Tchaikovsky’s Fourth

Wednesday 18th November, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


  • Schubert  Rosamunde – Overture, 10′
  • Beethoven  Violin Concerto , 42′
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 , 44′

For Tchaikovsky, music was a matter of life and death – and when he wrote his Fourth Symphony, he didn’t hold back. This is a no-holds-barred emotional autobiography, told in music of uncompromising rawness and passion. Vassily Sinaisky has this music in his blood; it’s hard to imagine a more dramatic contrast to Beethoven’s serene Violin Concerto – played by the stunning Alina Ibragimova – or Schubert’s Viennese bon-bon of an overture.

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:
Click here for full review

“There are some violinists who just stun us with their virtuosity — and that is in fact all they do. With Alina Ibragimova we are on an altogether higher plane, where technique, musicality and intellect all fuse into one, and her performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the CBSO summed all this up wonderfully.

She burrowed into entries and emerged smilingly at the top of each paragraph, in a reading which was indeed one of seriousness and smiles, combining assertive statements with sweet lyricism, her altissimo notes angelically pure. Bowing was expressive, finger-work deftly co-ordinated in this intelligent, highly personal yet always appropriate interpretation of this greatest of violin concertos. Her use of the cadenza Beethoven composed for his own piano transcription was remarkably thought-provoking, abetted by the sensitive timpaning of Erika Ohman.

In fact Ohman’s input was only one of many sensitive contributions from orchestral members, not least bassoonist Julian Roberts. Under Vassily Sinaisky’s wise, untrammelled batonless direction the orchestral response was honest and direct, and their constant awareness of the soloist’s playing was an object-lesson in how to create as rewarding a collaboration as this.”    

Bruch’s Violin Concerto

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Wednesday 8th October 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin

Smetana: Má vlast – Vltava • Sárka 22′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 25′
Listen on Spotify

Dvořák: Symphony No.8 38′
Listen on Spotify

Autumn sunshine: cellos and horns sing a quiet hymn, a bird sings cheerfully, and in a flurry of drums and trumpets, Dvorák’s Eighth Symphony is on its way. Symphonies simply don’t get much happier than this – and violin concertos don’t get much more popular than Bruch’s First, performed by the CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson. Smetana’s tuneful trip down the River Vltava starts our journey today.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Russian Classics, Wednesday 12th November
From the Danube to the Rhine, Thursday 5th February 2015 & Saturday 7th February 2015
Haydn in London, Wednesday 6th May 2015 & Thursday 7th May 2015

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It’s a tuneful symphony certainly, but also an ingenious and disturbing one. Dvorak sets us up for a repeat in the first movement and then rushes headlong into the development, Sinaisky directing a thrilling performance with the CBSO’s horns and heavy brass storming on impressively.

The adagio begins as a funeral march but the cortege speeds up for a pastoral interlude , with some sparkling wind playing. Sinaisky set a fast tempo for the finale which romped merrily home.

The CBSO’s leader Laurence Jackson was the soloist in Bruch’s evergreen first violin concerto. The famous adagio tempts the soloist to indulgence – ample opportunity for slow swooning – but Jackson’s interpretation while romantic was also rather chaste.

It was a performance of grace and good taste…”      …

Russian Masters

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Thursday 31 October 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily  Sinaisky   conductor

Ekaterina Scherbachenko  soprano

Vsevolod Grivnov  tenor

Elchin Azizov  baritone

CBSO Chorus  

Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture 16′

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 31′ 

Rachmaninov: The Bells (sung in Russian, with English surtitles) 37′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

“Hear   the bells ring out, with their singing and ringing… they tell of oblivion.”    For Sergei Rachmaninov, the sound of bells embodied the soul of Old Russia.   Judging from the spectacular finish of his 1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky   agreed – though you haven’t really heard 1812 until you’ve heard it performed   with full chorus! Then Shostakovich’s fiery First Symphony provides the upbeat   to The Bells: music of heartfelt joys and deep, dark sorrows which uses   the bells of childhood, marriage, war and death to chart our journey through   life. Tonight’s soloists from the Bolshoi Theatre have it in their blood.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Russian Classics, Thursday 9th January 2014

