The Seven Ages of Shakespeare

Wednesday 1st June, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Nicolai  The Merry Wives of Windsor – Overture , 8′
  • Arne  Songs, 8′
  • Sullivan  The Merchant of Venice – Masquerade Suite, 12′
  • Vaughan Williams  In Windsor Forest , 18′
  • Porter  Kiss Me, Kate – highlights , 12′
  • Berlioz  Béatrice et Bénédict – duet , 10′
  • Purcell  The Fairy-Queen – highlights , 20′

“Sounds and sweet airs, that delight and hurt not…” No-one serves up musical entertainment with a sunnier smile than Nicholas McGegan. And there’s laughter in the air tonight, as he introduces four centuries of musical tributes to Shakespeare: from Cole Porter to Purcell’s all-singing, all-dancing take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fairy-Queen. In between, there’s Berlioz, Arne… and you’ve heard of Gilbert and Sullivan? Now discover Sullivan and Shakespeare.

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

Click here for full review

…     “And when he uses that knowledge – as in the shimmering, whispered closing bars of the duet Vous soupirez, madame? from Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict – he can hold an audience breathless. What did work – gloriously – was Vaughan Williams’s cantata In Windsor Forest, a suite of choral offcuts from his operatic version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sir John in Love. McGegan’s trump card here was Simon Halsey’s CBSO Chorus: bright, clear and alert, they made each phrase dance as well as sing, relishing the Tudor drolleries of the Drinking Song and providing great glowing arcs of sound in the Bridal Chorus. McGegan and the orchestra responded with a huge Sea Symphony swell.

The best came last: effectively the whole of Act IV of The Fairy Queen, with the three soloists plus tenor Andrew Henley taking their season-themed solos with poise and a rich palette of colours, and the full CBSO – yes, all on modern instruments, and with at least 30 players on stage – playing vibrato-free and drawing from Purcell’s score a range of shades and textures to match any period-instrument band. McGegan, beaming with enjoyment and looking at times as if he was about to start bodypopping, draped violin lines artlessly over Purcell’s melancholy plaints, detonated volleys of trumpets and timpani, and shaped big, dramatic dynamic contrasts. A choir of over 120 in Purcell’s lively little refrains? Well, why shouldn’t we get to hear music this good sound this magnificent, at least once in a while? It’s a celebration, after all. And if this concert proved one thing, it’s that genius is infinitely adaptable.”

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Review by Ruth Horsburgh, Redbrick.Me:

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…      “Nicholas McGegan expertly and energetically conducted the orchestra and chorus with an infectious enthusiasm. There was an abundance of skill on display on stage, with excellent solos performed from all sections of the orchestra. The orchestra performed every piece strongly, with pinpoint accuracy in achieving the softest and tender dynamic to relay poignancy or a wave of sound which triumphantly enveloped the music hall, as was evident in their commanding performance of Sullivan’s ‘The Merchant of Venice – Masquerade Suite’. This effect was also enhanced by the CBSO Chorus, which is made up of, as was said in the programme notes, ‘amateur professionals’. Their skill as a choir was particularly evident in their performance of Vaughan William’s ‘In Windsor Forest’, with sweeping and beautiful melodies filling the auditorium.

There were also vocal solos performed throughout the evening, including a memorable and charming duet of ‘Wunderbar’ from Kiss me, Kate by Cole Porter, between Mezzo Soprano Sandra Piques Eddy and Baritone Duncan Rock. Soprano Fflur Wyn beautifully performed several solos, a highlight being ‘When Daisies Pied’ by Thomas Arne, which epitomised the harmonious relationship between Shakespeare and music, with a call and response ‘Cuckoo’ section. This was then followed by tenor Andrew Henley who sang Arne’s ‘Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun’.

