages. When played with the freshness that it was here, the infectious accessibility and subtleties of Copland’s score remain vivid seventy years on from its composers attempts to re-capture the attention of an American audience that had become increasingly divorced from artistic culture.”     …

Valery Gergiev and the Mariinksy Stradivarius Ensemble

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package,

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

Friday 7th November

Town Hall

Mariinsky Stradivarius Ensemble
Valery Gergiev conductor

Elgar Introduction and Allegro 14’
R Strauss Metamorphosen, Study for 23 solo strings 26’
Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings 28’


The Mariinsky Stradivarius Ensemble really is what it says it is – the cream of the Mariinsky’s string players performing on a magnificent collection of historic instruments by Amati, Guarneri and, of course, Stradivari himself.

With Valery Gergiev conducting in the intimate surroundings of Town Hall, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime evening of string playing without compare.

Presented in association with Mariinsky Theatre Trust.



Weller Conducts Strauss and Brahms

Thursday 30th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Walter Weller  conductor
Eduardo Vassallo  cello
Christopher Yates  viola

Strauss: Don Quixote 40′
Brahms: Symphony No. 1 45′
Listen on Spotify

We are very sorry to announce that Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw at very short notice from this week’s concerts, Nelsons conducts Strauss and Brahms, due to unforeseen personal circumstances. We are very grateful to Walter Weller who has agreed to take his place.

Battling windmills, flying horses and a very angry herd of sheep… Richard Strauss’s warm-hearted take on the tale of Don Quixote is one of music’s all-time comic masterpieces. Brahms’s First Symphony is made of sterner stuff – but it still tells an epic story of tragedy and hope, crowned by one of the noblest tunes ever written.

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

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Spirit of 1945, Wednesday 19th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March & Saturday 28th March
Schubert, Strauss and Dvorak, Thursday 11th June



Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “The orchestra played handsomely for him and the opening of Strauss’ tone poem showed off many of their fine qualities: creamy, deft woodwind playing and sumptuous-toned strings. This was a measured opening, building slowly to the introduction’s dissonant climax at the moment when Don Quixote “loses his sanity after reading novels about knights, and decides to become a kinght-errant”. From this point in the music, Cervantes’ metamorphosed protagonist is represented by a solo cello.

Soloist, Eduardo Vassallo’s portrayal of Don Quixote was everything it should be: noble and earnest in character. Vassallo was soon joined on his journey by solo violist, Christopher Yates, taking on the character of Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s witless neighbour who agrees to be his squire along the way. Yates’ playing was very fine indeed and it seems a shame to me that the solo violist tends to remain tucked away in the tutti viola section while the cello soloist occupies the chair of a concerto soloist. There is no doubting, however, that the cellist has much the greater part to play in this piece. There was always a strong sense of collaboration between the two players, despite their geographical separation.

There were fine solos from leader Laurence Jackson and Rainer Gibbons, principal oboist, too.”     …



Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO helpfully print in their programmes their performing history of some of the works they play and it was evident from the information about Don Quixote that they’ve quite often performed the work using their principals in the solo roles rather than importing a star cellist. Bravo for that: it’s what Strauss intended. So this evening we had the CBSO’s principal cellist and violist centre stage; indeed, I noted that the last time the orchestra played the work – in 2008 – Eduardo Vassallo and Christopher Yates were the soloists, as they were tonight. Both impressed me. Yates was the principal, though not sole, voice of Sancho Panza. His is not as prominent a role as that of the Don but his contributions were characterful, not least in Variation III, the ‘Conversation between the knight and his squire’.

 The cellist is much more to the fore, though often Strauss’s writing requires him to be more of a primus inter pares within the opulent orchestral textures.  Vassallo played very well indeed. I especially admired his eloquent ruminations in the fifth variation, ‘The knight’s vigil’, where he displayed lovely tone and fine feeling. In the finale Strauss portrays the final regretful musings of his hero, followed by his death. Here Vassalo played the quintessential Straussian melody at the start most expressively and as the work drew to its close he managed the Don’s demise excellently.

 If Vassallo and Yates garnered the main plaudits it should be said also that a good number of their CBSO colleagues grasped most effectively the opportunity for characterful solos and none more so than leader, Laurence Jackson.”     …

CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy

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Saturday 26th July 2014 at 7.00pm

Town Hall, Birmingham 0121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Orchestra Academy

Michael Seal  conductor

Kodály: Dances of Marosszek 12′
Strauss: Metamorphosen 26′
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) 47′
Listen on Spotify

Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony blew classical music sky-high. Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen is a cry of anguish in a world devastated by madness. This is music of extremes: ardent, eloquent, and pulsing with emotion – in other words, perfect for the 50 committed young musicians of the superb CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy. Kodály’s fiery Transylvanian dances light the touchpaper: prepare to be blown away.

“These marvellous young players are invincible”

Please allow extra time to travel to this concert if you are coming by road. The A38 St Chad’s and Queensway tunnels through Birmingham will be completely closed to all traffic from 10pm on Friday 18 July until 6am on Monday 1 September 2014. More information is available from



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Michael Seal conducted a strong sinewy performance where details were clear – the slow movement’s plaintive oboe lament and the basses’ stabbing interventions for example – but always suborned to the overall narrative drive.

The players clearly relished Beethoven’s dramatic thrusts and parries but also excelled in the jolly bucolic trio with its virtuoso hunting calls – fine work by the horns – and the skittish dancing finale.

