The Firebird

Thursday 3rd March, 2016, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Tchaikovsky  Hamlet , 20′
  • Saint-Saëns  Cello Concerto No. 1 , 19′
  • Berlioz  Romeo and Juliet – Love Scene , 14′
  • Stravinsky  The Firebird – Suite (1945), 29′

Leonard Elschenbroich’s encore – Lutoslawski – Sacher Variation
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A dark kingdom, a troubled prince, and a spine chilling mystery… OK, so Hamlet and The Firebird don’t exactly tell the same story! But they both unleash music of sweeping passion and dazzling colour, just as Romeo and Juliet gave Berlioz a chance to pour out his romantic soul. Nicholas Collon leads a colourful toast to Shakespeare, and partners the award-winning Leonard Elschenbroich in Saint-Saëns’ warm and witty First Cello Concerto.
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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet is not heard as often as it should be. It lacks a big, sweeping tune such as one finds in Romeo and Juliet and it’s not as wild and passionate as Francesca da Rimini but it’s still a fine piece. Collon led a very successful performance, establishing a sense of foreboding in the opening pages and then bringing out all the dramatic elements as the music unfolded. There was a lovely oboe solo (Rainer Gibbons) portraying Ophelia and, indeed, in that section the rest of the woodwind were just as fine. I was impressed with Collon’s handling of the score though perhaps just a little more ‘give’ in the piece’s lyrical passages would have been welcome. He obtained excellent, keenly responsive playing from the CBSO. In the brief coda Tchaikovsky’s tragic ending was successfully done, not least because Collon didn’t overdo the emotion; an element of patrician restraint was most appropriate.

The young German cellist, Leonard Elschenbroich joined the orchestra for the Saint-Saëns concerto. It was written in 1872 for the Belgian cellist, Auguste Tolbecque who must have liked the work for I learned from Richard Bratby’s programme note that he was still playing the concerto in public in 1910 at the age of 80. And why would he not have liked the piece? It’s relatively short – about 20 minutes in this performance – but it gives the soloist plenty of opportunities to shine both in virtuoso writing and in lyrical stretches. The three movements play without a break.

It seemed to me that Elschenbroich was very well suited to the concerto. Needless to say, he had the necessary technique to despatch the virtuoso passages with seeming ease. Moreover, the consistently burnished and lovely tone that he obtained from his 1693 Goffriller instrument meant that the many lyrical passages were a delight. Indeed, his tone compelled attention throughout the performance. I especially liked the central Menuet movement. Here the orchestral strings displayed sensitive courtliness in playing the minuet material at the start – and later their woodwind colleagues were equally felicitous. In the meantime Elschenbroich made his countermelodies sing in a most attractive way. The vivacious finale was despatched with high spirits by soloist and orchestra. This was a most enjoyable account of a thoroughly engaging work.”     …

Mediterranean Classics

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Wednesday 22nd October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Alain Altinoglu  conductor
Renaud Capuçon  Viola

Rossini: An Italian Girl in Algiers – Overture 8′
Berlioz: Harold in Italy 42′ Watch on YouTube

Stravinsky: Apollo 29′
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2 16′
Listen on Spotify

Pirates of the Mediterranean, hard-drinking bandits, and Greek gods who know how to party… just another night in with the CBSO! The French conductor Alain Altinoglu caused quite a stir last season; tonight he’s devised a concert with a Mediterranean flavour, from Berlioz’s Byronic fantasy to the Olympian grace of Stravinsky’s art-deco ballet, and the sensuous, shiver-down-the-spine beauty of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Pure hedonism: go on, indulge!

6.15pm – Conservatoire Showcase Granville Bantock: Pagan Symphony Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal, performs a neglected work by one of the CBSO’s founders.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Spanish Night, Thursday 22nd January, 2015 
American Classics with Freddy Kempf, Wednesday 28th January, 2015 
Schubert, Strauss & Dvorak, Thursday 19th February, 2015

Support the CBSO

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Review by Peter Marks, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “In fact, Capuçon’s playing had a sweep and passion that proved hard to resist.