Shakespeare is renowned for his ability to convey the complexities of love and human relationships and this variety was reflected in the performed pieces, from the poignant Berlioz performed by the two soprano soloists to the feisty and amusing ‘I Hate Men’ performed by Piques Eddy. The evening culminated in a united and compelling rendition of Purcell’s ‘The Fairy Queen’.”     …

 

Vaughan Williams’ Fifth

Thursday 5th May 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Bax  The Garden of Fand , 17′
  • Elgar Sea Pictures , 23′
  • Vaughan  Williams Symphony No. 5, 42′

A vision of peace in the depths of war, a pagan orgy beneath the waves of the Atlantic, or Edward Elgar revealing his deepest, darkest feelings? Forget everything you thought you knew about British music, and surrender to the emotion, as John Wilson joins Alice Coote to bring all his signature insight to three glorious masterpieces by three very different British masters.

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Review by Richard Bratby, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “A performance of this freshness, scope and sheer beauty is something else altogether. It’s partly about the sound. Wilson has a knack for making an orchestra glow, and the CBSO responded with ardour. The way the tone swelled with warmth in the first movement, as Vaughan Williams quotes his own ‘Alleluias’, sent waves of shivers down the spine.

It’s not just about sonority, though. In Elgar’s Sea Pictures , Wilson and the CBSO surged and flowed around Alice Coote’s smoky mezzo, giving her both space and support to draw some troublingly dark and intimate things from these much-misunderstood songs. And in Bax’s The Garden of Fand , Wilson shaped long, sweeping phrases, pushing the music urgently forward while bringing out all the swirling details and iridescent greens and purples of Bax’s art nouveau seascape. Incredibly, this is the first time the CBSO has played The Garden of Fand . From the streaming passion with which the violins sang the central lovesong, we shouldn’t have to wait 100 years for the second.

But still, the enduring memory of this concert will be the final bars of Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony. As the CBSO’s strings quivered with quiet rapture and Symphony Hall lit up with sound, Wilson offered the most eloquent possible ripost to those misguided souls who still pin labels like ‘pastoral’ and ‘placid’ on this visionary music. Heartbreaking – and sublime.”

 

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Review by Richard Bratby, TheArtsDesk:

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…     “Wilson conducted like he was making up for lost time: driving the music forward in big, surging arcs, pointing up Bax’s thematic connections, relishing the deep harmonic undertow, and, in short, putting the emphasis of this symphonic poem firmly on the “symphonic”. That’s important to say because purely as sound, it was gorgeous. Wilson let all the art nouveau details of Bax’s Celtic seascape swirl and flow, voicing big climaxes so that you really could catch the iridescent gleam of the orchestration and visualise the “sky of pearl and amethyst” that the composer described in his typically florid programme note. Harps glinted, the bass clarinet gurgled and snaked, and in the central love song, the violins let fly with vibrato as wide as the Irish Sea, streaming with passion.

It genuinely did feel like the climax of a spiritual journey Not terribly English? Hardly: few conductors take more care than John Wilson over the sound they draw from an orchestra. The gloriously idiomatic results bring the house down every year at the Proms, when Wilson conducts his own hand-picked orchestra in reconstructed scores from classic Hollywood musicals. But relatively few have commented on the sound he creates when conducting British music with a conventional symphony orchestra. It sounds different, and yet familiar: the wide-grained, flexible string tone; the glowing softness of the woodwinds; the brass by turns mellow and bandstand-brazen. It’s the sound you hear on Barbirolli’s classic recordings with the Hallé, a sound last encountered in the hands of Vernon Handley and the RLPO some time in the 1980s.

