Ultimate Vaughan Williams

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  • CBSO 2020

Wednesday 5th February 2014 at 7.30pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze  conductor

Laurence Jackson  violin

Vaughan Williams: Overture, The Wasps 9′

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis 15′

Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending 14′

Vaughan Williams: Job, A Masque for Dancing 44′

“He  rises and begins to round / he drops the silver chain of sound…” When The Lark  Ascending takes wing, so do our spirits. But that’s just one side of the genius  of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Andrew Manze has a special connection with this most  English of composers; tonight he shares the rollicking fun of The Wasps,  the timeless passion of the Tallis Fantasia and, to top it all, Job: a blockbuster of a ballet score that’ll change the way you think about English  music. www.cbso.co.uk

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If you like this concert, you might also like:

Mozart and Elgar, Wednesday   19th February

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, Thursday   6th March

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Manze has been working his way through the Vaughan Williams symphonies in his appearances with the BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra – their concert  of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth was one of the highlights of the 2012 Proms. But the main work in this Birmingham concert was not a symphony but what some Vaughan Williams enthusiasts regard as his greatest orchestral achievementJob: A Masque for Dancing. This finely judged performance, marvellously spacious and unhurried, never remotely caricatured, certainly reinforced that view of its stature.

Before it came three of Vaughan Williams’s best-known earlier pieces, which had also underlined the virtues of Manze’s forthright, determinedly unsentimental approach. There was not a trace of schmaltz about the big tune in the Wasps overture, while the outlines of the Tallis Fantasia were firm edged, with no hints of wispy pastoralism.”     …

Available to listen again on iPlayer until 12th February.

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Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

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…     “The CBSO’s leader, Laurence Jackson was the soloist in the ineffably beautiful The Lark Ascending and he did a splendid job. He played with expert control and no little poetry though even the beauty of his playing couldn’t quite shame the coughers into silence. Andrew Manze accompanied him with all the care and understanding of a fellow violinist and once again his pacing of the music was admirable. The central folk-like section had a nice spring to it and Jackson’s singing tone was a consistent delight. At the end, as the lark spiralled upwards on one final flight of fancy into RVW’s imagined clear summer sky it was possible to forget for a few minutes the gales and rain lashing Birmingham and much of the rest of the UK even as the performance was taking place. I’m sure Laurence Jackson appreciated the sensitive support from his CBSO colleagues; at the end his performance was warmly received – and rightly so.

 Job – A Masque for Dancing was composed between 1927 and 1930. It’s significant that RVW, with his deep appreciation of English cultural heritage, called it a ‘masque’ and not a ‘ballet’; into it he wove several old dance forms such as the Sarabande, the Pavane and the Galliard. The score is compelling on several counts. For one thing the thematic material is memorable – especially such episodes as ‘Sarabande of the Sons of God’, one of RVW’s great, broad tunes. In addition Job demonstrates the composer’s complete command of the resources of a modern symphony orchestra – and here his scoring is lavish, including a large percussion section, two harps, organ and an important saxophone part. Furthermore, it comes from a crucial period in his development. The visionary Sancta Civitas (1925) was just behind him and the Fourth Symphony (1934) and Dona nobis pacem (1936) lay not far in the future. One can hear echoes – or pre-echoes – of all these scores and much else besides in Job which, it seems to me, is a key work in Vaughan Williams’ output.

 This evening’s performance was excellent in every respect. There was a great deal of subtle and sensitive playing to admire, including the persuasive shaping of the Introduction and the Epilogue and the silky strings during ‘Job’s Dream’ (Scene IV). Among many fine solo contributions there was an eloquent oboe solo in the ‘Minuet of Job’s sons and daughters’ (Scene III). The scoring in this episode is marvellously delicate and transparent, recalling Ravel in its pastel colourings; Manze and his players delivered this passage extremely well. A highlight of the entire performance was ‘Elihu’s dance of youth and beauty’ (Scene VII). Restored to his leader’s chair, Laurence Jackson gave a superb account of the radiant violin solo. Here RVW revisits, some 16 years on, the clear blue skies of The Lark Ascending. The relationship between The Lark and this solo was emphasised by the unique opportunity to hear both in such close proximity and played by the same violinist.