Tuned In: Shostakovich’s Fifth, Saturday 8th March 2014



Review by Verity Quaite, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Opening with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in the version for chorus and orchestra, was a bold move. With any performance of such a well-known piece, the pressure is on from the outset to deliver an exceptional performance. The CBSO did not disappoint. The CBSO chorus were utterly fantastic, displaying their dexterity with an extreme contrast between their solemn, a cappella entry and the brash, triumphant re-entry at the climax of the piece. The percussion were perfectly overdramatic and similarly the soloists – particularly cellist and flautist – were nothing short of exceptional. My one criticism is that although this was a brilliant opening, it felt more like an ending. How to follow a performance such as this?

And yet with Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 1 in F minor, the orchestra managed it. As with the Tchaikovsky, the opening was stunning. Shostakovich treats the orchestra like a series of soloists, and this aspect was executed faultlessly, with each performer complementing and not overshadowing their colleagues. As a whole, the orchestra effectively captured the shifting mood of the piece aptly and the waltz section was particularly lovely. Without wishing to make this review sound like a laundry list by naming each of them individually, I think it is only fair to recognise that each soloist performed remarkably well.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The scherzo is a choral tour-de-force and the CBSO Chorus rose to the challenge magnificently, vividly depicting the bells’ “brazen inferno” and “tormented sounds”. In the funereal finale – the inexorable pace recalling Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead – the baritone Elchin Azizov was superb, railing and raging against the dying of the light. The performance was expertly marshalled by conductor Vassily Sinaisky and chorus masters Simon Halsey and David Lawrence.

The CBSO Chorus’s presence in Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812 – where their patriotic hymn replaced the opening string melody and returned for the peroration – restored gravitas and dignity to a work often mistreated as an excuse of pyrotechnics. Shostakovich’s first symphony, a precociously dazzling teenage romp, was crisply projected with playing full of character, not least from the CBSO’s leader Zoë Byers.”     …


Comedy and Tragedy

Wednesday 17 April 2013 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily  Sinaisky   conductor

Alan Thomas  trumpet

Shostakovich: Hamlet – film music suite 21′

Hummel: Trumpet Concerto 19′

Beethoven: Overture, Leonora No. 3 13′ 

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6, Op. 53 30′ Listen on Spotify

Comedy or tragedy? Shostakovich, like Shakespeare, knew that great art can be both at once. Maybe that’s why his powerful Sixth Symphony swings from black despair to knockabout fun, and why his Hamlet film-score bristles with deadpan humour. Guest conductor Vassily Sinaisky knows this music inside-out – and he’ll bring all his signature verve to the out-and-out heroism of Beethoven’s Leonora overture. CBSO principal trumpet Alan Thomas is the soloist in an irresistible comic opera of a concerto by Mozart’s star pupil.



Review by John Gough, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This stunningly well played concert of violent emotional  contrasts was a triumphant display of the powers of concentration of both  conductor and players.

After Shostakovich’s suite from his film music for Hamlet,  CBSO trumpeter Alan Thomas brought a gleaming tone and a dancing lightness to  Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto, poetic in the slow movement and full of gleeful high  spirits and agility in the irresistible finale.

The second half brought a dramatic change of tone with a  blazing performance of Beethoven’s Leonora Overture no. 3, where the strings’  evocation of hope after oppression in the coda had an unquenchable  excitement.