Paganini was famously disdainful of the work. He had encouraged Berlioz to write a piece to showcase his newly-acquired Stradivarius viola in 1833 but he was unimpressed by the number of tacet bars the soloist has while the large orchestra unleashes its collective might in the score’s whipcrack tuttis. This is most apparent in the last movement, particularly after the clever introduction – surely a tribute to the opening of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in its recall of the thematic material from all that has come before – when the soloist steps aside for the riotous music of the brigand’s orgy. If Capuçon fell short at all it was in the string crossing passage at the centre of the Pilgrims’ March second movement; others have made this sound more magical.

Altinoglu, for his part, clearly has an affinity for the music of his compatriot composer. He maintained a steady trajectory through the more symphonic outer movements ensuring Berlioz’s spiky rhythms were meticulously articulated. Not for Altinoglu the abandon of the late Sir Colin Davis in this repertoire, but that is not to say that he and the orchestra held back. Climaxes were unleashed but in a more controlled fashion. No doubt this is a result of Altinoglu’s technique: his gestures are small and precise, only becoming more animated when required. Every gesture appeared helpful to the orchestra and likely explains the commitment and security that was on display in every department of the orchestra, from front desk to back.”     …

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The later movements, too, revealed why Capuçon received a spectacular ovation with the Symphony Hall audience. Here the fabulous flute had exactly the right kind of mystery over (or under) the viola’s arpeggio-ing, which the soloist kept so beautifully quiet. Miracles, too, from the descanting flute department over the viola’s return in the section that followed the pilgrims. There were nicely delicate brass touches too to relish in the second movement, and the pilgrims’ exit, left to Harold to mimic with his arpeggios resolving the intermittently  elusive key in alt, felt just wonderful. Two successful middle movements, in fact.

Designed as a rip-roaring Hollywood Finale, the last movement thrilled with its brigandish assaults, though even here Berlioz manages to take the viola down to pianissimo, as the orchestra shouts out cackling laughs straight out of Weber in the brass. The strings excelled themselves in this finale – as stylish in their spirited braggadocio as previously rocky at the start. With Laurence Jackson, soon afterwards to be heard as solo, at the helm, they really can achieve rich and wonderful effects. Even when battling the trombones’ threats, the strings remained stylish – taking Harold’s side, perhaps. But one of the loveliest moments is when Harold, feeling isolated, virtually duets with himself. Double-stopping was rarely so touching, or so narrative-enhancing. It’s a lonely end, even amid the hubbub.

Everything was building towards Daphnis and Chloe – not the whole work, so no sweeping choruses and shattering, choir-upholding sequences. But this was Suite No 2, and it’s the sort of repertoire Altinoglu revels in, as Rattle did here before him. Again Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute solo – she is a fine successor to the CBSO’s great, now veteran Colin Lilley – was crucial in the scenes for Chloe. This was the work Ravel was supposed to write for Diaghilev in 1910 (the Firebird took its place; and it only hit the stage in between the next two Stravinsky ballets, reaching its audience in 1912). The CBSO woodwind have some ravishing passages, some of them fused with strings, and here, in repertoire they have recorded, the entire orchestra responded to Altinoglu’s sympathetic, sensitive lead. Daphnis is one of the most gentle of Greek myths, one of those one terms bucolic. The rural feel has more than an echo of Berlioz about it; and so too does the unbuttoned finale, which Fokine whipped up into a dramatic whirl, well up to Berlioz’s Harold and Symphonie Fantastique.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

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…     “Concluding the concert, the Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé (1912) confirmed Altinoglu’s prowess in a performance as was more than the sum of its parts. The intensifying expressive contours of ‘Daybreak’ built to a radiant culmination, after which the increasingly animated discourse of ‘Pantomime’ featured dextrous woodwind-playing as found contrast in the mounting abandon of ‘Danse générale’ – so bringing the evening to an uninhibited close.