 While there is a great deal of beautiful music in Job there are also many passages of great power and even brazen force, the latter chiefly associated with the character of Satan. The moment when, after Job’s patience has snapped under the weight of his trials and he curses God, there is a dread glimpse of Satan sitting on God’s throne (Scene 6) occasions a cataclysmic climax.  The cursing of God was anguished and powerful in this performance but the vision of Satan was overwhelming. Here the organ made a telling impact, pedal reeds deployed, I think, to ram home the point. At the start of this scene RVW’s use of an oily saxophone to represent Job’s comforters is a masterstroke. I think it was bass clarinettist Mark O’Brien who doubled on the saxophone at this point and his wheedling, penetrating playing was just right.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The CBSO leader Laurence Jackson’s interpretation had a quality once considered quintessentially English – the ability to convey deep emotion through understatement.

His heart was in the music not worn on the sleeve. Jackson’s lark was as lyrical and rhapsodic as one could wish and its chaste beauty was perfectly at home in the work’s dreamy summer landscape.

To begin this all-Vaughan Williams evening Andrew Manze conducted a Wasps overture which fairly fizzed along straight from its opening buzz but with a slow central section lovingly shaped and cultivated rather than left as a patch of generalized pastoral.

The CBSO’s strings excelled in the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis: the interplay between the two string orchestras and quartet section clearly delineated and eloquently articulated.”     …

*****

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Review by Ben Norris, UoB Blogfest:

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…    “This concert was part of the CBSO:2020 series, which – as the famous orchestra approaches its centenary in six years’ time – features works composed in the decade leading up to their inaugural concert in September 1920. The Lark Ascending, written in 1914 (initially for violin and piano) and arguably Vaughan Williams’s best known work, therefore formed the centrepiece of the evening. And here, unlike in Fantasia…, that desire for otherness is satisfied absolutely. At the moment, say, where the beautiful solo violin might take a phrase too many, the oboe emerges, pure and defiant. It was in this piece, and the final one, where we heard the CBSO, under Manze’s skilful guidance, at their most dexterous and antiphonally fluent. Laurence Jackson was the soloist, and he did an admirable job with a notoriously delicate part, occasionally sounding hollow or airy, but commendably never dispassionate.

The concert concluded with Job – A Masque for Dancing, which Michael Kennedy (in his excellent programme notes) calls ‘a synthesis of various elements in his [RVW’s] musical personality,’ and it was thus perfectly positioned at the end of the programme. By far the most dramatic and ambitious of the evening’s pieces, Job takes the listener on a journey too nuanced to describe in this short review, but one through which the CBSO led us expertly. Jackson – with the other excellent soloists – found full voice here, making his violin sing sweetly with the nostalgic themes of a composer whose place in the hearts of the British concert-going public appears deservedly secure.”

British Classics with John Wilson

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  • CBSO 2020

Wednesday 22 January 2014 at 2.15pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

John Wilson  conductor

Paul Watkins  cello

Ireland: A London Overture 12′

Walton: Cello Concerto 30′

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony 48′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Vaughan   Williams may have loved the countryside, but he couldn’t resist the capital.   Listen out for street-songs, buskers and even the chimes of Big Ben as conductor   John Wilson drives us through the fog – and enjoy John Ireland’s gloriously   tuneful take on the same bustling scene. Walton’s Cello Concerto, meanwhile,   comes from warmer climes; with Paul Watkins as the soloist, this is one trip   to London where sunshine is guaranteed!