The symphony’s funeral march stalks eerily through the bass line at the close of Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, his string threnody to the destruction of his beloved Dresden, the tainting of German culture by the Nazis and perhaps his own ill-fated collaboration with them.

The bass section captured perfectly how the music crumbles into dust as Beethoven’s accusatory shade appears.”     …


The Royal Opera: Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14 Concert Package, SoundBite and Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 6th July

Symphony Hall

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Sir Antonio Pappano conductor
Karita Mattila Ariadne/Prima Donna
Roberto Saccà Bacchus
Jane Archibald Zerbinetta
Ruxandra Donose The Composer
Markus Werba Harlequin
Sir Thomas Allen The Music Master
Ed Lyon Dancing Master
Ashley Riches Wig Maker
Jihoon Kim Lackey
Wynne Evans Scaramuccio
Paul Schweinester Brighella
Jeremy White Truffaldino
David Butt Philip Officer
Sofia Fomina Naiad
Karen Cargill Dryad
Kiandra Howarth Echo
Christoph Quest Major Domo

Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos 130’

This concert has a running time of c 2 hours 35 minutes including one 25 minute interval.

The Royal Opera’s visits to Symphony Hall are always highlights of the season, and with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting a cast that includes Karita Mattila and Sir Thomas Allen, this performance of Strauss’s brilliant chamber opera, in the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, should be something genuinely special. In baroque Vienna, a grand opera company and a panto troupe are forced onto the same stage: what happens next is uproarious, unpredictable – and ultimately sublime.

This production has already attracted some fantastic reviews. Read The Guardian’s 4* review here and the Financial Times’s 4* review here.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended this afternoon’s concert:

Richard Strauss’s opera is a clever piece of commentary on the role of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art – as well as a hilarious and sometimes slapstick dig at Viennese upper class society. The music, as you’d expect from Strauss, is ravishing – and you might want to keep your ears peeled for some death-defying vocal acrobatics in Part II courtesy of the fiery Zerbinetta…

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.



Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “The three nymphs held the trials and tribulations of Ariadne together. They entered rear centre, first Karen Cargill as Dryad and Sofia Fomina as Naiad, to be joined by Kiandra Howarth as Echo. I thought Aussie Howarth, another Jette Parker Young Artist, deserves special mention for her delightful contribution, achieving the appropriate vagueness to her character. Overall the nymphs emanated an ethereal aura, in keeping with their function. This included their angelic guardianship role over Ariadne whilst also expressing her innermost thoughts: her states of tenderness, hatred, traumatism and bliss all emerged. One celestial highlight was their Töne, töne, süsse Stimme (Sing on, sing on, sweet God) one of Strauss’ best loved tunes. Not that Mattila didn’t display these emotions as well, if not better; she was stunning, a prima donna in every sense. Although there was no semblance of a cave, with head slightly bowed, she was a stationary sleepwalker, abandoned by Theseus. How could this hero reward the woman who saved him from Crete and the Minotaur with such a fate? The languor of the situation was made absolute by the silvery harps of Lucy Wakeford and Hugo Webb. I wondered whether Mattila might have donned a shawl/mantle, as referred to in the magnificent libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but it was superfluous. Her bearing said it all. Mattila was the best Ariadne I have seen and heard, she was Ariadne. When occupying centre stage, which was for considerable periods, she exuded class and presence. There was no need for Pappano to hold back his players whilst she was singing; she effortlessly rose above them with passion and quality – and over the whole register required of her. When she was longing to meet with death, in Wo war ich? Tot? (Where was I? Dead?) I was on the edge of my seat! When she first hears the voice of Bacchus, there was no turn of the head at this double mistake in identity; her catatonic state was so intense it took a while to break it – a nice touch in direction I thought as liberation was still someway off. Comparable to the great Wagnerian ones, the love duet between Mattila and Roberto Saccà as Bacchus, was as wunderbar as the lines of Hofmannsthal. Indeed Saccà, albeit in a lesser role, was as good as Mattila, his heldentenor delivery both forceful and true.”     …



Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Leading the comedy cast is Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta who is happy to flirt with anyone if it helps her achieve her aim. We see the masterstroke of Strauss in Zerbinetta though because while she appears a superficial butterfly, her words belie a deeper desire to be truly loved and to love in return, creating a parallel with Ariadne.

Karita Mattila is the Prima Donna engaged to play Ariadne. She is imperious and supercilious in the first act but really comes into her own in the second as she takes on the role of the abandoned Ariadne. Here is a woman singing her soul out as she shares her loneliness and begs to die.

Her agony ensures the juxtaposition when the comedy troupe come onstage is all the stronger. She may be in the depths of despair but Zerbinetta and her friends tell us a woman can jump from one man to another with ease.

There are moments of real comedy genius in Ariadne auf Naxos and that humour comes out of the disjoint between the two companies and their outlooks. When the opera company stress that Ariadne is alone and broken-hearted on her island the comic return that it’s a good job they are going to come along to keep her company. Their complete lack of awareness of the spirit of opera makes every opera-goer in the audience smile.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is conducted with plenty of enthusiasm by Sit Antonio Pappano who teases out the subtleties of Strauss’s music but also ensures gusto when needed.

The concert production doesn’t appear to lack anything by being performed without sets – if anything it concentrates the audience’s attention on Strauss’s lyrical wit.”