Instead of a talk, the pre-concert slot brought a rare revival of Pagan Symphony (1928) by Granville Bantock. The second of his four designated Symphonies, its single-movement trajectory comprises six sections which, between them, correspond to the customary four movements. Thus the tranquil introduction gains impetus as it heads into an ebullient Allegro, the momentum spilling over into a hectic scherzo whose climax in an unaccompanied percussion ‘break’ and the score’s most arresting passage. From here brass fanfares prepare for a sustained slow movement whose would-be voluptuousness is complemented by a final section which brings the work to a rousing close.

It hardly needs adding that Bantock’s paganism is of a distinctly English kind, nor that the work’s ambition rather outstrips its achievement, but the music evinces a virtuosity to which the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, under the watchful direction of Michael Seal, did justice (Duygu Ince coping ably with the often Straussian demands of the leader’s role). A long-time resident of Birmingham, Bantock would doubtless have expressed his approval.”

Panufnik Centenary

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Wednesday 24 September 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal  conductor
Peter Donohoe  piano

Stravinsky: Greeting Prelude 1′
Beethoven: Overture, Leonora No. 3 14′
Panufnik: Piano Concerto 24′
Listen on Spotify

Wagner: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde 18′
Listen on Spotify
Watch on YouTube

Panufnik: Symphony No.2 (Sinfonia Elegiaca) 24′
Listen on Spotify

When Andrzej Panufnik escaped from communist Poland, Britain offered him a home – and so it was that one of Europe’s greatest post-war composers became principal conductor of the CBSO. Tonight, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we celebrate with some of the music Panufnik conducted in Birmingham, and two of his own finest works: as fresh and communicative today as when he conducted them here himself.

Supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of Polska Music programme Polska Music

If you like this concert, you might also like:
War and Peace, Thursday 6th November
Brahms and Beethoven, Wednesday 25th March 2015 & Saturday 28 March 2015
Parsifal, Sunday 17th May 2015

 

Pre-concert talk at 6.15pm
Panufnik Centenary
Composer Roxanna Panufnik talks about her father Andrzej, in conversation with Jessica Duchen.

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Interview with Roxanna Panufnik, by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

“With possibly the neatest scheduling ever, the CBSO’s concert at Symphony Hall on September 24 celebrates the centenary to the day of the birth of one of its previous principal conductors, Andrzej Panufnik.

Born in Warsaw into a highly musical family, and with a mother of British origins, Panufnik studied composition and conducting during the years preceding the Second World War. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 saw the destruction of his works (he reconstructed some later), and after a post-war period conducting orchestras in Warsaw and Krakow Panufnik decided to devote himself to composition.

Hugely patriotic, he loathed the Stalinist regime then prevailing in his native country, and in 1954, whilst in Switzerland conducting recordings of his own music, he and his British-born first wife managed to escape to the West.

In 1956 it was announced that principal conductor Rudolf Schwarz would be leaving the CBSO at the end of the season to succeed Sir Malcolm Sargent at the helm of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the hunt was on for Schwarz’ replacement. Rather similar to the process going on now at the CBSO, as they seek a successor to Andris Nelsons, guest conductors were invited to give “audition” concerts, and Panufnik was among them.”     …

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Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “Nor was Donohoe fazed by the uncoiled aggression of the Molto agitato finale, which fuses elements from its predecessors (powered by some visceral work from the percussion) as well as building to a bracing apotheosis via an accompanied cadenza such as ranks with the composer’s most thrilling passages. A timely revival of an impressive work.

Following the interval, the ‘Prelude and Liebestod’ from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1859) further opened out the concert’s expressive remit – Seal keeping the former’s distanced ambiguity in focus on the way to a fervent culmination and fatalistic close, while ensuring that the ‘Liebestod’ brought the requisite transcendence during its radiant closing pages. Not music one might readily associate with Panufnik, yet it was an overt presence in that of Szymanowski – in turn an early (and an obliquely enduring) influence on his Polish successor.