That in itself is a little miracle. But it’d be a lifeless exercise in style without Wilson’s freshness and vision – a spontaneous natural musicianship, coupled (on the strength of this concert) to an impressive and deepening grasp of long-range form.”     …

 

Serenade to Music

Thursday 21st January, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Grainger  In a Nutshell, 20′
  • Vaughan Williams  Serenade to Music †, 14′
  • Varese  Ionisation, 8′
  • Judith Weir Storm †, 18′
  • Grainger  The Warriors , 20′

Imagine warriors of all times and all lands, gathering in one place to drink and dance; imagine jazz breaks, three pianos, and a super-sized orchestra… and you’re starting to get some idea of Percy Grainger’s jaw-dropping The Warriors. Add Vaughan Williams’ ravishing, Shakespeare-inspired Serenade, 16 brilliant young soloists, a spirited showcase for the CBSO’s world-beating young choruses and a “Gum-Suckers’ March”, and…well, what can we say? You’ve simply got to hear it!

Available on BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert here for a month

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “And because of these forces we had a remarkable bonus, Edgard Varese’s Ionisation for 13 percussionists and piano, crisply, precisely directed by Seal, and beautifully phrased and coloured by the players.

By contrast, a tiny instrumental ensemble (including many of the flute family) accompanied the expert CBSO Youth and Children’s Choruses in a revival of Judith Weir’s Storm, keenly imagined and with a lovely serene ending. Under Simon Halsey the youngsters sang with confident projection and brilliant diction, and all from memory, to the delight of the composer, interviewed engagingly onstage, like the two conductors, by presenter Tom Redmond.

The texts came from The Tempest, this performance a contribution to the CBSO’s Shakespeare quatercentenary thread. And particularly heartwarming was the presentation of one of the most beautiful Shakespearean works ever penned, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.

This setting of the Belmont Scene from Act V of The Merchant of Venice requires 16 solo singers, and for its premiere celebrating Sir Henry Wood’s Golden Jubilee as a conductor in 1938, the composer specified 16 named soloists at the top of the professional tree.

Here Simon Halsey presented 16 students from Conservatoires UK-wide, and what a wonderful sound they created, both in their individual contributions and in their melding together as a choral group.”     …

Henry V

Thursday 7th January, 2016, 7.30pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • 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.

Support the CBSO

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Available on BBC Radio 3 iPlayer here for 28 days

 

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “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!”

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Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

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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.”     …

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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.”

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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.”

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Review by Geoff Read, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

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…     “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.”

 

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Storify by Jennifer, of Twitter comments:

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Brahms and Beethoven

ThumbnailRelax and Revitalise

Saturday 28th March 2015 at 7.00pm

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

Concert Packages

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze  conductor

Steven Osborne  piano

Vaughan Williams: Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus 13′

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 28′ Listen on Spotify

Brahms: Symphony No. 2 45′

Steven Osborne’s encore –

Beethoven – ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata 29 – Second Movement

When Brahms went on holiday, all his troubles fell away – and that’s exactly the effect of his lovely second symphony, 45 minutes of glowing landscapes, jubilant trumpets and tunes that never seem to end. The very English serenity of Ralph Vaughan Williams is a gentle prelude to Beethoven’s most brilliant piano concerto, played today by one of Britain’s brightest keyboard stars.

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Review by , BachTrack (for matinee of the same programme)

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…     “As it rose again, it was for a remarkable rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in B flat major. Whether it was actually Beethoven’s first, strongly influenced by Mozart’s style, or whether it was his second, showing the composer looking back to his hero, Steven Osborne captivated the personalities of both great composers in a sheer magical way. At no point were we aware that active interpretation was taking place, it was as if the music streamed from him in a natural flow, and only long afterwards did you notice how unobtrusively sophisticated phrasing was, or the shaping of dynamics.

Introduced with a strongly textured orchestral sound, Manze virtually threw little dynamic accents that the orchestra eagerly caught. Then Osborne entered with such a pleasantly soft attack I hadn’t thought possible on Symphony Hall’s terribly hard piano (which, it has to be said, also has its merits: Beethoven’s strong bass lines came out beautifully and carried well through the orchestra without becoming muddy). Osborne’s playing was simple, calm and thoughtful, matching Manze’s laid-back movements, making the dialogue-like alternating passages of piano and orchestra in the second movement so intensely focused you didn’t dare to breathe.

