Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass

ThumbnailRaise the Roof

Thursday 5th March 2015 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Luba Orgonášová  soprano
Sarah Connolly  mezzo-soprano
John Daszak  tenor
Clive Bayley  bass
Thomas Trotter  organ
CBSO Chorus  

Berlioz: Overture – Roman Carnival 9′
Berlioz: Les Troyens: Royal Hunt and Storm 10′
Berlioz: La Mort de Cléopâtre 21′ Watch on YouTube

Janácek: Glagolitic Mass 45′
Listen on Spotify

“The fragrance of the trees was like incense,” declared Leos Janácek. “I felt a cathedral grow from a great forest.” And with its jubilant trumpets, thundering organ and raw, unbuttoned lust for life, there’s nothing quite like the Glagolitic Mass. The CBSO Chorus loves to sing it, and Edward Gardner gets the pulse racing straight away, with three barnstorming showpieces by Hector Berlioz. Hold tight!

This concert has been made possible with support from an anonymous donor through the Keynote Programming Fund.

Support the CBSO


Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post

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…     “The Royal Hunt and Storm from Berlioz’ huge opera The Trojans made dramatic use of Symphony Hall’s spatial resources, brass scattered around the auditorium, Gardner drawing from the orchestra both pounding hooves and subtle sylvan delicacy.

But the real gem in this collection came with the early competition cantata La Mort de Cleopatre, where the gauche Berlioz painted vivid orchestral colours, pre-quoting the Carnaval Romain along the way, macabre both in timbre and harmony, and ending with a totally chilling death-rattle (Berlioz had once worked in a mortuary before fleeing into the arms of music).

Gardner conducted with flexible fluency and empathy with mezzo soloist Sarah Connolly (actually unacknowledged in the programme-book), singing with immense control and evenness throughout her range, and communicating the queen’s despair with self-possessed dignity.

Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass is as much a paean to nature’s life-force as it is to God.

It blazes with the earthiness of one late work (the Sinfonietta) and the pantheism of another (The Cunning Little Vixen).”    




Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “Sarah Connolly then joined the orchestra for the cantata La Mort de Cléopâtre. This was the piece that Berlioz submitted in 1829 as his third attempt to win the coveted Prix de Rome. The judges were renowned for their collective conservatism and so, since Berlioz didn’t trouble to dilute his adventurous style, the entry was unsuccessful. (The following year Berlioz submitted a somewhat more compliant composition and finally won the prize with the cantata La Mort de Sardanaple.) La Mort de Cléopâtre may not be top-drawer Berlioz but it’s well worth hearing and, my goodness, the music made a strong impression in this performance. The benefits of having a soloist and conductor who are highly experienced in the opera house were plain to hear. Sarah Connolly gave a gripping and completely convincing portrayal of the shamed, tragic queen, dishonoured and so doomed to die by her own hand. Her singing was intense and highly dramatic yet neither the sense of line nor her lustrous tone were ever sacrificed on the altar of drama. She was magnificent in the central Méditation (‘Grands Pharons, nobles Lagides’) and the way in which she almost whispered the queen’s last phrases was utterly compelling. Her performance was a riveting piece of musical acting. Edward Gardner matched her achievement, bringing out the highly original sonorities of Berlioz’s score and supporting his singer at all times. The very end, where bare-textured strings illustrate Cléopâtre’s death itself, was arresting. The astonishing originality of a passage such as that – and many others in the score – must have had the Prix de Rome judges calling for the smelling salts.     […]

[…]     As it was, Gardner was pretty persuasive in the familiar version of the score. Janáček’s pungent wind and brass writing registered extremely well – and there was a thrilling contribution from timpanist Matthew Perry – while the rhythms were crisply articulated throughout the performance. All the dramatic and exciting passages made an impact but the delicate side of this vibrant and colourful score was put across with equal success. All departments of the CBSO, with guest leader Charles Mutter deputising for an indisposed Laurence Jackson, responded as keenly to Gardner’s direction as they had done in the Berlioz items.

 A strong solo quartet had been assembled. It’s as well we’d had the chance to admire Sarah Connolly in Berlioz for Janáček confines the alto soloist to a fairly small contribution during what is in the Latin usage the Benedictus and a slightly fuller part in the Agnus Dei. Predictably, Miss Connolly was excellent in these pages. The bass has a bit more to do and Clive Bayley was firm of tone and projected strongly. The main solo parts are for the soprano and tenor.  Luba Orgonášová has the right timbre and vocal presence for this music and she impressed me. So did John Daszak who was not daunted by Janáček’s testing tessitura – Daszak’s profession of faith in the holy and apostolic church towards the end of the Creed was the thrilling moment that it should be.

 There is a fifth soloist in this work: the organist. Thomas Trotter gave a tremendous display, coming into his own completely in the wild organ solo which is the penultimate movement.  It was very exciting to hear that solo on the Kleist organ of Symphony Hall and, in a commanding and virtuoso performance, Trotter drew a wide range of sounds and contrasts from the mighty instrument.

 There probably isn’t a British choir that’s more familiar with this work than the CBSO Chorus – I think they first performed it well over thirty years ago. Their familiarity certainly showed here. Expertly prepared by Julian Wilkins, the choir sang with the tremendous assurance, flexibility, agility and depth of tone that we’ve long associated with this excellent choir.

 This was a fine performance of Janáček’s extraordinary score, which remains extraordinary no matter how often one hears it. It set the seal on a stimulating evening in Symphony Hall.”