Transcendence of a different kind is evinced in Sinfonia elegiaca – the second of Panufnik’s ten Symphonies, completed in 1957 on the basis of material from his discarded Symphony of Peace of six years earlier. Shorn of its propagandist choral component, the piece stands as a finely achieved statement at a time of personal and political turmoil – whose three continuous movements move from a Molto andante that alternates between pensive woodwind chorale and ravishing string cantilena, via a Molto allegro whose barbarity is (just) held in check by its formal subtlety, to another Molto andante such as utilises earlier ideas along with a new string threnody before it ethereally recollects the work’s opening. A committed response from the CBSO was ably controlled by Seal to the evident appreciation of the audience.”     …

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Various composers were brought to mind here: bustling Prokofiev, night-music Bartok, stark Ives, rippling Ravel, but all of them assimilated into an urgently communicative personality all Panufnik’s own.

Even more urgent is Panufnik’s Symphony no.2, the “Sinfonia Elegiaca”, an anti-war protest against violence and aggression, and given its British première here in 1958.

Tellingly scored, generously melodic, and unflinching dramatic (such blaring horns in the central section’s mad display of violence), this is a work of immense emotional and musical strength, and deserves a whole raft of hearings, not least in these times where we remember and where we dread.

The CBSO responded with grateful enthusiasm.

For the rest, we heard Stravinsky’s wittily precise Greeting Prelude, a Beethoven Leonore no.3 Overture in which Seal drew a huge sound from the CBSO which only Symphony Hall could comfortably accommodate (portentous offstage trumpet, too), and a Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde phrased and shaped with a well-judged feel for the music’s harmonic pacing.”

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “……And profundity. For if this memorable concert, which included a massive tranche of Wagner’s Tristan and for some the most satisfying of Beethoven’s overtures to Fidelio, the almost symphonic Leonore no. 3, both in handsome performances from all the orchestral sections (duly congratulated at the end) under Seal’s sensibly judged leadership, stirred the depths of emotion – that of the love-lorn Leonora and love-torn Isolde – it was in Panufnik’s second symphony (the second of ten), the Sinfonia Elegiaca (Panufnik, a year younger than Britten, liked such titles: Sacra, Rustica, Mystica, Votiva), a profound lament for war and its victims of all kind (the composer lived through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the fatal 1944 uprising encouraged by Russia and crushed by the Nazis, but he widens his vision to a worldwide conspectus of suffering), with its a slow-fast-slow (ie double-andante, almost double-adagio layout) that from its almost Vaughan Williams-like, nervously serene opening generates a grieving one might look for in, say, Shostakovich 7, Tchaikovsky 6 or the aching tragedy of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1939 Concerto Funèbre.

Panufnik’s determination to work with tiny cells – major-minor thirds, or elsewhere seconds – reflects a Beethovenian precision and a Haydnesque incisiveness. It worked better here, in this elegy, than in his Piano Concerto, despite Peter Donohoe’s valiant efforts, looking a bit like a peak-scaling John Ogdon, to make multiple decoration work. Such toccata-like writing put one in mind of Malcolm Williamson’s similar propensity in Hyperion’s magnificent new recording of all Williamson’s piano concerti, CDA 68011/2. But it did not impact in the way this magnificent and moving symphony, punctuated by massive CBSO brass ostinati did, an opening cor anglais elegy, and strange feelings from string harmonics at both the start and chiasmic close that sounded almost bewilderingly like that rarely-used French instrument, the theremin, which generates such eerie terror in the film noir scores of Miklós Rózsa. If one had to compare Panufnik’s strange brand of modalism to another, it might just be to near-neighbour Kodály at his height.”     …

 

Mozart’s Gran Partita

MOZART’S GRAN PARTITA

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Wednesday 26 February 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Karl-Heinz Steffens  conductor