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Ultimate Vaughan Williams, Wednesday   5th February

Mozart and Elgar, Wednesday   19th February

Belshazzar’s Feast, Saturday   26th April

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The twilit slow movement was serene and haunting, illuminated by Christopher Yates’ viola playing. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it – a slightly guilty pleasure like watching Downton Abbey while dipping digestives into tea.

If the symphony was a little paunchy, even after the composer trimmed it, then Walton’s cello concerto is lean and lithe without an excess note.

There’s not even a flashy cadenza but the two solo episodes in the final variation movement give the cellist the spotlight and Paul Watkins seized the opportunity.

Throughout he was fast and fluent with a full but not over-rich tone, just right for Walton’s musical sweet-and-sour mixture.

Wilson was attentive to details such as the magical touch Walton brings with just few judicious dabs of the tinkling celesta.”

Autumn Contrasts

Wednesday 7 November 2012 at 2.15pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0603

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze conductor
Rainer Gibbons oboe

Mozart: Symphony No. 25 26′
Vaughan Williams: Oboe Concerto 19′ Listen on Spotify
Schumann: Symphony No. 2 34′ Listen on Spotify

Engaging, inspired and endlessly lively, Andrew Manze is quickly making a name as one of the most charismatic conductors around – and a firm favourite with musicians and audiences alike. Here he brings his famous verve to bear on Mozart’s explosive youthful masterpiece, before sharing two very personal musical passions: Schumann’s gloriously romantic Second Symphony, and Vaughan Williams’s radiant, serenely lyrical Oboe Concerto played by the CBSO’s own Rainer Gibbons. It could quite possibly be the loveliest piece of English music you’ve never heard. www.cbso.co.uk

 

Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…    “Vaughan Williams’ oboe concerto received its first CBSO performance for more than 30 years – and it’ll probably be another 30 before it’s heard again.

Rainer Gibbons was the eloquent soloist, nimble and neat in the scampering minuet and spinning some elegant lines in the finale.     […]

[…]     Schumann’s Second Symphony is a marvellous work but must be a conductor’s nightmare. In the opening movement the wind section could have been miming for much of the time as they were overwhelmed by brass and strings. Not Manze’s fault, just Schumann’s turgid orchestration. The scherzo was brilliant as was the finale with Manze unleashing the brass and timpani to great effect. The slow movement is the symphony’s madwoman-in-the-attic: woodwind wailing like a lost soul and shivering tremolo strings chilling the heart.”   …

Visions of England

Saturday 19 May 2012 at 7.00pm

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

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Manze conductor
Lisa Milne soprano

Elgar: Introduction and Allegro 13′
Britten: Our Hunting Fathers, Op 8 27′ Listen on Spotify
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5 42′

Premiered in the darkest days of the Second World War, Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony seemed like a vision of peace. And if you enjoy British music at its transcendent best, you’ll love this symphony that begins in a misty sunrise and ends with some of the most serenely beautiful music even Vaughan Williams ever wrote. The superb British soprano Lisa Milne brings all her operatic power to Britten’s show-stopping song-cycle – and under conductor Andrew Manze, Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro opens the concert with an exuberant flourish.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Review by Katherine Dixson, Bachtrack:

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…     “The programme was rounded off with a captivating performance of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony no. 5.     […]

[…] Throughout the piece, the shifting and contrasting tempi were expertly handled by the CBSO, drawing out maximum emotion, especially so in the Romanza, the movement in which Pilgrim rests. The heart-wrenching introductory chords virtually wept, followed by an exquisite contemplative solo on cor anglais, the highlight of the evening for me. The final movement delivered a satisfying sense of arrival and optimism, not to mention a delicious melody.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The principals – Laurence Jackson, Briony Shaw, Chris Yates and Eduardo Vassallo –were outstanding, and Manze, a string-player himself, allowed the massed CBSO strings to reaffirm what a formidable force they have become.”          *****