And so to the enigma of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 6.  Vassily Sinaisky is one of a great line of Russian conductors in this  repertoire, and he gave us an intense and disturbing performance, part  apocalypse and part circus.”     …


CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

Friday 15 October 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Alina Pogostkina  violin

Rossini: William Tell – Overture 12′
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 26′
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 36′

Encore – Dvořák: Slavonic Dances No.2 in E minor, Op.72

It might be the world’s favourite violin concerto, but even if you already
know and love it (and who doesn’t?), there’s always something
appealingly fresh about Max Bruch’s First. And never more so than in
the inspirational hands of the young Russian violinist Alina Pogostkina.
But don’t take our word for it. Come and hear it for yourself, at the heart
of this shamelessly entertaining programme. There’s also a rare
chance to hear the gloriously beautiful bits of the William Tell overture
that didn’t feature in The Lone Ranger, plus the lilting dance-tunes and
joyous trumpets of what is – hands down – Dvorák’s happiest
symphony. And if that all sounds a bit too enjoyable, remember that all
proceeds from this concert go to an excellent cause: the CBSO’s
Benevolent Fund (Registered Friendly Society 735F).

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

… “At its core was Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto, played by the young Russian violinist Alina Pogostkina with fetching warmth and grace, and a romantic richness entirely free of schmaltz.”  …

Rating 5/5

The Birmingham Mahler Cycle: Vassily Sinaisky conducts Symphony No 3

Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Susan Bickley  mezzo-soprano
Ladies of the CBSO Chorus  
CBSO Youth Chorus  

Mahler: Symphony No. 3 100′ Listen
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“The Symphony is like the world,” declared Gustav Mahler “- it must
embrace everything!” His huge Third Symphony doesn’t quite manage
that – but it has a pretty good try. Beginning with a mighty horn call and
ending with a wordless hymn to love, it’s a vast, colourful panorama of
the world according to Gustav Mahler: church bells, country dances,
grand, echoing climaxes and the mother of all trombone solos! It’s a
symphony like no other, and for this next instalment in the Birmingham
Mahler Cycle, regular CBSO guest conductor Vassily Sinaisky has
assembled a world-class team of performers, including the full CBSO,
our famous choruses and operatic mezzo extraordinaire Susan Bickley.
Prepare to be astonished.

Review by Elmley de la Cour, Birmingham Post:

…”The CBSO strings particularly impressed in Mahler’s hymn to love and Sinaisky delicately directed the performance to a suitably thrilling conclusion.” …

Review by Geoff Read, MusicWeb International:

…”Bickley’s repetitions of Gib Acht were haunting, atmospheric and crystal clear – a spine-tingling ‘mymahler’ moment ( […]

…Sinaisky saved perhaps his most luminous contribution for the sixth and final movement. Coaxing a truly Mahlerian sound from the CBSO, they reproduced the instructions of the score – slow, peaceful and above all with feeling. With a sense of contemplation, the final chapter of God’s love in Mahler’s hymn to the natural world was inexorably drawn out, leading to the triumphant conclusion.”  …

Brahms and Sibelius

Thursday 14 January 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Vassily Sinaisky  conductor
Laurence Jackson  violin
Ulrich Heinen  cello

Brahms: Academic Festival Overture 10′
Brahms: Double Concerto 31′
Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela 10′
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 31′ Listen
requires Real Player

Lots of composers have been given honorary degrees – but only Johannes Brahms responded by writing an overture full of student drinking songs! His Academic Festival Overture is a hilarious one-in-the-eye for those who think of Brahms as stuffy – and so’s his gorgeous, deeply romantic Double Concerto. And then, conductor Vassily Sinaisky tackles two real CBSO trademarks. The Swan of Tuonela is a darkly beautiful meditation on mortality; the mighty Fifth Symphony, meanwhile is one of 20th century’s most dynamic and life-affirming masterpieces – with a finale that will stay with you forever.

Review by Christoper Morley, Birmingham Post:

…”This was a reading of the utmost empathy, unforced and subtle, with Heinen bringing a Bachian inwardness to Brahms’ cello writing, Jackson a sweet purity which must surely have come from the spirit of Joseph Joachim, the great violinist to whom the piece was a peace-offering after a huge rift between Brahms and this man who was one of his greatest advocates.
Vassily Sinaisky conducted an attentive and willing CBSO, preceding the Concerto with a deliciously understated, ultimately assertive Brahms Academic Festival Overture. “…