Guy Braunstein  violin

Mozart: Gran Partita (Serenade for 13 wind instruments, K.361) 49′

Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto 34′ Listen on Spotify
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements 20′

Guy Braunstein’s encore – Kreisler – Schön Rosmarin

In   the film Amadeus, when Mozart’s arch-rival Salieri hears his Gran Partita,   he thinks he’s hearing the voice of God. Tonight, Karl-Heinz Steffens – a former   principal clarinettist of the Berlin Philharmonic itself – leads the CBSO’s   wind players to heaven. That’s just for starters, in a concert that features   a performance of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, and Stravinsky’s punchy wartime symphony; music of chrome   and steel, from the streets of LA. Pure sonic indulgence.

We are sorry to announce that Renaud Capucon has had to withdraw from this concert due to ill health. We are very grateful to Guy Braunstein for taking his place at short notice.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May

Haydn and Mozart, Wednesday   14th May

Summer Serenade, Thursday   5th June

http://www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Built like a bricklayer and with a pugnacious playing manner to match, Guy Braunstein isn’t graceful – but his playing revealed the soul of a poet.

A late replacement for the ill Renaud Capuçon, who was to have played Glazunov, Braunstein’s performance of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto won many admirers; it eschewed outward glamour but got to the heart of the work.

In the canzonetta slow movement his violin line weaved magically together with the oboe and clarinet. His encore, Fritz Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin was witty and slyly humorous.

The prominence of Tchaikovsky’s sensuous wind writing was no coincidence – conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens was formerly the Berlin Philharmonic’s principal clarinet.”     …

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Russian Classics

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Thursday 9th January 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Hall

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Lars Vogt  piano

Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 (Classical) 14′

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595 32′

Stravinsky: Petrushka 34′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Lars Vogt’s encore – Chopin Nocturne ..

It’s springtime in old Russia, and as crowds throng the Shrovetide Fair, passions are  rising. But how serious can it get? After all, a puppet doesn’t have feelings…  does it? 100 years on, Stravinsky’s brilliantly original ballet continues to startle  and delight; while Prokofiev’s firecracker of a first symphony proves that a real  popular classic can still spring a few surprises. Mind you, Mozart’s last piano  concerto gives them both a run for their money – especially in the supremely skilled  hands of Lars Vogt.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Mozart and Elgar, Wednesday   19th  February

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Wednesday   26th  February

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday   6th  March

http://www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Nelsons’ footwork was indeed balletic (for a big man he is very light on his feet), and he drew a reading which was now buzzing, now subtle, wonderfully shaded and rhythmically vibrant.

The sequence of dances in the final tableau emerged as noble as those in Wagner’s Meistersinger (the dour Stravinsky would surely hate that comparison), and instrumental solos throughout added characterful contributions: Marie-Christine Zupancic’s fey flute, Rachael Pankhurst’s lugubrious cor anglais, Jonathan Holland’s incisive trumpet, and Ben Dawson’s vivid piano.

And that piano had just beforehand delivered Lars Vogt’s no-nonsense, pellucid and elegant account of Mozart’s last piano concerto, no.27 K595.

Vogt brought both crystalline clarity and well-weighted chording to his performance, confident enough in his accompanists to be able to add a discreet element of rubato where appropriate.

Less is more. No affectation here, just a pure love of this otherwordly music, communicated by all concerned.”     …

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…    “Since he took over the City of Birmingham Symphony five years ago, hearing Andris Nelsons reveal more of the works in his repertoire has been one of the most compelling experiences British musical life can offer. Last autumn’s announcement that he is leaving Birmingham at the end of the 2014-15 season has made each of those revelations seem even more precious. I missed his performance of Stravinsky‘s Petrushka with the orchestra in 2011, but thankfully Nelson has now returned to the work, and it’s one of the best demonstrations of just what an exceptional conductor he can be.