His noble reserve also suited the playful Rondo very well: no exaggerated mannerisms distracted from this pure performance, no dramatic movements accompanied those scales of notes like gleaming beads on strings that still threatened to burst with virtuosity. Even though the solo passages, especially in the beginning, struggled to connect seamlessly with the much richer and softer orchestral tissue (I blame it on the piano), the dynamic agility of both soloist and the orchestra made for an arresting last few bars, and the strong connection between conductor and soloist was tangible and gave the concerto developed a simple and natural charm so strong that not even several untidy cues in the orchestra could break its spell.”     …

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post (for matinee of the same programme)

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…     “One can look past the Mozartian elements of the Adagio (easily done when there are no clarinets) and the hovering spirit of Haydn; in the right hands it’s a gem of a concerto by Beethoven at his most romantic.

At least that’s how Steven Osborne played it last Wednesday afternoon, in a performance that, while demonstrating many aspects of an historically informed reading in its elegant phrasing (conductor Andrew Manze engaged all his period-instrument experience to give appropriate weight and articulation of the orchestral support), allowed dynamic contrasts, especially crescendos and diminuendos, to sing with emotional meaning rather than just change volume.

The finale was a particular delight, its humour gently pointed with an almost tongue-in-cheek reticence, and a total avoidance of affectation or posturing (Lang Lang and others please note).”     …

The Planets: CBSO Youth Orchestra

ThumbnailCBSO 2020Raise the Roof

Sunday 2nd November 2014 at 7.00pm

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

CBSO Youth Orchestra

Ben Gernon  conductor
John Mark Ainsley  tenor
CBSO Youth Chorus

Turnage: Passchendaele CBSO co-commission – UK premiere) 10′
Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge 23′
Holst: The Planets (including Matthews Pluto) 54′
Listen on Spotify

Since 2004, the CBSO’s world-class Youth Orchestra has been pushing back the frontiers of what young musicians can achieve. Tonight, in a special 10th anniversary celebration, CBSO Youth Orchestra alumnus Ben Gernon conducts our superb young players in Holst’s spectacular The Planets, and unwraps a unique birthday present: a powerful new work, inspired by the year 1914, from one of Britain’s greatest living composers.

If you like this concert, you might also like:
MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, Thursday 4th December, 2014
Elgar’sEngima Variations, Wednesday 10th December & Saturday 13th December, 2014
Mahler’s First Symphony: CBSO Youth Orchestra, Sunday 22nd February, 2015

Support the CBSO

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The premiere was Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele, co-commissioned with help from long term CBSO supporters John Cole and Jennie Howe, and written in commemoration of the horrific events of the First World War.

Beginning with awe-inspiring trombone intonations, progressing through magical woodwind intimations and persuasive strings, it continues through a brass summons to a percussion-led outcry, all the while with a seamlessly arching line of anger and grief.

It was so moving to hear this Youth Orchestra paying homage to the doomed youth of a century ago, and moving, too, to witness the authoritative conducting of young Ben Gernon, himself a CBSOYO alumnus.

Fittingly, the programme’s other two composers had in fact served in the Great War. Vaughan Williams was represented by his Housman song-cycle On Wenlock Edge, its clattery orchestration sometimes blessedly subsiding into hushed tones which the musicians conveyed with the utmost sensitivity.

John Mark Ainsley was soloist, his particular kind of tenor timbre, questing and ruminative, well-suited to this period piece, ” …

*****

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Review by Roderic Dunnett, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “And what did one hear? Magnificent ensemble and dazzling precision, all units pulling together. Some enchanting, atmospheric violin solos from young leader Charlotte Moseley in the second movement, and then another whiff that sounded as beautifully wan as Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherazade is a work one might indeed compare The Planets to, in dimension and concept). The two solo oboe passages wrapped round solo clarinet in the same (second) movement sounded like pure Delius – i.e. not just mightily well played, but acutely scrumptious and characterful..The whole thing, like so much Debussy or Roussel, is a masterclass in orchestration: who would have noticed that just one trumpet (Matthew Frost, I think) plays at the start of ‘Jupiter’: so utterly assured, the effect, even amid quite thick textures, is extraordinary.