Sokhiev conducts the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Sunday 1 April

Symphony Hall

Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
Tugan Sokhiev conductor
Thomas Trotter organ

Berlioz : Roman Carnival Overture 8’
Rachmaninov : Symphonic Dances 35’
Saint-Saëns : Symphony No 3, Organ 36’

encores :   and Bizet – Carmen Overture

Symphony Hall’s mighty organ takes the limelight in Saint-Saëns’s gloriously uplifting symphony. One of France’s most revered orchestras brings its trademark joie de vivre to a programme which also features Rachmaninov’s irresistible orchestral dances under the baton of their Music Director, the electrifying Tugan Sokhiev.

This is a fundraising concert, in aid of Performances Birmingham Limited
Charity Number: 1053937


Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

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…     “And finally Saint-Saens’ mighty Organ Symphony which truly makes the most of Symphony Hall. With Birmingham City Organist Thomas Trotter at the keyboard, the sound swelled through the pipes, taking advantage of the venue’s amazing acoustics. ”     …

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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Tugan Sokhiev has lived and learned on his way to the very top”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The flutters soon disappeared, and the orchestra’s charismatic and expert principal conductor Tugan Sokhiev built a totally absorbing, spine-tingling reading, squeezing every oodle of tone from his remarkable string section. Thrills and spills were here a-plenty, but most memorable was the gentle ‘poco adagio’, chastely singing over Trotter’s beautifully-judged quiet organ chords.”     …          ***** 

Bruckner’s Seventh

Wednesday 7 December 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Nikolaj Znaider conductor
Thomas Trotter organ

Ruders: Symphony No. 4 (Feeney Trust co-commission – UK premiere) 30′
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 70′

Unfortunately, Andris Nelsons has withdrawn from this performance due to the imminent arrival of his first child. We are grateful to Nikolaj Znaider who has kindly agreed to take his place at short notice. The programme remains unchanged, and we apologise for any disappointment caused.

Bruckner heard the opening of his Seventh Symphony in a dream -played by an angel. And from then on, it only gets lovelier. You’ll be knocked backwards by the emotion, grandeur and sheer breathtaking beauty of this great romantic symphony: Andris Nelsons certainly thinks so. First, though, join us as we make history – and give the Symphony Hall Organ a workout into the bargain! – in the UK premiere of a stunning new symphony by the Danish master Poul Ruders.

Click here to find out more about composer Poul Ruders and his music.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


…     “Trotter played with verve and total empathy with the orchestra, conducted authoritatively at short notice by Nikolaj Znaider, yet another brilliant violinist who also conducts.

The response from the auditorium was warm and appreciative.

Znaider also presided over an account of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony which allowed all the orchestra’s glories to tell: effulgent strings, woodwind of almost human eloquence, and well-rounded, clearly-articulated brass.”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:


…     “Znaider had taken over Nelsons’s programme unchanged, and so followed the very polished account of the Ruders with another symphony, Bruckner’s Seventh. That was a brisk, pliable performance, perhaps a bit too streamlined, but never overstudied or too monumental even in the great slow movement. It was superbly played: the sound world, very much Bruckner’s own for all its Wagnerian debts, was glowingly realised.”     …

The Organ Symphony

Thursday 5 May 2011 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Jun Märkl conductor
Sergio Tiempo piano
Thomas Trotter organ

Debussy: Le martyre de Saint Sébastien – Symphonic fragments 21′
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major 21′
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ) 34′

Sergio Tiempo’s Encore – Ginastera

You might have heard it in the film Babe, but trust us – when the mighty Symphony Hall organ crashes in at the end of Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony, and the CBSO’s trumpets raise the roof, you won’t be thinking about talking pigs! Few symphonies finish in such thrilling style, and with the full CBSO joined by Birmingham City Organist Thomas Trotter, one thing’s for sure: this concert is going to end with a bang. To whet the appetite, French music expert Jun Märkl dishes up a pair of very different French delights: Ravel’s deliciously jazzy Piano Concerto, with rising star Sergio Tiempo, and the latest landmark in the CBSO’s 10-year 2020 project – Debussy’s ultra-sensuous Symphonic Fragments.

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:


…     “Acoustic chamber-doors wide open, and Thomas Trotter’s experienced rasping at the fabulous Symphony Hall organ added to the impact of this memorable performance.

Not, though, to eclipse the scintillating account of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto, with Sergio Tiempo the deft soloist.”     …

Benevolent Fund Concert



Friday 18 September 2009 at 7.30PM

Michael Seal  conductor
Elspeth Dutch  horn
Thomas Trotter  organ

Elgar: In the South 19′
Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 4 16′
Widor: Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5 6′
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ) 34′

When the mighty Symphony Organ joins forces with the full CBSO, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a shiver down the spine. So it’s no surprise that the Organ Symphony is one of the most popular of all romantic symphonies – it’s simply thrilling! There are thrills aplenty in the rest of this concert, too – whether in Elgar’s stirring overture, or the pure, irresistibly tuneful fun of Mozart’s most famous horn concerto. Join Birmingham’s premier musicians for this evening raising funds for the CBSO Benevolent Fund.

Review from Christopher Morley at:


…”The menu was mouthwatering, beginning with Elgar’s colourful and evocative In the South Overture, written when the composer had at last achieved the recognition he so desperately craved and therefore fizzing with a confidence which didn’t quite overwhelm here, in a reading which needed more positive shaping. Christopher Yates’s viola solo was magical.” …