Performances of the second full-scale ballet Stravinsky composed for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes tend to emphasise the music’s modernism, and those aspects of it that anticipate the watershed of The Rite of Spring, which came two years later. Nelsons’s intensely vivid performance, fabulously realised by the CBSO, certainly did that, but it also showed how much of 19th-century Russian music, as channelled through Stravinsky’s teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, remains in the score, too. The way in which all the teeming detail emerged in high definition, characterised with such pictorial immediacy, was a thrilling reminder that Stravinsky’s debt to his St Petersburg training hadn’t been totally discharged with The Firebird.”     …

Opening Concert: Anne-Sophie Mutter Plays Dvořák

OPENING CONCERT: ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER PLAYS DVORAK

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Saturday 21 September 2013 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Anne-Sophie Mutter  violin

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture 14′

Dvořák: Violin Concerto 32′

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring 32′

Anne-Sophie Mutter’s encore – JS Bach – Sarabande in D Minor

With some artists, just the mention of their name is enough. So Andris Nelsons and the entire CBSO are thrilled to welcome Anne-Sophie Mutter to Birmingham. “Seeing her perform is an experience that can make you gasp” wrote one critic, and that’s   just the centrepiece of a concert that begins with the overture that sparked   Nelsons’s love of music, and ends with the elemental power of Stravinsky’s shattering    Rite of Spring. Take a deep breath: this should be unforgettable.   www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Patsy Fuller, Coventry Telegraph:

Click here for full review

“This scorcher of a concert was like a dazzling fireworks display on a warm, late-summer night.

With so much firepower it’s hard to single out what was most exciting.

Was it the superb performance of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto by the poised and passionate virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter? Or the pulsating delivery of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring; brooding, threatening and totally riveting.

And just for starters, there was Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture; majestic and full of drama.

But what made this concert so very explosive was the man at the helm – the CBSO’s music director Andris Nelsons with his remarkable talent for drawing out every nuance of emotion from every note of music; and demanding – and getting – nothing but the best from his musicians.”     …

*****

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Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “In a season awash with performances of Stravinsky’s ballet score – its centenary was celebrated in May – this one stood out. Nelsons caught the essence of the ritualised drama right from a mysterious opening, and with a flickering baton encouraged colourful solos from his wind section especially. In the acoustics of Symphony Hall, every member of this pounding orchestral machine made their mark. But the heavily lumbering lower strings seldom have such presence, and the hauntingly lyrical passages were full of wistfulness.”     …

*****

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “Mutter stood surprising far back and very close to the conductor’s podium, so for audience members in certain positions in the hall she would have been visually eclipsed by Nelsons. This would have been a shame, as it was as much a joy to watch her involvement with the piece as to hear her virtuoso execution of it. The control of pianissimo passages was delightful, as were the foot-tapping dance rhythms of the finale, supported by finely balanced and exciting playing from the CBSO. Taking her applause, which included cheers and whistles, Mutter offered Nelsons her cloth for his fevered brow, raising a chuckle all round.

An encore was prefaced with the soloist’s invitation to “lower your heart rate a little…”, and she gave us an exquisite rendition of J.S.Bach’s Sarabande in D minor, with a long final note that defied belief.

A hundred years and a million miles since its original riotous reception, tonight’s Rite of Spring received instead tumultuous acclaim. This tour de force, full of complex technical innovations in its day, seems to be a minefield of coordination of the massive orchestral forces, which paid off with truly exciting results. Texture galore, from the initial lone bassoon through the layering of other soloists, groups, whole sections and full orchestra, with a strong emphasis on pulse. It’s music that cries out to be heard (and seen) live – the cellists’ heads thrusting to repeated, pounding, accented beats will be a lasting visual memory.”     …

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “In years to come Nelsons’ first and second performances of Stravinsky’s revolutionary masterwork will no doubt go down in the CBSO annals as defining moments of his conducting career – and I’ll be very surprised if Orfeo’s recording doesn’t provide a new benchmark of excellence.