 Gernon’s success was keeping what might have been a rather bawdy, rumbustious romp so elegantly under control. As a result, detail spoke loud. There was no mush. The violin sound was precise, lucid, focused – the seconds as well as the top line, some expressive moments in the violas, and particularly some hugely rewarding, sonorous sounds from double basses and cellos, playing separately or as one. Pure magic and growing mystery from harps, singly or paired (as in ‘Saturn’), and Jing Yi Goh’s immensely attentive celesta (by the time we reached ‘Neptune’, it was starting to sound like Schreker’s Der Ferne Klang, which dates from time that Holst first conceived the war-coincident work).”     …

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

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…     “It is in fact one of the trademarks of this orchestra that they’re up for the challenge of new commissions, and they tackled Passchendaele with a maturity beyond their years. There was as much assurance in the full, multi-textured, angry orchestral sound as there was in the solo and ensemble fanfares and more reflective moments. Within the space of ten minutes, plaintive melodies on trombones were answered by orchestra; clashing percussion gave way to more melodic strings; a sinking, labouring feeling was punctuated with horns and gongs, shifts in the time signature creating a sense of tension and unease; outbursts gradually subsided and led back through the wind section to a poignant trumpet solo. A sense of calm rather than peace, to which the audience responded with thoughtful rather than ecstatic applause.     […]

[…]    After the interval Gernon and the orchestra seemed much more at home with The Planets, enjoying the build-up from a menacing opening into an explosive frenzy in their depiction of Mars, the Bringer of War. Hard to believe that Holst had already started writing this movement before hostilities started in 1914.

The contrasts between the more energetic and slower movements were skilfully handled, as were the expressive dynamics and contributions from solo violin, cello, woodwind and lively percussion team. The CBSO Youth Chorus, with a 20-year history, shone as ethereal voices offstage, breathing an extra dimension into the already captivating atmosphere of Neptune, the Mystic, like wind. With the inclusion of Colin Matthews’ additional movement Pluto, the Renewer, the voices were employed again to bring the music back to Holst’s own final chord.  An effective end to a highly entertaining birthday party.”

Gala Opening Concert

Gala opening concert of the Anglo-Russian Year of Cultural Exchange 2014

Saturday 22nd February

Symphony Hall

Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio

Vladimir Fedoseyev conductor

Vadim Repin violin

Borodin Polovtsian Dances
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Elgar Enigma Variations

Orchestra’s encore – Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance No 1

For this extraordinary Gala opening concert of the Anglo-Russian Year of Cultural Exchange 2014, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio’s charismatic artistic director and chief conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev conducts a rich programme of works by Russian and English composers, one of only two performances in the UK.

Universally acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest violinists, Vadim Repin performs Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with sheer virtuosic brilliance in a programme which also features Borodin’s spirited Polovstian Dances, Vaughan Williams’ haunting Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Elgar’s enduringly popular Enigma Variations.

Make no mistake: the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra makes a glorious sound – rich, sophisticated, with a burnished patina built up over decades playing together. The Scotsman

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Gareth Ceredig, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The obligatory Russian fireworks arrived with a pacey Polovtsian Dances and an uncharacteristically frenetic Vadim Repin in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, but one would never have guessed from the intermittently scrappy rendition of Elgar’s Enigma Variations that this orchestra and conductor had performed the piece together only a week earlier in Moscow.

For all the strangeness and sloppiness, this ensemble is worth hearing for the quality of the string sound alone. It’s enormously resonant, underpinned by eight excellent basses, and one was grateful for the moments in the Borodin and Vaughan Williams in which Fedoseyev gave it time to bloom fully.”