A London Symphony with the Hallé

Wednesday 14 March 2012 at 7.30pm

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

The Hallé
Sir Mark Elder conductor
Andrew Gourlay conductor*
Imogen Cooper piano

Strauss: Wind Serenade* 10′
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18, K.456 29′
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony 43′

Vaughan Williams didn’t just get his inspiration from skylarks and folksongs. He took traffic sounds, street-cries and the Westminster chimes, and turned them into A London Symphony – complete with cabbies, nightclubs and fog. It’s a gloriously colourful showcase for Sir Mark Elder and The Hallé – one of the great musical partnerships of recent years – and with Imogen Cooper bringing her unique poetry to Mozart’s lovely B-flat Piano Concerto, we’re looking forward to an evening of really magical music-making.

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

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…      ” There was no hiding that dimension of anguish in Elder’s superbly comprehensive account, whether in the paroxysms of the first movement – the Hallé brass wonderfully secure – or in the last slow fade of the finale. Even the moments of ebullience in the scherzo seemed to take on a sardonic edge.”     …

Review by John Gough, Birmingham Post:

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…     “This was a wonderfully responsive evocation of the capital, full of vitality. (I have never heard better playing of the quicksilver scherzo). Full, too, of poetic feeling and a tragic awareness of a world on the brink of catastrophe. Everything was here from ultra quiet string textures and distinguished solos, rising in the finale to brass playing ecstatic in its power and nobility.”       ***** 

Friday Night Classics: You Call the Tunes

Friday 21 May 2010 at 7.30pm

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

Michael Seal  conductor
Simon Bates  presenter
Michael Wade Lee   tenor
Mark Holland   baritone


Tonight the CBSO plays the peoples’ favourites in a concert packed with Midlanders’ most-loved classical and operatic music.

Voting for the concert programme closed on 31 March, programme includes:
Holst: The Planets – Mars and Jupiter
Grieg: Peer Gynt – Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King
Verdi: Rigoletto – La Donna è mobile
Bizet: Carmen – Les Toréadors
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Rossini: The Barber of Seville – Largo al Factotum
Puccini: Turandot – Nessun Dorma
Bizet: The Pearlfishers – Au fond du temple saint
Ravel: Boléro

It’s a tantalising programme of opera house favourites, luminously indulgent works to relax to and revel in, and rousing pieces using the immense sound of the full Orchestra to mammoth effect.

* We’re very sorry to announce that Sue Perkins has become unable to appear in this concert due to filming commitments which could not be moved. We’re delighted that Simon Bates, popular Classic FM presenter, will now present this concert.  www.cbso.co.uk

Chopin 200

Thursday 25 February 2010 at 2.15pm

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

Andrew Litton  conductor
William Wolfram  piano

Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet 21′
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 30′
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 4 34′

Next week the musical world celebrates the 200th birthday of its favourite composer of piano music, and the CBSO gets in early with performances of his dazzling and lyrical second concerto, played by a leading American pianist. This is gloriously romantic music, and Tchaikovsky’s famous Shakespearean overture is even more so. Regular guest conductor Andrew Litton is renowned for his commitment to English music, and here he conducts Vaughan Williams’ most dramatic symphony. www.cbso.co.uk

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

http://www.birminghampost.net/life-leisure-birmingham-guide/birmingham-culture/music-in-birmingham/2010/02/25/review-cbso-andrew-litton-william-wolfram-at-symphony-hall-birmingham-65233-25913932/

…”William Wolfram (a name new to me, but one for which I shall watch out from now on), delivered a scintillating account of the intricate solo writing, effusive decorations fluently assimilated into a poetically-phrased, fluent singing line, richly chorded where appropriate and subtly pedalled.

And Vaughan Williams’ Symphony no.4 was searing and passionate, taking no prisoners, in Litton’s reading with this pliant orchestra. Textures and timbres were consummately layered, instrumental solos (not least the flute on what I was told was a substitute instrument) were engaging, and the drama unfolded with relentless timing. “