Yes, there was much primeval pounding and snarling in this Rite but also many erotically charged passages of perfumed orientalism and sensuality. And, such was the power and beauty of the playing it induced at the end a sense more of glorious fulfilment than merciful release – perfect in every way.”

*****

Opening Concert: The Rite of Spring

OPENING CONCERT: THE RITE OF SPRING

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Thursday 19 September 2013 at 7.30pm

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

 

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Kristine Opolais  soprano

Wagner: Tannhäuser – Overture 14′

Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder 25′

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring 32′

When    The Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris in 1913, it caused a riot.   We don’t expect you to react quite so violently, but 100 years on Stravinsky’s   revolutionary ballet will still make an electrifying opening to our season.   Andris Nelsons conducts it for the first time, and joins his wife Kristine Opolais   in music close to both their hearts – Wagner’s star-crossed Wesendonck Lieder,   and the piece that first made him fall in love with music: the overture to Tannhäuser.   www.cbso.co.uk

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

“Apparently the BBC Radio 3 live broadcast of this CBSO concert was arranged at the last minute.

My heart doesn’t bleed for disappointed London Symphony Orchestra groupies who get more than enough of their metrocentric fix anyway, but what a bonus for everyone else, sharing with my ancient ears the most exciting account of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring I have ever heard.

Stravinsky, Monteux, Bernstein, Karajan (if one must), Fremaux, Rattle, Oramo, Zander in his extraordinary performance high on adrenaline, all have their qualities, but this, Andris Nelsons’ first-ever outing with the work in this its centenary year, knocked them all into a cocked hat.

This was an approach relishing the ballet’s visceral energy, its fragile lyricism and its amazingly imaginative scoring.

Nelsons even convinced us that the opening of Part II (here following on immediately, without a discernible break) was not so much of an impressionistic meandering, more a tension-building scene-setting.”     …

*****

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The sense of something new was there from the very first moments. Instead of the usually smooth, suave sound for the opening solo, Nelsons had evidently asked his principal bassoon to make it rather coarse-grained and earthy, and that set the tone for what followed: a sound world full of boldly reimagined textures and vivid details, especially in the wind writing. Not everything worked – the tempo for the Spring Auguries section seemed just too fast for the effect to be forebodingly weighty enough, while sometimes, as in the Glorification of the Chosen One, the wind overpowered important details in the strings – but a lot more seemed just right.”     …

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Review by Christopher Thomas, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “The majestic strains of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture were prefaced by a gloriously phrased woodwind chorale in which scrupulous attention to the subtle rise and fall of the dynamics lent the playing a luminous quality that was to permeate every bar of the performance. With Nelsons at one moment resting one hand nonchalantly on the rail of the podium and at others, leaning into the violin section as if to accentuate every note of their cascading rhythmic figurations whilst physically hammering out the triplets in the trombones radiant statement of the pilgrims chorale with a clenched fist, Nelsons’ was a Tannhäuser that made full use of the lush acoustic of Symphony Hall and in doing so gloriously accentuated the grand romantic excesses of Wagner’s blazing paean to human sensuality.

In contrast, the Wesendonck Lieder that grew out of Wagner’s fascination with his muse and alleged lover Mathilde Wesendonck, possessed an air of restrained coolness that allowed Nelsons’ wife and fellow Latvian, soprano Kristine Opolais, to deliver the texts of Mathilde Wesendonck with a refreshing simplicity of phrase and line. The gentle innocence of the opening song The Angel, the subtle colouring of voice and string textures in Stand thou still! and the passionate but never cloying strains of the final song Dreams were beautifully realised in textures of crystalline clarity. But it was the despair and desolation of the central song Im Treibhaus (In the Conservatory), delivered with limpid, heartbreaking restraint that hinted at rather than drove home the sense of despair, that will live longest in the memory.”     …